Kirstjen Nielsen’s ouster as DHS Secretary unfolded in a similarly unceremonious fashion to other high-profile exits from Trumplandia.
According to Axios, Nielsen had her resignation letter in hand when she showed up to meet with Trump on Sunday afternoon, but wasn’t necessarily committed to leaving her post. The discussion with Trump “went poorly”, though, according to “top sources”.
From there, it was a race, with Nielsen scrambling to get her letter out to the public and Trump rushing to open his Twitter app. Long story short, Trump won. To wit:
Trump didn’t even let her announce her “resignation.” While she was racing to put out the letter (not that different from one she wrote after midterms), Trump tweeted that she “will be leaving her position.”
All you can do is shake your head.
Axios goes on to say that the much ballyhooed “shouting match” between John Kelly and John Bolton (“the two Johns”) that grabbed headlines back in October was related to Bolton’s recommendation that Nielsen be fired.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane for a moment – from an October post:
Well, in case you were wondering whether the Trump White House is still functioning like the “well-oiled machine” that it most assuredly isn’t, it’s worth noting that, John Kelly and John Bolton [just] got into a “profanity-laced shouting match”
The screaming contest was first reported by Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs.
Moments later, CNN delivered some of the details. Apparently, [the] raucous verbal exchange marked the culmination of weeks’ worth of tension between the two men over the recent uptick in border crossings.
“The exchange laid bare a bitter disagreement that has existed between two of President Donald Trump’s top aides for weeks now”, CNN says, adding that “Trump took Bolton’s side during the argument.”
That would appear to suggest that Bolton agrees with the idea that the U.S. should quite literally send in the military to effectively close America’s southern border.
As Axios details, that exchange of pleasantries was triggered when Kelly learned that Bolton was angling for Nielsen’s exit. “Bolton felt the increase in immigration numbers made it clear that her policies weren’t effective, and thought the president should relieve her of her duties”, Axios writes.
Obviously, the most troubling part of this situation is that it effectively means Stephen Miller is ascendant. More disconcerting still is the fact that nobody really knows what Stephen is up to behind the scenes.
His public appearances have been limited, even as Trump continues to ratchet up the rhetoric, suggesting Miller is whispering in the president’s ear and now pulling strings to orchestrate a broad shakeup designed to implement the most extreme version of an already hardline immigration stance by administerial maneuvering after efforts to go through the normal (read: legal) channels failed to produce the desired results.
It’s safe to say it was Miller who convinced Trump to pull his nomination of Ron Vitiello, for instance. “Ron’s a good man, but we’re going in a tougher direction”, Trump told reporters on Friday.
“Six administration officials said the decision to jettison Vitiello was a sign of the expanding influence that Miller now wields over immigration matters in the White House, particularly as Trump lashes out at Mexico and Central American nations — as well as Homeland Security officials and aides who express doubts about the legality of his ideas”, the Washington Post says, before delivering the following rather alarming bit of news:
In a recent Oval Office meeting, Trump told Miller he would be in charge of handling all immigration and border affairs, according to officials familiar with the meeting.
One thing we do know is that Miller is busy making irritated phone calls to some folks. “Miller has recently been telephoning mid-level officials at several federal departments and agencies to angrily demand that they do more to stem the flow of immigrants into the country”, Politico writes on Monday, citing two sources familiar with the calls.
Officials who have had the misfortune of hearing from Miller include personnel at DHS, Justice and State. Some of those officials are understandably unnerved that Stephen would call them, as opposed to reaching out to their superiors. Here’s what one person told Politico:
It’s intimidation. Anytime you get a call like this from the White House it’s intimidation … Under normal circumstances, if you were a deputy in one of these agencies, it would be very unusual.
This is all kinds of foreboding. Miller’s stance on immigration borders on maniacal and this is one of those dangerous cases where Trump can be manipulated into adopting an even more extreme stance than he’s already prone to adopting, especially given the perception that the situation at the border is getting worse despite his campaign promises to “fix” it.
Do not be surprised if the “animal”/”infestation” rhetoric starts to find its way back into Trump’s tweets and rallies to the further detriment of public discourse and in keeping with the administration’s ongoing efforts to rip the fabric of America’s democracy to shreds.
Full Nielsen resignation letter
I hereby resign from the position of Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), effective April 7th . It has been my great honor to lead the men and women of the Department as its sixth Secretary. I could not be prouder of and more humbled by their service, dedication, and commitment to keep our country safe from all threats and hazards. I join all Americans in thanking them for their sacrifices and those of their families.
For more than two years of service beginning during the Presidential Transition, I have worked tirelessly to advance the goals and missions of the Department. I am immensely proud of our successes in transforming DHS to keep pace with our enemies and adversaries — whether it is in cyberspace or against emerging threats from new technologies.
Despite our progress in reforming homeland security for a new age, I have determined that it is the right time for me to step aside. I hope that the next Secretary will have the support of Congress and the courts in fixing the laws which have impeded our ability to fully secure America’s borders and which have contributed to discord in our nation’s discourse. Our country and the men and women of DHS deserve to have all the tools and resources they need to execute the mission entrusted to them.
I can say with confidence our homeland is safer today than when I joined the Administration. We have taken unprecedented action to protect Americans. We have implemented historic efforts to defend our borders, combat illegal immigration, obstruct the inflow of drugs, and uphold our laws and values. We have responded decisively to record-breaking natural disasters and helped Americans rebuild. We have prevented the disruption of U.S. elections and guarded against foreign interference in our democracy. We have replaced complacency with consequences in cyberspace, we are holding digital intruders accountable, and we are stepping up our protection of American networks. We have thwarted terrorist plotting against our homeland and launched new efforts to block terrorists and criminals from reaching our shores. And we have ramped up security measures to make it harder for our enemies and adversaries to attack us, whether it is with drones, chemical and biological weapons, or through other means.
Thank you again for the privilege to serve the American people and to lead the outstanding men and women of the Department of Homeland Security. Supporting these patriots has been the honor of a lifetime.
Kirstjen M. Nielsen
Secretary of Homeland Security