President Trump said Saturday night he would have thrown former White House chief of staff John F. Kelly out of the Oval Office if Mr. Kelly had warned him about possible impeachment, as the ex-Marine general asserted earlier Saturday.
“John Kelly never said that, he never said anything like that,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “If he would have said that I would have thrown him out of the office. He just wants to come back into the action like everybody else does.”
Mr. Kelly said Saturday he warned the president nearly a year ago that he’d be impeached if he hired a “yes man” to replace the retired Marine Corps general as his top West Wing aide.
“I said, whatever you do — and we were still in the process of trying to find someone to take my place — I said whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth — don’t do that,” Mr. Kelly told The Washington Examiner. “Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached.”
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham also responded to Mr. Kelly’s account in a statement: “I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great president.”
Mr. Kelly served as the president’s chief of staff from July 2017 until last December, by which time their working relationship had frayed badly. He spoke at the Sea Island Summit, a political conference hosted by the Examiner in Georgia.
The retired general said the president wouldn’t be in his predicament if he were still working at the White House.
“I have an awful lot of, to say the least, second thoughts about leaving,” Mr. Kelly said. “It pains me to see what’s going on because I believe if I was still there or someone like me was there, he would not be kind of, all over the place.”
The president tapped Mick Mulvaney as acting chief of staff after Mr. Kelly’s departure. His first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, lasted only about six months in the job.
House Democrats resumed their impeachment inquiry on Saturday, hearing testimony behind closed doors from acting assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker. Democrats allege that the president pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.
The president said Saturday he remains unconcerned about the impeachment probe.
“The Ukraine investigation is just as Corrupt and Fake as all of the other garbage that went on before it,” he tweeted.
Mr. Kelly said the president needs more advisers who are willing to tell him the truth bluntly.
“Someone has got to be a guide that tells [the president] that you either have the authority or you don’t, or Mr. President, don’t do it,” Mr. Kelly said. “Don’t hire someone that will just nod and say, ‘That’s a great idea Mr. President.’ Because you will be impeached.”
He said, “The system that should be in place, clearly — the system of advising, bringing in experts in, having these discussions with the president so he can make an informed decision, that clearly is not in place. And I feel bad that I left.”