President Trump on Thursday blasted former White House chief of staff John Kelly, who was publicly critical of Trump’s firing of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, claiming the retired Marine Corps general was “over his head” in the post.
“When I terminated John Kelly, which I couldn’t do fast enough, he knew full well that he was way over his head. Being Chief of Staff just wasn’t for him,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “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, which he actually has a military and legal obligation to do.”
“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.’ Wrong!,” Trump added in a second tweet.
Trump’s rancor was apparently prompted by comments Kelly made during a speech Wednesday at Drew University in New Jersey.
He defended Vindman, who testified to a House committee about Trump’s phone call to the Ukrainian president, saying he was following his training as a soldier.
“He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave,” Kelly told the crowd, according to the Atlantic. “He went and told his boss what he just heard.”
During the July phone call, Trump told President Volodymyr Zelensky he wanted Ukraine to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, who was then the front-runner among Democratic presidential candidates.
The conversation was at the crux of the impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Kelly said when Vindman heard Trump discussing an investigation, it was the same as hearing an “illegal order.”
“We teach them, ‘Don’t follow an illegal order. And if you’re ever 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.
Vindman, a Ukraine expert serving on the White House national security staff, was escorted from the building last Friday.
Kelly was director of the Department of Homeland Security until Trump named him chief of staff in 2017.
Kelly resigned in December 2018.
The Senate last week acquitted Trump of the two articles of impeachment approved by the House in December.