John Kelly will become the new White House chief of staff. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Sanders then spoke to reporters outside her office. Asked if the decision was Priebuss or Trumps, she replied: We all serve at the pleasure of the president. The conversations about this started with the president and Reince about two weeks ago, in terms of timing.
She denied that the change had anything do with Scaramucci, and said Trump and Kelly had been talking about it for a while.
On Friday, Priebus said in a statement: It has been one of the greatest honours of my life to serve this president and our country. I want to thank the president for giving me this very special opportunity. I will continue to serve as a strong supporter of the presidents agenda and policies. I cant think of a better person than John Kelly to succeed me and I wish him Gods blessings and great success.
In an interview with CNN just two hours after his departure was announced, Priebus paid homage to Trump. I am going to honor the president every day he said, adding: Im always going to be a Trump fan. Im on Team Trump. He refused to respond to Scaramuccis comments, saying, Im not going to get into the mud.
While Priebus insisted he had resigned, there were strong hints that there was more under the surface. He said on CNN that the president had wanted to hit the reset button and intuitively determined that it was time to do something differently.
On Friday, House speaker Paul Ryan, a close Priebus ally who has had a tense relationship with Trump, said : Reince Priebus has left it all out on the field, for our party and our country. Here is a guy from Kenosha, Wisconsin who revitalized the Republican national committee and became White House chief of staff. He has served the president and the American people capably and passionately. He has achieved so much, and he has done it all with class. I could not be more proud to call Reince a dear friend.
He added: I congratulate Secretary Kelly on his appointment, and look forward to working with him to advance our agenda.
Priebus was one of the least powerful chiefs of staff in recent history, and his future had long been a matter of speculation. In a highly unorthodox move, Trump decided that Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon would serve as equal partners in implementing his agenda.
The gossip intensified rapidly a week ago, when Scaramucci was appointed as communications director despite Priebuss objections. The former Wall Street banker claimed they were like brothers but tensions soon flared.
Scaramucci clearly suspected Priebus of leaking information to the media. This led him to call the New Yorker and give an interview in which he described Priebus as a fucking paranoid schizophrenic who would soon be asked to resign.
On Tuesday, Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that no staff shakeup was in the cards. But according to media reports, he privately floated potential replacements including Kelly, deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and former campaign adviser David Urban.
In an interview earlier this week, Michael Steele, predecessor of Priebus as chairman of the Republican national committee (RNC), said: Its very clear the president has very little confidence in him. Reinces head is on the block, as was Sean Spicers. Sean just got up and removed himself before the axe came down.
Priebus is the latest casualty in Trumps west wing. Others include national security adviser Michael Flynn, former deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh, press secretary Sean Spicer and press aide Michael Short.
Priebus went out of his way to appease Trumps insurgent candidacy during the 2016 election campaign. After Trumps victory in the Indiana primary and Ted Cruzs decision to drop out, Priebus declared Trump the presumptive nominee, though Ohio governor John Kasich was still in the race, and then used the full muscle of the RNC to quash efforts to deny Trump the Republican nomination at the party convention in Cleveland.
He also went in person to Trump Tower in 2015 for Trump to sign a loyalty oath to the Republican party, a deeply unusual step for an RNC chair to court such a recalcitrant candidate.
Kelly, meanwhile, has been arguably Trumps favourite cabinet secretary and is leading efforts to build a wall on the Mexican border. Kelly ran the United States Southern Command, which includes the military prison at Guantnamo Bay. In 2010, his son, Lt Robert Michael Kelly, was killed after stepping on a landmine in Afghanistan.
In a memorial day speech at Arlington national cemetery earlier this year, Trump said: I especially want to extend our gratitude to Secretary John Kelly for joining us today. Incredible man. I always like to call him General. He understands more than most ever could or ever will the wounds and burdens of war.
Kelly said in a statement he was honoured to be asked to serve as chief of staff, adding praise for the staff of homeland security: When I left the Marines, I never thought I would find as committed, as professional, as patriotic a group of individuals. I was wrong. You accomplish great things everyday defending our nation and I know your exceptional work will continue.
Kellys appointment leaves a gap at the Department of Homeland Security. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and governmental affairs committee, said: General Kelly has a long history of service to our country and I had a good working relationship with him as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. With the threats facing this nation, I urge the president to nominate a qualified secretary to replace General Kelly as quickly as possible.
In a week of exceptional turmoil, Trump has also turned his ire on Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, accusing him of weakness for recusing himself from the investigation into the Trump campaigns alleged collusion with Russia.