“This is my hell,” Mr Kelly said.
The quote is from an anecdote in ABC News’ chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl’s new book Front Row at the Trump Show, in which Mr Kelly explains his strategies for dealing with Mr Trump’s impulsive nature.
According to Business Insider, shortly after Mr Trump gave his “fire and fury” threat to North Korea, Mr Kelly said he began trying to “overwhelm him with facts” to try to prevent the president from lying and making impulsive decisions without context.
“He needs to understand that 18 and 19-year-old people are going to die. This is big-boy and big-girl s***,” Mr Kelly said. “You have to understand people will die because of these decisions.”
Mr Kelly’s own son, Robert Kelly, died when he was 29 in a landmine attack in Afghanistan in 2010.
Mr Trump selected Mr Kelly to replace previous Chief of Staff Reince Priebus in July 2017. Mr Kelly was regarded by some as “the adult in the room,” and it was hoped that his past as a retired Marine four-star general would bring discipline to the chaotic White House.
Despite his attempts to limit White House staff members’ access to the president – which included his own family – Mr Kelly was unable to wrangle the disparate forces working to influence Mr Trump and was eventually fired.
He said he was in “way over his head” and that now he “can’t keep his mouth shut” about his time working for Mr Trump.
Mr Kelly’s decision to speak out against his former boss may be a little too little and a little too late to win him sympathy in the public’s eye.
At a lecture he gave in February, Mr Kelly was heckled and shouted down by critics angry at him for his time in the White House.
While Mr Kelly may have tried to talk Mr Trump down from escalating tensions with North Korea and attempted to educate him on the costs of war, he also oversaw the implementation of the Trump administration’s travel ban and the Muslim travel ban.
According to The Atlantic, one audience member asked him how he plans “to atone for the blood of those immigrant children that are dying in detention centers.”
Mr Kelly’s previous job prior to joining the Trump administration was as the head of the Department of Homeland Security, and in 2017 once told members of Congress to either change US immigration laws or “shut up and support the men and women on the front lines.”