Former Trump chief of staff John Kelly says telling the president that things he wanted to do were illegal was like ‘French kissing a chainsaw’

mfriel@businessinsider.com (Mikhaila Friel)-August 31, 2020, 7:41 AM EDT

  • The former White House chief of staff John Kelly had a vivid simile for the experience of refusing President Donald Trump’s requests, according to an upcoming book.
  • The book, “Donald Trump v. The United States,” said that Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, has said that having to say no to Trump “was like ‘French kissing a chainsaw,'” per an Axios report.
  • “Kelly has told others that Trump wanted to behave like an authoritarian and repeatedly had to be restrained and told what he could and could not legally do,” the book says, according to Axios.
  • Neither Kelly nor Trump has responded to the book, which was written by Michael Schmidt, a correspondent for The New York Times.
  • The White House did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment for this article.

The former White House chief of staff John Kelly has said that having to refuse President Donald Trump’s requests “was like ‘French kissing a chainsaw,'” according to a new book.

Donald Trump v. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President” by the New York Times correspondent Michael Schmidt is due to be released on Tuesday. The book’s synopsis describes it as the story of Trump “and the officials of his own government who tried to stop him.”

The chainsaw simile was included in an Axios report on the book.

“Kelly has told others that Trump wanted to behave like an authoritarian and repeatedly had to be restrained and told what he could and could not legally do,” the book says, according to Axios.

It continued: “Aside from questions of the law, Kelly has told others that one of the most difficult tasks he faced with Trump was trying to stop him from pulling out of NATO — a move that Trump has repeatedly threatened but never made good on, which would have been a seismic breach of American alliances and an extraordinary gift to Putin.”

Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, was the secretary of homeland security before serving as the White House chief of staff from July 2017 to January 2019. His departure came after reports that he and Trump were no longer on speaking terms.

Neither the White House nor Kelly has commented on the book, which, according to its synopsis, used “secret FBI and White House documents and confidential sources inside federal law enforcement and the West Wing” in its reporting.

The White House did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment for this article.

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