Jeh Johnson


Jeh Charles Johnson (/ˈ/ "Jay"; born September 11, 1957) is an American lawyer and former government official. He was United States Secretary of Homeland Security from 2013 to 2017.

Jeh Johnson
Official portrait, 2014
4th United States Secretary of Homeland Security
In office
December 23, 2013  January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Donald Trump[1]
DeputyAlejandro Mayorkas
Preceded byJanet Napolitano
Succeeded byJohn F. Kelly
General Counsel of the Department of Defense
In office
February 10, 2009  December 31, 2012
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byWilliam J. Haynes II
Succeeded byStephen W. Preston
General Counsel of the Air Force
In office
October 15, 1998  January 20, 2001
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded bySheila C. Cheston
Succeeded byMary L. Walker
Personal details
Born
Jeh Charles Johnson

(1957-09-11) September 11, 1957 (age 63)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
Susan DiMarco
(m. 1994)
EducationMorehouse College (BA)
Columbia University (JD)

From 2009 to 2012, Johnson was the general counsel of the Department of Defense during the first years of the Obama administration. Before joining the Obama administration, he was a federal prosecutor, the general counsel of the Department of the Air Force, and an attorney in private practice.

As of 2021, Johnson is a partner at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, a member of the boards of directors of Lockheed Martin and U.S. Steel, and a trustee of Columbia University.

Early life and education


Johnson was born on September 11, 1957, in New York City, the son of Norma (Edelin), who worked for Planned Parenthood, and Jeh Vincent Johnson, an architect and lecturer at Vassar College.[2][3][4] His parents met as a result of the elder Johnson's friendship with Norma's brother, Milton. His father and his Uncle Milton were the only black students in their respective classes at Columbia University's School of Architecture.[5] He is also the nephew of Kenneth C. Edelin, a physician who was a defendant in a landmark case involving abortion rights.[6] Johnson is the grandson of sociologist and Fisk University President Charles S. Johnson. Johnson's first name is taken from a Liberian chief, who reportedly saved his grandfather's life while he was on a League of Nations mission to Liberia in 1930.[7]

Raised in Wappingers Falls, New York,[citation needed] he graduated from Roy C. Ketcham High School in 1975.[8] He described himself as "a big underachiever", earning grades of C and D in school until he went on to college, citing the fact that he didn't "have a lot of African-American role models" in what was a mostly white community.[9] It was during his sophomore year in college that a vision of becoming an attorney led him to work to increase his "GPA above a dismal 1.8".[10]

Johnson is a graduate of Morehouse College (B.A.) and Columbia Law School (J.D.). He is the recipient of eleven honorary degrees.

Early career


Private practice and federal prosecution

Johnson began as an associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in November 1984. He would later become the first African-American partner at Paul, Weiss.[11]

He left private practice in 1989 to serve as an assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York. He worked in the Southern District until 1991, prosecuting corruption cases.[12][additional citation(s) needed] Johnson returned to Paul, Weiss in 1992 and was elected partner at the firm in 1994.

From 1998 to 2001, Johnson was general counsel of the Department of the Air Force under President Bill Clinton.[13]

Air Force General Counsel

In 1998, Johnson was appointed General Counsel of the Air Force by President Bill Clinton after confirmation by the U.S. Senate. As General Counsel, Johnson was the senior legal official in the Air Force and Governor of Wake Island, in the Pacific Ocean.[citation needed] His tenure coincided with Operation Allied Force in 1999. He was awarded the Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service for his efforts.[13]

Private practice

After his service in the Clinton administration, Johnson returned to Paul, Weiss in 2001, where he tried large commercial cases.[13]

Johnson was a member of the Executive Committee of the New York City Bar Association. From 2001 to 2004, he served as chairman of the City Bar's Judiciary Committee, which rates and approves all federal, state and local judges in New York City. In 2007, Johnson was shortlisted by the New York State Commission on Judicial Nomination to be Chief Judge of New York[14] though the incumbent, Judith Kaye, was ultimately reappointed by former Governor Eliot Spitzer.

Involvement with the Democratic Party

Johnson was active in Democratic Party politics, as a fundraiser and adviser to presidential campaigns. Johnson served as special counsel to John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign,[15] and was an early supporter of Barack Obama's presidential campaign, active as a foreign policy adviser and as a member of his national finance committee.[16][17]

Obama administration


General Counsel of the Department of Defense

Johnson swears in Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense.

On January 8, 2009, then President-elect Barack Obama announced Johnson's nomination as Department of Defense General Counsel.[18] On February 9, 2009, he was confirmed by the Senate.[citation needed]

In 2009, Johnson was heavily involved in the reform of military commissions, and testified before Congress numerous times in support of the Military Commissions Act of 2009.[19] In February 2010, the Secretary of Defense appointed Johnson to co-chair a working group, along with Army General Carter Ham, to study the potential impact of a repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. In November 2010, following an extensive study, Johnson and General Ham reported that the risk to overall military effectiveness of a repeal would be low.[20]

As general counsel, Johnson gave a number of speeches on national security. In a speech he delivered at the Heritage Foundation in October 2011, Johnson warned against "over-militarizing" the U.S. government's approach to counterterrorism: "There is risk in permitting and expecting the U.S. military to extend its powerful reach into areas traditionally reserved for civilian law enforcement in this country."[21] At a speech at Yale Law School in February 2012, Johnson defended "targeted killings".[22]

At the Oxford Union in November 2012, shortly before his resignation, Johnson delivered an address titled "The conflict against al Qaeda and its affiliates: how will it end?" In that speech, he predicted a "tipping point" at which the U.S. government's efforts against al Qaeda should no longer be considered an armed conflict, but a more traditional law enforcement effort against individual terrorists. Johnson stated:

"War" must be regarded as a finite, extraordinary and unnatural state of affairs. War permits one man—if he is a "privileged belligerent," consistent with the laws of war—to kill another. War violates the natural order of things, in which children bury their parents; in war parents bury their children. In its 12th year, we must not accept the current conflict, and all that it entails, as the "new normal." Peace must be regarded as the norm toward which the human race continually strives.

The Oxford Union speech received widespread press attention,[23][24][25][26] and editorial acclaim as the first such statement coming from an Obama administration official.[27]

According to published reports, Johnson personally gave the legal approval for U.S. special operations forces to go into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden.[28]

Secretary of Homeland Security

Johnson visits Pulse nightclub after shooting which left 49 people dead in Orlando

Johnson was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the fourth U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security in October 2013, and was subsequently confirmed on December 16, 2013, by the U.S. Senate with a vote of 78–16.[29] He was sworn in on December 23, 2013.[30]

When Johnson entered office one of his top priorities was to fill all of the high level vacancies. By April 2015 the President had appointed and the Senate confirmed all but one of Johnson's senior leader positions.[31] One of Johnson's first major efforts as Secretary was his unity of effort initiative to set the conditions for the Department to operate in a more unified fashion and develop a culture that recognizes and responds adequately to the diverse challenges the Department of Homeland Security faces.[31]

In the spring and summer of 2014 the southern border of the United States experienced a large influx of immigrants, many of whom were children, coming from Central America.[32] Secretary Johnson and his Department worked with the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate a response to address the immigrants' needs. In June, U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services asylum officers were reassigned to conduct credible fear interviews, while prioritizing the cases of recently apprehended unaccompanied children, adults with children, and other recent border crossers.[32] At the same time, Secretary Johnson asked for the support of Congress to increase border security and prevent more spikes like this from happening again.[32] After the flow of immigrant children to the United States, the Department of Homeland Security established three family residential centers, and they immediately became the focus of much controversy.[33] The ACLU has compared them to Japanese internment camps and in July 2015 a U.S. District Court Judge in California ordered that the family residential centers comply with a 1997 settlement concerning the detention of children.[33]

Johnson speaking at the Islamic Society of North America convention in Chicago in September 2016

During the summer and fall of 2014, Secretary Johnson oversaw the Department of Homeland Security's response to the ongoing Ebola crisis in West Africa.[34] The Ebola epidemic was the largest in history, and impacted multiple West African countries. In response, the Department of Homeland Security developed policies, procedures and protocols to identify travelers for screening who could have been potentially infected to minimize the risk to the traveling public.[34] This response was chosen by the Department over limiting travel visas to the United States, which Secretary Johnson contended would have been a mistake given the leadership position of the U.S. and likelihood of influencing other countries to take the same action.[35]

Johnson met with law enforcement officials and National Football League security prior to Super Bowl 50

After the House of Representatives failed to act on Bill S. 744, Secretary Johnson and President Obama issued ten new executive actions on November 20, 2014 to address the 11 million undocumented individuals in the United States.[36][third-party source needed] Johnson is said to have worked heavily on drafting the executive actions at the behest of the President.[37]

Career after Obama administration


For the inauguration of Donald Trump, Johnson was chosen as the designated survivor and would have become the next president if a disaster or attack had occurred.[38]

After leaving office in January 2017, Johnson rejoined the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York City.[1][13] He is also a member of the boards of directors of Lockheed Martin,[39][40] U.S. Steel,[41] the Council on Foreign Relations,[42] the National September 11 Memorial & Museum,[43] the Center for a New American Security,[44] WBGO, [45] and a trustee of Columbia University.

In June 2018, he was an outspoken critic of the Trump administration's family separation practice at the border.[46] Several days later, he wrote to criticize calls to abolish ICE.[47] Johnson has called for a more civil dialogue from political leaders on both sides of the aisle.[48]

In December 2018, Secretary Johnson was the recipient of the Ronald Reagan Peace Through Strength Award, presented at the Reagan Presidential Library, for “contributing greatly to the defense of our nation” and “guiding us through turbulent times with courage and wisdom.” He has received numerous other awards and acknowledgments, including three Department of Defense medals for distinguished public service. [49]

Johnson also delivered the convocation address at Liberty University on September 11, 2020, in which he discussed the importance of morality in political leadership.[50][51]

In April 2020, Governor Phil Murphy appointed Johnson to represent New Jersey in the seven-state regional working group to develop a plan for reopening the economy following the COVID-19 crisis.[52]

In June 2020, Chief Judge of New York State Janet DiFiore, appointed Johnson as Special Advisor on Equal Justice in the courts.[53] After a four-month review, Johnson issued a 100-page public report that contained a number of recommendations.

In 2020, Johnson was floated as a possible candidate for United States Secretary of Defense, United States Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence in the Biden administration.[54]

Personal life


On March 18, 1994, Johnson married Susan Maureen DiMarco, a dentist, at Corpus Christi Church of New York City.[3] The pair grew up across the street from each other in Wappingers Falls, New York.[55]

He has been a resident of Montclair, New Jersey.[56]

Johnson was present in New York City during the September 11 attacks, which occurred on his 44th birthday.[57][58][59] He has frequently referred to the attacks in his speeches.[60][61]

See also


References


  1. Lat, David. "Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Returns Home — To Paul, Weiss". Above the Law. Retrieved November 26, 2020As "designated survivor", Johnson served as Trump's homeland security secretary for 7 hours, 32 min, on January 20, 2017, until his successor was confirmed.CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  2. Nominations Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 1st Session, 111th Congress (PDF) (Report). 2009. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 30, 2016.
  3. "Weddings; Jeh C. Johnson and Susan DiMarco". The New York Times. March 20, 1994. Archived from the original on February 22, 2015. Retrieved February 22, 2015.
  4. "Jeh Vincent Johnson 1931–". Contemporary Black Biography. Archived from the original on October 8, 2017. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  5. "Milton and Yvonne Edelin Scholarship". Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Retrieved January 2, 2021. He was the only Black student in his class, and he became good friends with Jeh Johnson ‘53CC, '58GSAPP, the only black student in the class ahead of his. (Jeh would also later become his brother-in-law.)
  6. McFadden, Robert D. (December 31, 2013). "Doctor was at center of landmark case". The New York Times. Atlanta, Georgia: The Atlanta Constitution. p. B6. Retrieved January 2, 2021. Besides his wife and four children, Edelin is survived by eight grandchildren; a brother, Milton; and a sister, Norma Edelin Johnson.
  7. Johnson, Charles Spurgeon (December 1, 1987). Bitter Canaan. Transaction Publishers. p. 1xxiii fn 171. ISBN 978-1-4128-1871-1. Archived from the original on December 2, 2020. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  8. Pace, Julie; Cassata, Donna. "Dutchess' Jeh Johnson could be next defense secretary". Poughkeepsie Journal. Archived from the original on December 3, 2020. Retrieved December 2, 2020. Johnson, who previously served as the Pentagon's general counsel, is a 1975 graduate of Roy C. Ketcham High School in Wappingers Falls.
  9. Galanes, Philip (October 17, 2015). "'Homeland' Times Two: Claire Danes and Jeh Johnson". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on September 29, 2020. Retrieved December 2, 2020. JJ:... My dad was an architect, and he ended up teaching at Vassar for 37 years. But I was a big underachiever in school. PG: Was that rebellion? JJ: It was a predominantly white, mostly blue-collar town, and I didn’t have a lot of African-American role models. I became a C/D student.
  10. "Jeh Johnson – ex-Secretary of Homeland Security". Chambers Associate. Archived from the original on June 23, 2017. Retrieved December 2, 2020. Specifically, my first semester of sophomore year at Morehouse College, after I finally realized I was not going to be a professional baseball or football player. I had no more excuses to avoid the books, and lifting my GPA above a dismal 1.8.
  11. "Jeh Johnson – 1996 40 Under 40 – Crain's New York Business Rising Star". Crain's New York Business. January 1996. Archived from the original on June 21, 2018. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  12. Clayton, Mark (October 18, 2013). "Homeland Security: Can Jeh Johnson handle agency's big challenges?". The Christian Science Monitor. ISSN 0882-7729. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
  13. "Jeh Charles Johnson". Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Archived from the original on March 15, 2008.
  14. Caher, John (January 18, 2007). "Kaye Heads List of Candidates For Court of Appeals' Top Slot". New York Law Journal. Archived from the original on December 2, 2020. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  15. Konigsberg, Eric (February 24, 2007). "In Clinton's Backyard, It's Open Season as an Obama Fund-Raiser Lines Up Donors". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on September 10, 2019. Retrieved November 27, 2020.
  16. Horowitz, Jason (October 2, 2007). "Clinton Campaign Gets In Gloat Mode With $27 Million". The New York Observer. Archived from the original on December 30, 2007.
  17. Jackson, Derrick Z. (April 12, 2008). "The best place for the rule of law". The Boston Globe. p. A13. ISSN 0743-1791. ProQuest 405117873.
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  29. Kim, Seung Min (December 16, 2013). "Johnson OK'd for Homeland Security". Politico. Archived from the original on November 15, 2020. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
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  31. "Unity of Effort: One Year Later | Homeland Security". www.dhs.gov. April 22, 2015. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
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  33. "I Know an American 'Internment' Camp When I See One". Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  34. "Ebola Response | Homeland Security". www.dhs.gov. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
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  36. "Immigration Action". www.dhs.gov. Archived from the original on July 12, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
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  39. Bur, Jessie (December 11, 2017). "Former DHS director elected to Lockheed Martin board of directors". Federal Times. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
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  41. United States Steel Corporation (April 28, 2020). "Jeh C. Johnson Elected to U.S. Steel Board of Directors". GlobeNewswire. Archived from the original on November 13, 2020. Retrieved November 3, 2020.
  42. "Board of Directors". Council on Foreign Relations. Archived from the original on November 13, 2019. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
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  45. "Board of Trustees". www.wbgo.org. Archived from the original on April 27, 2020. Retrieved April 28, 2020.
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  49. https://www.reaganfoundation.org/media/299036/rndf-release-peace-through-strength-award-2018-final.pdf
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  54. "Who Are Contenders for Biden's Cabinet?". The New York Times. November 11, 2020. Archived from the original on November 15, 2020. Retrieved November 11, 2020.
  55. Brady, Lois Smith (April 10, 1994). "Jeh Johnson and Susan DiMarco". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on October 30, 2016. Retrieved November 27, 2020.
  56. Stirling, Stephen. "Montclair resident Jeh Johnson to be named U.S. Homeland Security secretary" Archived December 3, 2020, at the Wayback Machine, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, October 17, 2013, updated March 30, 2019. Accessed December 2, 2020. "Montclair resident Jeh Johnson will be nominated by President Obama as the next Homeland Security secretary, according to a U.S. Senate aide briefed by the White House on the nomination."
  57. Nakashima, Ellen (October 19, 2013). "Jeh Johnson nominated as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. ProQuest 1443165796. Archived from the original on October 24, 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  58. "Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson at the Woodrow Wilson Center". Department of Homeland Security. February 7, 2014. Archived from the original on April 19, 2019. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
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