An argument last February between the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and Corey Lewandowski, an informal adviser to President Trump, turned into a physical altercation that required Secret Service intervention just outside the Oval Office, according to a half-dozen people familiar with the events.
The episode, details of which have not been previously reported, is the latest illustration of the often chaotic atmosphere Mr. Trump is willing to tolerate in the White House as well as a reflection of the degree to which Mr. Kelly’s temper can be provoked.
The near brawl — during which Mr. Kelly grabbed Mr. Lewandowski by the collar and tried to have him ejected from the West Wing — came at a time when the chief of staff was facing uncertainty about how long Mr. Trump would keep him in his job. A guessing game over his departure has colored his tenure ever since.
Mr. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, was widely hailed as the lone grown-up who could corral a staff full of bombastic and competing personalities when he was appointed in summer 2017. But Mr. Kelly has shown little inclination to curb his own instinct for confrontation, from scuffling with a Chinese official during a visit to Beijing last year to last week’s profanity-laced shouting match with John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, after a meeting with the president.
.. Anthony Scaramucci, who has written a book about being Mr. Trump’s communications director for 11 days until Mr. Kelly fired him after the release of a recording of his own profanity-laced call with a reporter, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that Mr. Kelly had “hurt the morale inside the place.”
“And he’s hurt the president. And he has hissy fits,” Mr. Scaramucci said, adding that “he’s demonstrating his personality now the way he really is.”.. Mr. Kelly criticized Mr. Lewandowski to Mr. Trump for making so much money off the president in the form of his contract with the super PAC supporting the president’s re-election. Mr. Kelly also expressed his anger that Mr. Lewandowski had been criticizing him on television for his handling of the security clearance controversy related to Mr. Porter... The two then began arguing, with Mr. Lewandowski speaking loudly. Mr. Kelly grabbed Mr. Lewandowski by his collar, trying to push him against a wall, according to a person with direct knowledge of the episode.
Mr. Lewandowski did not get physical in response, according to multiple people familiar with the episode. But Secret Service agents were called in.
.. Mr. Kelly, who is called “the general” or “the chief” by his allies inside the West Wing, is widely seen as a diminished presence among the president’s advisers. Though Mr. Kelly has repeatedly said he expresses his honest opinions to Mr. Trump, he has shown little inclination or ability to curb some of the president’s impulses.
.. The president, for his part, has shown a certain reverence for men willing to engage in physical scuffles. Last fall, when Mr. Kelly was newly in his role, his willingness to engage angrily in meetings with Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who at the time was the national security adviser, thrilled Mr. Trump. The president, who did not like General McMaster, gleefully told people about the skirmishes between the two men for weeks, saying it showed how tough Mr. Kelly was, a person familiar with the discussions said.
.. And The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Mr. Kelly got into a physical altercation with a Chinese official trying to gain access the so-called nuclear football
.. “I think Trump has decided it’s really a bad marriage,” said Chris Whipple, author of “The Gatekeepers,” a history of White House chiefs of staff, “that he has decided to muddle through.”
Chad Ludington, a Yale classmate of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s who said he often drank with him, issued a statement on Sunday saying the Supreme Court nominee was not truthful about his drinking in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.
I knew Brett at Yale because I was a classmate and a varsity basketball player and Brett enjoyed socializing with athletes. Indeed, athletes formed the core of Brett’s social circle.
In recent days I have become deeply troubled by what has been a blatant mischaracterization by Brett himself of his drinking at Yale. When I watched Brett and his wife being interviewed on Fox News on Monday, and when I watched Brett deliver his testimony under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, I cringed. For the fact is, at Yale, and I can speak to no other times, Brett was a frequent drinker, and a heavy drinker. I know, because, especially in our first two years of college, I often drank with him. On many occasions I heard Brett slur his words and saw him staggering from alcohol consumption, not all of which was beer. When Brett got drunk, he was often belligerent and aggressive. On one of the last occasions I purposely socialized with Brett, I witnessed him respond to a semi-hostile remark, not by defusing the situation, but by throwing his beer in the man’s face and starting a fight that ended with one of our mutual friends in jail.
.. I have direct and repeated knowledge about his drinking and his disposition while drunk. And I do believe that Brett’s actions as a 53-year-old federal judge matter. If he lied about his past actions on national television, and more especially while speaking under oath in front of the United States Senate, I believe those lies should have consequences.
.. the ability to speak the truth, even when it does not reflect well upon oneself, is a paramount quality we seek in our nation’s most powerful judges.
I can unequivocally say that in denying the possibility that he ever blacked out from drinking, and in downplaying the degree and frequency of his drinking, Brett has not told the truth.
If there was any doubt that his presidency is an unending campaign
.. Addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference, the president read “The Snake,” a parable about a tenderhearted woman who takes in an ailing snake and gives it milk, honey and a silk blanket, only to be killed by the revived creature’s poisonous bite.
Trump explained the metaphor: “You have to think of this in terms of immigration.”
.. On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump frequently told the tale of the snake. The crowds at his rallies loved it. Other Americans were appalled and found it racist.
.. A day earlier, Vice President Pence stood on the same stage at CPAC and sounded a call for unity.
.. His boss had a different idea, however.
- Trump mocked Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), a war hero and Republican elder statesman with a terminal form of brain cancer, for his health-care vote.
- He vowed to “fight” a current Democratic foe, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). And he
- revived his row with a previous one, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, by encouraging chants of “lock her up” and sounding off about her alleged “atrocities.”
.. He is at his most comfortable on the campaign trail, as a political brawler feeding off the passions of his fans and speaking off the cuff.
.. “You don’t mind if I go off script a little bit?” Trump said during his Friday speech, referring to the teleprompters loaded with words his aides wanted him to read. “Because it’s sort of boring
.. “I try like hell to hide that bald spot, folks,” Trump said. “I work hard at it. Doesn’t look bad. Hey, we’re hanging in. We’re hanging in.”
.. he derides as “chain migration,” with “a merit system.” Never mind that this week, a lawyer representing Trump’s Slovenian-born wife, Melania, and her family told The Washington Post that the first lady’s parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs
When McGahn was hired as White House counsel, he was known largely as a campaign finance expert and not necessarily deeply versed in the kind of law that White House officials face every day. But he had advised Trump’s campaign while working at the Jones Day law firm and Trump saw him as a scrappy lawyer on the campaign trail.
Friends say McGahn probably appealed to the president with his get-to-the-point style.
.. McGahn, particularly in the early months of the administration, cautioned Trump about contacting Justice Department officials and even told associates he was concerned Trump was doing so without his knowledge. The two men would have “spectacular” fights, according to a person who witnessed some of them.
.. McGahn’s value to Trump has been most apparent in the role he played in helping select Neil M. Gorsuch as Trump’s Supreme Court nominee as well as with the numerous candidates who have now been confirmed for federal court judgeships across the country. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) often praises McGahn to Trump and tells the president his top lawyer is shaping his legacy on judges in a positive way — words Trump likes hearing.
.. “Good lawyers try not to abandon their clients,” the person close to McGahn said. “And the client isn’t Trump; it’s the presidency.”