WASHINGTON (CN) — Continuing his attacks on central figures from his impeachment, President Donald Trump tweet-unloaded Thursday against his former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
“When I terminated John Kelly, which I couldn’t do fast enough, he knew full well that he was way over his head,” Trump tweeted. “Being Chief of Staff just wasn’t for him. He came in with a bang, went out with a whimper, but like so many X’s, he misses the action & just can’t keep his mouth shut.”
Trump’s tweets refer to comments Kelly made a day earlier at an event at Drew University in defense of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a national security official and star witness in the president’s impeachment inquiry.
Kelly, a four-star Marine Corps general whom the president dismissed in December 2018, said Wednesday that Vindman had abided by military protocol he learned as a soldier when he alerted his superiors to Trump’s misconduct.
“We teach them, ‘Don’t follow an illegal order and if you’re every given one, you’ll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss,’” Kelly said.
Kelly continued by saying: “Through the Obama administration up until that phone call, the policy of the U.S. was militarily to support Ukraine in their defensive fight against … the Russians. And so, when the president said that continued support would be based on X, that essentially changed and that’s what that guy [Vindman] was most interested in.”
The White House removed Vindman from his post last week, only two days after the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted the president on two articles of impeachment, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, that sailed through the Democrat-run House.
The New York Times reported last year that Kelly and Trump butted heads over granting security access to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Kelly reportedly wrote in a memo then that he was “ordered” to give top-secret clearance to Kushner, whom intelligence officials feared would be taken advantage of by United Arab Emirates, Chinese and Israeli officials, due to his lack of experience.
The president voiced his displeasure with Vindman the same day of the Purple Heart recipient’s dismissal.
“Well, I’m not happy with him. Do you think I’m supposed to be happy with him? I’m not,” Trump said last Friday.
Kelly didn’t stop his criticisms on the Trump administration at the defense of Vindman. Speaking for 75 minutes Wednesday, Kelly also said he didn’t think Trump’s Southern border wall needed to extend “from sea to shining sea,” or that migrants generally were bad people — an insult Trump has hurled at people from Central America immigrating to the U.S.
“In fact, they’re overwhelmingly good people,” Kelly said. “They’re not all rapists, and they’re not all murders, and it’s wrong to characterize them that way. I disagreed with the president a number of times.”
Responding in an accompanying tweet to his earlier attacks Thursday, Trump said it was Kelly’s military and legal obligation to keep his opinion on the Trump administration to himself.
“His incredible wife, Karen, who I have a lot of respect for, once pulled me aside & said strongly that ‘John respects you greatly. When we are no longer here, he will only speak well of you,’” Trump tweeted. “Wrong!”
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.