John Kelly Keeps Donald Trump on a Very Short Leash

Kevin Dietsch/CNP via ZUMA

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

The usual gang at the New York Times has a story today about Donald Trump and his: tweeting, TV viewing habits, lack of knowledge about everything, etc. As usual, it is sourced to “interviews with 60 advisers, associates, friends and members of Congress.” Aren’t they all?

But this is sort of old news. Instead, I was interested in an anecdote about the way that John Kelly has brought order to the Oval Office as chief of staff. It’s about longtime Trump confidant/bodyguard Keith Schiller:

In August, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Schiller for a newspaper article he had heard about. After Mr. Trump mentioned the article to Mr. Kelly, the chief of staff dispatched two aides to investigate how it had gotten to the president without being cleared. Mr. Schiller acknowledged providing the contraband newsprint. Mr. Kelly thanked him tersely for coming forward, according to two people Mr. Schiller later told.

Seriously? Kelly tries to keep people from bringing news to Trump that Trump has specifically asked for? I get the whole idea of “controlling the information flow,” but Trump is the president of the United States. Can’t he have any news he wants? And what’s the point of this, since Trump watches hour after hour of uncontrolled TV anyway? In fact, he seems to watch not just in the morning and the evening, but literally all day:

During meetings, the 60-inch screen mounted in the dining room may be muted, but Mr. Trump keeps an eye on scrolling headlines….Watching cable, he shares thoughts with anyone in the room, even the household staff he summons via a button for lunch or for one of the dozen Diet Cokes he consumes each day.

Say what? Even during meetings the TV is on and Trump’s eyes keep flitting to the Fox News crawl? Somehow I’m imagining something like this:

MATTIS: Well, I have to agree with McMaster.
KELLY: So we’re split on whether to nuke North Korea. It will be the president’s call.
[Heads nod.]
KELLY: Mr. President, should we give the order?
[Trump turns away from Fox News crawl about Hillary’s emails.]
TRUMP: The order—oh right, the order. Yes, give the order. Give it very strongly.
KELLY: Very well, gentlemen. You know what to do.

The world ends not with a bang, but a Fox News headline.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate