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Trump Tweets Gen. Kelly is New Chief of Staff; Source: Priebus Resigned As Chief Of Staff On Thursday; White House: John Kelly Starts As Chief Of Staff On Monday; Reince Priebus Forced Out As Trump's Chief Of Staff. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 28, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TAPPER: ... has gotten rid of his national security director, his communications director, his press secretary, and as of just a few minutes ago, his White House chief of staff. Wolf Blitzer is in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching. I'll see you Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION."
[17:00:17] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news.
President Trump just announcing a new White House chief of staff, doing so on Twitter. The president says General John Kelly will replace Reince Priebus after days of speculation about his future. Our correspondents and specialists, everyone is standing by to follow the breaking news.
I quickly want to go over to our White House correspondent, Sara Murray, for the latest.
Sara, the president did what a lot of people expected him to do. He basically got rid of his chief of staff, Reince Priebus.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, and in typical Donald Trump fashion, he broke the news on Twitter. I'm going to read you this two-part tweet he just sent out as he was landing back here in Washington.
He said, "I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F. Kelly as White House chief of staff. He is a great American and a great leader. John has also done a spectacular job at homeland security. He's been a true star of my administration."
Now, Wolf, we were hearing last night, we were hearing this morning that the concern around Reince Priebus was growing. That there were some who were close to the president who really felt like he was no longer an effective chief of staff, not only in executing the president's wishes but also keeping things running smoothly in the West Wing and ensuring the president's priorities were moving forward on Capitol Hill. This was a concern that was shared by the president's family members
who worked in this administration, with Jared Kushner, with Ivanka Trump.
Now, we were told that the president was turning this decision over, that he was mirroring (ph) it. We obviously know this is someone who doesn't take firing people lightly. He does not take making huge staff changes like this lightly, so it was clearly something he was turning over.
When he was in New York earlier today, he lavished a little bit of praise on John Kelly, maybe foreshadowing this move, and as soon as he got back here to Washington, D.C., he made this announcement on Twitter.
This is the kind of thing that is certainly going to come as a blindside to Reince Priebus and his allies. We were told by people close to Priebus earlier today that he wasn't going anywhere, that Priebus had no plans to resign. He felt like his standing in the White House was secure. Obviously, that wasn't the case, Wolf.
BLITZER: You see the president has just arrived at Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington, D.C., from his event out in Long Island. He's standing out in the rain over there at Joint Base Andrews. We're told that both -- both Reince Priebus and Anthony Scaramucci, they were on Air Force One with the president. We haven't seen either. I don't understand why he's standing outside, but presumably he'll get into the limo to head over to Air Force -- to the White House.
Jeff Zeleny is standing by at the White House. Jeff, you're getting more reaction?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We are, indeed, Wolf. I mean, this is all playing out as the president is doing it himself on Twitter. And he just, a moment after announcing his new chief of staff, Wolf, he thanked his existing and outgoing chief of staff, Reince Priebus.
This is just coming in, Wolf. He said this: "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!" exclamation point.
And Wolf, as you know, Reince Priebus is on that airplane, Air Force One, flying back from Long Island here to Joint Base Andrews just outside of Washington.
Anthony Scaramucci, the new communications director, who's playing such an outsized role in this palace intrigue here, he is not on that flight. He actually stayed in New York City or somewhere in the area. So Reince Priebus is on that flight. What we are trying to figure out in this hour, and in fact we do not know, is how Reince Priebus found out about this. If he resigned, if he was fired, if he agreed to go.
But this is something, Wolf, that as we learn more, it will be -- offer a window into, really, what has been a drama here, as Sara was reporting throughout the week.
Loyal allies to Reince Priebus have been telling us throughout the day that he is not going anywhere, that there is nothing to this story. Very close people to Reince Priebus said there was nothing to this. Wolf, so they simply did not know the president was going to make this move today.
But it is one that has been, you know, in the works. We've heard rumors. You know, for several months, the president has grown not pleased with Reince Priebus at several points. He stopped praising him in public remarks. Earlier this week, there was that major jobs announcement in Wisconsin, the Foxconn Apple supplier coming to Wisconsin. Reince Priebus played a huge role in that. The president did not mention his name. So there had been signs along the way. They have been on the outs.
But we reported earlier today, Wolf, that the children of the president, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, in particular among others, were urging the president to make a move here. So this is something that was in the works for a while.
[17:05:00] But boy, Wolf, taking everyone by surprise here at the White House, particularly his choice. But he did praise him during that speech in Long Island. He praised the homeland security secretary, John Kelly. It stood out a little bit how he was sort of calling him out, but not all that surprising, of course, in an integration law enforcement speech, Wolf.
But the president, as we know, likes his generals. He has talked about that repeatedly. Now he has a general in the most important office here in the West Wing. We will see if that changes anything in terms of his governing style or, indeed, his agenda, Wolf.
BLITZER: The president naming retired John F. Kelly, the secretary of homeland security, to become the next White House chief of staff.
Mark Preston, you're getting more information on the background. What have you learned?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it is certainly a developing story right now, but what I've just heard from a source very close to Reince Priebus is that, in fact, he offered his resignation privately to the president yesterday. So he -- he had resigned yesterday. At least this is what I'm being told by somebody extremely close to Reince Priebus. We saw him on the airplane today with Anthony Scaramucci, which I'm not too surprised about, actually, because for Reince Priebus now, to leave the White House, he's going to have to leave on good terms.
But the fact of the matter is, he's leaving under a very dark cloud. And if it is true, which I do believe it's true, that he did resign yesterday, at least in some ways, I guess some ways, he's going out on his own terms.
BLITZER: Presumably, the president did not want to have him resign without having a successor... PRESTON: Correct.
BLITZER: ... ready to be announced at the same time. So he's announcing John Kelly will -- is the new White House chief of staff, giving up his cabinet position as the secretary of homeland security.
Sara Murray is back at the White House. She's getting some additional information. What else are you learning, Sara?
MURRAY: Well, Wolf, I think it's very fascinating here. Earlier on, from some people that are close to the president who are weighing in on this pick. Look, there are a lot of people who thought Reince Priebus was a very good fit to this job when Trump first came to the White House. They felt like he needed a political hand at his side, someone who knew Washington. And even those people had really begun to sour on Priebus in the last few weeks and feel like someone else needed to be in that job.
So in talking to some of them just now, they feel like the John Kelly pick is perhaps exactly President Trump needs right now. They pointed out the fact that he really respects the generals that he has had on his team so far. They feel like someone like Kelly could impose a little bit more order in this West Wing, that Trump may have a bit more respect for them and be more inclined to allow staff to sort of report to, you know, a general who is obviously going to have a more defined sense of protocol and regular order for these things.
I'm not sure if we have this sound, but President Trump did lavish praise earlier today on Kelly when he was in New York. Maybe we can play just a part of that for you guys right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to congratulate John Kelly, who has done an incredible job of secretary of homeland security. Incredible. One of our real stars. Truly one of our stars.
John Kelly is one of our great stars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: So you heard him there, in some ways sort of forecasting the move that he was going to be making on the plane today.
You know, John Kelly is walking into a very interesting situation here. We have not heard from Anthony Scaramucci, the newly-minted White House communications director, on this staff shake-up, but it does seem like things have moved pretty quickly over here since he joined the team, Wolf.
BLITZER: Indeed. David Chalian is getting some additional information, as well. David, what else are you learning?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, just building off of what you just heard Mark Preston say about the time line here, if the resignation, indeed, came yesterday from Reince Priebus, clearly, he was in, to some degree, about the rollout here, Wolf.
And while this is a surprise Friday evening development for many people, he obviously was doing his best all day to act like he was doing his job, even though he had privately giving resignation to the president a day before.
I think it can't be stated enough how many people inside the president's inner circle feel that John Kelly is a calming force, that he is -- you just heard the president there call him a star in the administration, but the president's son-in-law, the advisers inside the West Wing believe that John Kelly has sort of been a calming force in this administration. And clearly, that is what the president thinks he needs right now. You don't make a big change like this unless you are conceding that what you had isn't working.
Now, he said Reince Priebus has accomplished a lot, but it is hard in this six-month mark of this administration to see what is working well. And so shaking it up is one part of how you go about fixing that.
The other factor to remember, though, is John Kelly is now coming into a position where he still has a president who acts out on Twitter, who has impulses that seem to be at odds with the administration's desired mission goals on a given day. It is -- it is not at all clear that the president, by putting John Kelly in the chief of staff office, is all of a sudden promising a change in his own behavior. And it is that behavior that has caused the most chaos and distraction from the mission at hand for this administration.
[17:10:14] BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny is over at the White House getting some more information. Jeff, what else are you learning?
ZELENY: Wolf, we've been watching those pictures there of the president holding the umbrella, walking to the wing of the plane here. And if you are wondering aloud here what he was doing. He was actually answering a question from a group of pool reporters who were there on the plane. And Wolf, I can read to you what he said. This is coming from the pool reporters on the plane.
He said, "Reince is a good man. John Kelly will do a fantastic job. General Kelly has been a star," in the president's words. "Done an incredible job thus far. Great, great American respected by everybody. He's done a great, great job. Reince Priebus is a good man."
So Wolf, again, there the president is, in his own words, summing up his decision this evening.
But again, as David Chalian was reporting and others were saying here, for all the staff changes here at the White House -- and there are likely to be more of them coming -- this is an inflection point at this six-month mark and a little bit more of this presidency. One person, of course, will not change. That's the person in the Oval Office, Wolf.
So a new chief of staff, of course, will change -- you know, can certainly help organize and redirect leadership, but the president, of course, is staying the same, and all the challenges of the Russia organization and everything else that has frustrated him so remain the same here. So this chief of staff, who we believe will start next week, Wolf, certainly has his work cut out for him.
BLITZER: Certainly. The president will need to nominate a new secretary of homeland security now, as well, who will need Senate confirmation. So now we know now why the president walked back, once he deplaned, got on the tarmac; walked back to speak to a pool of reporters.
We'll hear that sound reportedly from the secretary of the United States.
Gloria Borger is with us as well. You've been checking with your sources, Gloria. What else are you learning?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I want to say, Wolf, starting last night, we began to get wind that something -- that something was going on...
BLITZER: This was following the Anthony Scaramucci attack...
BLITZER: ... the interview that he granted Ryan Lizza of "The New Yorker," who is also with us right now, in which he really leveled -- he really went after Reince Priebus.
BORGER: Right, and there was -- you know, Reince Priebus had not been getting a show of support, exactly, from the president or from the podium at the White House. And we began to be hearing this and also hearing that there -- that perhaps General Kelly would be considered as a replacement. I heard that from a good source of mine.
I also heard from a source that people were talking to Reince Priebus who were friends of his and were telling him, you know, this is the time for you to go. There were other people who were saying to Reince, you know, hang on now, because maybe Scaramucci will be gone in a while if you want to get involved in that.
But it was clear that he did not enjoy the support from the president of the United States. We got a lot of pushback on behalf of Reince Priebus from people who were saying, "This is not happening. He is not ready to leave." But I also heard that the president made his decision. That it was difficult for him to do it as we know that he doesn't like to fire people, but that he had lost confidence. And that also -- and my colleagues at the White House were hearing this, as well, that Jared and Ivanka were also pushing for this.
I think we now have to look and see if another shoe falls. We have to be looking to see what happens to Steve Bannon inside this White House now, because that is another name that is being thrown around as somebody who might, in fact, be vulnerable at this point. And, you know, I think that Bannon and Reince Priebus have established a kind of an uneasy alliance in the White House over these past months. And so now you have to ask if Reince Priebus is gone, what happens -- what happens to Steve Bannon.
BLITZER: In that interview that Scaramucci gave you, Ryan Lizza, he said, and I'm looking at the article you wrote, he reiterated that Priebus -- Reince Priebus would soon resign. And now it's over.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He was very clear about that, that he would be gone imminently.
And look, once -- once those remarks were out in public, I think -- could really the two of them stay in that White House? Could Scaramucci, who in that same interview talked about how Reince didn't get the message when Scaramucci was the release on Scaramucci...
BLITZER: I'll read the quote he gave you. "He said he didn't get the hint" -- This is Scaramucci. "He didn't get the hint that I was reporting directly to the president," because normally a communications director at the White House reports to the White House chief of staff.
LIZZA: Exactly. And so Scaramucci was basically telegraphing in this interview that Reince is out. He didn't get the hint and now we're going to have to do it the hard way.
[17:15:05] I know people close to Reince are saying that he resigned, but clearly, Scaramucci was saying -- you know, communications director on the record saying...
BORGER: He's out.
LIZZA: ... he was going to be gone soon. And look, how could these two guys work together? It just seems inconceivable the two of them were going to remain.
BORGER: I was also told last night that what they were waiting for was that Reince was looking for what was called to me an elegant way to leave, and that he was -- you know, he was looking for a way to -- a place to jump to. But that didn't -- that didn't appear. And I think at this point, particularly with the pressure from Scaramucci on behalf of the president of the United States, that Reince had no choice.
CHALIAN: Some of his -- some of Reince's allies yesterday were saying, maybe the Scaramucci interview gives him a little extra time, because maybe it was so outrageous...
CHALIAN: ... that it will make Trump think twice. Obviously not. This is Trump saying, "I like what Scaramucci did."
BLITZER: He certainly did. Go ahead.
PRESTON: So what is just amazing right now, we've seen this ally from New York, because we talk about different factions in the White House. There was the New York faction, the Jared, the Ivanka and others, Scaramucci being one of them, coming in as the wedge and knocking out the RNC/establishment Republicans that had come in and basically were the backbone of the White House in that whole operation.
What's going to be interesting to see is who are Republicans on Capitol Hill now going to reach out to in that West Wing? Because there doesn't seem to be anybody of any real senior stature that Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell can pick up the phone and call, if they can't get the president himself.
BORGER: Well, General Kelly. It's going to be General -- it's going to be...
CHALIAN: I got it. But you and I were talking about General Kelly earlier, you know, about this. But he is a politician in the sense of military, but he's not a legislative, congressional guy. And I just think...
BLITZER: Let's learn a little bit more about General Kelly right now, retired General Kelly, the now former secretary of homeland security. Barbara Starr, over at the Pentagon.
Barbara, you've spent some time covering him over the years while he was in uniform.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. Fairly well-known, a retired four-star Marine. And that may be the thing to look at the most. As Jeff Zeleny said a couple of minutes ago, Donald Trump likes his generals, but are generals really, at this point, what he really needs?
Look, a four-star general like John Kelly is someone very expert at running large organizations. He served in western Iraq at the worst times in Fallujah and Anbar province. This is a guy who knows stress, no question about it. Very no-nonsense. He is not going to put up with staff in-fighting. Military generals just -- they don't put up with that kind of thing. They put a stop to that right away.
But as you both said, is his bigger problem in management the person in the Oval Office? Will a four-star general directly be able to cope with, you know, the flexible management style that Donald Trump offers many days of the week?
Kelly also becomes essentially the third, if you will, key four-star in a place of power. Retired but recently retired. We have general James Mattis, of course, also retired Marine, as secretary of defense; current four-star General Joe Dunford as chairman of the joint chiefs. So you have three, essentially, Marine Corps four-star generals in very crucial jobs.
How this all sorts out, does John Kelly -- he has the chops with the military committees on Capitol Hill. He's grown the chops to deal with the committees on Capitol Hill, to deal with immigration, to deal with homeland security. But as for the rest of it, he may have a road ahead of himself to get, you know, up to speed on that while he's dealing with a White House in some sense of disarray.
Let me just briefly put a human face on General John Kelly, Secretary John Kelly. In 2001, he lost his son in battle in Afghanistan. He became sadly known as the general who -- the highest-ranking officer to lose a son or daughter in combat. First Lieutenant Robert Kelly was killed in Sangan (ph), Afghanistan. And on this Memorial Day...
STARR: ... we saw him go to Arlington with the president.
BLITZER: Hold on for a moment, because the president now, we're getting the tape in of the president walking down the stairs at Air Force One, going back to speak to reporters about this major announcement. Listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Reince is a good man. John Kelly will do a fantastic job. General Kelly has been a star, done an incredible job thus far, respected by everybody. A great, great American. Reince Priebus, a good man. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, so there you see the president of the United States speaking very briefly to reporters with the announcement, praising John Kelly, the new White House chief of staff. As White House chief of staff, does not need Senate confirmation.
[17:10:08] Senator John Manchin of West Virginia is with us. He's a Democrat. Let me get your quick reaction. First of all, you know General Kelly. What do you think?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: He's held in high regard, Wolf, by both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans. I was on the Armed Services for six years, and he came to force many times. And we just truly enjoyed having him. He was always forthright, straight- talking, told us exactly what was going on, what to expect. And basically, what -- what he thought needed to be done. So it's going to be received well.
The president has a right to put his team together. And I wish Reince all the best, but it's a job. And the president is going to put the people around him -- and every executive is going to do that -- who they have the most confidence in and can get the job done that needs to be done.
BLITZER: He's a retired four-star Marine Corps general, General Kelly. Here's the question: Can he bring some order to the White House? Because clearly, there's been so much disarray lately, so much back stabbing, palace intrigue some are calling it. What do you think?
MANCHIN: Well, if a general can't do it, I don't know who can. They're disciplined; they're orderly; they're structured; they know what it takes. They know the chain of command, and they're not going to put up with nonsense. So we'll see how that goes.
But I think General Kelly, sure, he has the ability to do it. He's proven he's a tremendous leader. And he's done a good job at homeland security. He's been before us. I'm on Appropriations. He's been before the Appropriations Committee, spoke to us. We respected that. There are some things that we talked about. He got back to us. So I think he's going to do a good job.
BLITZER: You think this White House is in disarray right now? Did you have -- did you frequent conversations with the now former White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus?
MANCHIN: Not that many. I've had a few but not that many. No. Seemed like Reince had his hands full. They've just got to build a relationship. You know, my recommendation, build a relationship.
General Kelly has a relationship with most of the senators that I know of. He's been up there many times in many different committees, well thought of and well-liked. I'm sure on the House it will be the same side [SIC]. So he's starting out in a pretty good place, bipartisan place where both Democrats and Republicans have is a lot of respect and have worked with him in a professional manner.
BLITZER: He likes to surround himself with generals -- the national security adviser, a three-star active duty general, General McMaster, right now; secretary of defense, as Barbara was pointing out, retired General Mattis. This is a president who likes that kind of military -- I guess what you could call organization. The leadership that these generals provide, you've seen that. Do you think it's such a good idea to have so many generals surrounding the president?
MANCHIN: The only thing I can tell you is the generals you just spoke about -- General Mattis, General McMasters, General Kelly -- these are the cream of the crop. These are as good as it gets. I've known him and have spoken to him. I've interviewed him and worked with him on committees. They're as good as it gets. So these are top-notch people. They just so happen to have come through this military rank and have done extremely well at the highest level, Wolf. So as far as character and quality of a human being, you're not going to get any better than these three.
BLITZER: One final question before I let you go. Senator, have you ever seen anything like this before in a White House, the backstabbing, the attacks, what Anthony Scaramucci, for example, leveled against Reince Priebus yesterday, Steve Bannon, the chief strategist at the White House. Have you ever seen this kind of talk so publicly announced?
MANCHIN: No, I don't think anybody has. They've left it all in the yard. You know, they said -- they took it right out to the lawn and left it out on the yard. And it is what it is.
And some people can function under those conditions and get things done, and some can't, so we're going to see. The president is making some changes. He has a right to do that. He needs to have a comfort level. He has to make sure that he believes that the person there is serving it the way he wants him to be served and is representing his administration and his country. So I respect that. I always have and I always will. So we're going to see what happens, but it's a little bit unusual,
unorthodox, if you will.
BLITZER: Certainly is. All right. Joe Manchin, the senator from West Virginia. As usual, thanks for joining us.
All right. Let's get some more...
MANCHIN: Thank you, Wolf, for having me.
BLITZER: ... analysis. You know, Gloria, it is rather extraordinary. We've seen resignation now after resignation. Sean Spicer, the press secretary, resigned earlier in the week. His close friend and ally in the White House, Reince Priebus, now gone.
[17:25:03] BORGER: Right. And, you know, I think in a way, the Reince Priebus departure is not a surprise, although there -- we did get pushback on it today, but we had heard...
BLITZER: When you say pushback, a lot of our viewers don't understand that. Are these people simply out of the loop, they don't know what they're talking about, or are they lying?
BORGER: It could be a little bit of both, and it could also be that the person involved didn't know at that point. I mean, you know, it's -- Wolf, it's hard to know. All I know is, you know, you're only as good as your sources, and you have a source that tells you that Reince Priebus will be gone, and then you have a good source that tells you that's not -- that's not the case. And...
BLITZER: Clearly, the sources that were pushing you away are not good sources, so you've got to be careful with those sources down the road.
BLITZER: Either they don't know what they're -- what they're talking about or they're lying...
BLITZER: ... so those sources presumably will go away.
BORGER: That is right. But I'm not the only...
BLITZER: That's my experience as a reporter.
BORGER: Thank you. But I'm not the only one here doing the reporting on this, and when you get differing stories from a White House in which there are competing interests, and you understand -- you have to understand the decider is the president of the United States. And, you know, we were told, or I was told that the president had made his decision, but you never know until you know in these -- in these situations, particularly...
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Especially with Donald Trump. BORGER: Particularly with this White House.
BLITZER: Well, let me bring Kaitlan into this.
BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins is our White House reporter. You're there on a day-to-day basis. This is a major development right now. Can a four-star general bring some order to what has been a rather chaotic scene?
COLLINS: That's a great question. It's a very divided White House. They are constantly at each other's throats, the dramatic sight between this new communications director and Reince Priebus.
But we saw a very week chief of staff in Reince Priebus, not only through his actions but the way that Donald Trump delegated them. Anthony Scaramucci was hired last week. Reince Priebus was largely kept in the dark on this decision; he had no input. And when he did tell the president not to hire Anthony Scaramucci, Donald Trump clearly ignored it and hired him, anyway.
And then we saw with the fight that Anthony Scaramucci wasn't reporting to the chief of staff like we normally see in a White House. He was reporting directly to the president.
So Reince is supposed to be this establishment guy in the White House who was there to help Donald Trump with his talks on Capitol Hill, and clearly, even with health care last night, we saw that that just wasn't something he could do for Donald Trump.
BLITZER: Jamie Gangel, I want to bring her into this, as well. She has been been doing some reporting with your Republican sources. Jamie, same question to you. Can a retired four-star Marine general bring some order to the White House?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's the $64,000 question, isn't it? And that's -- and that's really what everyone that I've spoken to this afternoon is saying. They all respect General Kelly. They all think he's a straight arrow. If anybody can do it, General Kelly can do it.
On the other hand, we're talking about President Trump.
Here's something that someone just sent me that I want to read you, because I think it speaks to their relationship. This is from a Republican source who is very close to both General Kelly and President Trump. And this person told me that the president calls Kelly all the time for advice and perspective on issues outside of his portfolio. So this is someone Trump has been reaching out to for some time.
And then the other thing we heard about Kelly is everyone describes him as good, calm, adult leadership, but there is, again, always the caveat, as you said, Wolf: How long will he put up with the nonsense? And another source said, this won't work unless President Trump really changes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And there's no indication that President Trump is about to change. He's got his strategy; he's got his way of operating, and he certainly hasn't changed so far.
David Chalian, you're getting more analysis, as well.
CHALIAN: Well, Wolf, I think we should take this moment and put it in the context of when this change is coming.
It is coming at the end of what may be one of the most consequential weeks in the Trump presidency. I say that because the Trump presidency revealed itself this week to be entirely dysfunctional. So this change comes at the end, perhaps in the hopes of getting it back on track, but take a look at what happened this week.
He left his attorney general twisting in the wind, all annoyed and disappointed in him, because he recused himself from the Russia investigation. The Boy Scouts of America had to issue a statement of regret that they had the president of the United States there, who turned the rally political. He issued a transgender military service policy on Twitter that his own people had no idea was coming and said they have no ability to implement and won't be doing so until it's done in the proper ways.
His entire -- his first major legislative achievement of health care -- or initiative of health care fails, goes up in flames. Senate can't get it passed.
[17:30:04] This is -- this is a week that revealed the total and complete dysfunction of the Trump presidency, and these changes coming at the very -- never mind the, you know, circus-like infighting that we see and the soap opera going on with Scaramucci and Priebus this week. This week now ends with changes that Donald Trump and his team clearly are hoping will turn this around, but it seems that that is a leap of faith to me that one big change as White House Chief of Staff or a new Communications Director is going to solve the kind of paralysis and lack of ability of governing that has been present in the administration.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And let's not forget, Mark, that Reince Priebus, all of us know Reince Priebus. We've covered him for a long time. He was the chairman of the Republican National Committee, and did, by all accounts, an outstanding job as the Republican National Committee Chairman. He was brought in by the President, everyone thought that was a pretty good pick by President Trump, and now six months later, he's out.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He's out. And I think what has to say to the chaos and the confusion that is in the White House. And I think that we really need to emphasize this, that it's coming from the top, it's coming from the President himself. He is the one who is driving this chaos down throughout his aides.
Now, when Reince Priebus -- when Donald Trump basically became the Republican nominee, Reince Priebus moved the RNC new operation over and backed him up. That upset a lot of Republicans, including John Kasich, who thought that it was done too early. Having said that, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, all of these established Republicans that went inside, I think, they felt, to some extent, a duty to try to keep the White House even-keeled. Now, clearly they were unable to do that. Donald Trump is Donald Trump. He's going to do what he wants. But it is amazing to see somebody survive, just a short period of time.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Now, that's -- I think that's why the White House is so undivided because they have the Trump loyalists who are -- they believe in Trump, not the party. And then you have people like Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer who both made it six months barely into this White House but they believed in the Republican Party --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But, you know, this has been an uneasy relationship for --
BORGER: -- between Reince Priebus and the President for some time. I mean, I remember doing reporting a couple of months ago where I had one source say to me that, you know, the President really doesn't seek out Reince Priebus's advice very much anymore, and that -- and you could see sort of a deterioration. And I think -- and I think also what you -- what you saw was Jared Kushner, who is obviously very close to this President, and to a degree, Ivanka, feeling that the President was not well-served by Reince Priebus for whatever reason, even though you would argue that perhaps their politics might be closer to Reince Priebus's.
There was a -- there was a sense that he wasn't -- he wasn't as organized as he should be as Chief of Staff, et cetera, et cetera. These are their complaints, and so you see this playing out. Now, I think this started way before health care failed. Clearly, it might have been, you know, the final straw, but nobody blamed him. I was told for McCain's vote, right? I mean, there was nothing they could do to control that, but this has -- this has kind of been long --
BLITZER: Oh, do you think, Gloria, that the failure --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gloria, go back two years.
BLITZER: Let me -- hold on one second. But do you think the failure of the -- of the repeal and replace last night, that dramatic moment, that as a result of that, Reince Priebus made one of the factors why he's gone?
BORGER: You know, you could -- you could say it's the final straw, but that would be too way, way, way oversimplified. This has been going on for quite some time. And so, maybe this was a moment Congress is gone, the health care -- that, you know, they clearly didn't want to do it in the middle of the health care fight because it would be yet another distraction to all the other distractions they had. But -- so -- you know, I think it was much more than that.
BLITZER: Well, this is an important issue. And you've been doing reporting, Mark, on this, did he resign -- did he tell the President he's out before the Senate vote yesterday, overnight, or later today?
PRESTON: So, let's take all of these millions of threads that are out there and try to knit them together, and let's acknowledge that this is a breaking news story, so it is what it is. I've been told by the source very close to him that he resigned yesterday. Now, that vote occurred so late into the night --
BLITZER: In the middle of 2:30 in the morning, in the middle of the night.
PRESTON: Correct. I suspect he had done it before based -- it was all your fault, Ryan -- based upon the interview for Scaramucci. That was the final straw. But Gloria is saying he's absolutely right. I would say it even goes back even a few more months to the very beginning. There was never an easiness that Donald Trump felt with the RNC folks, and co Kaitlan's point, loyalty. And Jared and Ivanka never thought they were loyal to Donald Trump.
COLLINS: And we know how he felt about loyalty.
BORGER: And leaking. They thought they were -- you know, Scaramucci accused him of being a leaker. And -- Yes.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think when you are the Chief of Staff and you can't hire your own Communications Director, that's basically the President is saying, I don't have a whole lot of faith in you. You know, he's fought this guy and the President --
[17:35:07] BLITZER: There are a whole bunch of others on the White House staff as you know who report directly to the President, not to the White House Chief of Staff.
LIZZA: And I want to make a point about that because look we have a Chief of Staff in the White House because Eisenhower created that position. It's based on a military chain of command. And the idea of successful presidents have had strong chiefs of staff where everyone report through them, they get the final word on who gets to see the President and all the -- all the major staffing decisions. This White House was not set up this way. This White House was set up with five or six different senior power centers that all have direct access to President Trump, and Presidents who have tried that, a president before tried that, it was a disaster. President Clinton had a weak Chief of Staff in the beginning, it didn't work out so well. So, the big question for Kelly here who's coming from the military, knows about chain of command, did he get President Trump to promise him that he can hire and fire anyone he wants and that every single staffer reports through to him no matter what they previously promised?
BLITZER: I suspect the -- I suspect the answer is no, but go ahead, Mark. Go ahead, David Chalian. LIZZA: But if he didn't, he's setting himself up to fail.
CHALIAN: Right. If he got that promise, everything we know about Donald Trump is that Donald Trump is constitutionally incapable of keeping his end of the bargain on that promise. I also think and looking at their relationship, and you're talking about loyalty and Mark was talking about after he became the nominee, go all the way back to the summer of 2015 with that loyalty pledge that Reince created to try to get Donald Trump to commit fealty to the Republicans Party mission because he was seen as such an outsider. From the very beginning of their relationship, it was always an awkward negotiation because the two of them really never had the same goals or objectives.
BLITZER: I want to quickly go back to Jeff Zeleny at the White House. He's getting some more information, dramatic developments unfolding. Jeff, what else are you learning?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the President has just returned back here to the White House just a few moments ago from his trip to Long Island, but it turned out to be much more than simply a speech to deliver in Long Island about MS-13 gangs. He was making a change, a significant change in his leadership here. And President is back here. You can tell it's raining pretty heavily here in Washington, so he took a motorcade back as opposed to flying Marina One back.
And Wolf, there were some poignant images and moments on the tarmac at joint base Andrews, Reince Priebus now soon to be the outgoing Chief of Staff, essentially left there on the tarmac. The images coming in from the description coming in from the pool of reporters that he was sitting in an SUV on the telephone sort of absorbing this news here. And even though he, as Mark Preston and others are reporting, that he privately tendered his resignation last evening, it is not something that allies here at the White House or, in fact, that the RNC knew about. And it is something that this -- Wolf, he told me many times that he wanted to stay in this position at least a year. He said that he wanted to serve the first year of the presidency. That, of course, didn't happen.
So, Wolf, what this does, it makes Reince Priebus one of the shortest serving Chiefs of Staff in history. We actually looked this up, our White House Producer Kevin Liptak compiled this, and his 189-day tenure is the shortest White House Chief of Staff in modern Presidential history. So, of course, this is something that Reince Priebus was hoping to avoid here. Now, of course, over the last, I would say, couple of months or so, Wolf, it became clear that something had changed inside this White House, how the President viewed Reince Priebus.
Initially, of course, this was sort of viewed as a marriage of -- a shotgun marriage, if you will, after the surprise election of Donald Trump last November, you know, when Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee suddenly became the Chief of Staff. It was never Mr. Trump's first choice, necessarily, but he thought it would be a way to sort of smooth the skids or grease the skids here in Washington with a legislative process. Of course, Reince Priebus had a very good relationship with his fellow Wisconsin native Speaker Paul Ryan. But that never really materialized, and it became clear as the weeks and months were going on that Reince Priebus did not actually have much legislative experience at all. His only Washington experience, Wolf, was cheering the Republican National Committee.
So different than so many other Chiefs of Staff and that mold before him. But I was told, Wolf, by someone close to the President in the recent weeks and months, the President viewed him as more a junior staffer than a Chief of Staff here. So, it became clear that this was where this was going here. Many of his associates didn't necessarily realize it. But again, I'm told, Wolf, that some other people who were aligned with the Republican National Committee who essentially came in with Reince Priebus also may find themselves looking for new jobs as well. They may be resigning because this Washington-New York divide that we've been talking about so much over the last six months or so, it really is deepening even more now. And the Trump loyalists believe that they -- it's time for them to sort of take the reins here.
[17:40:11] So, we'll see how that plays out, Wolf. But this will cause some unease throughout this West Wing. Many people working on the staff, they were doing so because of Reince Priebus and others. So, this is not just simply a change of person in a corner office here. The Chief of Staff works in the corner office just about maybe 15 steps or so from the Oval Office, has the biggest office in the West Wing. This is about far more than that, Wolf. This is about a different direction here. So, we'll see next week how many more people, how many newer people are here and how many people who are here now may go, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, we'll see if Secretary Kelly, or retired General Kelly can bring that kind of order. He doesn't necessarily have a whole lot of legislative experience, either, since he's a retired general. He was head of the U.S. military's southern command. For example, he served in Iraq, of course, as well.
Jamie Gangel, what do you think? Because the other individual that was very severely attacked by Anthony Scaramucci in that New Yorker Magazine interviewed with Ryan Lizza was Steve Bannon, the Chief Strategist at the White House. What happens to him?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that's a really good question, and Steve Bannon is someone to watch. First of all, not just because of what Scaramucci said in that interview, but let's remember that Steve Bannon, like Reince Priebus, we've been hearing for months, could he go, is he in trouble, what's he's role going to be? And as we've heard over the months, the Trump family, Jared and Ivanka were not, we've been told, so thrilled with him, either. And it's also, I think, very important to remember that he is credited with some of the back -- you know, infighting that's been going on. So, if General Kelly is someone who wants to come in and clear the decks and say, OK. No more of this. President Trump is going to be President Trump. That's not going to change. But I think we should all watch and see sort of where Steve Bannon fits in to all of this.
BLITZER: Good point. You know, Kaitlan, you're a White House reporter, you're getting more information from your sources right now. What else are you learning?
COLLINS: Yes. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the new Press Secretary who started last Friday after Sean Spicer quit just told reporters that John Kelly will start Monday morning and there will be a Cabinet meeting immediately after he's sworn in. She said that these conversations between Priebus and the President started about two weeks ago on the idea of transitioning him out of his role of --
BLITZER: So, it's been in the works for about two weeks that he would --
COLLINS: Yes. She said it predated the Scaramucci drama.
BLITZER: And Gloria, you're raising your hands.
BORGER: (INAUDIBLE) OK. It started two weeks ago, so we got very strong pushback. Very strong pushback. So, you know, it's very hard to sort of understand what was -- what was going on where we were not being told the truth. I think that I agree with Jamie, and I was told last night, that Jared also would like to see Bannon gone. And I'm not sure where that -- where that will stand. I mean, one of my questions is, does the Sessions imbroglio kind of give Bannon a little bit of -- a little bit of padding here because conservatives -- some conservatives particularly on the right, far right, would not want to see -- would not want to see Bannon gone, and they're already upset with the President because of what's going on with Jeff Sessions. The other way to look at it, though, is of course, that there was an alliance between Bannon and Reince Priebus. So again, you really don't know until you know, but if the President wants to make a clean start of it, then it would mean that Bannon -- that Bannon would lose his job.
BLITZER: Well, Gloria -- hold on a second. Gloria, you really had some good sources there last night ready to release what we now know, that Reince Priebus is gone. Were your sources also suggesting John Kelly was one of the candidates to replace him?
BORGER: Yes. Yes.
BLITZER: That's a good source. Yes, go ahead.
BORGER: Thank you.
LIZZA: No, I was just going to say, if Bannon -- if Bannon left and Sessions sidelined and this health care bill has now failed, I think it would be -- and they're bringing in Kelly who is not quite a hardliner on immigration when he was at DHS. There's more nuance of views on that issue than President Trump does, and you've brought in Scaramucci who is pro-choice and believes in climate change.
BLITZER: At least, it used to be.
LIZZA: At least he used to. But has seen a series of sort of socially liberal views. That would be a real test, I think, for conservatives about that series of changes.
COLLINS: Yes. Are there any Republicans left in the White House now?
LIZZA: Exactly. That would be a big set of changes where a lot of conservative voices would be sidelined or --
[17:45:02] BLITZER: David Chalian, this is a major, major shakeup at the White House that the President clearly wants.
CHALIAN: No doubt about that, and hearing Kaitlan report the news that mission 1 for the new White House Chief of Staff is to attend a cabinet meeting. Is Jeff Sessions going to be at that cabinet meeting, and now how is John Kelly, the new White House Chief of Staff going to repair the relationship between President Trump and Jeff Sessions? It will be very interesting to see that dynamic. It would also be interesting to see -- remember the last time that the cabinet had come together, the Trump cabinet, it was this lovefest of people professing their love for Donald Trump, one after one, as they went around the cabinet table. Is John Kelly as Chief of Staff going to bring a different kind of tone and tenor to what cabinet meetings will look like in this administration going forward?
BLITZER: It's a good question. Go ahead, Mark.
PRESTON: Right. The only thing that's very important when we're talking about people being fired and Donald Trump wanting his own people in there, let's just look at four people, you know, across the board. We look at Sean Spicer, wasn't a Trump guy. Understand him getting knocked out. Reince Priebus, understand him getting knocked out. They're not going to do damage to President Trump now that they're leaving the White House.
Steve Bannon gets knocked out, there could be damage to President because Steve Bannon is a -- you know, does carry the voice of the alt-right, does carry the voice of Breitbart, and is very effective there. When it comes to Jeff Sessions, which I know we're not talking about so much here, that's a different situation. I just hope the viewers understand that. Those in the West Wing are trying to help him put his agenda together. The person who runs the Department of Justice is really loyal to the constitution and it's not the same thing.
LIZZA: You know, I almost said Albert Stone -- Roger Stone, Trump's long-time adviser, has a line about the way that Trump views staff. The first question is, who is he? The second is, get him. And then the third is, who was he? Staffers for Trump are disposable. We cycles through them. I mean, we learned this with the way he treated Jeff Sessions, his most loyal supporter. So, I think that, you know, does it really matter what ideological camp you come from, whether it was RNC or the Breitbart wing of the party, these are people who he thinks can help him at that moment, and when they're finished, they get discarded.
BORGER: Well, and I think the important thing is that people have been saying that Trump needs somebody he would regard as a peer. You know, there's, oh, you need a Jim Baker sort or he didn't regard Ryan as a peer -- a peer for whatever reason. And that perhaps he would regard General Kelly that way. We know the respect he has for all the generals. We've all been -- we've all been talking about. He thinks Kelly has done a very good job at the Department of Homeland Security. So maybe General Kelly in that role would be regarded by the President as more of somebody on an equal footing with him. And perhaps, you know, to David's point earlier, he would listen to him. I hesitate to say that but maybe he would. I mean --
LIZZA: I mean, it does say something that someone who served in the Iraq War is what you need to be the Chief of Staff in this White House.
BLITZER: We're getting some video now. This is a video we just got in. Reince Priebus, the now former White House Chief of Staff, there you see him getting off Air Force One with Dan Scavino, one of the other top advisers to the President on Social Media for the President. They just got off Air Force One from the event that the President head out on Long Island earlier in the day. Once again, there you see the video. They're going into the motorcade, heading back towards the White House.
If Reince Priebus is watching us right now, we'd love to have you call in, we'd love to hear from you. A lot of things have been said. You could clarify precisely the truth, the fiction, everything right now. So, we'd love to hear from you, Reince, if you want to call in, you've known a lot of us for a long time. We'd like to get your side of the story. We have cameras over at the White House as well. If you want to go in front of the cameras, more than welcome to do so. Everybody, it wouldn't be unusual, you know, Mark, for Reince Priebus to call in and say, well, here's what's going on. Here's why I decided to do what I'm doing.
PRESTON: Wolf, if there's anyone that he should be talking to at this time, I think it's you in THE SITUATION ROOM. And he could call from THE SITUATION ROOM quite frankly in the White House.
LIZZA: And he really has been silent. He has enormous amount of drama over the last two weeks. Being sidelined -- you know, being overruled by the Scaramucci hire. The last few days, this public feud with Scaramucci just attacking him so viciously. Nobody has heard from the guy, nobody knows what his side of the story is here. And he's -- you know, he has some aides and advisers, people close to him that we all used to get a sense of what's going on with him, but he's just been -- he's just been sort of silent.
PRESTON: Well, in no situation --
BLITZER: David Chalian, what would you like to hear from Reince Priebus? Let's say he does call us.
CHALIAN: Oh, I would really like to hear his thoughts on what it was like inside these last six months now that he is free to talk. But looking at that video of him walking with Dan Scavino you'd -- that you just played, Wolf, it -- you know, we heard from the pool of reporter there, they were headed to the same car, they got in the same car in the motorcade, and then Dan Scavino and another aide left that car because it became clear as the news broke up, Reince's car was no longer going to be in the Presidential motorcade. He was going to go elsewhere and break off by himself.
[17:50:12] So, this is his last walk into the Presidential motorcade. And then according to the pool report, Scavino and another aide leave, going to a car that is returning to the White House with the President and Reince Priebus alone heads off in a different direction.
BLITZER: Maybe heading home. That's pretty amazing, don't you think, Mark?
PRESTON: My mouth is -- I can't say my mouth is open. I think we're all, like, looking at each other, like, wow, if that's really happening? You would think there's got to be some kind of transition period, you know, where there would be a hand-off.
BORGER: Maybe there has been and we didn't know about it. I think, you know --
PRESTON: Well, yes, that's true. That is true.
BORGER: It could have been going on at this -- of for two -- or for a week -- you know, for a week or two. I mean, we honestly don't know. But I know that there were people talking to Reince last night who were saying to him that, you need -- and I have one source saying to me that he told Reince he needed to kind of suck it up and hand in his resignation.
PRESTON: Resignation, right.
BORGER: Now, we don't know if my source knew that had already been done or whatever. But there were people talking to him about it. But maybe the transition, you know, was already in the works.
BLITZER: Did you sense, Kaitlan, in your day-to-day coverage of the White House, and you've been there from day one, this really bitter feud that was going on between these senior officials?
COLLINS: Absolutely. It's been going on like that for months, and that's why Reince's departure has been long rumored for so -- and now it's finally come to fruition. But we really saw him as a weakened Chief of Staffer these past few weeks. He would have meetings and no one was felt compelled to go to them. He wasn't involved in major decisions. So, we really saw his role reduced here at the White House. And it was only a matter of time for him, honestly.
BLITZER: You know, Ryan Lizza, this interview, the extraordinary interview you did with Anthony Scaramucci in which he really levelled these charges against Reince Priebus accusing him of leaking saying he was going to go to the FBI, maybe had already gone to the FBI, you have digital proof of the leaks. That's pretty extraordinary.
LIZZA: I guess you have to give the Communications Director some credit for being transparent. He said Reince didn't -- was on his way out and it is true, 24 hours later, Reince is gone. It's a -- it's a classic Trump way, though, of moving your trade to your staff out. It's like, all right, let's give him a hint by hiring someone he doesn't want. OK. Let's, you know, leak some stories, let's have the Communications Director go at him. And then, you know, it's -- and then let's tweet out that I've hired someone new without actually tweeting out that the old -- the old Chief of Staff has resigned or been fired.
COLLINS: It's make your life miserable, which is what he did to Jeff Sessions.
LIZZA: So, it's not quite "you're fired", it's, you know, you're layered over or, you know, you're slowly being pushed aside.
BORGER: So, in business, I mean, I was told time and time again by people who've worked for Donald Trump, that what he would do is effectively make your life miserable until the point where you would quit so he wouldn't have to fire you. And, you know, to be fair to Reince Priebus here, his position became completely untenable and completely unsustainable because he was layered, then you had the Communications Director acting like he's the Chief of Staff. I can hire and fire. I have a direct line into the President of the United States.
BLITZER: I report to the President.
BORGER: I report to the President. And the President was not listening to Reince. And I think that at a certain point you say, if I can't do my job, what am I doing here? And I would think that those are the things that Reince was thinking about.
BLITZER: Congressman Peter King of New York is joining us right now. Peter King, a Republican of New York. He was on Air Force One, flew from Washington up to Long Island. I assume -- I don't know if you're staying in Long Island right now, or if you're back here in Washington. Congressman King, were you informed that Reince Priebus was about to go?
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK (via telephone): We actually flew up with Anthony Scaramucci and Reince Priebus were all sitting at the same table all the way up, no one said anything. And then I stayed on the plane coming back afterwards. Anthony stayed in New York and we were on the plane with Reince the whole time. When the flight was over, Reince said, you know, all of us said goodbye and no one knew anything was up. And then, the President told us that he was announcing that John Kelly was going to be his new Chief of Staff. That was it. I didn't -- I didn't --
BLITZER: He -- so, this was a -- this was a total shock, a total surprise to you, Congressman?
KING: Yes. And I tell you, I give, you know, Reince Priebus credit. He certainly kept his game face the whole time. He didn't show anything. He was very friendly and composed and calm all the way up and all the way back.
BLITZER: So, do you support this decision by the President to bring in General Kelly and lose Reince Priebus as the White House Chief of Staff?
[17:54:54] KING: Well, I have a tremendous regard for General Kelly. He's just a top-rate person, right? I had a very good relationship with Reince Priebus. I have nothing critical to say of Reince Priebus. So, you know, this is the President's decision. I'm going to try not to ask any question, but both of them, I've had a very good working relationship with, and I wished them well, wished Reince well. I certainly think that Secretary Kelly will do an outstanding job.
BLITZER: What was the mood like on that plane, Air Force One, the flight from joint base Andrews outside of Washington to MacArthur Airport out on Long Island, and coming back? We know Anthony Scaramucci, he was on the flight going to Long Island. He stayed in New York. He did not fly back on Air Force One. Did you see any interaction between Reince Priebus and Anthony Scaramucci?
KING: No, there's no interaction. There wasn't any hostility either. Basically, you know, Reince just went into the table, Anthony was sort of near the end of the -- on the other side, and there was nothing, you know, there was no hostility, there was no hugging and kissing, but, you know, everything seemed fine. If you didn't know something was going on, you wouldn't have -- yes, you wouldn't have sensed anything. I give Reince credit. I mean, I -- he didn't tip his hand at all. I mean, on way up or on the way back down.
BLITZER: Did they exchange any words, Scaramucci and Reince Priebus?
KING: Oh, I mean, I didn't (INAUDIBLE) I didn't see -- I certainly didn't see any hostility.
BLITZER: But you were (INAUDIBLE) you spoke yesterday, Congressman King. You and I spoke at this time yesterday. You knew what was going on, the interview that Scaramucci gave the New Yorker Magazine. How awkward was it for you to be on the plane with both of them?
KING: It was a very interesting situation. I'll leave it at that.
BLITZER: When you say very interesting, give me a little bit more.
KING: Well, only because everyone knew the backdrop, but it was, you know, the 800-pound gorilla in the room that nobody was talking about. And we were talking about everything else. And also, to be honest with you, I was still working on the speech -- I was going to introduce the President. Anthony was working on what he was doing. Reince was on the phone quite a bit. So, I mean, generally, Air Force One planes are not a place where you get too social, especially when you're on a way to an event. Everyone was getting ready for it. It's only a 45 minutes flight up. So, it's not like we were going to across the ocean.
BLITZER: What was the President's mood?
KING: He was upbeat already. He was very upbeat. He was upbeat on the way up, he was very upbeat during and after the event. He thought the event went very well. He was very pleased with it. And on the way back again, he seemed in good spirits. He was talking with us. And he was doing some photos, that type thing. And everyone had a good game face on, I can tell you that. There was no angry --
BLITZER: A good game face, but you know, you're on the Intelligence Committee, you're on the Homeland Security Committee. Earlier in the day, North Korea launched yet another intercontinental ballistic missile, a deep source of concern for the President, his national security advisors. In the midst of a potential threat like that, Congressman, you see this palace intrigue going on at the White House. That's not good.
KING: Well, that didn't stop them. I know (INAUDIBLE) towers on the plane, he says -- H.R. McMaster's top assistant, and she was in with the President and they were sort of discussing and talking. And so, everybody was being, as far as I could tell, everything was being done that had to be done. And in the midst of all that, this occurred.
BLITZER: You're on the Homeland Security Committee. You've worked with General Kelly, the now-former Secretary of Homeland Security. Can he bring order? He's a retired four-star Marine Corps General. Can he bring order and discipline to the White House?
KING: Yes, I wouldn't want to get in John Kelly's way, I'll put it that way. I think it's -- I would think Secretary Kelly, John Kelly, General Kelly, he brings order anywhere he goes, he's very strong, a very quiet, quiet strength he has, determination. And he's certainly is a great leader. And everyone I've spoken to at DHS has a great regard for him.
BLITZER: Do you expect more shoes to drop?
KING: I have no idea. Now, I've got to jump -- I'm trying to catch the 6:00 train yet here at Union Station. So, anyway, I'll let you know if I hear any more shoes drop.
BLITZER: You've got a lot going on. Congressman Peter King, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.
KING: OK. Thank you. Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news tonight. The biggest shake up yet in the tumultuous Trump White House. The White House Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, forced out and replaced now by the current Homeland Security Secretary, retired Marine Corps General John Kelly. President Trump making the announcement on Twitter just about an hour or so ago, as he returned from an event in New York out on Long Island aboard Air Force One. Source close to Reince Priebus tells CNN that he privately resigned actually yesterday as his feud with the new Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci exploded. Scaramucci publicly accusing Reince Priebus of leaking information and launching a profanity-laced rant against them all apparently --