White House chief of staff John Kelly has dismissed rumours he is close to quitting or being fired by Donald Trump.
The retired four-star Marine Corps general addressed reports of an irreparable rift between himself and the President during a surprise appearance at a White House press briefing.
“I’m not quitting today,” he told reporters. “I just talked to the President. I don’t think I’m being fired today. And I’m not so frustrated in this job that I’m thinking of leaving.”
Mr Kelly scolded the press, telling journalists: “When I watch TV in the morning, it’s astounding to me how much is reported.”
He said he recognised that many members of the media were “operating out of contacts, leaks, whatever you call them.”
But he offered the reporters a piece of advice: “Maybe develop some better sources.”
Despite his stinging rebukes, he was an effective spokesman for the President – drawing some laughs and demonstrating a poise and control in the room that others have lacked.
The President appointed Mr Kelly as his chief of staff in July, moving him from his role as head of the Department of Homeland Security.
Much has been made of his at times awkward and telling body language since then – particularly when he was photographed with his head in his hands, staring at the floor, as Mr Trump referred to Kim Jong Un as “rocket man” during an address at the UN.
Some saw it as a sign of an existential crisis emerging. But the President’s right-hand man made light of his reactions, quipping: “The cameras always catch me when I’m thinking hard.”
Mr Kelly has sought to instil discipline and order in what had been a chaotic West Wing.
One of his policies has been a crackdown on the frequency of visitors to Mr Trump’s office and cutting down on attempts by warring aides to influence him.
When pressed on whether he was failing to control Mr Trump, he said: “I was not brought into this job to control anything but the flow of information to the President.”
The respected military man did offer some sobering analysis of North Korea – declaring that it has “developed a pretty good ICBM capability” and that the threat keeps him up at night.
But his appearance at the press briefing was largely a PR exercise to limit the damage generated by leaks.
He did a pretty good job and no doubt the man who put him there was happy.
Mr Kelly was on message, praising the President, criticising the press and denying there is conflict in the White House.
What is extraordinary is he felt the need to do it.