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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Friday excoriated retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, whom he said was "exhausted" and "unable to handle the pressure" as his former chief of staff.
"I know John Kelly. He was with me, didn't do a good job, had no temperament, and ultimately he was petered out," Trump told reporters during a press briefing. "He got eaten alive. He was unable to handle the pressure of this job."
Kelly, who served as Trump's secretary for the Department of Homeland Security before moving to the West Wing, was Trump's longest-serving chief of staff.
Trump's remarks come as he faces explosive allegations that he repeatedly disparaged members of the military and described America's war dead as "losers" and "suckers" – accusations he and the White House spent much of Friday angrily denying.
The Atlantic magazine also reported that Trump accompanied Kelly on a 2017 Memorial Day visit to his son's grave at Arlington National Cemetery and openly questioned the slain Marine's sacrifice. Lt. Robert Kelly was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.
"I don't get it. What was in it for them?" Trump reportedly asked Kelly while standing over his son's grave.
Kelly declined to comment for the article.
Trump was responding to a question not about whether Kelly was a source for the Atlantic article but rather why his chief of staff at the time, who presumably would have been aware of the details of the president’s travel decisions, had not come out to corroborate Trump’s version of what happened in France.
"This man was totally exhausted. He wasn't even able to function in the last number of months. He was not able to function," Trump told reporters. "And I told him, John, you're gonna have to go, please give me a letter of resignation. And we did that, and now he goes out and bad-mouths."
Kelly's resignation in December 2018 ended a tumultuous 17-month tenure in which he tried, but largely failed, to bring a Marine Corps-style order to a White House that has hewed more closely to the freewheeling management style Trump embraced as a New York businessman.
The retired four-star general had sought to build a tighter organization around Trump, limiting access for staff who had grown accustomed to Trump's open-door policy in the Oval Office. But Kelly increasingly found himself sidelined by a president who chafed at being "managed" by others.
Trump has gone after Kelly repeatedly in the past, particularly as Kelly has at times been more vocal in his criticism of Trump. The president unloaded on his former chief of staff in February in a series of tweets after Kelly defended a National Security Council staff member who testified against Trump during the congressional impeachment proceedings.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump: Gen. John Kelly couldn't 'handle the pressure' as chief of staff