Multiple unnamed sources have told NBC News that the White House chief of staff often takes jabs at the president behind his back — and thinks of himself as the country's "savior." The sources, which declined to go on the record, reportedly said that John Kelly called Trump an "idiot," while others said the retired general would likely leave his post this summer.
Most of the White House spokespeople quoted in the NBC piece denied these claims, or else suggested that they were mischaracterized. However, NBC reports that four different officials said that they have heard Kelly describe Trump as an "idiot," and they said he was referencing Trump's grasp on policy and government functions.
The report also indicated Kelly might, at times, have a tenuous relationship with women who work in the White House. Reportedly, the chief of staff has, in the past, suggested that women are more emotional than men. At the same time, however, White House spokespeople told NBC that Kelly was particularly protective of women working close by, reportedly chastising those who curse or use profane language when "a lady is present."
This report is far from the first time that Kelly and Trump's relationship has made headlines. Back in January, other unnamed sources told CNN that Kelly lacked respect for Trump, and that he tended to be dismissive of the president when he was not close by.
That same month, Kelly reportedly described Trump's immigration platform, as it was presented on the campaign trail, as "uninformed," according to both The New York Times and The Washington Post. Specifically, he was reportedly referencing Trump's promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, and according to the reports, Kelly told a group of Democratic legislators that Trump's view on the issue had "evolved."
At the time, Trump responded to Kelly's characterization in a series of tweets, claiming his position on the border wall had not changed at all. "The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it," Trump tweeted. "Parts will be, of necessity, see through and it was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water."
In the nine months that Kelly has been the chief of staff, both he and Trump have appeared to spar over which one of them runs things in the White House, which seems to culminate in reports like Monday's from NBC. A similar report earlier this year, as January's drama between the president and his chief of staff unfolded in the press, suggested that Trump was acutely aware of the tensions.
"I’ve got another nut job here who thinks he’s running things," Trump reportedly told an unnamed friend, speaking of Kelly, according to a report by Vanity Fair. A White House spokesperson denied these characterizations, telling the magazine that "it’s categorically false that Trump is unhappy with Kelly. He’s only ever referred to him as the general, tough, can be rough, and commands respect."
A day after the Vanity Fair report was published, Trump tweeted that Kelly "is doing a fantastic job." He continued, "Long hours and Fake reporting makes your job more difficult, but it is always great to WIN, and few have won more than us!"
According to the NBC report, some White House staff members believe Kelly might leave his position in July, when he will hit his one-year mark on the job. Others disputed this, however, suggesting that what Kelly may or may not do remains a mystery. As with much of the Trump administration, it appears to be a wait and see.