Why President Trump Had to Send Kirstjen Nielsen Packing
Sunday brought another high-profile personnel switch in the upper levels of the Trump administration as the president demanded the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Frustrated with Nielsen’s inability to get control of – or even slow – the migrant crisis currently overwhelming our agents at the border, President Trump was left with no choice but to go in another direction. According to the president, Nielsen will be replaced in the short term by Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. Who Trump will nominate as the new DHS secretary is unknown as of yet.
President Trump was reportedly unhappy with Nielsen from the first day, feeling that she was forced upon him by former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. He regarded Nielsen as a Bush Administration veteran who did not see the immigration issue through his hardline lens. And while Nielsen appeared to adopt the president’s uncompromising approach to the border, implementing the administration’s zero-tolerance policies (until the courts intervened), reports now say that she spent much of her tenure sandbagging his demands.
Indeed, Nielsen seems to have made the grave mistake that we’ve seen repeated by many who come to work in the Trump administration; i.e., forgetting who it was that the people elected to lead the country.
“On Friday, Mr. Trump traveled with Ms. Nielsen and Mr. McAleenan to Calexico, Calif.,” reports the New York Times. “But despite the trip and several stories about how much better her relationship with Mr. Trump was, Ms. Nielsen never learned how to manage him, people familiar with their discussions said. He often felt lectured to by Ms. Nielsen, the people familiar with the discussions said.”
If any Trump administration official feels it is their job to “lecture” and “manage” the President of the United States, they are not going to be long for this assignment.
Perhaps this is a function of how the Times and other outlets report the news, but it is a theme that keeps recurring. Cabinet official after Cabinet official seems to view their job as one in which they “manage” Trump and avoid carrying out his orders so that they can enact the agenda of their choice. This is not what the American people voted for. All too often, these stories have the ring of that anonymous Times op-ed from last year, in which an unnamed official said there was a secret “Resistance” within the administration, pulling strings to avoid implementing Trump’s demands.
“I have determined that it is the right time for me to step aside,” Nielsen said in her resignation letter. “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.”
It’s unlikely that they will. What’s more important is that Trump have the support of the next secretary.