One thing to keep in mind when you’re tracking important political gossip in our nation’s capital is that any story which looks good for the subject (or as good as reasonably possible) was likely leaked by someone in that subject’s orbit. I can feel the “FAKE NEWS!!” crowd gearing up for a victory here, so I want to clarify that these stories with rock-solid reporters at the usual outlets are almost always true—just viewed through a favorable lens of the source(s). Why would any reporter hurt their credibility with the president by falsely attributing an attitude like this to his Chief of Staff? That’s a career-ending mistake. And no, John Kelly wasn’t joking when he brought up impeachment.
Per Eliana Johnson and Annie Karni in Politico:
But Kelly's status in the White House has changed in recent months, and he and the president are now seen as barely tolerating one another. According to four people close to Kelly, the former Marine general has largely yielded his role as the enforcer in the West Wing as his relationship with Trump has soured. While Kelly himself once believed he stood between Trump and chaos, he has told at least one person close to him that he may as well let the president do what he wants, even if it leads to impeachment — at least this chapter of American history would come to a close.
Between separating children from their parents then throwing them in cages, admitting on NBC that he obstructed the Russia investigation by firing James Comey, and all his “business” entanglements, Trump has already committed multiple impeachable offenses (but we know that the Republicans will never impeach him). While it is shocking to hear a comment like this coming from the president's Chief of Staff, once you take a step back and look at the situation, you realize that Kelly would be delusional if he didn't ponder impeachment from time to time.
Granted, his public silence and complicity in impeachable offenses like our human rights violations at the Mexican border destroys any credibility Kelly has on this subject—which is why I wanted to bring up the nature of leaking at the top of this story. It's not about the reporters—this is serious news that they should be chasing down. It's about why their sources leak and what they choose to tell them. Ivanka and Jared are notorious for scrambling over to the New York Times the moment that daddy does something they have “concerns with.”
After reading most of these reports over the last couple years, it's clear that members of the Trump administration view it as a sinking ship. That's why it leaks so much. People know that the legacy of their work will not be remembered fondly by history, and they're trying to shape the narrative to negate their complicity in the Trump administration's crimes. John Kelly enthusiastically backed the policy of separating families, famously telling NPR, “the children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever.” This is what he meant by “or whatever.”
John Kelly willingly worked for the Trump administration and helped craft its most inhumane policy (to date). Do not let history remember him as the general who tried to stand “between Trump and chaos.” Let his actions speak louder than his leaks.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.