MORRISTOWN, N.J.—John Kelly had just finished his speech and opened up the floor to questions when a woman in the audience walked up to a microphone. She asked him how he plans “to atone for the blood of those immigrant children that are dying in detention centers” and while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
The accusation summed up the substantial skepticism and hostility that Kelly, the former White House chief of staff, faced here last night. Throughout his 75-minute appearance at the Mayo Performing Arts Center, hecklers in the crowd stood and shouted at him about the Trump administration’s family-separation practice and Muslim travel ban, two of the most controversial policies the White House enacted during Kelly’s tenure. Kelly also got smacked by the right. This morning, after I reported on his comments questioning Donald Trump’s North Korea policy and defending the actions of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, his former boss scolded him on Twitter for speaking out. Kelly “just can’t keep his mouth shut,” the president tweeted.
Not many people who’ve worked closely with Trump have left the administration and unburdened themselves about what they saw. Yet seldom has it been more important to hear the unsparing evaluations of people who watched Trump in action. When a president routinely presents a warped picture of his own actions, it’s essential for the people who were in the room to verify what took place.