Homeland Security is almost never the lead law enforcement agency in domestic terror cases. It includes Customs and Border Protection, whose primary mission is preventing terrorists from coming into the country. DHS also has a presence on the FBI-led joint terrorism task forces around the country, with agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Secret Service.
Johnson’s experience in dealing with overseas actions and counterterror decisions may also be helpful for a department still trying to define its role in the fight against terrorism. Homeland Security has a growing footprint around the world.
If confirmed, Johnson would take over an agency with numerous high-level vacancies, including the deputy secretary. When Janet Napolitano left to take over as president of the University of California in September, one-third of the heads of key agencies and divisions were filled with acting officials or had been vacant for months. Obama has nominated several people to key positions, including general counsel. His pick to be the department’s No. 2, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas, is the subject of an internal investigation, and his nomination has been stalled.
Johnson is a 1979 graduate of Morehouse College and a 1982 graduate of Columbia Law School. After leaving the administration in 2012, he returned to private practice. According to the website of his law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, his civil and criminal clients have included Citigroup, Salomon Smith Barney, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Gillette.
Johnson earned more than $2.6 million from his partnership at that law firm, according to 2009 government financial disclosure documents. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Johnson donated more than $33,000 to Obama’s campaign, federal records show. He was also a supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton, having contributed $2,300 to her presidential primary campaign in July 2008. He’s also given $5,000 to the New Jersey Democratic Party and $1,000 to Democrats nationwide, as well as to several congressional candidates.
Obama’s campaign website listed Johnson as a member of the then-candidate’s national finance committee and an adviser to Obama’s foreign policy team during the 2008 election.