The end is near for those oh so frequent "will he, won't he quit" rumors regarding White House chief of staff John Kelly.
Kelly told staff on Monday that President Trump had asked him to remain in his post through the 2020 election, a request that comes as tensions between the two men have eased in recent months, and that Kelly had agreed to the president's request, the WSJ reported.
Kelly, who on Monday marked his one-year anniversary as chief of staff when he replaced Steve Bannon, has frequently been expected to leave the White House some time this summer. Ahead of the imminent departure, Trump has in recent months consulted with advisers about whom he should tap as his next chief of staff, with possible successors named as Nick Ayers, who serves as chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, and Mick Mulvaney, who heads the Office of Management and Budget and the CFPB.
As the WSJ adds, Kelly had told colleagues in recent months that he didn’t intend to stay in the role beyond his one-year mark, a position which Trump did not seem to mind. Which is why it is not clear what prompted Trump to have a change of heart, and request that Kelly remain until 2020.
The president has offered conflicting views in recent months on how long he sees Mr. Kelly staying on the job. After The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Mr. Trump was consulting with advisers on successors to Mr. Kelly, a White House spokeswoman called the report “fake news” and said Mr. Kelly said “this was news to him.”
Trump, asked later that same day whether Mr. Kelly was leaving the White House, replied: “That I don’t know.”
Amusingly, the WSJ notes that if Kelly stays in his post through 2020, he would be among the longest-serving White House chiefs of staff in U.S. history, which would be quite a U-turn for a president who infamously fired dozens of advisors and staffers in his first year. The longest serving chief of staff in U.S. history is John Steelman, who spent six years in the post under President Harry Truman.
That said, with Trump things are always "fluid" and the arrangement could change: "a White House official cautioned that while the plan is for Mr. Kelly to remain in his post through 2020, unforeseen circumstances could cause the plan to change."
Kelly's departure appeared near certain earlier this year, when Trump privately criticized his chief of staff for the handling of accusations of domestic assault against former staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned in February after graphic photos emerged of the alleged abuse.
Kelly had initially defended Mr. Porter, vouching for his integrity publicly and privately. In his own public comments on the matter, Mr. Trump emphasized Mr. Porter’s denial of abuse without addressing his staff’s handling of the matter.
Trump on Monday tweeted a photo of himself with Mr. Kelly and wrote: “Congratulations to General John Kelly. Today we celebrate his first full year as @WhiteHouse Chief of Staff!”