WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump replaced his beleaguered White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, after only six months on the job on Friday, installing retired General John Kelly in his place in a major shake-up of his top team.
Trump announced the move in a tweet a day after his new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, accused Priebus of leaking information to reporters in a profanity-laced tirade.
Kelly, 67, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, is currently secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and will assume the chief of staff post on Monday. He was hired with the goal of bringing more discipline to the White House, a senior White House official said.
Trump issued his decision just as he landed aboard Air Force One after a visit to Long Island and hours after Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare failed in the Senate.
Priebus was on the plane with the Republican president and made no comment. Reporters had noticed no sign of stress from Priebus during the day.Priebus told CNN he had been talking to Trump for some time about exiting the White House, and is the latest in a long line of officials to leave or not take a job at the White House.
“The president has a right to hit a reset button. I think it’s time to hit the reset button,” Priebus said in a televised interview from the White House. “He intuitively determined that it was time to do something different, and I think he’s right.”
Trump had lost confidence in Priebus, privately questioning his competence after major legislative items failed to pass the U.S. Congress, a Trump confidant said.
A senior White House official said Trump had informed Priebus two weeks ago that he would be replacing him and that the move had no connection to Scaramucci, whose hiring a week ago prompted Sean Spicer, a Priebus ally, to abruptly resign as press secretary.
After frequent conversations with Kelly, Trump recently warmed up to the idea of naming Kelly chief of staff to more effectively manage personnel and offered it to him earlier this week, a senior White House official said.