President Donald Trump told Fox’s Chris Wallace on Sunday that he is not satisfied with the job Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is doing on the border, a hint that she could soon be on her way out the door.
“I respect her a lot. She’s very smart. I want her to get much tougher and we’ll see what happens there. But I want to be extremely tough,” he said. “I like her very much, I respect her very much, I’d like her to be much tougher on the border — much tougher, period.”
The comments on Fox News Sunday came after rumors circulated last week that Nielsen and chief of staff John Kelly would be the next casualties in a post-midterms staffing shakeup that already claimed former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Trump unhappy with DHS secretary
Trump is apparently unhappy with Nielsen because of a lack of progress on the ongoing border crisis. The “caravan” of Central American migrants that has captivated Trump’s attention arrived last week at the U.S. border near San Diego in Tijuana, Mexico, and migrants were photographed non-nonchalantly straddling the border fence.
The president teased that there’s a “chance” Nielsen could keep her job, but noted that government officials come and go, something not uncommon in the Trump White House.
“That’s what happens in government—you leave. You make a name, you go. The people that have left have done very well,” he said.
Trump also hinted that Kelly, who is reportedly fighting to save Nielsen’s job, will “move on” eventually. Kelly was Homeland secretary before he picked Nielsen, his then-chief of staff, to replace him in December.
“There are a couple of things where it’s just not his strength. It’s not his fault, it’s not his strength,” Trump said. “But John, at some point, is going to want to move on. John will move on.”
Nielsen on the way out?
Reports started making the rounds last week that Nielsen and Kelly could be the next to add to the administration’s dizzying turnover rate. But the White House has pushed back against the anonymously sourced reports.
“Why do they remain anonymous? Could it be that it’s not completely verified and true?” Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said.
Still, Nielsen has been targeted by critics of the president during her time in the Cabinet. She came under fire over the summer after the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy led to families of illegal immigrants being separated at the border.
Trump said Nielsen did a “fabulous” job pursuing his agenda as the controversy raged. For her efforts defending the policy, she was chased out of a Mexican restaurant by protesters chanting, “shame!”
Homeland Security @SecNielsen did a fabulous job yesterday at the press conference explaining security at the border and for our country, while at the same time recommending changes to obsolete & nasty laws, which force family separation. We want “heart” and security in America!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 20, 2018
The Daily Caller reported that “sources” told them Nielsen could be replaced within weeks. Trump told the conservative site last week in an Oval Office interview that he would “shortly” make a decision.