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Trump's revolving door: Kelly is latest senior White House departure

Trump's revolving door: Kelly is latest senior White House departure

Donald Trump's chief of staff John Kelly. (Photo: AFP/Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt)

WASHINGTON: White House chief of staff John Kelly will be leaving by the end of the year, US President Donald Trump announced on Saturday (Dec 8). That will make him the latest top official to exit the US leader's inner circle.

Dozens of White House aides - from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to press secretary Sean Spicer to chief of staff Reince Priebus - have either left or been sacked from their posts since Trump took office on Jan 20, 2017.

Here is a sampling of senior departures:


Kelly, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, has been credited with helping restore a degree of order to the often-chaotic Trump White House.

But in the process he clashed with members of the Trump clan, and at times infuriated Democrats with his blunt comments.

Trump, who once said he wanted his aide to stay with him until the presidential election year of 2020, had made it clear of late that the relationship had chilled.

"At some point he's going to want to move on," the president said in mid-November.

Indeed, Kelly, 68, made it clear he did not always love the job - one of the most vital in any White House, quipping, "God punished me, I guess."


Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama, was the first member of the Senate to back Trump's insurgent bid in 2015 for the Republican presidential nomination.

After winning the presidency, Trump rewarded Sessions by naming him to head the Department of Justice.

But relations between the two quickly soured after Sessions recused himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia to get him elected.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Washington on Oct 16, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

Trump personally attacked Sessions on several occasions for failing to protect him from the Mueller probe.

"I don't have an attorney general," Trump told Hill.TV in an interview in September. "It's very sad."


Haley, who announced in October that she would leave the administration at the end of 2018, was a shining star of the administration from the start.

Thrust onto the international stage, she quickly became an astute advocate for Trump's foreign policy, using forceful language against North Korea, Syria and Iran.

The former South Carolina governor was also unafraid to speak her mind, often in fairly undiplomatic language, and built a reputation for standing up to Trump when she felt it was warranted.

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council about the situation in Crimea at U.N. Headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/Files

Her aggressive criticism of Russia won plaudits, even as she stepped beyond the position held by the White House.

Her resignation announcement last month sparked speculation about her political future, though she denied any plans to challenge Trump in 2020, saying she would remain loyal to the president.


Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt's tenure was beset by scandal, and Trump pushed him out in July.

File photo of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt during a briefing at the White House on Jun 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

A former Oklahoma attorney general with ties to fossil fuel industries, Pruitt was accused of using his position to enrich his own family's lifestyle in violation of federal law.


Rex Tillerson was fired by Trump in March, ending a rocky tenure for the former Exxon chief executive as the nation's top diplomat.

Tillerson was frequently at odds with the mercurial president. They notably disagreed on the Iran nuclear deal, from which Trump withdrew in May.

File photo of former US secretary of state Rex Tillerson. (Photo: AFP/Nicholas Kamm)

During his brief stay at Foggy Bottom, Tillerson frequently found himself out of the loop and caught unawares by policy shifts announced in Trump tweets.

In one of his first public criticisms of the president since stepping down, Tillerson recently told a gathering in Texas that Trump was undisciplined, did not like to read briefing papers and sometimes asked him to do things that were illegal.

Trump shot back on Twitter that Tillerson was "dumb as a rock."


The architect of Trump's nationalist-populist campaign and his election victory, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was nicknamed the Prince of Darkness and the Shadow President.

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon delivers a speech at the "Atreju 2018" meeting organised by Fratelli d'Italia party in Rome, Italy September 22, 2018. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/Files

His economic nationalism became the lynchpin of Trump policies, even as many of Bannon's other ideas were rebuffed by policy rivals.

Bannon's constant clashes with other advisors became untenable, as did his ties to the extreme right. Bannon left in August 2017.


Gary Cohn, a former president of investment bank Goldman Sachs, resigned as Trump's top economic advisor in March in protest against the president's decision to levy new global trade tariffs.

Gary Cohn, Director of the National Economic Council, speaks about tax reform to the Economic Club of Washington in Washington, DC, on Nov 2, 2017. (SAUL LOEB/AFP)

A long-time Democrat, Cohn had always been an uneasy fit in an administration propelled to power by strident nationalism.


Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, was being investigated for his contacts with Russians and eventually pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

He lasted only 22 days as national security advisor.

Flynn's replacement, HR McMaster, also a lieutenant general, lasted barely a year.

He never really clicked with the president, who bristled at McMaster echoing the US intelligence establishment consensus that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

Source: AFP/ec


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