It’s only a matter of days now. The Rob Porter story is not going to stop. It’s only going to get worse. Trump has turned against John Kelly. Most of the White House staff has turned against John Kelly.
Kelly is “a big fat liar,” said one White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share a candid opinion. “To put it in terms the general would understand, his handling of the Porter scandal amounts to dereliction of duty.”
One White House official says this is “as bad as the Comey firing.” Anthony Scaramucci, for God’s sake, is calling upon John Kelly to resign. Republicans on the Hill aren’t expressing much confidence in Kelly, either.
“The question does become who knew what and how much did they tell Kelly—I think he is on some delicate ground,” Former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), a prominent Trump surrogate told The Daily Beast. “But he could move forward…Look at [Jeff] Sessions. He has gotten it behind him. There are people who have lost the president’s favor and have come back.”
“I’m gonna say yes,” Kingston added when asked if Kelly will be there in a month. “It’s not [an] overly confident yes.”
Trey Gowdy is not impressed, either:
"How in the hell was he still employed?" @TGowdySC just said on @CNN of Rob Porter's position at the White House amidst abuse allegations. Gowdy added that Congress is now investigating Rob Porter clearance.— Elizabeth Landers (@ElizLanders) February 14, 2018
Meanwhile, the FBI is contradicting the White House, and the Press Secretary is throwing the Personnel Security Office under the bus, saying that they were responsible for not informing the White House of Rob Porter’s security status. That’s not only factually untrue, but there’s a possibility that John Kelly meddled:
The PSO is nested under the White House’s Office of Administration, which, former White House officials say, should be run by deputy chief of staff for operations, Joe Hagin, a senior appointee. The career servants who make up its ranks are tasked with overseeing the security clearance process. But the FBI is responsible for undertaking it. And when the FBI makes its final recommendation, PSO members don’t get to decide, on their own, to keep an investigation open. At least, not without the sign off of a superior.
“The holdup surely was not because of these career officials, and the White House should not be throwing them under the bus now,” said Daniel Jacobson, a former official in the Obama White House Counsel’s office. “The real question is whether Kelly or Hagin interfered with the Personnel Security Office.”
And rumors of John Kelly’s dismissal? They seem to be coming from Trump himself:
The morale was already quite low in the Kelly era for several staff. But this is worse than it’s been since Charlottesville. And after dismissing Kelly dismissal talks as spread by Mooch/others, ppl close to Kelly now realize it’s coming from Trump.— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 14, 2018
And no one in the White House trusts anyone anymore.
Several White House officials are now prefacing or concluding their sentences in convos w reporters by making clear they can't swear by the information they've just given.— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 14, 2018
It’s a garbage fire. At this point, the only thing that might save John Kelly is another scandal — a bigger scandal — that might take the focus off the Chief of Staff. Given the way that this White House runs, that’s not entirely out of the question.
+ The Stormy Daniels controversy is not likely to erase John Kelly from the news, but Donald Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, did admit yesterday that he paid Stormy Daniels $130,000. He also said that he paid her off with his own money, which seems far-fetched. He says he was not reimbursed by Donald Trump or the Donald Trump campaign, but as Walter Shaub — former head of the White House Ethics Office — notes, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some type of in-kind contribution.
Josh, he doesn't say "nobody" reimbursed him. He says that neither Trump's companies nor his campaign did. That leaves room for Trump, any wealthy contributor, or any organization in the world. And he won't answer follow-up questions. So it's a non-statement and a non-story.— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) February 14, 2018
What’s interesting here, however, is that we’ve completely moved on from whether Trump and Daniels had an affair — that seems to be a given among everyone now — and into the “Was the payoff illegal?” stage. The fact that Michael Cohen seems to be running interference here suggests that it certainly may have been shady. There are unconfirmed reports of several other payoffs — did Michael Cohen just pay off all these women with his own money out of the goodness of his heart? Seems unlikely.
— Elsewhere, it looks like Bob Corker is trying to unretire and run for re-election after all in Tennessee. That’s not as easy as he might think. There’s already a Republican running, and unless Corker can get Trump’s endorsement, he very well could be outflanked on his right by that primary opponent. The Democrat running in Tennesee apparently has a shot, too. Corker may have a difficult time getting that endorsement from Trump since he did refer to the White House as an “adult day care.” I look forward to the groveling, although I hate to lose yet another Republican critical of Trump. We’re basically down to Susan Collins, Jeff Flake, and John McCain now.
— Things continue to look up for the Democrats in the midterms, too. Last night, Democrat Margaret Good flipped another seat, this one in Florida. She won by 8 points in a district where Trump won by 5. That is the 37th flip since Trump took office.
.@GoodforFlorida's win is the 37th Democratic special election seat flip since Trump took office. #FL72 went for Trump by 5 points.— Holly Figueroa O'Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) February 14, 2018
Good won w/52% of the vote.#FL72 has 12,060 more Republicans registered to vote than Democrats.
We need to compete in *every* district. https://t.co/Tg0o9i9HUj
— Meanwhile, we can all take some joy in this: In the year since Jared and Ivanka joined the White House, they have added “millions” of dollars of debt. Seems it’s not the get-out-of-debt-free card that Kushner was hoping.