President Obama’s chief of homeland security said Wednesday that President Trump has the potential “to be a great president,” if only he can lay off Twitter and listen more to his staff.
In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Jeh Johnson also defended the Trump administration’s move this week to ban certain electronic devices on flights from several Middle Eastern airports.
“I actually believe that Donald Trump — and I told him this when I met with him in December — I actually believe that 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, if he can find a way to rein in some of the more unhealthy impulses, listen to his staff, bring on a full compliment of political appointees who will help him govern,” said Johnson, who took over as Obama’s DHS chief in late 2013.
“I’m very concerned about the tweets, obviously, and very concerned about the direction we’re taking in a lot of national security areas,” Johnson added.
Johnson was also asked about the administration’s decision to ban large electronics on flights from 10 international airports in eight North African and Middle Eastern nations.
Trump administration critics claimed the ban unfairly targets Muslims. But the U.K. and Canada quickly adopted similar policies, reportedly because of new intelligence showing that terrorist groups have been plotting to blow up airplanes using bombs built into tablets, laptops and e-readers.
“I think it’s a little unfair in this context to refer to this as ban on electronics coming from Muslim-majority countries,” Johnson said Wednesday.
“I haven’t accessed the intelligence the last two months but…aviation security experts and our intelligence community must be seeing things that are significant to prompt this action,” he added.
Johnson was less supportive of Trump’s executive actions banning travel from select Muslim-majority nations.
He said that the most recent ban, which limits travel from six nations, was based on “sloppy facts.”
“I used to tell my lawyers in the Department of Defense and in the DHS, bad facts made bad law,” said Johnson.
“And when you bring a case to a court on bad facts, sloppy facts, it’s harder to defend certain basic legal principles. It’s 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.'”
Johnson’s law firm, Paul Weiss, has filed an amicus brief against the travel ban, which is currently locked in a court battle.