In Mr. Trump’s White House, the old normal passes for a revolution, and Mr. Kelly’s enemies are seething as well as plotting and griping to sympathetic members of the news media. That is the picture described by eight current and former administration officials who requested anonymity.
In contrast to previous White Houses, the first seven-plus months under Mr. Trump have been something of a historical outlier — organized around an antiestablishment president contemptuous of precedent and comfortable with spaghetti lines of authority and the resulting chaos.
And the first step in taming 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Mr. Kelly believes, is installing a No. 2 who is willing to be hated.
It is Ms. Nielsen who sends out the emails announcing internal policy and planning meetings that now contain a clipped addendum — “principals only” — with a stern warning that any subordinates who wander in will be immediately ejected.
She is also responsible for keeping Mr. Kelly’s no-fly list of aides he deems to be unfit to attend serious meetings, the most prominent of whom is Omarosa Manigault, the former “Apprentice” star with an ill-defined job and a penchant for dropping into meetings where she was not invited.
Throughout the White House, the circle of decision-making is shrinking, leaving staff members accustomed to wandering in and out of meetings — and the Oval Office — in a sour mood. And the feelings are not confined by the gates of the executive compound. Outside Trump advisers, accustomed to getting their calls briskly returned, are complaining that their phones have gone silent since Mr. Kelly took over six weeks ago.
The president’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, made only a cursory study of the structure and history of the West Wing, much to the disgust of a half-dozen Obama administration officials who offered to coach him but were, for the most part, politely rebuffed.
But perhaps his biggest problem was that he was a fund-raiser by trade and schmoozer by temperament with very little knowledge, or interest, in policy and the inner workings of government. Mechanics who never lift the hood tend to lose their jobs. Mr. Trump, who attracts subordinates who flatter rather than challenge, also seemed to take special delight in humiliating him, often ignoring his advice and referring to him by the diminutive nickname “Reincey.”
Ms. Nielsen’s role is similar to the one that Katie Walsh, a longtime deputy, assumed for Mr. Priebus when he first joined the White House — gatekeeper to the gatekeeper. And, as has happened with Ms. Nielsen, some members of the White House have chafed at a woman asserting power — and made her a target for the anger that they cannot express at the chief of staff.
But there is a critical difference, people close to Mr. Kelly said. When Ms. Walsh came under attack, Mr. Priebus did little to protect her, and she left after only a few months. Mr. Kelly’s experience in the military, by contrast, has led him to the conclusion that it is hard to survive a successful attack on a top subordinate without being weakened.
Still, people close to Ms. Nielsen, who was a homeland security official in George W. Bush’s administration, have counseled her to lighten up and to pay more attention to the perfunctory niceties of a not-so-nice job.
Slowly and methodically, Mr. Kelly is replacing the bomb-throwing reality-TV types Mr. Trump feels most comfortable around with competent professionals capable of stabilizing the West Wing. So far, it has been addition by subtraction.
In his first few days on the job, he approved the firing of two far-right National Security Council staff members who were undermining Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, then targeted Sebastian Gorka, a blustery nationalist. But his main objective from the start, people close to the situation said, was to force out Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist and internal provocateur.
At Wednesday’s staff meeting, Mr. Kelly also announced other significant moves, most temporary:
A longtime House aide, Johnny DeStefano, will head the Office of Public Liaison while a search is conducted for a permanent director.
Joseph Hagin, a deputy chief of staff with decades of White House experience, will oversee the president’s schedule, a crucial role in any White House.
Rick Dearborn, a deputy chief of staff who worked for Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he was a senator from Alabama, is not one of Mr. Kelly’s favorites, several officials said, and is being shifted to a less high-profile role. Mr. Kelly is also reviewing the role of Bill Stepien, the White House political director, who has done little to help Mr. Trump improve his standing, in Mr. Kelly’s view.
Mr. Kelly has also greatly empowered Rob Porter, the White House Staff secretary — a Harvard graduate and Rhodes Scholar — to rationalize the administration’s tangled policy-making process.
During Mr. Trump’s transition, the two Trump associates most attentive to history and structure were the two men most quickly shut out of administration jobs by rivals: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who drew up a proposed West Wing organizational chart — complete with potential hires — based on presidential history and his own experience in Trenton. And Corey Lewandowski, Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager, who carefully studied the painstaking work of the White House historian Martha Joynt Kumar, in part to help Mr. Trump figure out which positions were available to loyalists who toiled on his campaign.
Mr. Kelly has not had the time to make that kind of study, though he was intuitively attracted to the more controlled approach of his predecessor’s predecessor, Denis R. McDonough, President Barack Obama’s last chief of staff, who modeled his chain of command on that of the National Security Council.
But Mr. Kelly is not rebuilding the organization in a vacuum, and Mr. Trump’s mood can have as much an effect as Mr. Kelly’s methodical approach.
The new chief of staff has tried to shield Gary D. Cohn, the chairman of the National Economic Council, from Mr. Trump’s continuing wrath since the former Goldman Sachs executive went public with his disgust at the president’s response to the deadly violence last month in Charlottesville, Va.
Mr. Kelly made a point, one staff member said, of throwing his arm around Mr. Cohn in solidarity, in full view of the news media, as they exited Marine One last week on the South Lawn.
But he has not always been successful. Several aides said Mr. Trump is freezing out Mr. Cohn by employing a familiar tactic: refusing to make eye contact with Mr. Cohn when his adviser greets him.
At a meeting on Thursday on infrastructure at the White House with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and members of Congress from New York and New Jersey, Mr. Kelly told participants that Mr. Cohn would lead the meeting. But Mr. Trump, whose most cutting insult is to pretend someone does not exist or that he barely knows them, virtually ignored him.
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