Feb 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

John Kelly unloads on Trump's foreign policy toward Ukraine, North Korea

John Kelly in 2018. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Pool/Getty Images

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly took aim Wednesday at President Trump's foreign policy during an event at New Jersey's Drew University, The Atlantic reports.

The state of play: Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, defended Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman's decision to testify during the impeachment inquiry and said Trump's decision to condition military aid to Ukraine to investigate political rivals overturned long-standing U.S. policy.

  • "Up until that phone call, the policy of the U.S. was militarily to support Ukraine in their defensive fight against … the Russians," he said.
  • "And so, when the president said that continued support would be based on X, that essentially changed. And that’s what [Vindman] was most interested in."
  • "[Vindman] did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave. He went and told his boss what he just heard."

What he said:

  • On North Korea: "Again, President Trump tried — that’s one way to put it. But it didn’t work. I’m an optimist most of the time, but I’m also a realist, and I never did think Kim would do anything other than play us for a while, and he did that fairly effectively."
  • On immigration: "[T]hey’re overwhelmingly good people. … They’re not all rapists and they’re not all murderers. And it’s wrong to characterize them that way. I disagreed with the president a number of times."
  • On Eddie Gallagher: "The idea that the commander in chief intervened there, in my opinion, was exactly the wrong thing to do. Had I been there, I think I could have prevented it."

Reality check: Some of Kelly's statements now don't align with his public statements during his time in the administration.

  • On North Korea in 2018: "I know [Trump] won't fall for it in the same way that past presidents have, that get strung along, strung along lifting sanctions, giving them money, and get nothing for it."
  • On immigration in 2018: "They're also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States into our modern society. ... They don't speak English; obviously that's a big thing. ... They don't integrate well. They don't have skills."

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