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Hours after he was dismissed by President Donald Trump and replaced as White House chief of staff by Homeland Security Secretary Gen. John Kelly, Reince Priebus made the rounds on CNN and Fox News and defended the president’s decision.
Trump tweeted the news of Priebus‘ exit on Friday afternoon as he landed in Washington after an event in New York during which he lavishly praised Kelly’s performance at Homeland Security.
“I’ve been obviously talking to the president for a few days about this,” Priebus told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an exclusive interview, his first after Trump’s announcement. Contrary to reports that he was fired, the former RNC chairman said he chose to resign a day earlier.
“The president was great, he wanted to include me in who would be a great successor,” said Priebus. “I think Kelly’s a brilliant pick. This is not a situation with a bunch of ill-will feelings. I think this is smart for the president.”
Priebus was a frequent target of rumors about his job security, and murmurs about his impending departure only grew louder after a remarkable public rebuke by new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci this week.
In the CNN interview, and later on Fox News with Sean Hannity, Priebus refused to criticize Scaramucci. “I’m not going to get into the mud,” he said on CNN. “I’m going to honor the president, his agenda and our country and not get into this personal stuff.”
“I’ve always said to him, ‘Anytime either one of us think that we need to make a change or move in different direction, let’s just talk about it and get it done,’ ” explained Priebus. “I’m looking forward to the future. I’m always gonna be a Trump fan. I’m on Team Trump.”
Priebus used similar language in both interviews, arguing that Trump was right to hit “the reset button” (Priebus‘ words) and move forward with a new chief of staff. He admitted, though, that he was a casualty of that decision.
Priebus assured both Blitzer and Hannity that he’s “feeling good” about what happened.
Hannity, in the interview, tried to goad Priebus into criticizing the mainstream media, a favorite target of his. “I don’t think everyone in the media is dishonest,” said Priebus, before launching into something of a structural critique of the media business. “I think that there’s enough, though, that have such incredible competition on their hands for information and movement and clicks online and profitability, that people are shaving the honest nature of where they know in their hearts they need to be.”
Hannity’s show has become the go-to program for deposed White House staffers to turn to. Last Friday night, it was former press secretary Sean Spicer’s turn to be interviewed. Priebus had also appeared to downplay reports that he and Scaramucci did not get along. He called statements of tension between them “a lie.”
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