Donald Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly says president is ‘embarrassed’ by Russian investigation
Donald Trump’s chief of staff has said the president is “embarrassed” by the Russia investigation and must explain away the probe when he meets world leaders.
In a rare on-the-record interview, John Kelly also revealed his “great frustration” at times in the job and said illegal migrants are not “bad people”.
The comments could further raise tensions between Mr Trump and Mr Kelly, whose attempt to bring order to the White House and authoritative tone are said to have grated on the president.
Aides to Mr Trump have always played down clashes between the pair but numerous US media reports in recent months have suggested the president has discussed replacing Mr Kelly.
Speaking to National Public Radio (NPR), Mr Kelly was asked about the Russian election meddling investigation led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel.
Asked if it was a “cloud” handing over the presidency, he said: “There may not be a cloud, but certainly the president is, you know, somewhat embarrassed, frankly.
Mr Netanyahu, the prime minster of Israel, himself has faced domestic political pressure because of a corruption investigation.
Commentators noted Mr Trump does not like personal criticism and the claim he is “somewhat embarrassed” by the Russia investigation, which he dismisses as “witch hunt”, could rankle.
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Mr Kelly triggered a rebuke from his boss in January when he said Mr Trump’s views on building a Mexican border wall had “evolved”. Mr Trump shot back that his views have "never changed or evolved”.
The Russia investigation is looking into whether the Trump campaign worked with the Kremlin and whether the president has obstructed justice, as well as other issues.
Mr Trump and his media and Congress allies have increased attacks of Mr Mueller’s investigation in recent weeks, framing it as politically motivated and overstepping its remit.
Mr Mueller is seeking to interview Mr Trump, a meeting that the president said was “weeks” away in January but has yet to take place. It remains unclear if Mr Trump will say yes.
Elsewhere in his interview Mr Kelly, a former general only became chief of staff last July, bemoaned the chaos of the early months of Mr Trump’s presidency.
Asked if he had any regrets, Mr Kelly said: "In retrospect, I wish I had been here from Day One. I think in some cases in terms of staffing or serving the president that first six months was pretty chaotic and there were people some people hired that maybe shouldn’t have."
Mr Kelly said he had never seriously considered quitting his role but admitted there are "times of great frustration, mostly because of the stories I read about myself or others" from the US media.
Mr Kelly also praised Mr Trump as a “super smart guy”, saying: "He’s very strong in terms of trade, taxes, business and he’s a quick study on everything else.”
In a separate development Kirstjen Nielsen, who replaced Mr Kelly as homeland security secretary, denied reports she considered quitting after being on the end of a dressing down from Mr Trump.
The president reportedly asked “why don’t you have solutions” to stop illegal immigrants getting into the country in a heated cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Ms Nielsen’s aides denied reports she had drafted a resignation letter.