After months of speculation, President Donald Trump announced Saturday from the White House lawn that Chief of Staff John Kelly will leave his position by the end of the year, according to The New York Times. According to CNN, "two sources familiar with the situation" claimed that by December, President Donald Trump and Kelly were not even speaking to one another. It wasn't clear from Trump's statement whether Kelly had resigned or been fired.
"John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year," Trump said on Saturday, adding that he wasn't sure whether Kelly would be retiring altogether, according to CNN. "I appreciate his service very much." Trump also told reporters that he would announce Kelly's replacement in the next day or two, according to The Times.
Kelly replaced Reince Priebus as Trump's chief of staff at the end of July 2017. At the time, Politico described it as "the most dramatic shakeup yet in Trump's West Wing." It was expected that Kelly would be able to bring order to a White House that seemed to be in chaos.
But throughout his tenure, there were constant reports that Kelly and Trump didn't exactly get along. Just after he started, a photo circulated of Kelly looking extremely stressed during a Q&A with the president. In April, Kelly was caught on camera facepalming as Trump spoke during a meeting. This summer, The Washington Post wrote about Kelly's uncomfortable body language and reported that the former White House chief of staff often seemed to avert his gaze as the president spoke.
Because of this — along with detailed reports citing sources inside the White House — media and political experts had been expecting Kelly to leave the White House for a long time. Back in June, The Wall Street Journal reported that Kelly would leave his post sometime around this summer. It was a report that the White House strongly rejected. In a comment to the press on Air Force One, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said, "I spoke to the president who refuted this article. He said it is absolutely not true and that it is fake news."
At the time, WSJ reported that Kelly's departure would likely come after Trump completed his tour for the NATO conference in July. During the president's visit to Brussels, Belgium, Kelly ended up inadvertently making airwaves when a video of him alongside the president surfaced.
In the clip, Trump can be seen bashing Germany as a supposed "captive" to Russia. The president said, "Germany is totally controlled by Russia because they will be getting from 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia in a new pipeline. You tell me if that's appropriate." As the president let loose, Kelly can be seen near him grimacing, clenching his mouth shut, and squirming in his chair.
Republicans close to the scenario told Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman this summer that Kelly had told Trump, "I intend to leave on my own timeline." Sherman reported that White House insiders believe that Trump did not want to personally fire Kelly as he "venerates" his military background. "It’s the four stars and the Gold Star — Trump really respects that," the unidentified Republican said.