“To put it in terms the general would understand, his handling of the Porter scandal amounts to dereliction of duty.”
The Rob Porter scandal has officially become the John Kelly scandal, and it's threatening the entire White House. Trump's chief of staff now appears to be a man with very few friends inside the West Wing.
In what would signal a stunning collapse for a White House that already operates on the chaos theory and seems to be in a perpetual state of disarray, more and more press reports on Wednesday are suggesting that Trump's chief of staff has lost the confidence of those inside the West Wing.
It's now an open question whether Kelly will survive the parallel-track scandals.
"Kelly is 'a big fat liar,'" one White House official told the Washington Post. "To put it in terms the general would understand, his handling of the Porter scandal amounts to dereliction of duty."
Increasingly, it sounds like Trump himself might be fanning those flames:
The morale was already quite low in the Kelly era for several staff. But this is worse than it’s been since Charlottesville. And after dismissing Kelly dismissal talks as spread by Mooch/others, ppl close to Kelly now realize it’s coming from Trump.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 14, 2018
The first track of the scandal broke a week ago when Porter, Kelly's right-hand man, resigned after the Daily Mail published photographs of his battered ex-wife. In the days since, the administration has been completely unable and unwilling to explain why Porter kept working for Kelly after Porter failed this FBI security clearance after two ex-wives detailed his history of abuse.
That's when the story morphed into the Kelly scandal because Trump's chief of staff reportedly encouraged aides to lie about the mess and support the idea that Kelly had acted swiftly to get rid of Porter the moment he heard about the abuse allegations. (Kelly did not.)
That fallout is still raging and Kelly won't answer questions publicly.
"The Porter drama has become all-consuming, creating an atmosphere of chaos and infighting reminiscent of the 'Game of Thrones' stage early in Trump’s presidency — and distracting from the administration’s budget and infrastructure agenda," the Post reports.
The White House is "coming apart at the seams," one Trump official told CBS News Wednesday morning.
Another White House official told Axios, "The Kelly coverup is unraveling right before our eyes."
What's so damaging for the White House and the entire Republican Party is that the scandal is completely self-inflicted. Most Democrats have stayed away from the unfolding mess. That means the scandal, from the White House's perspective, cannot be wrapped in partisan terms.
Republicans can't blame Hillary Clinton, they can't blame Barack Obama, and they can't blame the FBI.
But they can blame John Kelly.