Since Sunday’s news, I can’t get Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” out of my head.
By now, you’re probably caught up, but let’s go ahead and discuss the ousting (or “resignation,” as it was initially presented) of Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. It didn’t catch many off guard, as it has been rumored for some time that Trump, as well as the shadow president, Jared Kushner, have been less than thrilled with her performance at the border. Insiders have also suggested that she was miserable in her position.
Why was she miserable? She carried the hardline border policy attitude that fit in with the Trumpian way of thinking, and oversaw the separation of families at the border, basically earning her status as a heartless ghoul, in the eyes of some.
The word coming out, however, is that she fell into disfavor with the president (the old guy blabbering over twitter, as well as President Kushner) because she was restrained in just how much she could do by law.
In fact, this wasn’t her first time considering resignation.
Ms. Nielsen had been pressured by Mr. Trump to be more aggressive in stemming the influx of migrant crossings at the border, people familiar with their discussions in recent months said.
The president called Ms. Nielsen at home early in the mornings to demand that she take action to stop migrants from entering the country, including doing things that were clearly illegal, such as blocking all migrants from seeking asylum. She repeatedly noted the limitations imposed on her department by federal laws, court settlements and international obligations.
Those responses only infuriated Mr. Trump further. The president’s fury erupted in the spring of 2018 as Ms. Nielsen hesitated for weeks about whether to sign a memo ordering the routine separation of migrant children from their families so that the parents could be detained.
In a cabinet meeting surrounded by her peers, Mr. Trump castigated her repeatedly, leading her to draft a resignation letter and to tell colleagues that there was no reason for her to lead the department any longer. By the end of the week, she had reconsidered and remained in her position, becoming an increasingly fierce supporter of his policies, including the family separations.
Still, it didn’t seem to be enough. Not only were Trump and Kushner dissatisfied, but she also was a target of the slimy behind-the-scenes machinations of Trump immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, and the twisted Fox Business News host, Lou Dobbs.
Oddly enough, it is said that Trump actually enjoyed her company, personally, but as we know is his way, that means nothing if you’re not giving him what he wants.
In her efforts to adhere to the law and also please a man who has no respect for the legal process, Nielsen found herself walking on eggshells, “increasingly paranoid,” and stressing over her job. She knew it was only a matter of time before the axe fell.
In early 2019, as the number of migrant families from Central American countries surged, the president’s fury at Ms. Nielsen did, too. He repeatedly demanded that she cut off foreign aid to Central American countries even though the funding was the responsibility of the State Department. She repeatedly deflected his demands.
One day after Ms. Nielsen traveled to Honduras to sign a regional compact with officials from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, Mr. Trump cut State Department funding for the countries. And in recent days, the president made public moves to undercut her authority, leaking news that he might nominate an “immigration czar” to assume oversight of the issue at the heart of Ms. Nielsen’s department.
It was, unfortunately for her – and for many immigrant families – under her watch that the disastrous zero tolerance policy at the border was enacted. It sunk the Department of Homeland Security into chaos, as they were ill prepared to handle a situation that separated nearly 3,000 minor children from their families.
While the family separation policy has now been stopped, the department has not recovered. There are still children separated from their families, and the optics of that are as horrendous as it sounds.
Nielsen once enjoyed the protection of former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. When Kelly was moved from his role as DHS secretary to replace Reince Priebus, in the early months of the administration, he brought Nielsen with him to act as deputy chief of staff.
It was Kelly who recommended her to fill his old role, even though some lawmakers expressed doubt in her experience for the job.
“There will be no on-the-job training for Kirstjen,” Mr. Trump said in October 2017, announcing her nomination for the post.
But by the following spring, Ms. Nielsen was telling associates she was miserable in the job.
Her story is not unfamiliar and echoes that of many now-former Trump administration members.
On Sunday, President Trump gave a terse announcement of Nielsen’s departure, immediately followed by introducing Kevin McAleenan as the new acting DHS secretary.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2019
….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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2019
So will he be the blunt instrument Trump desires at the border?
Described by colleagues as a savvy political operator, Mr. McAleenan worked cooperatively with Obama administration officials but later embraced Mr. Trump’s agenda, which included unshackling Border Patrol agents from restrictions that the previous administration had imposed.
Mr. McAleenan was also one of three Department of Homeland Security officials who had urged Ms. Nielsen to sign the memo authorizing the routine separation of migrant families at the border.
I guess we’ll have to see where to rate him on the disaster meter that is a mainstay with this administration. Meanwhile, Nielsen has agreed to stay on until Wednesday of this week, to aid in the transition.
Its been an honor of a lifetime to serve with the brave men and women of @DHSgov. 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. pic.twitter.com/lIQ5iqGDmF
— Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen (@SecNielsen) April 7, 2019
And just like that, a massive weight has been lifted off of her shoulders. Now we wait for the inevitable tell-all book.