Former White House chief of staff John Kelly re-entered the spotlight on Wednesday when he broke with President Donald Trump on immigration issues and the need for a security wall to address the border crisis.
Kelly had not spoken freely of his time in the Trump administration since leaving in January.
A retired four-star general who served in the Marine Corps, Kelly also served as the president’s secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) prior to his time as White House chief of staff.
He began the latter position in July 2017.
Kelly shared his thoughts on Wednesday during a question-and-answer session at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He said disapproves of the president’s decision to declare a national emergency in order to secure funds to build the border wall.
“I think the whole national emergency thing right now is going to be wrapped up in the courts if it even really gets through Congress, which right now it doesn’t look like it will get through Congress,” Kelly said, according to CNN’s DJ Judd and Zachary Cohen.
“Thank God we have the courts,” Kelly added.
Trump's former COS John Kelly at Duke: “I think the whole national emergency thing right now is going to be wrapped up in the courts, if it even really gets through Congress, which right now it doesn’t look like it will …"
“Thank god we have the courts,” he added. Per @DJJudd.
— Zachary Cohen (@ZcohenCNN) March 6, 2019
Trump declared the national emergency in February after Congress failed to muster enough votes to provide the wall funding necessary to secure the border.
But House Democrats voted last week to block the national emergency declaration. With at least four Republican senators planning to side with Democrats, the Senate appears poised to join the House in blocking the declaration. The declaration would then go to Trump, who’s expected to veto that.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified on Wednesday before the House Committee on Homeland Security.
“We face a crisis — a real, serious and sustained crisis at our borders,” Nielsen warned lawmakers. “We have tens of thousands of illegal aliens arriving at our doorstep every month. We have drugs, criminals and violence spilling into our country every week. Illegal immigration is simply spiraling out of control.”
Nielsen noted that immigration enforcement officials apprehended a stunning 76,000 illegal aliens at the border in February — a 30 percent increase from January. These numbers also marked an 80 percent increase in apprehension when compared with February 2018.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) is forecasting the problem will grow even worse this spring when the weather is warmer.
But Kelly dismissed some of those concerns — including the president’s repeated warnings about the dangers illegal immigration pose.
“They’re overwhelmingly not criminals,” Kelly said of the illegal immigrants.
“They’re people coming up here for economic purposes. I don’t blame them for that.”
“We don’t need a wall from sea to shining sea,” Kelly added, calling the border wall construction a “waste of money.”
John Kelly: Wall along the entire border a 'waste of money' https://t.co/qy2fH1iALp
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) March 7, 2019
Although Kelly parted severely with Trump on key issues, he insisted this was “the most important job I’ve ever had” — even if it was “the least enjoyable job I’ve ever had,” as The Duke Chronicle reported.
“Politics aside, it’s all about governing the country,” Kelly said when reflecting upon his decision to work for Trump.
“Love ‘em or hate ‘em, whoever it happens to be, once they become president, it is our best interest as a people to assist him or her as much as we can to become successful.”
Check out more in the video below: