John Kelly’s Big Challenge: Controlling the Tweeter-in-Chief
President Donald Trump’s White House and Defense Department lawyers had warned him against the transgender military ban for days. They were concerned about the ramifications of the policy, how military officials would respond and what legal backlash it could cause, two West Wing officials familiar with last month’s discussions said. The lawyers thought there would be plenty of time for more discussions and were analyzing arguments.
Frustrated with being “slow-walked,” in the words of one White House official, the president took to Twitter last week — jarring many in the West Wing out of complacency and startling his lawyers, Defense Department officials and West Wing aides, who learned of the change in a series of tweets.
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” Trump began.
The administration had no plan in place, but Trump told others they would have to “get in gear” if he announced the ban first, one White House adviser who spoke to Trump said. He also said the announcement would stop the lawyers from arguing with him anymore. There is still no plan in place, and Defense Department officials have said they won’t implement the ban until guidance is given.
That is exactly the kind of situation the new White House chief of staff, John Kelly, has told others he wants to avoid.
Kelly, according to West Wing officials, wants to change the organizational structure in the White House, limit access to the Oval Office, give aides clear lines of command and control what ends up on the president’s desk — and who is briefing him.
But he knows, these people said, that he cannot stop the president from tweeting and sees a goal of “pushing the tweets in the right direction,” one White House official said, by limiting who encourages them.
Instead, Kelly has said he would like to know what Trump is planning to tweet before he does so and would prefer that big decisions not be announced on Twitter — but has privately conceded there will be late-night or early-morning missives he cannot review.
Read more at Politico.