WASHINGTON ― Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has one piece of advice if White House chief of staff John Kelly or Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis want to resign: Don’t do it.
Referring to both as friends, Johnson said Sunday that if either ″came to me and said, ’I’m thinking about resigning from this White House,′ I’d say, ‘absolutely not, you have to stay.’”
Johnson, who served under President Barack Obama, made his remarks on ABC’s “This Week” after another turbulent week in the White House, where Republicans, Democrats and business leaders criticized President Donald Trump for his response to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned deadly on Aug. 12. Trump on two separate occasions suggested that anti-Nazi counterprotesters shared the blame for the violence, winning praise from white nationalists.
As multiple members of two White House advisory boards ― one on manufacturing and another on economic strategy and policy ― decided to resign in protest of the president’s comments, Trump officially disbanded the councils. Other members of Trump’s circle were “disheartened,” as the New Yorker put it, and Kelly looked visibly defeated as Trump at a Tuesday press conference in New York doubled down on blaming “both sides” for the Charlottesville violence, as he had first done on Aug. 12. He also insisted that some of those attending the white supremacist rally included “very fine people.”
Prior to this past week—which also saw the departure from the White House of chief strategist Steve Bannon— the list of officials who had exited the administration was already a long one. It included the first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and press secretary Sean Spicer.
Johnson, though, urged his friends to stay on board, quoting Kelly as saying, “It’s country first.”
“We need people,” Johnson said, like Kelly, Mattis, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, to “right the ship.”