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John Kelly likes to pretend Trump's tweets don't matter. But they do

Tweets? What tweets?

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Dan Merica (CNN)
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Tweets? What tweets?

Donald Trump's two early morning missives over spy legislation before the House may have launched Washington into 101 minutes of chaos, but previously White House chief of staff John Kelly has said he doesn't pay much attention to the President's tweets.

They came just ahead of a House vote to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. One message cast doubt about the President's support, and the next -- 101 minutes later -- brought the President more in line with the view of his own White House.

Soon after, Kelly found himself on Capitol Hill seeking to assure Republican lawmakers that the President, his administration and all intelligence agencies support reauthorizing FISA, according to lawmakers who spoke with him.

"It's not more difficult," Kelly said Thursday when asked on Capitol Hill by CNN's Kristin Wilson if the tweets make his job harder. "It's a juggling act."

Kelly, in the past, has been reluctant to admit the difficulties that come with Trump's dispatches to his 46 million followers.

Trump tweeted earlier this month that he was a "stable genius" and "like, really smart" in response to Michael Wolff's book "Fire and Fury," a bombshell account of life inside the West Wing that raised questions about Trump's mental fitness.

Asked by CNN about the Saturday tweets, Kelly said he hadn't seen or heard them. When reporters relayed them to him, the chief of staff curtly responded: "OK."

Kelly similarly sought to downplay the impact Trump's tweets have on his day after the President called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "short and fat" in a tweet during his lengthy trip to Asia in 2017.

"Someone, I read the other day, said we all just react to the tweets," he said at the time. "We don't. I don't. I don't allow the staff to. We know what we're doing."

He added: "Believe it or not, I do not follow the tweets. I find out about them ... but for our purposes, my purpose, is we make sure the President is briefed up on what he's about to do."

Kelly's efforts to dismiss the power of Trump's tweets inside the White House is part public relations strategy and part effort to survive.

Though Kelly has sought to institute discipline in an often-chaotic White House, the retired general has realized during his time in the administration that among the things he cannot control is Trump's off-the-cuff Twitter account.

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