Update 2: President Trump has now responded directly, blasting the "fake news making up false stories" as "totally unhinged."
The Fake News is going crazy making up false stories and using only unnamed sources (who don’t exist). They are totally unhinged, and the great success of this Administration is making them do and say things that even they can’t believe they are saying. Truly bad people!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 30, 2018
The White House is running very smoothly despite phony Witch Hunts etc. There is great Energy and unending Stamina, both necessary to get things done. We are accomplishing the unthinkable and setting positive records while doing so! Fake News is going “bonkers!”— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 30, 2018
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Update 1: Bloomberg's White House correspondent Jennifer Jacobs reports that John Kelly has responeded to MSNBC's claim he calls Trump an “idiot.
“I spend more time with the president than anyone else and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship.
He always knows where I stand and he and I both know this story is total BS. I am committed to the president, his agenda, and our country.”
“This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump...”
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White House chief of staff John Kelly has reportedly been undermining morale in the West Wing in recent months - commenting to aides that President Trump is an idiot, while touting himself as the "savior of the country," reports NBC News, citing "eight current and former White House officials."
The officials said Kelly portrays himself to Trump administration aides as the lone bulwark against catastrophe, curbing the erratic urges of a president who has a questionable grasp on policy issues and the functions of government. He has referred to Trump as "an idiot" multiple times to underscore his point, according to four officials who say they've witnessed the comments. -NBC News
NBC notes that three White House spokespeople say the "idiot" thing just isn't true, and he may have spoken in jest about saving the country.
In one heated exchange between the two men before February's Winter Olympics in South Korea, Kelly strongly — and successfully — dissuaded Trump from ordering the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula, according to two officials.
For Kelly, the exchange underscored the reasoning behind one of his common refrains, which multiple officials described as some version of "I'm the one saving the country."
"The strong implication being 'if I weren't here we would've entered WWIII or the president would have been impeached,'" one former senior White House official said. -NBC News
"He doesn't even understand what DACA is. He's an idiot," Kelly said in one meeting, according to two officials who were present. "We've got to save him from himself."
According to NBC's sources, Kelly has been hiding behind his public image as a four-star, while in truth operating in an "undisciplined and indiscreet" manner. "The private manner aides describe may shed new light on why Kelly now finds himself — just nine months into the job — grappling with diminished influence and a drumbeat of questions about how long he'll remain at the White House."
"He says stuff you can't believe," one senior White House official tells NBC News. "He'll say it and you think, 'That is not what you should be saying.'"
According to presidential historian Michael Beschloss, Kelly's comments about Trump vs. prior White House chiefs of "suggest a lack of respect for the sitting president of a kind that we haven't seen before," adding that the closest would have to be President Ronald Reagan's chief of staff, Don Regan, who "somewhat looked down on" The Gipper, and eventually lost Reagan's support - having been replaced after two years by Howard Baker.
Meanwhile, insults or not, Trump is said to have soured on Kelly - and is aware of some, "though not all" of Kelly's comments. And as NBC News points out, "The last time it became public that one of Trump's top advisers insulted his intelligence behind his back, it didn't go over well with the president. White House aides have said Trump never got over former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling him a "moron" in front of colleagues, which was first reported by NBC News. Trump later challenged Tillerson to an IQ test and fired him several months after the remark became public."
Current and former White House officials said Kelly has at times made remarks that have rattled female staffers. Kelly has told aides multiple times that women are more emotional than men, including at least once in front of the president, four current and former officials said.
And during a firestorm in February over accusations of domestic abuse against then-White House staff secretary Rob Porter, Kelly wondered aloud how much more Porter would have to endure before his honor could be restored, according to three officials who were present for the comments. He also questioned why Porter's ex-wives wouldn't just move on based on the information he said he had about his marriages, the officials said.
So in addition to Kelly allegedly calling Trump an idiot, he's also a misogynist, according to NBC.
Kelly is expected to leave by July - his one-year mark, according to sources, however others say it's anyone's guess. That said, "what's clear is both Trump and Kelly seem to have tired of each other."
"Kelly appears to be less engaged, which may be to the president's detriment," a second senior White House official said. If NBC is correct, we're about to once again play White House Musical Chairs.
That said, when reached for comment, Kelly that it's all more fake news:
“He and I both know this story is total BS. I am committed to the president, his agenda, and our country. This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump...”
One hopes that is the case, then again one also remembers the Rex Tillerson incident...
John Kelly responds to MSNBC claim he calls Trump an “idiot.— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) April 30, 2018
“He and I both know this story is total BS. I am committed to the president, his agenda, and our country.
“This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump...” pic.twitter.com/nqGCXWRADM