John Kelly, former chief of staff to President Trump, said Saturday he warned the president before he left the White House not to replace him with a “yes man” because it would lead to Trump’s impeachment.
Kelly also said he believed he could have prevented the current impeachment inquiry against Trump if he had stayed in the job. He said the inquiry could have been avoided if the president had surrounded himself with people who could rein in his worst instincts.
His candid remarks, made during an interview at a political conference hosted by the Washington Examiner, suggests he blames acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and others in the West Wing for not doing more to stop Trump’s behavior.
“Someone has got to be a guide that tells [the president] that you either have the authority or you don’t, or Mr. President, don’t do it,” Kelly told the Washington Examiner’s Byron York. “Don’t hire someone that will just nod and say, ‘That’s a great idea, Mr. President.’ Because you will be impeached.”
The House Democrats are in the midst of an impeachment inquiry involving Trump’s request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a phone call to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a 2020 presidential contender, and his son Hunter Biden.
The White House on Saturday released a statement from Trump denying that Kelly ever delivered that warning, in his first public rift with a former chief of staff.
“John Kelly never said that, he never said anything like that. If he would have said that I would have thrown him out of the office,” Trump said. “He just wants to come back into the action like everybody else does.”
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham added, “I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President.”