WASHINGTON — Frustrated over failed efforts to secure the nation’s border, President Donald Trump has decided to fire Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen based on lack of performance.
“Trump canceled a planned trip with Nielsen this week to visit U.S. troops at the border in South Texas and told aides over the weekend he wants her out as soon as possible,” The Washington Post reported, citing five current and former White House officials. “The president has grumbled for months about what he views as Nielsen’s lackluster performance on immigration enforcement and is believed to be looking for a replacement who will implement his policy ideas with more alacrity.”
The president has publicly criticized Nielsen’s for months and publicly chastised her during a meeting in May after it got back to him that the number of illegal aliens entering the U.S. through the Southern Border had skyrocketed for the second consecutive month.
“Why don’t you have solutions? How is this still happening?” Trump demanded during the meeting, adding, “We need to shut it down. We’re closed.”
“Our Southern Border is under siege. Congress must act now to change our weak and ineffective immigration laws,” the president vented in a tweet later that same day. “Must build a Wall. Mexico, which has a massive crime problem, is doing little to help!”
A DHS official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Washington Post that Trump should nominate a replacement who has “executive-branch experience” to reinforce the department’s goals.
“This will be our fourth secretary in two years,” the official said. “The last thing we want is someone who needs hand-holding.”
“Former colleagues who worked with Nielsen were astonished when Kelly pushed to install her at DHS because she had never led a large organization, let alone one with so many responsibilities,” the official added. “Nielsen worked on disaster-management response in the Bush White House, then in the private sector and academia as a cyber security expert before returning to DHS to work as chief of staff under Kelly when he was Homeland Security secretary during Trump’s first six months in office.”
According to the Post report, the president is considering several candidates to replace Nielsen including Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection; David P. Pekoske, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration and a former vice commandant of the Coast Guard; or Kris Kobach, Kansas’ secretary of state who has been very vocal in his no-nonsense approach to immigration.
Trump campaigned heavily on immigration reform during his 2016 presidential campaign and the issue is expected to remain a principal focus of his 2020 reelection run.