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WASHINGTON: Presi­dent Donald Trump said on Saturday that chief of staff John Kelly would leave his job by year’s end amid an expected West Wing reshuffle reflecting a focus on the 2020 re-election campaign and the challenge of governance with a Democrats-controlled House.

Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, is Trump’s top choice to replace Kelly, and the two have held discussions for months about the job, a White House official said. An announcement was expected in the coming days, the president told reporters as he left the White House for the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia.

Kelly had been credited with imposing order on a chaotic West Wing after his arrival in June 2017 from his post as homeland security secretary. But his iron fist also alienated some long-time Trump allies, and he grew increasingly isolated, with an increasingly diminished role.

Known through the West Wing as “the chief” or “the general,” the retired Marine Corps four-star general was tapped by Trump via tweet in July 2017 from his perch atop the Homeland Security Department to try to normalise a White House riven by infighting and competing power bases.

“John Kelly will be leaving; I don’t know if I can say retiring but he’s a great guy,” Trump said. “John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year. We’ll be announcing who will be taking John’s place it might be on an interim basis. I’ll be announcing that over the next day or two, but John will be leaving at the end of the year. ... I appreciate his service very much.”

Kelly, who had threatened to quit on several occasions, told friends he would be happy if he lasted until his one-year anniversary: July 28.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018