The White House chief of staff said Thursday that he was not leaving his job, and he chastised reporters for speculating that his tenure would be brief.
“I’m not quitting today, I don’t believe. And I just talked to the president. I don’t think I’m being fired today,” Kelly told reporters from the White House briefing room podium.
In a rare, extended, on-the-record interaction with journalists, the former Marine Corps general also criticized reporters — in concert with his boss — saying “it’s astounding to me how much is misreported” about President Donald Trump and what occurs in the West Wing.
Kelly suggested reporters develop better sources at the White House for their stories.
Asked what the president’s biggest frustration was, Kelly replied, “One of his frustrations is you. Not all of you, but many of you.”
Kelly, who was secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, succeeded Reince Priebus in late July, whom Trump ousted. Priebus, a former Republican National Committee chairman, had struggled since the inauguration to bring order to the West Wing.
Chief of staff’s role
Kelly also told reporters that they had mischaracterized his role.
Stories have emanated from the White House of a president bristling under a more disciplined and authoritative chief of staff, himself reportedly exasperated by Trump’s controversial ad lib comments in speeches and on Twitter that upended attempts to carefully set policy.
Kelly denied he was bothered by Trump’s frequent tweets and that his job did not include managing the president.
“I was not brought into this job to control anything but the flow of information,” Kelly said.
The chief of staff added that he did not restrict anyone from going in to see the president, as has been reported, but acknowledged now that instead of “onesies and twosies” entering the Oval Office to speak with the president, advisers go in as groups.
Kelly acknowledged North Korea as the most serious threat the Trump administration was now dealing with but said Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons were “not an immediate concern.”
Manageable threat, for now
“That state simply cannot have the ability to reach the homeland,” he said. “Right now, there is great concern about a lot of Americans that live in Guam. Right now, we think the threat is manageable, but over time, if it grows beyond where it is today — well, let’s hope diplomacy works.”
In recent weeks Trump and others in the administration have made clear a military option is under consideration for preventing Pyongyang from achieving the ability to hit the U.S. mainland with a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile.
Kelly also pushed back on the perception that the president strongly desires to increase America’s nuclear arsenal.
Kelly said that what he’d heard Trump say most often about nuclear weapons was, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get rid of them all?”