Photo: AP

White House chief of staff John Kelly has been reported to be on the chopping block one, two, nine times at this point, but even as Trump has purged members of his cabinet and the White House, Kelly has managed to hang on. The reason for that, reportedly, is that Trump is a coward.

Per Vanity Fair, the hiring of ex-Fox News co-president Bill Shine has only intensified speculation that Kelly is on the way out. (Emphasis mine.)

A Republican close to the White House told me that Trump hopes Shine’s expanding role will encourage Kelly to quit. “Trump is too chickenshit to fire Kelly himself,” the source said. The strategy is reminiscent of the president’s decision to hire Anthony Scaramucci as communications director in July 2017 to drive out then-chief of staff Reince Priebus. “This is a more subtle version of Scaramucci,” an outside adviser to the White House told me.

Aside from getting the cold shoulder from Trump himself, Kelly is also reportedly getting boxed out of meetings. “They’ve basically stopped telling Kelly when meetings are. People leave him off the calendar,” an administration official told Vanity Fair. “When he finds out, he storms into the room and is like, ‘What’s going on?’”

Admittedly, that kind of sounds like a dick move, not that Kelly doesn’t deserve it.

One person who is in our big dopey president’s good graces, according to Vanity Fair, is Shine, who had to resign from Fox News last year after being accused of enabling sexual harassment by Roger Ailes. “Trump absolutely loves the guy,” Vanity Fair quoted a ‘Republican close to Trump and Shine’ as saying. Shine reportedly had a lot to do with last night’s announcement of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, like this:

“Shine brought in all new lights,” a person briefed on the production said. “He gave Trump what’s called a ‘downlight.’ Trump’s a little fat, but that made him look younger.”

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Unsurprisingly, one person who’s benefitting from Shine’s elevation, according to Vanity Fair, is Sean Hannity, who reportedly was the entire reason that the Kavanaugh announcement was at 9 p.m. last night.

“Sean is very happy. Bill Shine is his best friend,” said a Republican who spoke with Hannity after Shine’s hiring. Hannity has already seemingly benefitted from Shine’s appointment. Shine timed Kavanaugh’s announcement to the start of Hannity’s 9 P.M. Fox News show, in part to reward Hannity with monster ratings that a huge news event generates. (Trump announced Neil Gorsuch’s nomination at 8 P.M.) “Everyone at the White House knew this was about Sean’s ratings,” the Republican told me.

Must be nice to have the White House take your ratings into consideration when doing something as inconsequential as picking a justice for the Supreme Court.