Months after Chief of Staff John Kelly arrived to limit outside advisers' access to the president — and President Trump started to chafe at the orderliness — Trump has started to execute end runs around Kelly, giving aides assignments on the downlow and telling them to keep it secret.
Trump has occasionally summoned White House aides to the private residence at night, giving them tasks and instructing them not to tell Kelly, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, adding that at least once, aides have declined to execute the task so as not to tick Kelly off.
Trump's determination to slip the shackles of professionalism has led to creativity. To get around phone protocols established by Kelly, some of the president's friends have started calling first lady Melania Trump and asking her to pass messages to her husband, the Journal reports. “If I don’t want to wait 24 hours for a call from the president, getting to Melania is much easier,” one of the president's besties told the paper.
A spokesperson for Melania Trump denied that: “This is more fake news and these are more anonymous sources peddling things that just aren’t true. The First Lady is focused on her own work in the East Wing."
The White House has not commented on the report.
Although Kelly has gotten a handle on the wild West Wing ineffectually overseen by former chief of staff Reince Priebus — in which various family members and advisers waltzed into the Oval Office to command the president's eye or ear at leisure — he has not been able to prevent Trump from shooting himself in the foot with Twitter, which the president did spectacularly over the weekend via a tweet that implied he committed obstruction of justice when firing FBI director James Comey.
“John has been successful at putting in place a stronger chain of command in the White House, requiring people to go through him to get to the Oval Office,” said Leon Panetta, a White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton who worked with Kelly, at the Department of Defense. “The problem has always been whether or not the president is going to accept better discipline in the way he operates. He’s been less successful at that.”