The Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection has taken a serious toll on the United States’ standing and reputation on the world stage, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Friday, adding that he believes there’s likely enough evidenceto bring criminal charges against former President Donald Trump.
Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser to former President Trump, testified before the House Jan. 6 committee Thursday that the Capitol riot “emboldened our enemies by helping give them ammunition to feed a narrative that our system of government doesn’t work, that the U.S. is in decline.”
“I do share that assessment,” Johnson told CBS’ senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge.
Johnson, who served as Homeland Security secretary in former President Barack Obama’s second term, called presidential transitions a “vulnerable time.”
“In the eyes of our friends and adversaries, seeing an insurrection on the U.S. Capitol made them question, I am sure, how enduring, how strong and how stable, our democracy really is,” Johnson said. “We have historically boasted that we are the most enduring democracy in the world, and that we always have peaceful transitions of power. Regrettably, we cannot say that anymore.”
The Jan 6. committeefrom an anonymous White House security official who said that the Secret Service detail for former Vice President Mike Pence “were starting to fear for their own lives” as the rioters invaded the Capitol.
Johnson, who oversaw the Secret Service as Homeland Security secretary, called that “unprecedented.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed, heard of, in contemporary times, or even over the course of history, a situation where line Secret Service agents – members of protection details, feared for their own lives and began phoning or radioing, ‘Communicate with my family, I may not see them.’ That was unprecedented, I believe.”
Johnson added that Trump’s predilection for replacement of Senate-confirmed cabinet members with “acting” heads during his presidency undermined the continuity of government operations.
“So on Jan. 6, 2021, you had an acting attorney general, an acting secretary of defense and an acting secretary of Homeland Security, who were basically heading for the exits in two weeks – and it led to, contributed to, the chaotic situation that we had where our government was not more proactive in doing what they needed to do to protect the perimeter of the U.S. Capitol,” Johnson said.
Johnson – a lawyer and former federal prosecutor in New York – said that based on the evidence presented in the Jan. 6 hearings, there is likely enough in the “federal criminal code” to bring charges against Trump.
“There’s a statute in the federal criminal code … that criminalizes an insurrection,” Johnson said. “This was in my judgment, the very definition of an insurrection, and the statute in federal law punishes those who engage in the insurrection, who incite the insurrection, and who give aid and comfort thereto. It is difficult for me to see how President Trump, given all the evidence we know about, is not within that criminal statute. And I suspect that an aggressive federal prosecutor would regard this as a prosecutable, indictable case.”