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Why this former DHS official under Trump is endorsing Biden

Miles Taylor served as chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security during the Trump administration. He made headlines Monday when he became the highest-ranking former administration official to break with the president and throw his support behind Joe Biden. Taylor joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his concerns about President Trump’s character and why he chose this moment to share them.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Miles Taylor served as the chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security during the Trump administration. He made headlines yesterday when he became the highest-ranking former Trump administration official to break with the president and throw his support behind Joe Biden.

    And Miles Taylor joins us now.

    Thank you very much for talking to us.

    So, you were with the Trump administration for two years at the Homeland Security Department. You have worked only for Republicans before that.

    Why come out now?

  • Miles Taylor:

    Well, Judy, first and foremost, thank you for having me this evening. I really appreciate it.

    I would say this is the most important thing about timing. We are in the election of our lifetimes. And I know we say that every cycle, but that's really what this is.

    There's real no good time to come out and criticize the president. In fact, for me, I have been accused of this being for fame and for money.

    Look, in Trump's Washington, this is going to be bad for my pocketbook, bad for my personal life, bad for my career. But, right now, what I think is incumbent on all of us, especially Republicans, is that we put country over party.

    Now, if I had come out and talked about Donald Trump a year ago, when I left the administration, he's a master of distraction. He would have buried it within a day, and it wouldn't have mattered to voters.

    But, right now, American voters reviewing the president's resume. They are in the process of deciding whether he should be rehired into the office in which he sits.

    So, I think there's no more important time for me or other ex-Trump officials to come out and actually talk about what the experience was inside the administration and what kind of man sits behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, you're not only criticizing him. You are saying that the country is less secure because he's the president.

    That is just about the worst thing someone could say about a president, because they take an oath to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution.

    What was it — what is it about what he has done that you have seen that makes you believe the country is less secure with him as president?

  • Miles Taylor:

    Well, Judy, I don't take the allegation lightly, and it's not something that I level very easily against a president of the United States.

    In fact, during the Trump campaign, I actually helped out informally with Trump's national security team. My hope was that, in the unlikely event that he won, we would at least have a responsible foreign and defense policy for this country.

    And I think all of us who went in, from General Kelly to General Mattis, Rex Tillerson — you can go on down the list — we all wanted him to succeed.

    But I think what we found day in and day out is that when it came to critical national security issues, the president didn't have the instinct to make the right decisions. Not only that. He also didn't have the focus to be able to do what he needed to do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You have also very specifically accused the president, Miles Taylor, of deliberately wanting to separate children from families at the border, of talking about sharpening the spikes on the border wall, so that they'd cut human flesh.

    Are you absolutely certain that the president was personally calling for these things?

  • Miles Taylor:

    Judy, I will say this. I was there when the president personally called for these things, whether it was incidents in the Oval Office or on the phone.

    In fact, I can vividly tell you an example about a time I was flying with him on Air Force One, and I was in his cabin. And he said: "How hot can we make the paint on the wall?"

    I was confused about the question at first, frankly. I didn't know what it meant. How do you make paint hot? What he meant was, can we make it as black as possible? So, as the sun cooks it, anyone who thinks to touch it would burn their hands.

    And then, on more than one occasion, I heard him talk about how sharp he wanted the spikes to be, not how tall, necessarily, to stop someone from climbing over. The president was very clear verbally. He wanted someone physically maimed if they tried to come over the wall.

    And, look, you can believe in border security and be on the right or the left. I believe in border security. We need to have a strong border and a strong immigration system, but also one that's welcoming and consistent with America's open arms towards immigrants.

    But we don't do that by trying to create sharp barrier bollards on the southwest border that cut people's arms off who are fleeing violence and persecution.

    But that's what this man wanted to do. And I think it spoke a lot about his character.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you went on. You have gone with chapter and verse.

    You wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post yesterday. You have talked about his wanting — and I'm quoting here — "demand to shut off congressional appropriated funds to a foreign ally that had angered him."

    Can you spell that out?

  • Miles Taylor:

    You're going to hear a little bit more about this from me, Judy, in the coming weeks.

    But I will say is this. And some of these countries won't surprise you. We have got allies south of the border who, on multiple occasions — and it might be something the president saw in the morning when he woke up and watched the news. He would ring up the secretary, or he'd see us in a meeting, and he would say, that's it, no more money for these people, not recognizing, though, that some of the money that we give to those countries actually helps stop drugs, stop terrorists, stop child rapists from getting into this country and from escaping justice, right?

    A lot of the aid we give to those people countries isn't superfluous. It's aid we give for really important law enforcement priorities and humanitarian priorities.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just finally, you said others are coming — are going to be speaking out. Will they be at a level higher than your level? Will they be Cabinet level?

  • Miles Taylor:

    I really hope so, Judy.

    And I'm talking to a lot of folks right now. And I will say, there's people inside this administration and those who've departed this administration who agree with me on this point.

    And I hope that they will see, in the lead-up to the election, that it's very important to get out there. There are some folks who are getting ready to do that. I hope others will join the team.

    But, at the end of the day, this really isn't about Donald Trump. That's the first step. It's about the vote in November. Really, this is about the country. It's about the America we want to live in. It's about an America that's not GOP values or liberal values. It's about an America that goes back to our founding principles.

    The president couldn't even name those founding principles right now if you asked him. We have got to move beyond. And in the post-Trump era, we're going to restore the party, but, more importantly, we're going to restore the country. And it's going to take people banding together and moving on.

    And I actually think Joe Biden has got the character to do that. Even if I disagree with him on key policy issues, I think he's got the character to bring the country back together.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Last question. Do you still consider yourself a Republican?

  • Miles Taylor:

    I consider myself a Republican, but in a post-Trump Republican Party.

    So, I'm going to be doing everything that I can after this president loses reelection to make sure that we rebuild the party, rebuild the platform, expand the tent, and show that we're for empowering Americans, and a more inclusive society, and a very strong America going into this century.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Miles Taylor, formerly with the Department of Homeland Security, we thank you very much,

  • Miles Taylor:

    Judy, thank you for having me.

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