New White House chief of staff John Kelly was so upset with how President Donald Trump handled the firing of FBI Director James Comey that Kelly called Comey afterward and said he was considering resigning, according to two sources familiar with a conversation between Kelly and Comey.
Both sources cautioned that it was unclear how serious Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, was about resigning himself.
"John was angry and hurt by what he saw and the way (Comey) was treated," one of the sources said.
Comey learned of his dismissal on May 9 from televisions tuned to the news as he was addressing the workforce at the FBI office in Los Angeles, law enforcement sources said at the time. Comey made a joke about it to lighten the mood and called his office to get confirmation.Vivian Salama and Jill Colvin at AP
Comey, who took Kelly's call while traveling back from Los Angeles to Washington, responded to Kelly by telling him not to resign, one of the sources said.
But after being confirmed as part of Trump's Cabinet, Kelly also tried to moderate some of the president's hard-line positions, even as he publicly defended them.
Kelly and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, another retired general, were also said to have been deeply frustrated with the rollout of Trump's refugee and immigration ban, and made clear to associates that they were not involved in drafting it or aware of its details around the time that Trump signed the original order. Both moved swiftly to address gaps in the measure, with Mattis asking that Iraqis who helped U.S. troops be exempt and Kelly clarifying that green-card holders would not be affected.
Nonetheless, Kelly launched a particularly robust defense of the order to lawmakers and reporters, which was welcomed by the White House.
Mattis and Kelly also agreed in the earliest weeks of Trump's presidency that one of them should remain in the United States at all times to keep tabs on the orders rapidly emerging from the White House, according to a person familiar with the discussions. The official insisted on anonymity in order to discuss the administration's internal dynamics.