Trump Pondering 3-5 Cabinet Changes 11/19 06:13
President Donald Trump isn't committing to a previous pledge to keep chief
of staff John Kelly for the remainder of his term, part of widespread
speculation about staffing changes that could soon sweep through his
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump isn't committing to a previous
pledge to keep chief of staff John Kelly for the remainder of his term, part of
widespread speculation about staffing changes that could soon sweep through his
Trump, in a wide-ranging interview that aired on "Fox News Sunday," praised
Kelly's work ethic and much of what he brings to the position but added, "There
are certain things that I don't like that he does."
"There are a couple of things where it's just not his strength. It's not his
fault. It's not his strength," said Trump, who added that Kelly himself might
want to depart.
Asked whether he would keep Kelly in his post through 2020, the president
offered only that "it could happen." Trump had earlier pledged publicly that
Kelly would remain through his first term in office, though many in the West
Wing were skeptical.
Trump said he was happy with his Cabinet but was thinking about changing
"three or four or five positions." One of them is Homeland Security chief
Kirstjen Nielsen, whose departure is now considered inevitable. Trump said in
the interview that he could keep her on, but he made clear that he wished she
would be tougher in implementing his hard-line immigration policies and
enforcing border security.
The list of potential replacements for Nielsen includes a career lawman, two
military officers and former acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
head. But her eventual replacement will find there's no getting around the
immigration laws and court challenges that have thwarted the president's
hard-line agenda at every turn --- even if there's better personal chemistry.
Trump also discussed the removal of Mira Ricardel, a deputy national
security adviser who is being moved to another position in the administration
after clashes with the East Wing culminated in an extraordinary statement from
first lady Melania Trump that called for her removal. The president said
Ricardel was "not too diplomatic, but she's talented" and downplayed the idea
that his wife was calling the shots in the White House.
"(The first lady's team) wanted to go a little bit public because that's the
way they felt and I thought it was fine," Trump said.
He also dismissed a series of reports that he had been fuming in the week
after the Democrats captured the House, claiming instead that the mood of the
West Wing was "very light."
The president also addressed a series of other topics:
--- He said he "would not get involved" if his choice for acting attorney
general, Matt Whitaker, decided to curtail special counsel Robert Mueller's
investigation into 2016 election interference and possible ties between the
Trump campaign and Russia. Whitaker was previously a fierce critic of the
probe, and Democrats have called for him to recuse himself from overseeing it.
Trump said that "It's going to be up to him" and that "I really believe he's
going to do what's right."
--- He downplayed a federal judge's decision to restore CNN reporter Jim
Acosta's White House press pass but derided an alleged lack of "decorum" among
reporters who cover the administration. Trump also reiterated that the White
House was going to write up rules of conduct for reporters at news conferences,
adding, "If he misbehaves, we'll throw him out or we'll stop the news
--- He also defended his incendiary attacks on the press, which include
labeling reporters the "enemy of the people," a phrase more closely associated
with authoritarian regimes. Trump suggested that his interviewer, Chris
Wallace, was no "angel," and bristled when the host from Fox News, which
generally gives him favorable coverage, said that the media was in
"solidarity." Trump declared, "I am calling fake news, fake reporting, is
what's tearing this country apart because people know, people like things that
are happening and they're not hearing about it."