Kirstjen Nielsen’s announcement that she would be resigning from her post as head of the Department of Homeland Security was reportedly part of a larger push from influential Trump adviser Stephen Miller to craft a harsher and more extreme immigration policy.
Trump announced on Sunday that Nielsen would be resigning her post and thanked her for her service. Nielsen was widely criticized for her defense of the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that had immigrant children separated from their parents, but reports indicated there was tension between Nielsen and Trump behind the scenes.
A report from CBS News noted that Nielsen’s ouster from the administration was traced back to Stephen Miller, who is reportedly behind the harsh immigration policies. Nielsen became the public face of the policy, as she was called on to defend it to reporters and through a series of television appearances, even though reports indicated that the policy itself was the brainchild of Miller.
Miller has reportedly been behind other recent moves to take a harsher stance toward immigration. As the Washington Post reported earlier in the week, it was also Miller who lobbied Trump to drop nominee Ronald Vitiello from his bid to lead the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement because Miller believed Vitiello didn’t fully support Trump’s agenda and was not on board with Trump’s idea of closing the U.S. border.
Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had recently changed rules to make it easier to appoint officials without public debate, and Miller reportedly believed that gave them an opportunity to select someone who would be more harsh in executing the administration’s immigration policies.
“This is part of an increasingly desperate effort by Stephen to throw people under the bus when the policies he has advocated are not effective,” a senior White House official told the Washington Post. “Once it becomes clear that Stephen’s policies aren’t working, he tells the president ‘they’re not the right people.’ “
The official added that Miller wanted to insert someone closer to him, and who would be more apt to toe the company line on immigration.
“Stephen wants to put Attila the Hun as director of ICE,” the senior official said.
It was no secret that Miller was pulling the strings on immigration, as Donald Trump had reportedly told cabinet members in a recent meeting that Miller was in charge of all immigration initiatives.
In recent Oval meeting, Trump told aides that Stephen Miller was in charge of all immigration initiatives. Miller is often critical of Nielsen, questioning whether she is tough enough to the president. Miller was behind ouster of ICE director pick. https://t.co/pWuUjlmJAi— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) April 7, 2019
It is not clear if Donald Trump or Stephen Miller have a long-term plan for the vacancy in the Department of Homeland Security now that Kirstjen Nielsen has resigned.