The Slatest

The Heads of DHS and FEMA Are Bickering Over Commutes and Meeting Attendance

Donald Trump, Kristjen Nielsen, and Brock Long at a table in front of a military jet
President Donald Trump, Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen, and FEMA administrator Brock Long speak Wednesday at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.
Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

As Hurricane Florence battered the Carolinas, the top ranks of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency were focused on important matters: whether people were showing up to meetings and who was telling whom about a visit with first responders.

The Washington Post reported that the simmering feud between DHS head Kristjen Nielsen and FEMA’s Brock Long flared up as Florence made landfall late last week and dumped record rain over the weekend. On Sunday, the Post reported, the two agreed to pause the dispute to stay focused on the storm recovery effort. Then, a day later, the DHS inspector general referred its investigation of Long’s possible misuse of government vehicles to prosecutors. Government officials told the Post that Long “felt devastated and betrayed,” and FEMA staffers had to talk him out of quitting. The timing angered Long because, the Post reported, “Nielsen [had] promised to give Long a copy of the investigation’s preliminary findings” and because Nielsen knew “for weeks” that the criminal referral was coming.

In a story line straight out of The Office, Nielsen and Long have bickered for more than a year over trivial bureaucratic issues, the Post reports. Nielsen “was irritated with Long for not attending early-morning meetings with top-level DHS staff” and was reportedly frustrated that Long, who is technically her subordinate, still is the one who “directly advises the president during disasters.” Then, the Post says, Long tried to race to North Carolina on Monday to arrive before Nielsen, who had arranged her trip without telling FEMA.

Long, whose family lives in North Carolina and who is under scrutiny for his use of government cars to get between there and Washington, defended his commutes to the Post: “I took the Metro to work. I ride an electric scooter to work. I walked to work. I’ve been bitten by a dog walking to work.”