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John Kelly tells Trump and Congress to end government shutdown

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It hasn’t been long since John Kelly was a key member of the Trump administration, but that isn’t stopping him from publicly voicing his concerns about the state of the country.

Kelly on Wednesday was among five ex-Homeland Security chiefs to send a letter to President Donald Trump and congressional lawmakers calling on them to end the partial government shutdown.

The former White House chief of staff was joined by former secretaries Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff, Janet Napolitano, and Jeh Johnson in signing the letter. They implored Trump and Congress to reopen the government to ensure the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is funded.

Read more: Here’s what happens during a government shutdown

“As former secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security, we write to you today with a simple message – fund the critical mission of DHS,” the letter stated.

“Homeland security is national security,” the bipartisan group of former secretaries wrote. “DHS has a vital mission: to secure the nation from the many threats we face. This requires the dedication of more than 240,000 employees in jobs that range from aviation security, law enforcement and protective services, border security, emergency preparedness and response, and federal network security to stopping human trafficking, child exploitation and transnational criminal organizations. Their duties are wide-ranging, but their goal is clear — keep America safe.”

The former secretaries contended DHS is as important to national security as the Department of Defense (DoD), which hasn’t been affected by the current shutdown, and should be treated the same way.

“DHS should be no different,” they said. “With today’s threats, there is no longer a distinction between the ‘away game’ and the ‘home game,’ which is why DHS and DoD work hand in hand to defend our country.”

In conclusion, the letter states, “We call on our elected leaders to restore the funding necessary to ensure our homeland remains safe and that the Department’s critical national security functions continue without compromise.”

Kelly, who served as Homeland Security chief from January to July 2017 before becoming White House chief of staff, has a long record of being hawkish on immigration. This makes his signature on the letter, and his relatively recent departure from the Trump administration, particularly surprising.

But Kelly has also broken with Trump on the subject of the border wall, the underlying cause of what is now the longest government shutdown in US history by far.

In a Los Angeles Times interview in December, Kelly said, “To be honest, it’s not a wall.”

“The president still says ‘wall’ – oftentimes frankly he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing,’ now he’s tended toward steel slats,” Kelly added. “But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it.”

Read more: Pelosi says Wilbur Ross’ confusion about why federal workers are going to food banks during the shutdown shows a ‘let them eat cake kind of attitude’

Trump as recently as Wednesday morning referred to the edifice he desires along the border as a “wall,” tweeting, “Without a Wall there cannot be safety and security at the Border or for the U.S.A. BUILD THE WALL AND CRIME WILL FALL!”

Kelly in the December interview also did not refer to the situation at the border as a “crisis,” as Trump has routinely characterized it. When asked if there is a security crisis at the southern border, Kelly simply said, “We do have an immigration problem.”

The partial government shutdown is a result of Trump’s insistence on obtaining $5.7 billion for the border wall, which Democrats in Congress have refused to agree to.

There is no end in sight to the shutdown, which has lasted over a month.

Read more: Trump signals government shutdown will ‘go on for a while’ after Pelosi cancels State of the Union address

The strain the shutdown has placed on Homeland Security has led to a fight between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Trump on the subject of the State of the Union address. Pelosi last week called on Trump to postpone the address, citing security concerns linked to the affect of the shutdown on Homeland Security and the Secret Service.

Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen said the agency would be able to adequately handle security for the event despite the shutdown, but after trading a series of jousts with the president on the matter Pelosi called the address off on Wednesday. Subsequently, Trump said he would wait until after the shutdown to deliver the speech before a joint session of Congress.

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