US president Donald Trump has appointed department of homeland security chief John Kelly as the new White House chief of staff, replacing Reince Priebus and bringing to the end a dramatic week in the Trump presidency.
Mr Trump made the shock announcement on Twitter from Air Force One, while returning to Washington, DC, from an event in Long Island, New York.
It follows a high-profile fall-out between Mr Priebus and Trump’s recently appointed communications director Anthony Scaramucci, after a New Yorker reporter disclosed details of an expletive-ridden tirade Scaramucci delivered about his colleague.
John Kelly, who accompanied Mr Trump to New York on Friday, was complimented by Mr Trump during his visit to Long Island.
“John Kelly is one of our great stars,” Mr Trump said in his speech.
Announcing Mr Kelly’s appointment, Trump tweeted: “I would like to thank Reince Priebus for his service and dedication to his country. We accomplished a lot together and I am proud of him!”
Speaking to CNN, Mr Priebus said he tendered his resignation on Thursday, and had been discussing it with the president for a few weeks.
While he declined to elaborate on the reasons for his departure, he said that the president “wanted to go in a different direction”.
“I have a very close relationship with the president. I’m going to continue to have a special relationship with the president. Change is good. He wanted to go in a different direction.”
“Both of us had to be happy where we’re at. He obviously wanted to make a change.”
He said he had discussed possible replacements with the president, with Mr Trump choosing Mr Kelly. “I thought it was a fantastic choice,” he said.
Mr Priebus is a former chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC). He was an ally of former RNC colleague Sean Spicer, who resigned a week ago following the appointment of Mr Scaramucci.
It is understood that Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner had pushed for Mr Priebus’s removal.
A new head of homeland security must now be appointed and confirmed by the Senate.
Mr Kelly (67) is a former Marine Corps general. Of Irish heritage, he was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts.
A veteran of the Iraq invasion, he lost his son in a battle in Afghanistan.
He was appointed by Mr Trump as head of the department of homeland security in January and his department has been responsible for implementing the White House’s clampdown on illegal immigration.
Mr Kelly will now be responsible for running operations in the White House, which has been plagued with infighting since the election of Mr Trump.
The growing tensions within the White House had been laid bare after Ryan Lizza, a reporter with the New Yorker, released details of a conversation he had had with Mr Scaramucci on Wednesday.
“Reince is a f*****g paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” Mr Scaramucci said, according to Mr Lizza’s account of the conversation.
The former hedge fund manager also spoke in crude terms about Steve Bannon, Mr Trump’s senior adviser.
Mr Scaramucci responded to the ensuing controversy on Twitter. “I sometimes use colorful language,” he said. “I will refrain in this arena, but not give up the passionate fight for @RealDonaldTrump’s agenda.”
The conversation between the White House’s chief communications official and the New Yorker journalist took place after Mr Lizza tweeted on Wednesday that Trump was having dinner with Mr Scaramucci, Fox News presenter Sean Hannity and ex- Fox News executive Bill Shine in the White House.
Mr Scaramucci then phoned Mr Lizza to demand who his source was, according to Mr Lizza’s account of the event.
Mr Scaramucci also appeared to accuse Mr Preibus of leaking to the media, suggesting in a tweet sent on Wednesday night – which was later deleted – that his colleague may have leaked a document outlining his financial disclosures.
Mr Scaramucci called in to a CNN morning show on Thursday, where he spoke live on air for 30 minutes.
“We have had odds. We have had differences,” he said of Mr Priebus. “When I said we were brothers from the podium, that’s because we’re rough on each other. Some brothers are like Cain and Abel. Other brothers can fight with each other and get along. I don’t know if this is reparable or not. That will be up to the president.”
Asked during Thursday’s White House press briefing whether the president still had confidence in Mr Priebus, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders replied: “We all serve at the pleasure of the president.”
“This is a White House that has a lot of different perspectives because the president hires the very best people . . . unlike previous administrations, this isn’t group-think.”
Mr Scaramucci, a 53 year-old financier from Long Island, was appointed as White House communications director by Mr Trump last Friday.
Meanwhile, the Republican party’s promise to repeal and replace Obamacare was dealt a fatal blow early on Friday after the Senate failed to back a repeal Bill on the Affordable Care Act.
After a dramatic night in the Senate, senator John McCain cast the final vote in the early hours of Friday morning, withdrawing his support for the Bill despite a last-minute intervention by vice-president Mike Pence.
Two other Republican senators – senator Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowsi of Alaska – also voted against the Bill.
The decision by Mr McCain to split with most of the Republican senators sealed the fate of the so-called “skinny repeal” Bill, which was essentially a scaled-down version of Obamacare that would have removed the individual and employer mandates.
Following the vote, Trump tweeted: “3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!”
After seven years of berating Obamacare, Republicans have failed to unite behind a plan to repeal and replace Mr Obama’s signature policy, despite controlling the levers of power in Washington.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell did not hide his disappointment after the vote, saying it was “time to move on”.
“Our only regret is that we didn’t achieve what we hoped to accomplish,” he said.