How Kelly could really end White House chaos

Despite President Trump’s proclamation that there is no chaos in the White House, new chief of staff John Kelly has a lot to do — stopping the leaks of information, ending the bitter fighting between staffers and promoting the president’s agenda.

Yahoo News talked to experts to find out what Kelly needs to do to ensure his tenure is longer than that of his predecessor.

Limit access to the president

“It’s an unbelievably long and difficult to-do list that Kelly faces,” said Chris Whipple, author of The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency.

Kelly needs to lay down the law in Trump’s Wild West White House, ensuring that he controls access to the president and his time, and is empowered to hire and fire, Whipple told Yahoo News.

“He’s got to make sure that he’s first among equals,” and empowered to be “lord high executioner,” Whipple said. Apart from Trump’s daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner and possibly senior adviser Steve Bannon, no one should have unfettered access to the Oval Office.

“The hardest and most important thing Kelly has to do is be able to walk into the Oval Office, shut the door, and tell Trump what he doesn’t want to hear,” the author said. “He needs to see the tweets before they go out. And he needs to draw some red lines,” including warning the president that he’ll walk out if Trump tweets a “demonstrable lie,” Whipple said.

President Trump shakes hands with John Kelly after he was sworn in as White House chief of staff in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., on July 31, 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

Take control of the West Wing

Trump’s aides may love his hands-off leadership style, but the White House’s lack of structure is preventing it from effectively fulfilling its daily responsibilities, according to Dr. Terry Sullivan, a political science professor at UNC Chapel Hill who studies the White House.

According to Sullivan, Trump made a common mistake in allowing senior advisors equal access to the Oval Office. The chief of staff is supposed to be the “gatekeeper” of the president’s attention, ensuring that he doesn’t get distracted from his daily responsibilities.

The best way for Kelly to do that, according to Sullivan, is make a formal agreement with Trump about his power over other staffers.

“Those things typically are designed to bring into organizational focus and downgrade this circle of equals,” Sullivan said. “That usually means a couple of things — everyone has to report to the chief of staff; and secondly, [for] those who are unwilling to do that, the president has to be willing to support the chief of staff firing them. That’s necessary to integrate the president’s ambitions with the responsibilities of the office.”

Focus on staff

According to James A. Baker III, the only person to have been chief of staff to two presidents, Kelly should stay focused on the needs of the president’s staff.

“You can focus on the ‘chief,’ or you can focus on the ‘of staff,’” Baker told the New York Times, “Those who have focused on the ‘of staff’ have done pretty well.”

According to Baker, chiefs of staff should have complete control of the White House, but should not let the power go to their heads and try to govern on their own.

Reduce the urge to leak

Kelly may find that one of his top jobs is plugging what has been a flood of leaks from the White House.

“The most effective way of reducing information leaks is to have an inclusive decision-making process where all the players believe their views are heard,” said Martha Joynt Kumar, a retired Towson State University political science professor who has studied White House communications as well as presidential transitions extensively.

“That means establishing procedures to hear staff views, and then a process of coming to a decision where all are confident they had a hearing. Whatever the final outcome, all would feel themselves to be part of the process,” she said.

Olivier Knox contributed reporting.

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