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Adviser To Trump Transition Team Considers Immigration As National Security Priority


Sixty-one days until Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, Mr. Trump has named his picks for three key posts, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn for national security adviser, Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Representative Mike Pompeo for CIA director.

We're joined now by Pete Hoekstra. He's former Republican congressman from Michigan. He served as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. And he's now an informal adviser to the Trump transition. Mr. Hoekstra, thanks so much for being with us.

PETE HOEKSTRA: Hey. It's very good to be with you. Good morning.

SIMON: What do you see as the top couple of national security issues that need to be addressed immediately?

HOEKSTRA: I think, immediately, the president needs to develop and implement his strategy for combating the threat from radical Islam, whether it's al-Qaida or ISIS. But, you know, he has to develop a strategy to deal with the situation in Iraq and Syria and then the tangential operations in Africa and throughout Asia.

SIMON: A lot of people are expecting them to build a wall along the border with Mexico on day one. What - do you think that's important?

HOEKSTRA: I think - yeah, absolutely, it's important. The president-elect made the commitment that he would secure our southern border. And I believe that he'll begin working with Congress very early on to begin making that a reality - that that southern border is secure.

I think Congress has been told to expect that, beginning day one, at least through Easter - expect to be in Washington five days a week. And so that's going to be a hectic schedule. But it really indicates that this president feels an urgency to address some of the problems that he highlighted in the election.

SIMON: So is the pledge to build a wall important to get to because he made a promise, and it was an important part of his campaign? Or do you really see it as an important national security issue?

HOEKSTRA: Oh, no. I think it's both. It's a commitment that the president-elect made. But it's also a national security issue. You know, the work that I do in the private sector today indicates that not only do we have people coming across the southern border who are looking for opportunity, who are looking for jobs to make their lives better.

But it also has become an access point for terrorist groups to enter into the United States. We all know that they want to attack the homeland. And that may be the easiest way for outside individuals to come into the United States across that border.

SIMON: But I wonder, Mr. Hoekstra, has that happened? I mean, I'm sure you know the Orlando shooting that killed 49 people was committed by a man born in New York state. The San Bernardino shootings a year ago - killed 14 people - were committed by a man born in Chicago. Is there really a correlation between immigrants of any background and terrorism?

HOEKSTRA: Oh, yeah. Now, the - no, you've got two different, very distinct threats. You've got the homeland, you know, converted through the internet or perhaps with some of the mosques or some of the individuals here in the United States. But no, it is clear from, you know, all kind of open-source reporting and other information that is available.

SIMON: But I wonder if you can name - I don't know - even one instance.

HOEKSTRA: The - no. You have the folks a couple of years ago that came across from Vancouver. But just because they have not yet executed a terrorist attack...

SIMON: That's the Canadian border.

HOEKSTRA: ...Doesn't mean that it's not evolved. The Canadian border - doesn't mean that the...

SIMON: You want a wall along the Canadian border, too?

HOEKSTRA: No, I don't think so. I mean, I think, by and large, you know, the - our relationship and the threat along the southern border is a much greater threat than what we face from the Canadian border.

SIMON: We've just got a little over 30 seconds left. President-elect Trump said in an interview on CNN notably in February, torture works. Do you believe in that?

HOEKSTRA: I believe that back in 2004, the - and so did the Gang of Eight - Republicans and Democrats - that enhanced interrogation techniques were a valid approach on a limited basis to use against certain individuals to find out information about potential threats against the United States. Yes.

SIMON: OK. And we'll note that has been undercut by a 2014 report from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

HOEKSTRA: Correct.

SIMON: Pete Hoekstra, thanks very much for being with us, sir.

HOEKSTRA: Hey, great. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.