Trump Mulling Admin-Wide Shakeup 11/14 06:15
President Donald Trump is weighing an administration-wide shakeup as he
looks to prepare his White House for divided government, but it is unclear who
is going and who is staying.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump is weighing an administration-wide
shakeup as he looks to prepare his White House for divided government, but it
is unclear who is going and who is staying.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was thought to be out as soon
as this week, according to two people with knowledge of the issue, but she is
now likely to remain in the post for a longer period because there is no
obvious successor in place.
Trump has soured on Nielsen and White House chief of staff John Kelly, in
part over frustration that his administration is not doing more to address what
he has called a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the people. But
the scope of the contemplated changes is far broader, as Trump gears up for a
wave of Democratic oversight requests and to devote more effort to his own
According to people familiar with the situation, Trump is also discussing
replacing Kelly with Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers.
Kelly, a retired Marine general, has been credited with bringing order and
process to a chaotic West Wing, but he has fallen out of favor with the
president as well as presidential daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared
Ayers, a seasoned campaign operative, would restore a political-mindset to
the role, but he faces stiff opposition from some corners of the West Wing,
with some aides lobbying Trump directly against the move.
Other changes are afoot, as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Interior
Secretary Ryan Zinke are being discussed for replacement. And in an
extraordinary move Tuesday, first lady Melania Trump's office called publicly
for the firing of Trump's deputy national security adviser, Mira Ricardel.
For all of the talk of churn, Trump often expresses frustration with aides
and then does not take action. Talk of Kelly's exit has percolated for months
and he remains in place.
Nielsen had hoped to complete one year in the job and leave in December, but
it appeared unlikely she would last that long, said two sources. Both people
who had knowledge of the debate spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity
because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Curbing illegal immigration is Trump's signature issue --- and one he
returns to as a way to rally his most loyal supporters.
But anyone who takes over at Homeland Security is likely to run up against
the same problems that Nielsen faced. The administration has already tried to
clamp down at the border but those efforts have been largely thwarted or
watered down due to legal challenges.
Trump also told allies that he never fully trusted Nielsen, whom he
associated with President George W. Bush, a longtime foe. And he told those
close to him that he felt, at times, that her loyalty was more toward her
longtime mentor --- Kelly --- than to the president.
Zinke, who faces several ethics investigations, said in interview with The
Associated Press on Monday that he has spoken in recent days with Trump, Pence
and Kelly about probes into his leadership and they remain supportive. He
denied any wrongdoing.
Ross addressed turnover rumors at a Yahoo! Finance summit Tuesday, saying he
was in the post to give back to the country and support Trump.
"I worked very hard to get President Trump elected," he said. "Now I'd like
to work equally hard to have him succeed and be re-elected."
Questions about Nielsen's job security are not new. Earlier this year, she
pushed back on a New York Times report that she drafted a resignation letter
but did not submit it, after Trump scolded her at a Cabinet meeting.
Nielsen has led the sprawling post-9/11 federal agency since December. She
had been chief of staff to Kelly when he was Trump's first Homeland Security
secretary. A DHS spokesman would not comment on whether she was leaving.
"The secretary is honored to lead the men and women of DHS and is committed
to implementing the president's security-focused agenda to protect Americans
from all threats and will continue to do so," spokesman Tyler Houlton said.
Nielsen advocated for strong cybersecurity defense, and often said she
believed the next terror major attack would occur online --- not by planes or
bombs. She was tasked with helping states secure elections following
interference by Russians during the 2016 election.
She pushed Trump's immigration policies, including funding for his border
wall and defended the administration's practice of separating children from
parents, telling a Senate committee that removing children from parents facing
criminal charges happens "in the United States every day." But she was also
instrumental in stopping the separations.
Just last week, the administration announced that migrants would be denied
asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border if they crossed illegally, creating
regulations that circumvent immigration laws stating anyone can claim asylum no
matter how they arrive to the country. The decision would affect about 70,000
people annually and was immediately challenged by the American Civil Liberties
Nielsen also moved to abandon longstanding regulations that dictate how long
children are allowed to be held in immigration detention, and requested bed
space from the U.S. military for some 12,000 people in an effort to detain all
families who cross the border. Right now there is space for about 3,000
families and they are at capacity.
She got into heated discussions with Trump and White House aides several
times over immigration policy, as she sought to explain the complicated legal
challenges behind immigration law and pushed for a more diplomatic approach.
It's unclear who would replace her. The job requires Senate confirmation and
there is no deputy secretary. Under Secretary for Management Claire Grady would
be the acting head if Nielsen left.