The easy answer when asked why Kelly seemed irritated during Trump’s broadside at the Germans would have been, “He wasn’t. You’re misinterpreting his facial expressions to serve your own anti-Trump agenda.” Which would have been a plausible response. Watch the clip below and you’ll see that there’s nothing *so* obviously disdainful of Trump in Kelly’s mien that it couldn’t have been shrugged off.
What’s interesting and sort of newsy is how lame the actual White House response is.
Typically, when people are “involved in a persuasive effort together,” those in nonspeaking roles will gaze at the person who is talking, occasionally nod to reinforce what they are saying and then look at those on the opposite side of the table to convey a sense of unity, Civiello said. In contrast, she said, Kelly looks away from the table and at the ceiling but rarely at Trump or at the NATO representatives across from him.
“Kelly looks like he wants to be anywhere but where he is,” Civiello said…
In a statement to The Post, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “[Kelly] was displeased because he was expecting a full breakfast and there were only pastries and cheese.”
A farcical non-answer like that is as close as Sanders can get to admitting that Kelly was annoyed with what Trump said and that she’s not going to bother pretending otherwise. Which makes me think Kelly’s in his final days as chief and everyone around him knows it. He’s three weeks away from the anniversary of his becoming chief of staff, in fact. Reports have been bubbling for months that he’s been sidelined in the job and for weeks that he’s all but checked out, just killing time until he departs one way or another. The clip suggests he’s in DGAF mode at this point, if you know what that stands for, and if that’s the case then he must be close to the end. And so the White House’s press shop isn’t going to bother defending him anymore.
The Journal reported on June 28th that Kelly could be gone within a week. That didn’t happen, but my guess is that he and Trump already have some understanding that he’ll be gone around the 31st, marking one year on the job. Then we sit and wait for a year or so until the inevitable tell-all is published. All signs point to Kelly making the West Wing under Trump sound like a Bosch painting.
What you’re about to see in the clip, I think, is what Ed described this morning in noting Pompeo’s weirdly discordant pro-NATO tweet. The administration is clearly divided between a Russia-friendly, NATO-skeptic president and … pretty much everyone who works for him, all of whom are Russia-skeptic and NATO-friendly to various degrees. “The president thinks he can be friends with Putin,” H.R. McMaster reportedly told friends while he was NSA, adding, “I don’t know why, or why he would want to be.” If there’s anyone in the inner circle who disagrees with that I’d be curious to know who. The only difference among Trump aides seems to be the degree to which they’re willing to signal their disagreements about NATO and Russia with Trump. Some, like the new guy Bolton, are lying low despite a long history of Russia skepticism. Others, like Pompeo, have decided to sound off occasionally in favor of NATO or against Russia without acknowledging Trump at all, as if they’re part of a parallel administration. And then you have the guys on their way out like Kelly who have nothing left to lose by communicating their disdain. By this time next year it’ll probably be Bolton who’s eyeing the exits and grimacing at meetings.