Was This Kelly’s “Bannon Moment”?

The Washington Post shocked readers on Wednesday when it reported that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus during a visit to the Hill that President Donald Trump’s initial vision for the southern border wall was “ill-informed.”

But anybody who assumed WaPo was distorting Kelly’s remarks, or taking them out of context, was swiftly disabused of that notion when Kelly himself took to Fox News to offer a quick clarification: Kelly explained to Bret Baier that what he really said was that Trump’s views on the Wall – and on DACA – had “evolved” since the campaign…

“As we talked about things — where this president is and how much he wants to deal with this DACA issue and take it away — I told them that, you know, there’s been an evolutionary process that this president has gone through as a campaign [sic]. And I pointed out to all of the members that were in the room that they all say things during the course of campaigns that may or may not be fully informed. But this president, if you’ve seen what he’s done, he has changed the way that he’s looked at a number of things. … So he has evolved in the way he’s looked at things. Campaign to governing are two different things, and this president is very, very flexible in terms of what is within the realm of the possible.”

While we imagine Kelly’s remarks were well-intentioned, observers familiar with Trump’s obsessive approach to his public image will recognize that Kelly made the grave mistake of undercutting his boss’s claim to be the master of all subjects (“I’m, like, really smart”).

 

Kelly

Trump quickly let his displeasure be known Thursday morning when he rebuked Kelly in a series of tweets, declaring that “the wall is the wall” and that Trump’s views on the wall have never “evolved.” Mexico will still pay for the wall, Trump said, declaring that its estimated cost of $ 20 billion (many estimates place it closer to $ 70 billion) is “peanuts” relative to Mexico’s $ 70 billion annual trade surplus with the US.

 

 

 

 

Axios’  White House reporter Jonathan Swan later confirmed with one of his high-ranking White House sources that Trump is angry with Kelly, and that the chief of staff is in for a rough day at the office Thursday.

In a piece entitled “Is This Kelly’s Bannon Moment?” Swan points out that this is one of the first public signs of tension between Trump and his chief of staff.

Last night, Kelly undercut Trump’s self-perception as the most brilliant man on earth, and instant master of all subjects. The notion of evolution would be inherently offensive to him.

Swan said his source raised the Bannon comparison, claiming that Kelly has finally ventured into “Steve Bannon territory.”

Kelly has finally ventured into Steve Bannon territory when it comes to trying to create the perception that he’s the ‘great manipulator,’ saving the country from Trump’s ignorance.

The difference is, Steve tried to develop that reputation in off-the-record conversations with reporters. Kelly did it openly on the country’s most-watched cable network. It’s the subtle difference between hubris and arrogance.

Kelly has been widely credited with instilling a sense of discipline on the West Wing. He has also in the past proven himself a loyal soldier, standing up to attack his boss’s critics, like he did when a Florida Congresswoman accused Trump of forgetting the name of a green beret who was killed under mysterious circumstances in Mali late last year.

But is the beginning of an irreparable rift? It’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

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