White House chief of staff John Kelly has personally denied calling President Donald Trump an “idiot”, saying it is “total BS”.
In a statement issued on Tuesday (AEST) General Kelly said he and Mr Trump have “an incredibly candid and strong relationship”.
It comes after NBC reported Mr Kelly had on multiple occasions criticised Trump’s knowledge on issues such as immigration, while casting himself as protecting the country from the President’s impulses.
The report also said General Kelly referred to Mr Trump as “an idiot” multiple times, and that the president was growing tired of Mr Kelly’s attitude.
“He always knows where I stand and he and I both know this story is total BS,” Mr Kelly said on Monday local time.
“I spend more time with the President than anyone else and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship.
“I am committed to the President, his agenda, and our country. This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes.”
Mr Trump appeared to react to the report on Twitter Monday night, tweeting his own denial as well, calling the stories “false”.
“The Fake News is going crazy making up false stories and using only unnamed sources (who don’t exist),” he tweeted.
The Fake News is going crazy making up false stories and using only unnamed sources (who don’t exist). They are totally unhinged, and the great success of this Administration is making them do and say things that even they can’t believe they are saying. Truly bad people!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 30, 2018
In recent months, Mr Trump has chafed at Mr Kelly’s controlling management style and has occasionally talked with friends about replacing him.
In his early days in the White House, Mr Kelly imposed strict controls on access and the flow of information to Mr Trump, though his direct influence has waned somewhat, aides said.
General Kelly’s allies insist he trained White House staff to follow his lead, as Mr Trump has grown more willing to act unilaterally, ignoring or simply not seeking out the advice of his top aide, officials say.
Officials told NBC Mr Kelly has become undisciplined and indiscreet as chief of staff.
“Kelly appears to be less engaged, which may be to the President’s detriment,” a senior official said.
The reports have drawn comparison to when news surfaced that then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called President Trump a “moron”.
Mr Tillerson was fired five months later.