Michael Chertoff, the lead Republican prosecutor in the congressional Whitewater investigation, is backing Hillary Clinton, he said in an interview published by Bloomberg News Monday.
Chertoff said his endorsement, the latest party defection from Donald Trump, was triggered by the first presidential debate and his concern over the nation’s security should Trump become president.
“I realized we spent a huge amount of time in the '90s on issues that were much less important than what was brewing in terms of terrorism,” said Chertoff, who served as former Homeland Security Secretary under President George W. Bush. Clinton “has good judgment and a strategic vision how to deal with the threats that face us.”
Chertoff served as the GOP’s lead counsel for the Senate Whitewater Committee in 1995 and 1996, which investigated the Clintons’ investments in the failed real estate business. The investigation also exposed President Bill Clinton’s affair with then-intern Monica Lewinsky.
"People can go back decades and perhaps criticize some of the judgments that were made," Chertoff told Bloomberg. "That is very, very insignificant compared to the fundamental issue of how to protect the country."
Chertoff’s endorsement of Clinton was not the first indication he might split from his party’s nominee — in September, he signed a letter warning that Trump lacked the skills necessary to lead the country. But Trump’s performance during the first presidential debate, he said in the Bloomberg interview, showed “Trump’s sense of loyalties are misplaced.”
"Some of our NATO allies sent troops overseas — at the same time he is defending Russia and trying to dismiss what is widely acknowledged to be Russian intrusions into the databases of our political parties and political figures,” Chertoff told Bloomberg, accusing Trump of "making enemies of your friends and cozying up to your adversaries."
He also said Clinton’s reference to Alicia Machado, the Miss Universe winner who Trump ridiculed for gaining weight, showed how the Republican nominee is easily needled. "Not only did he seem at the debate to lose his temper, but to get up at 3:30 a.m. and reach for your smartphone is to me a hysterical reaction. If you're president, the button you reach for is not the Twitter button; it's the nuclear button."
Clinton, he added, was “clear eyed and tough on national security issues” during his tenure as Homeland Security Secretary.
Clinton, by the time of his nomination, also seemed to have moved past Whitewater. She voted for his nomination in 2005.