Trump says Kelly doing ‘fantastic job’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump pushed back Friday against reports of a growing rift between himself and his chief of staff, declaring that John Kelly is “doing a fantastic job” and dismissing rumblings that the ex-Marine may soon leave the White House.

Just days after it was reported that Kelly had called Trump “an idiot” to staffers, Trump showcased his support for his embattled chief of staff by walking with him to a group of reporters at Joint Base Andrews awaiting Air Force One’s departure for Dallas. The president blasted the stories as “false reporting” while Kelly said everything at the White House was going “phenomenally well.”

That stands in stark contrast to what Kelly has said privately in recent weeks. He has cast himself as safeguarding the public from the president and has threatened to quit the White House several times.

Kelly’s “idiot” remark, confirmed to The Associated Press by a former administration official not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations, came as his clashes with Trump over policy and personnel grew louder and more frequent.

The remark was first reported Monday by NBC News. In a statement Monday, Kelly called the report “total BS,” and characterized his relationship with Trump as “incredibly candid and strong.” He added of the president, “He always knows where I stand, and he and I both know this story is total BS.”