“General Kelly demands of the White House staff those same qualities he has exemplified in his 45 years of public service: integrity, humility, team cohesion, focus, discipline, performance and results,” said White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. “He commands respect and shows respect, empowers us to succeed and expects us to help promote the president’s agenda and not a personal agenda.”
While Kelly has made clear that he sees his role as managing White House staff and not the president, he also helped persuade Trump to part ways with adviser Steve Bannon. The populist firebrand often goaded Trump toward some of his more nationalist policies and sharp-elbowed rhetoric and was often blamed for White House infighting.
In addition to leaning on Kelly, the former Homeland Security secretary, Trump is increasingly relying on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, an active-duty lieutenant general, on matters extending beyond foreign policy. Mattis and Kelly are retired generals, a point Kelly underscores in meetings, where he has told Cabinet secretaries and advisers to refer to him as Chief of Staff rather than “General Kelly.”
On Monday evening, Trump announced the U.S. would move additional troops to Afghanistan despite his “original instinct” to retreat from the 16-year-long war. Kelly’s approach acknowledges that Trump is prone to soliciting advice from unusual corners and being persuaded by the last person who has his ear.