Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen submitted her resignation to President Donald Trump on Sunday evening after months of threats from the president to fire her amid his growing frustration over border security.
‘Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service,’ Trump tweeted on Sunday evening.
He announced U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan will be acting secretary.
‘I am pleased to announce that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become Acting Secretary for @DHSGov. I have confidence that Kevin will do a great job!,’ he wrote.
Hours after announcing Nielsen’s resignation, President Trump on Sunday took credit for the large number of arrests at the border while threatening to close the frontier with Mexico if Democrats in Congress do not agree to reform the immigration system.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen met with President Donald Trump Sunday evening and submitted her resignation
Nielsen was with President Trump when he visited the border on Friday
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan will be acting Department of Homeland Security secretary
‘More apprehensions (captures) at the Southern Border than in many years,’ Trump tweeted on Sunday.
‘Border Patrol amazing! Country is FULL! System has been broken for many years.
‘Democrats in Congress must agree to fix loopholes – No Open Borders (Crimes & Drugs).
‘Will Close Southern Border If necessary…’
In a second tweet, Trump continued: ‘Mexico must apprehend all illegals and not let them make the long march up to the United States, or we will have no other choice than to Close the Border and/or institute Tariffs.
‘Our Country is FULL!’
Nielsen’s tenure at Homeland has been marked by an up-and-down relationship with the president, who has railed against the flood of immigrants coming across the border and blamed Nielsen for not stopping it.
Hours after announcing Nielsen’s resignation, President Trump on Sunday took credit for the large number of arrests at the border while threatening to close the frontier with Mexico if Democrats in Congress do not agree to reform the immigration system
In a second tweet, Trump continued: ‘Mexico must apprehend all illegals and not let them make the long march up to the United States, or we will have no other choice than to Close the Border and/or institute Tariffs. Our Country is FULL!’
CBS News first reported the news of her resignation. She met with the president and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney in the residence after Trump finished playing golf on Sunday.
She was not planning to resign at that meeting, according to reports, but was prepared to amid a growing frustration from the president over the inability to slow down the tide of illegal immigrants.
While details from the White House meeting have yet to leak out it’s clear that both Trump and Nielsen were frustrated with the situation: the president with the inability of the secretary to stop the flow of migrants and Nielsen with Trump’s refusal to accept the limitations on what Homeland Security could do about it.
And both sides are spinning the news of her departure.
Kevin McAleenan is the child of immigrants. His mom is from Finland and his father is from Ireland.
He has served as the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection since January 2017. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 19, 2018, by a vote of 77–19.
His confirmation was delayed for three months over allegations from anonymous accusers that he had an affair with a subordinate and bypassed proper channels to fund an immigration detention center. An inspector general investigation cleared him of all wrongdoing.
Prior to becoming acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, he served as Deputy Commissioner during the Obama administration and had other positions in the agency.
McAleenan has also served as the Area Port Director of Los Angeles International Airport.
Her received his Juris Doctor Degree from the University of Chicago Law School.
Her exit is a part of a massive overhaul engineered by top Trump adviser Stephen Miller, an anti-immigration hardliner who was the architect of the president’s travel ban, a senior U.S. official told CBS.
But the underlying impetus was the president’s frustration with the border.
‘He didn’t think she was getting the job done. … He asked for her resignation and she gave it to him,’ an administration source told Axios.
But another source told the news website: ‘Frustrations were building on both sides. She was undercut at every turn. She’s done everything she can do. The White House is eating their own.’
The president was reportedly frustrated asylum laws could not be changed to stop immigrants from claiming that status while Nielsen was said to be getting frustrated with his demands over immigration policy given the legal limitations on what her agency could do.
She tried to change the president’s view of her handling of the situation by doing a cable news blitz to talk about the border and returning early from a ministers’ meeting in Europe.
‘Nothing she could do or say could change how the President started viewing her,’ a close to Nielsen told CNN.
Her resignation letter touted the successes of her tenure and contained no hints of bitterness or controversy – unlike the resignation letters of some past Trump officials.
‘I hereby resign from the position of Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), effective April 7th 2019. It has been my great honor to lead the men and women of the Department as its sixth secretary,’ she wrote in her letter that she posted on Twitter.
She went on to tout her accomplishments.
‘I am immensely proud of our successes in transforming DHS to keep pace with our enemies and adversaries – whether it is in cyber space 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,’ she wrote.
‘I can say with confidence our homeland is safer today than when I joined the administration.’
Nielsen reportedly was not given a head’s up on Thursday when the White House retracted its nomination of Ron Vitiello to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
After reports of Nielsen’s resignation, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer slammed the president as out of touch.
‘When even the most radical voices in the administration aren’t radical enough for President Trump, you know he’s completely lost touch with the American people,’ he said in a statement.
Nielsen was with the president on Friday when he visited the border.
But she reportedly was not given a head’s up on Thursday when the White House retracted its nomination of Ron Vitiello to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement because the president wanted to move the department in a ‘tougher’ direction.
Vitiello was supposed to be on the border trip with them.
The meeting Sunday night was reported to be about Vitiello. Her being blindsided by the White House dropping him, in addition to the ongoing immigration crisis, prompted her to resign, The Wall Street Journal reported.
McAleenan – her replacement at DHS – never worked as a border agent but rose to the upper ranks of the agency. Last month he said the situation on the border reached a ‘breaking point.’
‘That breaking point has arrived this week,’ he said on a March 27 border visit. ‘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.’
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen’s resignation letter
Nielsen survived in the job 15 months despite numerous reports Trump was planning to fire her.
The president made it clear he was unhappy with her performance on the immigration issue. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement falls under her purview at Homeland Security, which also houses the Secret Service, anti-terrorism efforts and cyber security.
The department has a budget of more than $40 billion and more than 240,000 employees. It was created from a combination of 22 government agencies after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Despite Trump’s railing against migrant caravans and calling for a wall to be built on the U.S. Mexico border, the number of immigration crossings have risen.
Agents on the border detained nearly twice as many migrants – 268,044 – in the first five months of the fiscal year that started in October 2018 than were detained in the same period the previous year, numbers reported in March indicated.
February alone had 66,450 arrests – more than almost any month in the last decade.
Her resignation comes as President Trump has been threatening to close the border, which economists say would be disastrous for the economy. Even Republicans have cautioned the president against such a plan.
Publicly she has backed the president’s policies, including his controversial move of separating migrant children from their families, as she struggled to keep Trump’s faith.
But Trump’s frustrations often poured over and out into the public.
In May of last year he was reported to have berated her in a Cabinet meeting over the number of illegal border crossings.
Trump has been frustrated with the high number of border crossings and reportedly blamed Nielsen; he’s seen with her here in October 2017 when he nominated her to the job
Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was said to be Nielsen’s biggest defender in the Trump White House
There were reports she drafted a resignation letter at that time although she ultimately stayed on the job.
In November, Trump was said to be on the verge of firing her.
He was said to grow frustrated with her when she explained the complicated web of U.S. laws and regulations that prevented the administration from curtailing immigration or closing the border.
He often called her a ‘Bushie,’ which he meant as insult. It referred to her previous work in the George W. Bush administration and the president’s belief she was part of the GOP establishment.
Her biggest defender in the White House against Trump’s frustration with her was former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who resigned at the end of the year.
She was Kelly’s chief of staff at Homeland Security in early 2017 – when he was secretary – and then became his deputy chief of staff at the White House when he became Trump’s chief of staff.
She was named DHS Secretary in October 2017.