John Kelly Defends Time as Donald Trump's Chief of Staff, Says He Should be Measured by What President Didn't Do

Chief of Staff John Kelly, who leaves the White House on Wednesday, spoke candidly about his time in President Donald Trump's administration, and how his work should be measured.

Kelly, who became White House chief of staff in July 2017, told the Los Angeles Times his work should be measured more by what Trump didn't do with Kelly by his side rather than what he did do.

Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general who became White House chief of staff after serving as secretary of homeland security, focused on U.S. security, and immigration policy. In the Los Angeles Times interview, Kelly referred specifically to the war in Syria and Afghanistan, saying he opposed Trump's decision to withdraw troops from both countries, a decision Trump announced shortly after Kelly gave his resignation on December 8.

"When I first took over, he was inclined to want to withdraw from Afghanistan," Kelly told the Los Angeles Times. "He was frustrated. It was a huge decision to make...and frankly there was no system at all for a lot of reasons—palace intrigue and the rest of it—when I got there."

Trump announced he would pull 14,000 troops from Afghanistan, which is half of the U.S. deployed forces there, as well as all ground troops from Syria.

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White House Chief of Staff John Kelly listens to President Donald Trump during a Make America Great Again rally at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, West Virginia, August 3, 2017. In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Kelly said his tenure should be judged more by what Trump didn't do rather than what he did. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Kelly also spoke of the what many consider the president's rash decision making, which many saw displayed in the president's decision to pull troops form Syria and Afghanistan. He said he gave Trump all the necessary information before the president made big decisions. "It's never been: The president just wants to make a decision based on no knowledge and ignorance," Kelly said. "You may not like his decision, but at least he was fully informed on the impact."

As chief of staff, Kelly was heavily involved in immigration policy. The long-promised border wall, which has prompted a partial government shutdown, wasn't really a wall, said Kelly. "To be honest, it's not a wall," Kelly told the Times. "They said, 'Well we need a physical barrier in certain places, we need technology across the board, and we need more people. The president still says 'wall —oftentimes, frankly, he'll say 'barrier' or 'fencing,' now he's tended toward steel slats. But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it."

Regarding his own views on immigaration, Kelly said, "Illegal immigrants, overwhelmingly, are not bad people," Kelly said. "I have nothing but compassion for them, the young kids."

But Kelly does see a problem. "If we don't fix the laws, then they will keep coming," he continued. "They have known, and they do know, that if they can get here, they can, generally speaking, stay."

John Kelly Defends Time as Donald Trump's Chief of Staff, Says He Should be Measured by What President Didn't Do | U.S.