Kelly, during the two-hour interview, revealed new details about life inside the White House as he prepares to leave the post he’s held for nearly a year and a half.
Here are five surprising statements Kelly made in the interview.
Trump has moved away from demand for ‘concrete wall’
Kelly claimed that the Trump administration long ago moved on from President Trump’s demand for a wall along the southern border, something that was a key campaign pledge the president made.
“To be honest, it’s not a wall,” Kelly said.
He added that pushing for a “solid concrete wall” was left behind “early on in the administration.”
“The president still says ‘wall’ — oftentimes frankly he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing,’ now he’s tended toward steel slats,” Kelly said.
Trump’s demand for $5 billion in funding for a border wall has resulted in the current ongoing, partial government shutdown, which began after lawmakers were unable to reach an agreement on that demand.
Trump has said recently, however, that he would also accept a “fence” as opposed to a concrete wall.
White House ‘surprised’ by Sessions’ zero tolerance policy on immigration
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions‘ decision to impose a “zero tolerance” immigration policy at the border that resulted in children being separated from their parents came as a surprise to the White House, Kelly said.
“What happened was Jeff Sessions, he was the one that instituted the zero-tolerance process on the border that resulted in both people being detained and the family separation,” Kelly said.
“He surprised us,” he added.
The policy, announced by Sessions in May, resulted in all adult migrants being detained and prosecuted after they attempted to cross into the U.S.
The children of those migrants were subsequently separated from their parents and detained by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in separate facilities, sometimes far away from where their parents were held.
Trump ultimately reversed the policy after intense public backlash.
Kelly’s comments appear to confirm a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report published in October, which found that HHS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were caught by surprise when Sessions implemented the policy.
Trump chafed at legal restrictions on power
Trump never asked Kelly to do anything illegal, Kelly told the Times. He said Trump never did so because “we wouldn’t have” followed the order.
Kelly added that he would have resigned if Trump said, “Do it, or you’re fired.”
Kelly said Trump did, however, often express frustration about the limits afforded by the law and frequently asked Kelly, “Why can’t we do it this way?”
Kelly’s comments come after former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said recently that Trump would often make requests that, if carried out, would have violated the law.
“The president would say, here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, ‘Mr. President, I understand what you want to do, but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law,’” Tillerson said at a fundraiser earlier this month.
Trump surprised Kelly with travel ban order
Kelly said he was also surprised by Trump’s executive order preventing refugees and travelers from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
Before facing legal challenges, the order was originally announced in January 2017 and banned travel from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya.
Kelly was the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security when Trump first implemented the ban in January 2017.
Kelly told the Times that he had “very little opportunity to look at” the order before it was announced.
“Obviously, it brought down a greater deal of thunder on the president,” he said.
Kelly says being Trump’s chief of staff is ‘bone-crushing hard job’
Kelly acknowledged to the Times that serving as White House chief of staff has been particularly difficult, saying that it has been a “bone-crushing hard job, but you do it.”
Kelly told the newspaper that, on an average day, he woke up at 4 a.m. and didn’t return home until 9 p.m., when he would frequently continue working.
“I’m guarded by the Secret Service. I can’t even go get a beer,” he said.
President Trump announced earlier this month that Kelly would leave his position at the end of the year.
After making that announcement, Trump seemingly had difficulty finding a replacement.
His top choice, Vice President Pence’s chief of staff Nick Ayers, turned down the job over timing concerns. Multiple other candidates, including Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), also said publicly that they wouldn’t take the job.
Trump ultimately named budget director Mick Mulvaney as his acting chief of staff.
Source: “Los Angeles” – Google News