Transition delay is a 'disservice' to the American public: Jeh Johnson

Former Obama Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is interviewed on "This Week."
5:32 | 11/15/20

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Transcript for Transition delay is a 'disservice' to the American public: Jeh Johnson
Joining me now is Jeh Johnson, the homeland security secretary under president Obama. Secretary Johnson, I know you just heard what ambassador Bolton said. Whatrns do you have about the purge at the Pentagon, department of homeland security, NSA? How does the Biden team need to address that? I'm greatly concerned, Martha. Thanks for having me on. The Pentagon is typically an island of stability in our U.S. Government. To see the secretary of defense fired just weeks before he would have left office anyway is greatly concerning. I'm quite sure it's concerning to our military leadership. We can all speculate about the reasons for it. If it's got something to do with Afghanistan, the president needs to recognize battle field reality doesn't comport with a political calendar. If he wants troops out of Afghanistan, as I know most Americans do, we have to do it in a way that makes sense, in an orderly manner and that comports with battlefield reality. Donald Trump the deal maker should also appreciate in trying to strike a deal you don't unilaterally surrender your greatest point of leverage by withdrawing troops before the Afghanistan government and the Taliban have struck a deal. This is very concerning. If I were in the Biden transition team right now, I would be very focussed as priority "A" on restoring stability in our national security. How crucial is this period of presidential transition? Biden has said, for example, it's not critical for him to have classified intelligence right now because there's nothing he can act on. What's your opinion on that? Martha, a new government cannot start on January 20th from a standing still position. This is what transitions are for. Intelligence briefings, pbs, when your in office, are your eyes and ears. Respectfully the media, what we read in newspapers and the like, is simply so we understand how the media's covering what we know to be reality. Intelligence briefings are your eyes and ears. President trump himself should appreciate that. During the transition four years ago I personally visited trump tower to tell him things before he became president I thought he ought to hear directly from the director of homeland security. I know he appreciated it. It's a disservice to the American public. It's a disservice to our national security to make the incoming government wait until January 20th to get up to speed on a myriad of issues. Let's talk about the division in the country. You heard those voters as well. You were homeland security secretary. How should Biden's homeland security team address these kinds of bitter division? I want to give you one more in the first year of Barack Obama's term the number of anti-government patriot groups more than tripled according to the southern poverty law center. What do you do about these divisions? What do you do about these groups? Martha, this is going to be a top priority for a Biden administration. Our nation is divided right now. There are over 70 million people bitterly disappointed in the election result. This is going to be a time for healing. When I was in office as secretary of homeland security I made a point of talking to all groups. I made a point of visiting, for example, Arizona ranchers on ouruthern border who were upset about border security so they would understand all the things that the department of homeland security was doing on their behalf. It's the instinct of Joe Biden, I know from a number of years in public office, to try to bridge the divide, to try to heal the rift that exists in our nation right now. I'm quite sure he'll make that a priority. I hope he puts in place people in the department of homeland security who will do the same thing and follow that lead. Let's talk about putting people in place. It's been widely reported you're a candidate on the short list for the Biden administration, possibly secretary of defense. I know you don't want to lobby for the job. What would you bring to the job and would you accept it if offered? Martha, I've been in public service four separate times now. I'm in private life. I'm enjoying private life. If asked to take on certain positions in government, I would seriously consider it. I've been appointed to senate-confirmed positions three times in national security. As a patriotic American, I would have to seriously consider anything. But I've had a range of experience in national security and, if I don't serve in a Biden administration, I would of course be pleased to advise whoever is serving. Okay. Thank you very much for your comments this morning, secretary Johnson. Good luck to you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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