Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen has resigned from her role, among rumors of back-biting and frustration over lack of progress in securing the southern border. The relationship between President Trump and the person responsible for executing his key campaign promise has never been an easy one, but is this resignation more indicative of President Trump’s frustration or Nielsen’s?
As yet, it is unclear whether Nielsen jumped or was pushed. In all-too-familiar fashion, the biggest news of the week became public via the president’s Twitter feed. He wrote:
“Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service. 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!”
White House Exasperation?
Axios claims to have an anonymous source close to the department and is reporting that the soon-to-be former Homeland boss felt under pressure by the administration to carry out a demanding agenda. Whether these rumors are true or just another example of Swamp-based spin remains to be seen; it is known that the president placed a large proportion of the blame for the migrant family border controversy squarely at the feet of Nielsen. As Axios reported:
“’Frustrations were building on both sides,’ the source said. ‘She was undercut at every turn. She’s done everything she can do. The White House is eating their own.’”
Nielsen stated in her resignation letter that she felt her work with the department had been a success: “I can say with confidence our homeland is safer today than when I joined the Administration. We have taken unprecedented action to protect Americans.”
The New Guy
The rapid replacement of Nielsen with the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan suggest that this resignation has been in the cards for some time. Suspicion is rampant that this appointment marks a stark turning point in the administration’s approach to achieving its border security aims. With Nielsen’s perceived lack of success in furthering Trump’s agenda and winning over open-borders Democrats, it appears the White House may turn to outside experts to convince an unwilling Congress of the necessity for harsher border control. And McAleenan is the expert. With leading Democrats stating often and loudly that they would only be following professional advice on issues related to border security, McAleenan stands as a one-man encyclopedia on the facts, figures and implications of illegal alien crossings.
Nielsen has faced criticism from all sides during her time in the position. Trump’s accusations that she is not “tough enough” to deal with the declared National Emergency have undoubtedly tarnished her future prospects, yet stand in contrast to accusations that she oversaw the family separation policy that has been labeled excessive by many. Despite her defense of the administration’s Zero Tolerance policy, it has become apparent that a more assertive coalition of partners is needed to enact the robust aspects of Trump’s border security policy.
Is this merely a falling out between former allies, or a strategic move to deal directly with Democrat demands that the National Emergency be dealt with only on the advice of experts? If the latter proves true, does this mean we are witnessing the final transformation of Donald Trump from a man who (prior to his second State of the Union address) never truly felt at home in his political skin, to a president who understands, and can use, the political system to win the ultimate game?