When White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney was asked why President Donald Trump had appointed former Marine officer John Kelly as chief of staff, Mulvaney had a simple explanation. “You know that he enjoys working with generals,” he said.
Within this rambunctious, idiosyncratic presidency, a small but growing group of former military leaders appear almost the only ones able to operate, survive and even thrive in the Trump administration. The president appears to be increasingly placing his trust in their discipline, loyalty and ability to influence and control those in his chain of command.
A triumvirate of America’s most respected generals – former Marine James Mattis as Secretary of Defense, serving Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as national security advisor and former Homeland Security chief Kelly – now sit at the political heart of the administration. With Kelly running the day-to-day operations of the White House since replacing former Republican chairman Reince Preibus, their influence may increasingly reach well beyond foreign and security policy into national politics.