WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump ousted his chief of staff Reince Priebus on Friday, ending a week of headline-grabbing White House infighting.
Trump made the announcement on Twitter, naming Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly to fill the role.
“I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff,” Trump said in a series of tweets.
“He is a Great American and a Great Leader. John has also done a spectacular job at Homeland Security. He has been a true star of my Administration.”
Kelly would begin his new role on Monday ahead of a meeting of Trump’s cabinet, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
Priebus, the former head of the Republican National Committee, had served in the chief of staff role since Trump took office in January, but had come under increasing fire in recent days amid a feud with new communications director Anthony Scaramucci.
In a profanity-laced tirade in a phone call with a New Yorker reporter, Scaramucci reportedly accused Priebus of being a “paranoid schizophrenic.”
He also alleged that Priebus leaked information about him to reporters.
But, speaking to CNN on Friday evening, Priebus said he and the president had been talking about his resignation for a few days and that he had formally resigned on Thursday, denying that Trump had asked him to step down.
“This isn’t a situation where there’s a bunch of ill will,” he said, adding, “I’m always going to be a Trump fan, I’m on team Trump … The president wanted to go in a different direction, I support him in that.”
He refused to comment in the interview on reports of conflict with Scaramucci.
But the appointment of the New York financier to the role of communications director had been seen as a signal to Priebus, who had reportedly sought to keep him out of a White House position.
Priebus accompanied Trump to New York state for an event Friday, but entered a separate car after exiting Air Force One that then pulled away from Trump’s motorcade.
“Reince is a good man,” Trump told reporters as he exited the plane onto rain-soaked tarmac.
Priebus had reportedly also been under pressure from Trump’s close advisors and family members, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, as he failed to rein in a tumultuous White House.
Seen as a conventional pick from inside the political establishment when Trump named him to the role, Priebus had been slow to back Trump during the Republican primaries and the president had voiced concern about his loyalty.
The 45-year-old had consequently faced an ongoing rift with the party’s populist outsiders, including chief strategist Steve Bannon, and long-time Trump loyalists who had helped propel Trump to the White House.
His firing follows a major failure for Trump in his efforts to advance his legislative agenda, after the Senate rejected a bill to repeal former president Barack Obama’s health care legislation.
Sanders said the White House would continue to have good relations with the Republican Party, despite Priebus’ ouster.
“We’ve got a good relationship. We’re going to continue working with the party and we’re going to continue doing what we came here to do,” she said.
While Kelly said Friday he was “honoured” to be asked to serve as Trump’s new chief of staff, the US president has not yet made clear his plans for filling the secretary of homeland security position.