- The Washington Times - Friday, December 7, 2018

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly is expected to leave his job within days, CNN reported Friday.

The move, long anticipated, has become more imminent as President Trump and Mr. Kelly “have stopped speaking in recent days,” the network said, citing two sources who added that the president is actively discussing a replacement plan.

West Wing officials believe Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, is a likely replacement for Mr. Kelly.

Mr. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, took the chief of staff post in July 2017, after Mr. Trump fired Reince Priebus.

At the start of the Trump administration, Mr. Kelly served as secretary of Homeland Security, helping to guide through the president’s policies of tougher border security and a broad crackdown on immigration vetting.

He has brought more order to the West Wing, although he reportedly has clashed with the president over numerous issues, including the performance of his successor at DHS, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, whose job also is said to be on thin ice.

The expected departure of Mr. Kelly could precipitate more staff shuffling in a post-midterm housecleaning that the president has said is normal for administrations. The president also is expected to announce Friday the nomination of Heather Nauert, spokeswoman at the State Department, to replace U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

The White House chief of staff’s job is considered one of the most demanding in Washington, and it’s rare for a person to serve more than two years or so in the post. Mr. Priebus, former head of the Republican National Committee, served one of the shortest terms in history in the job.

Mr. Ayers is viewed as a more savvy political operative than Mr. Kelly with Congress. The White House also is preparing to deal with a new Democratic House majority in January for the first time in Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Two other White House staffers were on the move Friday to work on Mr. Trump’s re-election. The Trump campaign announced that White House political director Bill Stepien and director of public liaison Justin Clark will take positions at the campaign as senior political advisers.

“Now is the best opportunity to be laser-focused on further building out the political infrastructure that will support victory for President Trump and the GOP in 2020,” said Campaign Manager Brad Parscale. “Few Republican strategists in America have the skills and insights that Justin Clark and Bill Stepien offer — we’re excited to have them join our Political Director Chris Carr to help us develop a winning team nationwide.”

Mr. Clark and Mr. Stepien will help build the campaign’s nationwide grassroots political operation and organize the national convention whip operations, the campaign said.

Last summer, Mr. Trump said he had asked Mr. Kelly to remain in his job through 2020.

The White House canceled a senior staff meeting Friday morning that was to have been led by Mr. Kelly. He was expected to attend a holiday dinner for senior White House staff scheduled for Friday night in the East Room with the president and first lady.

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