Washington PostWASHINGTON — Senior White House aides insisted Sunday that President Donald Trump retains confidence in John Kelly, his chief of staff, in the midst of staff turmoil, and said the president is not looking to replace the retired four-star general hired six months ago with a mandate to corral chaos.
"I spoke with the president last night about this very issue, and he wanted me to re-emphasize to everyone, including this morning, that he has full confidence in his current chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, and that he is not actively looking for replacements," White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said in an interview on ABC’s This Week.
She added that Trump also retains confidence in communications director Hope Hicks, a long-serving aide under scrutiny for her role in the White House response to spousal abuse allegations against former staff secretary Rob Porter, with whom she had a romantic relationship.
Porter resigned or was fired Wednesday, a day after Kelly had defended him as "a man of honor" in a statement in which Hicks apparently had a hand.
Kelly did not offer his resignation over criticism of his handling of the Porter case, White House legislative director Marc Short said in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Numerous news reports had said that Kelly offered to quit or was ready to do so Friday, but the chief of staff had denied in a separate NBC interview Friday that he had ever offered his resignation.
"John Kelly knows that he serves at the pleasure of the president," Short said. "And he will step aside any time the president doesn’t want him to be there. But John Kelly has not offered his resignation."
On CNN’s State of the Union, Conway defended Trump’s response Friday to the accusations against Porter, in which the president praised Porter’s work and said "we wish him well" in his career.
Trump had also stressed to reporters that Porter denies the allegations from his two former wives that he was physically and emotionally abusive.
Trump did not mention the women or address the substance of their claims in those remarks or in a tweet Saturday that decried how "lives are bring shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation."
On ABC, Conway elaborated that Trump believes "you have to consider all sides. He has said this in the past about incidents that relate to him, as well."
That was a reference to allegations by more than a dozen women that Trump had sexually abused or harassed them. Trump denies the allegations and has said they were fabricated to sink his political career.
"I have no reason not to believe the women" who accuse Porter of abuse, Conway said. "And a week ago, I had no reason to believe that that had ever happened."