WASHINGTON -- White House chief of staff John Kelly said Monday that a report that he called President Trump an idiot is "total BS." Kelly, in a statement, said he and Mr. Trump have "an incredibly candid and strong relationship."
He added, "He always knows where I stand and he and I both know this story is total BS."
NBC News reported Monday that Kelly has on multiple occasions criticized Mr. Trump's knowledge on issues like immigration, and has cast himself as a protecting the country from Mr. Trump's impulses. The report added that Mr. Trump was growing tired of Kelly's attitude.
Mr. Trump appeared to react to the report on Twitter Monday evening. He tweeted: "The Fake News is going crazy making up false stories and using only unnamed sources (who don't exist)."
In recent months, Mr. Trump has chafed at, and has occasionally talked with friends about replacing him.
CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett reports that Kelly has "alienated some in the West Wing by giving more power to Cabinet secretaries."
"[Kelly] has struggled to keep a tight rein on the president's schedule and access to the president," Garrett added. "Mr. Trump has sometimes resented that move by the chief of staff -- and in the end there have been many rumors of Kelly's imminent departure, but he's still here and that's part of the reality of the Trump White House."
In his early days in the White House, Kelly imposed strict controls on access and the flow of information to Mr. Trump, though his direct influence has waned somewhat, aides said. Kelly allies insist he has merely trained the staff to follow his management protocols, but officials note that Mr. Trump has grown more willing to act unilaterally, ignoring or simply not seeking out the advice of his top aide.
Kelly's handling of domestic violence accusations againstearlier this year caused consternation among White House staffers, who believed he wasn't truthful.
The public revelation of an insult directed at the president's intelligence is reminiscent of leaks last year that then-Secretary of StateThat episode created what White House officials described as an irreparable rift between Mr. Trump and his chief diplomat, and ultimately led to Tillerson's unceremonious March firing.
Kelly said NBC's report "is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration's many successes."