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President Donald Trump stands with John Kelly. Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly threatened to quit on March 28, according to sources familiar with the events.

What I'm hearing: Kelly blew up at Trump in an Oval Office meeting that day, and while walking back to his office muttered he was going to quit. Sources said it was not related to the David Shulkin firing that happened the same day.

A senior administration official said that calling it a threat was "probably too strong, it was more venting frustration." Kelly often says he doesn't have to be there and didn't seek the job originally.

Details:

  • Kelly packed up some personal belongings, though I'm told that wasn't necessarily because he was walking out. 
  • He was fired up enough that colleagues got allies to call in to calm him down. 
  • At one point DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen — perhaps the person in the administration he trusts most — came over to talk him off the ledge. 

Context: Kelly has verbally threatened to quit more than once over the past eight months.

Why it matters: Very few people inside this White House feel secure or satisfied, given the wild, unpredictable mood and policy changes of Trump. Kelly months ago restored some order and sanity to the place but most of that is gone. 

Get more stories like this by signing up for our weekly political lookahead newsletter, Axios Sneak Peek. 

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
10 mins ago - Podcasts

Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Collective.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).

DHS warns of "heightened threat" because of domestic extremism

Supporters of former President Trump protest inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday issued an advisory warning of a "heightened threat environment" in the U.S. because of "ideologically-motivated violent extremists."

Why it matters: DHS believes the threat of violence will persist for "weeks" following President Biden's inauguration. The extremists include those who opposed the presidential transition, people spurred by "grievances fueled by false narratives" and "anger over COVID-19 restrictions ... and police use of force[.]"

OIG: HHS misused millions of dollars intended for public health threats

Vaccine vials. Photo: Punit Paranjpe/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel alerted the White House and Congress on Wednesday of an investigation that found the Department of Health and Human Services misused millions of dollars that were budgeted for vaccine research and public health emergencies for Ebola, Zika and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: The more than 200-page investigation corroborated claims from a whistleblower, showing the agency's violation of the Purpose Statute spanned both the Obama and Trump administrations and paid for unrelated projects like salaries, news subscriptions and the removal of office furniture.