John Kelly, President Donald Trump’s former chief of staff and Homeland Security secretary, finally had some nice things to say about immigrants and dropped some even realer truths about his former boss’s anti-immigration policies—which Kelly helped to implement—on his redemption tour.
Speaking during a Wednesday appearance at Duke University, Kelly described his chief of staff position as the “least enjoyable” but “most important” job he’s ever had, according to NBC News. It must’ve not been important enough to stick up for all the immigrants Trump has targeted in his first two years in office, nor for Kelly to take any responsibility for Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.
Here’s Kelly on the Trump administration zero-tolerance policy, Trump’s very dumb border wall, and his order to deploy military at the border (from NBC News, emphasis mine):
...[Kelly] was critical, though he blamed then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for catching the White House by surprise with the adoption of a “zero tolerance” policy.
Contrary to Trump’s comments that many immigrants coming to the U.S. border are criminals, Kelly added: “And by the way, they’re overwhelmingly not criminals. They’re people coming up here for economic purposes. I don’t blame them for that.”
He didn’t defend Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency to get funding for a border wall and said: “We don’t need a wall from sea to shining sea.”
Kelly also expressed disagreement with deploying U.S. troops, even National Guard troops, to the border, as Trump did last fall before the midterm elections.
Funny! I remember Kelly saying family separations would be a “tough deterrent” and that the policy wasn’t cruel and heartless because the children would be “put into foster care or whatever.” But OK!!
Kelly couldn’t even muster the tiniest bit of self-reflection while talking about the Trump administration’s de facto Muslim ban, which Trump issued when Kelly was DHS secretary. Kelly spoke as if the administration was a group of eager teenagers whose unsupervised house party got out of hand after they invited a few of the popular kids. From NBC News again:
Asked about Trump’s executive order establishing a travel ban just days after taking office — while Kelly was Homeland Security secretary — he said it was a mistake made by inexperienced White House staff who didn’t run the policy through the usual process-gathering process for input from relevant government agencies.
The White House staff “got a little bit maybe out in front if [sic] their skis,” he said.
Of course this wouldn’t be a proper redemption tour without mention of the things Kelly thinks he did right while working for Trump. Kelly took credit for initially convincing Trump not to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and Syria, and completely denied the notion that he was the adult in a room full of children as chief of staff. He also went out on a limb saying he would have even worked for Hillary Clinton had she won the election and picked him.
I’m sure that line—along with all the other pseudo-supportive bullshit he’s spinning about how it was actually Trump who wanted to vilify immigrants—will work wonders to help Kelly rebrand himself.