New White House chief of staff John Kelly moved to restore order to a White House in disarray on Monday by pushing out President Trump's handpicked communications director after only 11 days on the job.
Anthony Scaramucci, a close Trump ally, resigned under pressure from Kelly within hours after he was sworn in to replace Reince Priebus. Dumping Scaramucci after his profanity-laced interview with the New Yorker on Thursday was a priority of Kelly's, according to sources familiar with the situation.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday that Trump has granted the no-nonsense, retired four-star Marine general full control over staffing decisions, and he wasted little time in trying to calm the chaotic West Wing.
"General Kelly has the full authority to operate within the White House and all staff will report to him," Sanders told reporters during the daily press briefing at the White House.
The Trump White House has been a dysfunctional sea of competing factions from Day 1, with each claiming presidential authority to circumvent the traditional chain of command, led by the chief of staff, and appeal to the commander in chief directly.
Turmoil has ensued, culminating with Scaramucci's brief tenure as communications director.
It began with a debut news conference in which he belittled Priebus, then still chief of staff, and emphasized that he reported directly to the president — highly unusual for the more junior communications director position.
It ended with his crude, and at times vulgar attacks, on White House staff both senior and junior to him in the pecking order, whom he vowed to discipline or fire, in separate interviews with CNN's Chris Cuomo and the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza.
The episode hastened Priebus' expected departure and spurred Trump to recruit Kelly, his Homeland Security secretary, with whom he has grown close, to become his new chief of staff. Kelly accepted, sending a deliberate message about how deep his authority runs by removing Scaramucci, a loyal member of Trump's inner circle.
"This was a top order of business for Kelly," a Republican source close to the White House said, on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly. "Scaramucci quickly became an embarrassing distraction who did not know anything about how to do the job. The only reason Trump wanted him to have the job was to go on TV, but not outshine him with negative publicity."
To underscore the authority that Trump has vested in Kelly, Sanders said that he supports his new chief of staff's decision to send Scaramucci packing, even though the now departed communications director had himself been acting with Oval Office approval.
"The president certainly felt that Anthony's comments were inappropriate for a person in that position, and he didn't want to burden General Kelly, also, with that line of succession," Sanders said.
Trump and his coterie of close advisors have been looking for answers (and scapegoats) to the perpetual White House turbulence and failure to achieve major success with the portion of the administration's agenda that requires congressional approval.
Initially, Scaramucci was the solution.
Trump and his supporters believe the president's troubles stem from a great message of accomplishment that American voters would embrace if it wasn't drowned out by a hostile political press corps being fed a steady diet of negative leaks from inside the White House.
Scaramucci, among Trump's best television surrogates, vowed to plug internal leaks and shift attention to the president's agenda. Republican political professionals were skeptical, noting that being communications director entailed so much more than appearing on television.
Their concerns were vindicated. They applauded Kelly for forcing Scaramucci out before he could further undermine Trump's leadership, especially with healthcare reform still up in the air and other upcoming legislative priorities on the line.
"The upcoming tax reform debate is utterly crucial to President Trump and congressional Republicans," said Michael Steel, an adviser to John Boehner when he served as House speaker and aide Jeb Bush's presidential campaign. "They will be fighting with one hand tied behind their back unless they have a competent, confident, disciplined and policy-savvy White House communications operation."
It's unclear if Kelly will be successful in bringing discipline to the White House.
Trump impulsively tweets about all things at all hours and is notoriously unfocused. In times of trouble, he has shown an ability to change course and act more conventionally, only to slip into old habits over time, either because he feels constrained or because conditions appear to improve.
But Republicans with ties to Trump say the president really is fond of Scaramucci, despite acquiescing to Kelly's demand that he be dismissed, and see his willingness to support his new chief of staff's decision as proof that he's agrees there are problems and is eager to right the ship.
"Mooch loves POTUS so it's a tragedy like Icarus ... Lizza was the sun," said a member of Trump's inner circle in an email exchange. "Kelly is a no-nonsense four star USMC officer who has a low tolerance for BS ... No one should be surprised he gets to put his own team in place (which he will do)."