Another one bites the dust.
Donald Trump’s embattled DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is on the way out the door (again).
CBS broke the news initially, citing a US official as saying that Nielsen would offer her resignation during an afternoon meeting with Trump, who has expressed a desire to get “tougher” on the border, a push which included a decision to yank ICE nominee Ron Vitiello.
“Ron’s a good man, but we’re going in a tougher direction”, Trump told reporters on Friday, while leaving the White House for Calexico, California, where he toured a two-mile stretch of border fencing and delivered a series of ridiculous remarks while surrounded by local law enforcement.
Trump quickly confirmed CBS’s scoop. “Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service”, he tweeted, flatly, before naming Kevin McAleenan Acting Secretary.
Rumors that Nielsen wasn’t long for her position have popped up at various intervals over the past six months, most notably in November, after she and then-Acting AG Matt Whitaker announced a interim rule that sought to limit asylum for those who cross the US border illegally.
At the time, the Washington Post reported that Trump had already decided to fire Nielsen. She was expected to depart “in the coming weeks”.
As it turns out, “the coming weeks” was a little premature, but ultimately, the die was cast.
Trump has been dissatisfied with Nielsen’s “performance” when it comes to enforcing his increasingly draconian immigration policies for quite a while.
“Trump has berated her during Cabinet meetings, belittled her to other White House staff and tagged her months ago as a ‘Bushie,’ a reference to her previous service under president George W. Bush and meant to cast suspicion on her loyalty”, WaPo said six months ago, adding that “when Nielsen has tried to explain the laws and regulations that prevent the government from drastically curtailing immigration or closing the border with Mexico, the president has grown impatient and frustrated.”
Well, as you’ve probably noticed, the threats to close the border have reached a fever pitch over the past several weeks and one imagines the president has clashed with Nielsen on that.
According to Bloomberg, Nielsen was in fact asked to resign by Trump who is frustrated that the “border issue isn’t being solved faster.” The president now “wants a strong cop-type figure to lead DHS”.
It comes as no surprise that this is at least partially at the behest of Stephen Miller. “Nielsen’s departure is a part of a massive DHS overhaul engineered and directed by top Trump adviser Stephen Miller”, CBS said Sunday, adding that “it’s unclear whether Nielsen is deciding to leave voluntarily, or whether she has been pressured to resign.”
Earlier this year, Nielsen became the public face of the wildly unpopular family separation policy and was famously heckled while trying to eat dinner at a Mexican restaurant a day after holding a press conference that was panned as tone deaf at best and soulless at worst.
As far as Kevin McAleenan goes, you’re reminded that he recently helped Trump along with the fearmongering when he said the following during a press conference late last month:
Two weeks ago, I briefed the media and testified in Congress that our immigration system was at the breaking point. That breaking point has arrived this week at our border. CBP is facing an unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis all along our Southwest Border and nowhere has that crisis manifested more acutely than here in El Paso.
For the first time in over a decade, CBP is performing direct releases of migrants when [ICE] is unable to provide bed space to relieve overcrowding. We are doing everything we can to simply avoid a tragedy in a CBP facility. But with these numbers, with the types of illnesses we’re seeing at the border, I fear that it’s just a matter of time.
McAleenan went on to say that immigrant families are suffering from chicken pox, lice, fevers, seizures and heart problems. Somehow, that’s all the fault of existing immigration policies, apparently.
For Nielsen, this is probably a relief. Last year, some suggested that the Kirstjen who worked for Trump wasn’t the Kirstjen they knew.
“This almost Cruella de Vil press conference that she held was shocking to those of us who know her,” Arick Wierson, a TV producer, columnist and former media adviser to Michael Bloomberg who was a classmate of Nielsen’s at Georgetown told Politico, for an article published back in July. “That’s not the Kirstjen we know”, Wierson added.
And that probably strikes at the heart of the problem. Trump has no use for anyone who isn’t wholly on board with his policies – especially not the ones he feels matter the most to his base.