President Trump claimed on Twitter Monday night that "The White House is running very smoothly" and accused the media of going "bonkers" after a published report claimed that White House chief of staff John Kelly had referred to Trump as "an idiot."
Trump did not directly reference Kelly or the report by NBC News in his two tweets. Instead, he accused the media of "making up false stories and using only unnamed sources (who don’t exist).
"They are totally unhinged, and the great success of this Administration is making them do and say things that even they can’t believe they are saying," Trump added. "Truly bad people!"
NBC reported Monday that Kelly has on multiple occasions criticized Trump's knowledge on issues like immigration, and has cast himself as a protecting the country from Trump's impulses. The report added that Trump was growing tired of Kelly's attitude.
After Kelly became chief of staff in July 2017, he imposed strict controls on access and the flow of information to Trump, aides told The Associated Press that his direct influence has waned somewhat. Kelly allies insist he has merely trained the staff to follow his management protocols, but officials note that 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 against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter earlier 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 State Rex Tillerson called Trump a "moron." That episode created what White House officials described as an irreparable rift between 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."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.