President Trump late Friday replaced his embattled chief of staff Reince Priebus with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, the decorated retired general who had been leading his administration’s charge on immigration enforcement.
The seismic shake-up capped another rollercoaster week in the West Wing, rocked by the public clash between Priebus and new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. The latter’s hiring prompted press secretary Sean Spicer to resign in protest one week ago and immediately touched off speculation that Priebus could be next.
White House sources confirmed to Fox News that Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman, resigned secretly on Thursday. Trump made the announcement publicly on Twitter late Friday afternoon.
“I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff. He is a Great American … and a Great Leader. John has also done a spectacular job at Homeland Security. He has been a true star of my Administration,” he tweeted.
Kelly, a retired Marine general, formerly commanded the United States Southern Command.
Priebus was traveling with the president on Friday. Reporters spotted Priebus getting in a car after Air Force One landed at Joint Base Andrews.
“Reince is a good man,” Trump told reporters at Andrews. “John Kelly will do a fantastic job. General Kelly has been a star, done an incredible job thus far, respected by everybody. He’s a great great American. Reince is a good man.”
A day earlier, Scaramucci was quoted in a New Yorker story using profanity as he bashed Priebus and seemed to accuse him of leaking to reporters.
“Reince is a f—ing paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” Scaramucci was quoted saying.
After that story’s publication, Scaramucci didn’t deny the comments or apologize. He tweeted that he “made a mistake in trusting in a reporter.”
“I sometimes use colorful language,” he said. “I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @realDonaldTrump’s agenda.”
Scaramucci also told the New Yorker reporter he believed Priebus would resign soon.
In another tweet on Friday, Trump expressed his appreciation for Priebus, who became chief of staff at the beginning of the administration.
“I would like to thank Reince Priebus for his service and dedication to his country,” the president tweeted. “We accomplished a lot together and I am proud of him!”
Both Priebus and Spicer worked together at the Republican National Committee before joining the administration. Another White House press aide who worked with Priebus and Spicer at the RNC, Michael Short, also lost his job this week.