(CNN) – John Kelly, President Donald Trump’s former White House chief of staff, publicly criticized Trump on Ukraine, North Korea and immigration policy, among other topics.
John Kelly, President Donald Trump's former chief of staff, talks during the SALT finance conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Kelly, a retired Marine general, made the comments during a speech and Q&A session at Drew University on Wednesday night.
The Atlantic reports that Kelly spoke in defense of Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman raising concerns about Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Kelly said Vindman did the right thing when he reported the controversial call.
Vindman, a key witness in the House’s impeachment inquiry, was fired from his position on the White House National Security Council last week.
Kelly said when Vindman heard Trump tell Zelensky he wanted the country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, it was tantamount to hearing “an illegal order.”
“We teach them, ‘Don’t follow an illegal order. And if you’re ever given one, you’ll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss,’” Kelly said.
The Atlantic also reports Kelly explained his misgivings and doubts, in the clearest terms yet, about Trump’s behavior and policies on North Korea and U.S. immigration policy, saying of migrants, “They’re overwhelmingly good people.”
“They’re not all rapists and they’re not all murderers, and it’s wrong to characterize them that way,” he said. “I disagreed with the president a number of times.”
He also criticized Trump for intervening in the case of Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL convicted of posing with the corpse of an ISIS fighter.
Trump responded to Kelly’s statements Thursday morning, tweeting: “When I terminated John Kelly, which I couldn’t do fast enough, he knew full well that he was way over his head.”
Copyright 2020 CNN. All rights reserved.