When President Donald Trump hired former four-star general John Kelly as his chief of staff, the expectation was that a military man would bring order to the White House as it found its footing as a new administration.
One of the protocols Kelly put in place was controlling access to the president, including staff and outsiders having to arrange appointments through him to get into the Oval Office.
Now, the Wall Street Journal, using anonymous sources, paints a picture of Trump working his way around Kelly’s protocol and even states that first lady Melania Trump is now serving as a go-between for those outside of the White House who want to get a message to the president.
The president on occasion has called White House aides to the private residence in the evening, where he makes assignments and asks them not tell Mr. Kelly about the plans, according to several people familiar with the matter. At least once, aides have declined to carry out the requested task so as not to run afoul of Mr. Kelly, one of these people said.
The president, who values counsel from an informal group of confidants outside the White House, also sometimes bypasses the normal scheduling for phone calls that give other White House staff, including Mr. Kelly, some control and influence over who the president talks to and when.
Instead, some of his friends have taken to calling Melania Trump and asking her to pass messages to her husband, according to two people familiar with the matter.
“If I don’t want to wait 24 hours for a call from the president, getting to Melania is much easier,” one person said in the Journal article.
“This is more fake news and these are more anonymous sources peddling things that just aren’t true,” a spokesperson for the first lady told the Journal. “The First Lady is focused on her own work in the East Wing.”
The Journal said the White House did not respond to its request for comment.
Former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton said Kelly has been successful in some ways, according to the Journal.
“John has been successful at putting in place a stronger chain of command in the White House, requiring people to go through him to get to the Oval Office,” said Leon Panetta, who also worked with Kelly in the Department of Defense.
“The problem has always been whether or not the president is going to accept better discipline in the way he operates,” Panetta said. “He’s been less successful at that.”
The Journal reported that, despite these rumors, Trump and Kelly have a good relationship.
The Journal article also said Kelly was asked about the president’s Twitter account after he tweeted about North Korean Communist Dictator Kim Jong-un after his trip to Asia.
“Believe it or not—I don’t follow the tweets,” Kelly said, adding that he does not use Twitter.
The Journal also quoted Trump from a briefing on Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Puerto Rico in which the president noted that his chief of staff was in the room.
“He likes to keep a low profile; look at him sitting in the back,” Trump said. “But, boy, is he watching—you have no idea.”