US President Donald Trump on Saturday announced his chief of staff John Kelly will soon be leaving the administration, the latest key personnel move at a time of mounting pressure from the Russia election-meddling probe that comes amid increased focus on preparing for the 2020 elections.
Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, was long rumored to be on the way out, amid reports that his relationship with the volatile Trump had deteriorated to such an extent they were no longer on speaking terms.
Some Democrats suggested that Trump timed the announcement to distract from troubling legal filings Friday from the special counsel investigating Russian meddling.
Prosecutors said Trump had directed his lawyer Michael Cohen to make illegal payments to two women to silence allegations of sexual affairs.
The Kelly news reportedly was originally scheduled for Monday before the president made the impromptu announcement, speaking to reporters on the White House lawn.
"John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year," Trump said before heading to Philadelphia for the annual Army-Navy football game. "I appreciate his service very much."
He said a replacement -- possibly an interim appointment -- would be named "over the next day or two."
Nick Ayers, the 36-year-old chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, is widely touted to be Trump's favorite to succeed Kelly.
The job of White House chief of staff is one of the most vital and difficult -- and can be one of the most thankless -- in any administration.
Kelly once suggested that being named to the position was something of a curse, joking that "God punished me, I guess."