John Kelly said he 'did something wrong and God punished me, I guess' when he left his Homeland Security job for the White House

ABC News/TwitterChief of Staff John Kelly speaks at a Department of Homeland Security event on March 1, 2018.
  • John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, said Thursday his departure from the Department of Homeland Security was a punishment from God.
  • Kelly said being appointed Homeland Security Secretary was “one of the great honours of my life.”
  • He has been dealing with the ongoing fallout from a scandal involving one of his former aides, whose security clearance was held up over allegations of spousal abuse.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly lamented his short tenure as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and jokingly said his switch to the West Wing was a punishment from God.

“Truly, at six months, the last thing I wanted to do was walk away from one of the great honours of my life, being the secretary of Homeland Security, but I did something wrong and God punished me, I guess,” he told an audience on Thursday.

“I wish I had worked harder in the six months I had in the job, to not only better protect the men and women that get beat up so badly every day, but to really advertise in a much more effective way how good you are,” he added, and said he “missed” them, to laughter and applause from the audience.

Kelly took the chief of staff job last July after his predecessor, Reince Priebus, was ousted. Kelly’s mission ever since has been to bring a semblance of order to a normally freewheeling, chaotic White House.

His remarks on Thursday come amid ongoing upheaval at the White House. Kelly has been under increased public scrutiny after one of his top aides, staff secretary Rob Porter, resigned over spousal abuse allegations that held up his security clearance.

Questions immediately emerged over how much Kelly knew about the allegations, and when he learned of them. Kelly said he only learned the full extent of them after news outlets published a picture of one of Porter’s ex-wives with a black eye.

Since then, the Trump administration has been under fire for allowing dozens of staff members to work on interim security clearances for months.

Kelly also found himself in the middle of a Trump family spat after he decided to downgrade the top-secret security clearance for Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, on Tuesday.

Watch a clip of Kelly’s comments below:

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