WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump swore in his new chief of staff, John Kelly, on Monday and sought to portray his White House as firing on all cylinders by pointing to the buoyant stock market and low unemployment rate.
Trump brought in Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, after a chaotic week in which his first legislative effort – healthcare reform – failed in Congress, heightening concerns in his Republican Party that West Wing dysfunction would derail other priorities like tax reform.
Kelly is expected to bring a more disciplined approach to running Trump's White House. He replaced Reince Priebus, who failed to mesh with the president's freewheeling and untraditional management style and grappled with infighting during his six months in the job.
Trump showed off his new chief of staff in the Oval Office and in a Cabinet meeting where he praised Kelly for averting controversy during his tenure overseeing border security issues at the Department of Homeland Security.
"He will do a spectacular job, I have no doubt, as chief of staff," the president said in the Oval Office, surrounded by his senior advisers, after Kelly was sworn in.
"With a very controversial situation, there's been very little controversy, which is really amazing by itself," Trump said.
Trump credited Kelly with reducing the number of people illegally crossing the southern U.S. border with Mexico, and implementing a travel ban for refugees and people from a group of Muslim majority countries.
Trump pointed to the stock market gains and low unemployment rate as signs that his White House is working well. "No WH chaos!" he tweeted on Monday.
U.S. stock indexes have risen around 9 percent since Trump took office in January, partly on investor hopes of legislation such as lower corporate taxes, and the country's already low jobless rate has dipped further, to a near 16-year low of 4.3 percent.
Aside from domestic challenges, Trump is weighing how to respond to North Korea's latest missile test – a sore point between Washington and Beijing. Trump has been critical of China, North Korea's closest ally, saying it should do more to rein in Pyongyang.
He is also dealing with several investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and has been frustrated by the fact the probes include looking into potential collusion by his campaign. Moscow rejects the charge it tried to swing the election in Trump's favor, and Trump denies his campaign had anything to do with such interference.
Asked by a reporter on Monday how he plans to deal with North Korea, Trump gave no specifics. "We'll handle North Korea. We will be able to handle North Korea. It will be handled. We've handled everything," he said.
Trump also did not give any details about how Kelly would organize his White House, where until now several key advisers have reported directly to the president rather than to the chief of staff.
"We're doing very well, we have a tremendous base, we have a tremendous group of support. The country is optimistic, and I think the general will just add to it," he said.