WASHINGTON — Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff who failed to impose order on a chaos-wracked West Wing, was pushed out on Friday after a stormy six-month tenure, and President Trump replaced him with John F. Kelly, the secretary of homeland security and retired four-star Marine general.
Mr. Trump announced Mr. Kelly’s appointment on Twitter shortly before 5 p.m. and only afterward sent out another message thanking Mr. Priebus for his service. “We accomplished a lot together and I am proud of him!” Mr. Trump wrote.
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Mr. Priebus’s ouster was the latest convulsion in a White House that has been whipsawed by feuds and political setbacks in recent days. The president became convinced that Mr. Priebus was not strong enough to run the White House operation and that he needed a general to take charge. Mr. Kelly, who has demonstrated strong leadership at the Department of Homeland Security, had become a favorite of Mr. Trump’s.
Just hours earlier, the president had heaped praise on Mr. Kelly at an event in Long Island talking about the battle against the violent MS-13 gang. “I want to congratulate John Kelly, who has done an incredible job of secretary of homeland security,” the president said. “One of our real stars. Truly one of our stars. John Kelly is one of our great stars.”
But some advisers to Mr. Trump were opposed to the choice, arguing that Mr. Kelly did not have the political background for the job. “The president needs someone who understands the Trump constituency as his chief of staff, someone who has both administrative skills and political savvy,” Roger Stone, Mr. Trump’s off-and-on adviser, said, anticipating Mr. Kelly’s selection before the announcement was made.
Mr. Priebus, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, lost his job just hours after the president’s signature drive to repeal his predecessor’s health care program collapsed on the Senate floor and a day after an ugly feud with the new communications director erupted in a public airing of the deep animosities plaguing the White House.
The announcement capped a fraught 24 hours in which the president’s advisers waited for a change they had long anticipated. Mr. Priebus accompanied Mr. Trump on Air Force One for a day trip to Long Island as his fate was being decided. Making for a tense flight, his rival, Anthony Scaramucci, the communications director who had publicly vowed to force Mr. Priebus’s resignation, was also on the plane and in the motorcade.
In barely half a year on the job, Mr. Priebus never won the full confidence of the president nor was granted the authority to impose a working organizational structure on the West Wing. Always seeming to be on the edge of ouster, Mr. Priebus saw his fate finally sealed a week ago when Mr. Trump hired Mr. Scaramucci, an edgy Wall Street financier, over the chief of staff’s objections. Mr. Priebus’s ally, Sean Spicer, the press secretary, resigned in protest.
More than just a personnel dispute, the disagreement suggested a broader cleavage that would lead to Mr. Priebus’ resignation. In tapping Mr. Scaramucci, Mr. Trump was turning to a wealthy New Yorker who had become part of his inner circle, and who compensated in charisma and rapport with Mr. Trump and his family for what he lacked in governing experience.
Mr. Priebus represented a more conventional breed of senior White House figure, chosen by the president despite a career defined by the calculations of traditional Republican Party politics, which Mr. Trump regards as part of “the swamp” he was elected to drain.
Mr. Priebus and Mr. Spicer had told the president they believed Mr. Scaramucci, a gregarious hedge fund manager and fund-raiser, lacked the political experience and organizational skills required to serve in the role of communications director. In the end, however, those warnings fell on deaf ears and further soured Mr. Trump, who almost from the start suggested both publicly and privately that the job of his chief of staff was not safe.
Mr. Scaramucci made clear when he was hired that he did not report to Mr. Priebus but directly to the president and by Wednesday night was publicly suggesting that the chief of staff was a leaker and even threatened to seek an F.B.I. investigation. On Thursday, he went on television and dared Mr. Priebus to deny leaking and described the two of them as Cain and Abel, the biblical brothers whose rivalry results in one killing the other.
On Thursday evening, The New Yorker posted an interview with Mr. Scaramucci that included a profanity-laced tirade against Mr. Priebus. He called Mr. Priebus a “paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” who leaked information against him and vowed to get him fired. “He’ll be asked to resign very shortly,” Mr. Scaramucci said.
As party chairman last year, Mr. Priebus was slow to embrace Mr. Trump’s candidacy and the president, who sometimes called him “Reincey” in private, never let his chief of staff forget it. . Mr. Trump had often joked about his chief of staff’s long-term loyalty, and liked reminding the people around him that Mr. Priebus suggested that he consider dropping out after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape of Mr. Trump’s crude remarks about women were made public in October.
A native of Kenosha, Wis., Mr. Priebus rose through the ranks of the Republican Party to be his state’s chairman, amassing power by establishing relationships with party donors and becoming an effective operator within the national party, which he was chosen to lead in 2011. One of his top allies was a fellow Republican from Wisconsin, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who publicly defended Mr. Priebus on Thursday when no one in the White House would.
With many former members of President George W. Bush’s administration unwilling to work for a president they regard as unqualified or blackballed because of their opposition to Mr. Trump’s candidacy last year, Mr. Priebus staffed the West Wing with an assortment of Republican veterans and some of his core staff at the R.N.C., including his former deputy, Katie Walsh. But the assimilation of the R.N.C. into the West Wing was fraught and Ms. Walsh and others departed.
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, soured on Mr. Priebus, partly because of what he has viewed as Mr. Spicer’s shortcomings. Other senior advisers bristled at his demeanor or suspected he was undermining him. An alliance of convenience with Stephen K. Bannon, the nationalist and decidedly anti-establishment chief strategist, seemed to fade in recent weeks.
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