The Slatest

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Steps Down

Kirstjen Nielsen testifies before the House Homeland Security Committee on border security on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on March 6, 2019.
Kirstjen Nielsen testifies before the House Homeland Security Committee on border security on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on March 6, 2019.
JIM WATSON/Getty Images

Another key official is leaving the administration, although it remains unclear whether it was really her choice. Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of Homeland Security, resigned her post during a meeting with President Donald Trump on Sunday afternoon. Trump announced the departure on Twitter and notably didn’t use the words “resign” nor “fired,” merely saying that Nielsen “will be leaving her position.” Trump also said he “would like to thank her for her service.”

CBS News was first to report word of the resignation, citing unnamed “U.S. officials.” CBS said it was unclear whether Nielsen was leaving voluntarily but it did characterize the move as part of a broad shakeup of Homeland Security “engineered and directed” by senior adviser Stephen Miller.

Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan has been named acting secretary, Trump wrote in a subsequent tweet. It is unlikely that he would be nominated to be Nielsen’s permanent replacement, according to CBS.

Nielsen had served in the post since December 2017 and her stepping down can’t exactly be described as surprising considering it comes at a time when the president has repeatedly complained about a surge in undocumented migrants. It also comes as Trump continues to insist he could go through with his long-standing threat to close the southern border with Mexico.

Nielsen’s resignation came mere days after Trump pulled the nomination of Ron Vitiello to head up the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying he wanted to go in a “tougher direction,” a move that many pointed out came at the behest of Miller. “We’re going in a little different direction. Ron’s a good man but we’re going in a tougher direction. We want to go in a tougher direction,” Trump told reporters Friday. Trump reportedly made up his mind after Miller told him that Vitiello wasn’t fully on board with the idea of closing down the southern border.