Week Ahead: John Kelly's Departure, Mueller Probe, Kushner And Saudi Arabia

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White House Chief of Staff John Kelly looks on as President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visit with Marines at Marine Barracks Washington, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly looks on as President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visit with Marines at Marine Barracks Washington, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

We'll kick off the week with a look at what's to come in Washington and around the globe. Top reporters open their notebooks.


Natasha Bertrand, staff writer at The Atlantic covering national security and politics. (@natashabertrand)

Jennifer Williams, foreign editor for Vox. Co-host of the weekly international podcast "Worldly." (@jenn_ruth)

James Hohmann, national political correspondent for The Washington Post. He writes The Post’s flagship newsletter, The Daily 202. (@jameshohmann)

From The Reading List

New York Times: "John Kelly, Trump’s Chief of Staff, to Leave White House" — "President Trump said on Saturday that his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, would step down by the end of the year, the latest move in a long-planned staff shake-up as the president heads into the 2020 campaign facing growing peril from the special counsel and newly empowered Democrats.

"The departure of Mr. Kelly, who had been brought in last year to impose order on the West Wing but found managing Mr. Trump an impossible task, had been rumored for months, and Mr. Trump announced it to reporters before departing for the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia. He said a replacement would be named in the next day or two.

"'John Kelly will be leaving — I don’t know if I can say "retiring,"' the president said. 'But he’s a great guy. John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year.' "

The Hill: "Dem Senator: We've entered a 'new phase' in Mueller investigation" — "Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia has moved into a "new phase" after new documents were released to the public.

"Murphy suggested the new phase is headed toward impeachment, comparing Trump to former Presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.

"'We have reached a new level in the investigation. The special counsel is starting to show his cards and these are very serious allegations,' Murphy told ABC's 'This Week.'

"'This is a president who's now named as an un-indicted co-conspirator,' Murphy said, referring to a filing in the case of President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen that implicates Trump for directing Cohen on illegal campaign contributions. 'The allegation is that he committed at least two felonies to try to manipulate the 2016 election.'

"Murphy added that it is important that Congress has 'all of the facts.' "

CNN: "'I can't breathe.' Jamal Khashoggi's last words disclosed in transcript, source says" — "I can't breathe.' These were the final words uttered by Jamal Khashoggi after he was set upon by a Saudi hit squad at the country's consulate in Istanbul, according to a source briefed on the investigation into the killing of the Washington Post columnist.

"The source, who has read a translated transcript of an audio recording of Khashoggi's painful last moments, said it was clear that the killing on October 2 was no botched rendition attempt, but the execution of a premeditated plan to murder the journalist.

"During the course of the gruesome scene, the source describes Khashoggi struggling against a group of people determined to kill him."

Washington Post: "Nick Ayers, Trump’s once-likely replacement for chief of staff John Kelly, won’t take the job" — "Nick Ayers announced Sunday that he is leaving the White House and will not be President Trump’s next chief of staff, with four other candidates now in the running to succeed John F. Kelly as Trump eyes a decision by the end of the year.

"Ayers, a longtime operative who is currently Vice President Pence’s chief of staff, said in a tweet that he will leave his position at the end of the year but 'will work with the #MAGA team to advance the cause.'

"'Thank you @realDonaldTrump, @VP, and my great colleagues for the honor to serve our Nation at The White House,' he said.

"Ayers was skeptical of taking the top administration job based on the challenges that Kelly and his predecessor, Reince Priebus, faced in the position, according to an administration official with direct knowledge of the negotiations."

New York Times: "The Wooing of Jared Kushner: How the Saudis Got a Friend in the White House" — "Senior American officials were worried. Since the early months of the Trump administration, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, had been having private, informal conversations with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son of Saudi Arabia’s king.

"Given Mr. Kushner’s political inexperience, the private exchanges could make him susceptible to Saudi manipulation, said three former senior American officials. In an effort to tighten practices at the White House, a new chief of staff tried to reimpose longstanding procedures stipulating that National Security Council staff members should participate in all calls with foreign leaders.

"But even with the restrictions in place, Mr. Kushner, 37, and Prince Mohammed, 33, kept chatting, according to three former White House officials and two others briefed by the Saudi royal court. In fact, they said, the two men were on a first-name basis, calling each other Jared and Mohammed in text messages and phone calls."

This program aired on December 10, 2018.


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