President-Elect Donald Trump has made another appointment to his cabinet today and it’s a huge middle finger to Barack Obama.
Trump has chosen retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly to run the Department of Homeland Security, turning to a blunt-spoken border security hawk who clashed with the Obama administration over women in combat and plans to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, according to people familiar with the decision.
Kelly, who retired in February as chief of U.S. Southern Command, would inherit a massive and often troubled department responsible for overseeing Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration.
Kelly, 66, is a widely-respected military officer who served for more than 40 years, and he is not expected to face difficulty winning Senate confirmation. Trump’s team was drawn to him because of his southwest border expertise, people familiar with the transition said. Like the president-elect Kelly has sounded the alarm about drugs, terrorism and other cross-border threats he seems as emanating from Central and South America.
Known inside the Pentagon as a thoughtful man who continued serving his country even after his son was killed in combat, Kelly has talked in stark terms — much like Trump — about the threats America faces in the Middle East and beyond. In speeches, he has expressed frustration with what he calls the “bureaucrats” in Washington, and he described the military’s counter-terrorism operations abroad as a war against a “savage” enemy who would gladly launch more deadly attacks.
“Given the opportunity to do another 9/11, our vicious enemy would do it today, tomorrow and everyday thereafter,” Kelly said in a 2013 Memorial Day address in Texas. “I don’t know why they hate us, and I frankly don’t care, but they do hate us and are driven irrationally to our destruction.”
His blunt manner led to conflicts within the Obama administration, where he served more than three years as Southern Command chief — overseeing military operations across Central and South America — and as senior military adviser to defense secretaries Robert M. Gates and Leon E. Panetta.
Kelly opposed Obama’s failed plans to close Guantanamo, people familiar with his views say, and he has strongly defended how the military handles detainees. In a 2014 interview, he told The Washington Post that criticism of their treatment by human rights groups and others was “foolishness.’’
Perhaps Kelly’s most visible role would be to help oversee Trump’s signature campaign promise: a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to keep out illegal immigrants. Trump has said the construction will be easy, but experts say the structure would face numerous obstacles, such as environmental and engineering problems and fights with ranchers and others who would resist giving up their land.
The president-elect and his homeland security secretary appear to be in synch on cross-border threats.