In an exit interview with the Los Angeles Times, Kelly admits that the White House is not quite the “well-oiled machine” that Trump loves to brag about. Two specific instances he cited as chaotic were the implementation of the travel ban and the “zero-tolerance” family separation policy at the Mexican border.
When the travel ban blocking many people from majority Muslim nations from entering the U.S. was first announced, Kelly told Congress, “The thinking was to get it out quick so that potentially people that might be coming here to harm us would not take advantage of some period of time that they could jump on an airplane and get here.”
But now, he told the Times, he was caught off-guard by the announcement. “I had very little opportunity to look at them,” Kelly said. “Obviously, it brought down a greater deal of thunder on the president.”
Kelly also rewrote history regarding the administration’s immigration policies, in particular the decision to separate families.
“What happened was Jeff Sessions, he was the one that instituted the zero-tolerance process on the border that resulted in both people being detained and the family separation,” Kelly said to LA Times reporter Molly O’Toole. “He surprised us.”
This revelation is more than a little strange, considering Kelly told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the Department of Homeland Security was contemplating separating children from their parents in March 2017, less than two months after Trump was inaugurated. And Sessions announced the beginning of “zero-tolerance” more than a year later, in April 2018. Could it really have been such a surprise?
It’s not the first time Kelly has been caught in a lie. When White House staffer Rob Porter was accused of domestic abuse, Kelly defended him and denied knowing about Porter’s wife’s allegations, a fact that has been disputed by FBI Director Christopher Wray.
In the interview, Kelly said he hopes his tenure will be judged not by what Trump did but by what Kelly prevented him from doing — not exactly a ringing endorsement of his former boss. It’s clear that by blaming others for the administration’s blunders, Kelly is trying to protect his legacy and reputation. But after serving and defending Trump, it’s probably too late for that.