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WASHINGTON — Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said he warned President Donald Trump of the possibility of impeachment if he hired a “yes man” to serve as his next top aide, according to comments made at an event sponsored by the Washington Examiner.

“I said, whatever you do — and we were still in the process of trying to find someone to take my place — I said whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth — don’t do that. Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached,” Kelly said Saturday at the newspaper’s political conference in Sea Island, Ga.

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Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general who was chief of staff from July 2017 to January 2019, said he told the president he needed someone to keep him within the bounds of his authority to avoid impeachment. Kelly said he believed the president wouldn’t be facing an impeachment inquiry had he stayed in the job, a thinly veiled shot at Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff who replaced Kelly.

“It pains me to see what’s going on,” Kelly said, according to the newspaper.

House Democrats in September opened an inquiry following the release of a whistle-blower complaint about a conversation Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which he asked Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, and his son.

The impeachment probe has spurred a contentious battle with the White House as Democrats seek to determine if Trump and a handful of close advisers pressured Ukraine officials to conduct the investigations by withholding US military assistance. The Trump administration has attempted to stymie the effort by blocking witnesses and withholding documents.