John Kelly & Other Homeland Security Secretaries Urge Trump To End Shutdown

A bipartisan group of former cabinet members penned a letter to the president and Congress to find a solution.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly attends a 2018 Hurricane Briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency Headquarters
Yuri Gripas / Getty Images

A bipartisan group of former cabinet members penned a letter to the president and Congress to find a solution.

Former Trump White House chief of staff John Kelly has joined four other former secretaries of homeland security in writing an open letter to Donald Trump and Congress to urge them to end the government shutdown as soon as possible. The former cabinet members want the Department of Homeland Security fully funded.

WRAL says that John Kelly, as well as President George W. Bush alums Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, and President Barack Obama alums Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson penned a letter on Wednesday to get things in motion.

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

Kelly, who left the Trump White House just before the shutdown began, expressed disenchantment with the president and his insistence on building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. Half-jokingly, he stressed that Trump’s wall is no longer really a wall anyway.

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

In the letter, the former DHS secretaries explain that national security is being put at risk by not having various law enforcement departments at full strength. At the end of this week, employees will miss a second paycheck which the letter says is “unconscionable.”

The letter adds that the members of the Coast Guard who are working without getting paid are “legally barred from quitting” or seeking other full-time employment, much like members of the army or navy, which happen to fall under the Department of Defense rather than DHS.

“DHS employees who protect the traveling public, investigate and counter-terrorism, and protect critical infrastructure should not have to rely on the charitable generosity of others for assistance in feeding their families and paying their bills while they steadfastly focus on the mission at hand.”

In closing, the former secretaries warn that the longer the shutdown continues, the more likely the ripple effect of this shameful chapter will be felt on our government in terms of losing the best and the brightest, saying that we will suffer a large-scale “brain drain” with people leaving government work for the private sector, and that “the Department is facing a real crisis in retaining this workforce week after week.”