White House Chief of Staff John Kelly made a surprise appearance at Thursday’s press briefing to assure reporters that he is “not quitting” and is “not frustrated” in the job — in an apparent swipe at rampant media reports.
Among them was a Vanity Fair report saying he’s struggling in the position, and his relationship with President Trump is “irreparable.”
But Kelly told reporters he’s staying put.
“I’m not quitting today. I don’t think I’m being fired today. I am not so frustrated in this job that I am thinking of leaving,” Kelly told reporters, adding he is “not frustrated.” “I will tell you this is the hardest job I’ve ever had.”
Kelly added that, “Unless things change, I’m not quitting. I’m not getting fired and I don’t think I’ll fire anyone tomorrow.”
The appearance was highly unusual — as such special appearances at the White House briefings typically involve Cabinet secretaries or White House officials discussing a specific policy or emergency response effort.
Kelly told reporters that he decided not to do “too much press” until he got his “feet off the ground.”
He took questions from the press on a variety of issues, but repeatedly took issue with media reports on the internal tensions in the administration, even as he joked and sparred with the White House press corps.
The former Marine general and secretary of the Department of Homeland Security told reporters that his “only frustration” was reading news that is “just not true.”
“My only frustration, with all respect to people in the room, is to come to work and read about things I allegedly said or Mr. Trump allegedly said and it’s just not true,” Kelly said, echoing the president’s “fake news” mantra. “And I mean no disrespect to you all.”
Kelly went on to address reports that he is having trouble ‘controlling’ the president, saying he was “not brought to this job to control” Trump’s tweets.
“I was not brought to this job to control anything but the flow of information to our president,” Kelly said, noting that he thinks the president is a “decisive guy” and a “very thoughtful man.”
“I restrict no one from going to see him,” Kelly said. “I was not sent in or brought in to control him and you should not measure my effectiveness as chief of staff on what you think I should be doing.”