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John Kelly to leave as Trump White House chief of staff at end of year

John Kelly will leave his role as Donald Trump’s White House chief of staff “toward the end of the year”, the president said on Saturday. The retired Marine Corps general has spent 16 months in the position.

At the White House, Trump spoke to reporters gathered on the South Lawn.

“John Kelly will be leaving – I don’t know if I can say ‘retiring’,” Trump said. “But, he’s a great guy. John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year. We’ll be announcing who will be taking John’s place … I’ll be announcing that over the next day or two.”

Nick Ayers, the 36-year-old chief of staff to the vice-president, Mike Pence, has been named by a number of reports as a likely successor.

Trump added: “But, John will be leaving at the end of the year. He’s been with me almost two years now.”

Kelly was Trump’s first homeland security secretary, before in July 2017 he replaced former Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus at the head of White House operations.

Reports of his impending departure, whether by choice or forced, became a regular feature of Washington gossip, not least after the veteran journalist Bob Woodward wrote in his bestselling book Fear that Kelly called Trump an “idiot” at the head of a “Crazytown” administration.

Kelly dutifully denied such reports and stayed in post.

It was reported this week that he has been interviewed as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference, links between Trump aides and Moscow and potential obstruction of justice by the president. The reports said his relationship with Trump had completely broken down.

As chief of staff, Kelly carried out a number of firings decided by Trump, including that of adviser Omarosa Manigault-Newman, who surreptitiously recorded the meeting and released the tape to the press. It was also reported he called Jeff Sessions to request his resignation as attorney general.

Last month, NBC News reported that Kelly frequently clashed with Melania Trump over staffing and logistical issues.

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