Chief of staff John Kelly got into a physical altercation with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski last winter, grabbing him by the collar and trying to have him removed from the White House, two sources familiar with the incident confirmed to CNN.
The New York Times was the first to report on the February incident. Lewandowski did not respond to a CNN request for comment.
Lewandowski and Kelly were in President Donald Trump’s office when the altercation occurred, the Times reported on Monday, citing people briefed on the event. Kelly blasted Lewandowski for making huge profits from his contract with Trump’s re-election political action committee and for criticizing Kelly on television for his handling domestic abuse allegations against then-staff secretary Rob Porter, the Times reported.
After the two men exited the office as Trump took a phone call, Kelly called for someone to remove Lewandowski from the building, prompting an argument between the two, the paper reported.
Lewandowski raised his voice, while Kelly grabbed him by the collar and shoved him toward a wall, the Times reported, citing a person with direct knowledge of the episode.
Lewandowski did not respond in kind, the paper reported, citing multiple people familiar with the episode. Although the Secret Service got involved, Kelly and Lewandowski decided to move past the argument, the Times reported, citing those briefed on the episode.
It was on the same February day that families of the victims of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting visited the White House, the paper reported.
Kelly, who had been hired the previous July, already faced a swirl of rumors as to how long he would last in the role. While his presence was initially seen as a possible stabilizing force amidst a chaotic cast of White House characters, he has proved to be prone to shows of temper.
Kelly got into a physical altercation with a Chinese official over the nuclear football last fall, The Wall Street Journal reported, telling fellow officials he would accept an apology only if delivered by a senior Chinese official in Washington under an American flag.
Last week, the chief of staff got into a shouting match with national security adviser John Bolton, loud enough for other officials to overhear, over a recent surge in border crossings.
The February exchange with Lewandowski described by the Times is considered the most extreme of Kelly’s reported outbursts to date.
Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Kelly “has hissy fits.”
“He’s demonstrating his personality now the way he really is,” said the former White House official, who served for 11 days before being fired by Kelly.