Reince Priebus’ sudden, unanticipated exit from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. dominated the Friday news cycle, and all eyes were on President Donald Trump.
According to Fox News, Priebus abruptly resigned one day after a New Yorker piece quoted White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci that appeared to accuse the president’s chief of staff of leaking. Trump announced that John Kelly, the former general who has headed up the Department of Homeland Security, would take Priebus’ place.
Given the amount of invective the president has heaped upon suspected leakers in the past — as well as his tendency to publicly confront members of his inner circle like Attorney General Jeff Sessions — one might have expected a fusillade of denunciation fired from the Oval Office in Priebus’ general direction.
That’s where Trump managed to stun the media, however: In his first response to questions about Priebus’ resignation, the president praised his former chief of staff, referring to him multiple times as a “good man.”
According to The New York Times, the president made the remarks on the rainy tarmac of Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Friday afternoon shortly after deplaning Air Force One, which had just returned him to the D.C. area from a trip to Long Island.
“Reince is a good man,” Trump told reporters. “John Kelly will do a fantastic job. General Kelly has been a star, done an incredible job thus far, respected by everybody. He’s a great, great American. Reince is a good man.”
Priebus, who had been on board Air Force One with the president, had “stepped off the plane into a drenching rain, ducked into a car and was driven away without comment,” The Times reported.
NEW: Trump to reporters: “Reince is a good man. John Kelly will do a fantastic job” after of chief of staff replacement pic.twitter.com/5mWCSMeVoI
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) July 28, 2017
Trump had also praised Priebus on Twitter shortly after announcing Priebus’ resignation.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 28, 2017
“I would like to thank Reince Priebus for his service and dedication to his country,” Trump tweeted. “We accomplished a lot together and I am proud of him!”
For his part, Priebus reiterated his affection for the administration during an appearance on Fox News’ “Hannity” later that evening.
“I’m going to be on Team Trump all the time,” Priebus said. “I’ll always be out there trying to help the president, advance his goals, support him, as a friend too, and that’s the other part of the job that people don’t realize, you actually become friends.
“When you go through thick and thin together, you get to know people really well, and he’s a good man and I was honored to be able to serve him,” he added.
In another interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Priebus also noted that “General Kelly is a brilliant pick.”
We’ll almost certainly learn more about the details (scandalous or not) regarding Priebus’ departure in the coming days. However, given Trump’s high-toned statement on the matter, one might surmise the situation isn’t exactly as stormy as it seems on the surface.
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