Tags: Donald Trump | Homeland Security | Jeh Johnson | Trump | Great President

Jeh Johnson: Trump Has 'Potential to Be Great President'

By    |   Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 08:49 AM

President Donald Trump has the "potential to be a great president," but he has to find a way to "rein in some of the more unhealthy impulses" he has, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday.

"I actually believe that Donald Trump — and I told him this when I met with him in December — I actually believe Donald Trump has the potential to be a great president in sort of the Nixon goes to China way or Reagan goes to the Soviet Union way," Johnson, after serving under ex-President Barack Obama, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.

However, for that to happen, Trump will need to make some changes, Johnson said.

The president, in addition to reining in his own impulses, must "listen to his staff [and] bring on a full complement of political appointees who will help him govern," said Johnson.

Johnson said he's also concerned about Trump's tweets, "obviously" and about the direction in which national security is heading.

"I'm concerned that we are, when it comes to homeland security, we may be fighting the last war," Johnson said. "We may be responding to the terrorist attack of 10 years ago versus the next one. I used to tell my people, 'Don't respond to the last terrorist attack, prepare for the next one.'

"Given where we are right now with the current threat environment, we need to focus on homegrown, home-born violent extremists, which is something we did a lot of in the last administration," Johnson said.

Johnson said while he was in office, he visited most of the nation's major metropolitan areas that have a significant Muslim population to speak about building bridges, as he feared the next major terrorist attack would be carried out by someone already in the country.

"That used to keep me up at night," he said. "The next terrorist attack by someone who lives in this country, who lives in our communities, who may have been raised and may be born here and that is where I think our lot of our focus in homeland security needs to be."

The Department of Homeland Security was created with the assumption that terrorism would penetrate the U.S. borders, which was why its efforts were consolidated into one cabinet-level department, he continued.

"Now, because ISIL has effectively outsourced terrorism to home-grown bound extremists, we need to focus there as well," said Johnson. "I hope that this administration will do that. I know my successor believes in that. He said that at his confirmation testimony. But I think that needs to be a major, major focus."

Johnson said it's important to remember that Trump has only been in office for about two months.

"We have to remember this two months may seem like two years, but two months is not a very, very long time," said Johnson. "I hope that there is considerable on-the-job learning. Every president grows in office, every president makes mistakes, learns lessons in office. And for the success and the sake of the country, I think we all have to hope that this president can do the things necessary to fix a lot of problems that we have."

Johnson also on Wednesday said the decision by the United States and Britain to bar passengers from 10 Muslim-majority countries from carrying most portable electronics onto planes is "significant."

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the ban was ordered after intelligence showed the Islamic State has been working on a bomb to be hidden inside electronic devices such as iPads and laptop computers.

According to two American officials speaking on the condition of anonymity, the explosives were developed to hide within laptop batteries.

The Times reports that the restrictions did not reflect a specific threat that an attack is imminent, but reflects concerns that new capabilities could be launched against targets in the West. The ban covers items larger than cell phones.

Laptops and other devices, according to the ban, must be stowed with checked luggage rather than being brought aboard by passengers.

"We have been concerned for some time now about explosive material, non-metallic explosive material in electronic devices," said Johnson. "Several years ago, we took steps to increase the security around that. An outright ban on things larger than an iPhone from these ten airports in eight countries is significant. I haven't accessed the intelligence the last two months but folks, aviation security experts and our intelligence community must be seeing things that are significant to prompt this action."

It is also good that the British are joining the ban, said Johnson.

"We are in very good company," he said. "A couple of years ago we enhanced security at foreign airports and the British and other European countries did the exact same thing so we are in good company there."

He does, however, think it's unfair to refer to the ban as being on electronics coming from Muslim countries.

"After the crash a couple of years ago, we took actions to increase the security around certain airports in the region, and I think it was unfair then and I think it's probably a little unfair now to characterize them as Muslim majority countries," said Johnson. "We look at where the direct flights are coming from and we look at the security around the airports, and we make the appropriate judgments.

"This judgment was almost certainly a judgment made at the TSA, DHS, intelligence community level. And very often, we get good cooperation from airport authorities, from security officials in these countries in the region. So they are very much partners, I agree with that."

The bomb-maker in Yemen is reportedly still at large, Johnson said.

Meanwhile, there is still a terrorist threat around, 16 years after the 9/11 attacks, directed at aviation security, said Johnson.

"Terrorist organizations continue to make active efforts to develop explosive materials that can be struggled on aircraft, either in cargo or in the cabins and why we need to continue to be vigilant," said Johnson. "These organizations are making active efforts to try to figure out way to get stuff on airplanes. They have not given up in this regard, very definitely."

Johnson's New York City-based law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, has filed an amicus brief against Trump's latest travel ban.

"I used to tell my lawyers in the department of defense and in the DHS, bad facts make bad law," said Johnson. "When you bring a case to a court on bad facts, sloppy facts, it's harder to defend certain basic legal principles. It is the case that the president, the Secretary of Homeland Security have considerable legal discretion to regulate our borders. But when you tell a judge my authority is unreviewable, almost every judge will say, 'Oh, we will see.'"

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President Donald Trump has the "potential to be a great president," but he has to find a way to "rein in some of the more unhealthy impulses" he has, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday. "I actually believe that Donald Trump - and I told him this...
Jeh Johnson, Trump, Great President
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2017-49-22
Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 08:49 AM
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