Something has been going on over at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that signals a warning. We know that before Donald Trump let Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen go, she had tried to address the Russians’ attack on the 2016 presidential election and America’s Democracy. She was told to never bring it up in the president’s presence, and her attempts to enlist the cabinet members’ and others’ help felt flat — three times. Still, there is more.
House Oversight Committee Chair Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Homeland Security Committee Chair Representative Bennie Thomas (D-MS) have gone after the recent plague of firings at the DHS.
In just a few weeks the following have left DHS, The Talking Points Memo reported:
‘DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, DHS Undersecretary for Management Claire Grady, Secret Service Chief Randolph “Tex” Alles and ICE chief nominee Ronald Vitiello all got the axe, leaving a few other officials in a precarious position.’
There have been reasonable questions about who has really the authority over the Department of Homeland Security. Trump appointed an acting secretary of DHS once Nielsen was oh-so-quickly out the door. White House officials quickly leaked that senior advisor for policy Stephen Miller was actually the force behind the department. This was alarming given how closely aligned Miller has been with the ultra-conservative right. Then, POTUS spoke to a scrum of reporters as he left the White House and headed for his helicopter shortly after the Miller news broke.
The journalists questioned Trump about DHS, and the president said, according to PBS:
‘Stephen (Miller) is an excellent guy. He’s wonderful person… He’s a brilliant man. (But) frankly, there’s only one person that’s running it. You know who that is? It’s me.’
Trump appointed the commissioner of United States Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan to the position of acting Secretary of Homeland Security. He will report to Miller. Cummings, Thomas, and House Chair of the Judicial Committee Jerrold (Jerry) Nadler (D-NY) sent a letter to McAleenan about all the firings in his department:
‘We are deeply concerned that the firing and forced resignation of these officials puts the security of the American people at risk. We are also concerned that the President may have removed DHS officials because they refused his demands to violate federal immigration law and judicial orders. Moreover, we are concerned by reports that, even as he has removed the Department’s leadership, the President has sought to empower a White House aide, Stephen Miller, to “be in charge of handling all immigration and border affairs.”‘
The chairmen also indicated to the White House that they wanted Miller to testify before their committees. However, Trump has refused all requests from the committees, even subpoenas. That has left them with no alternative but to take the commander-in-chief to court.
When reporters asked if McAleean might be the permanent secretary, Trump said:
‘(It) could happen.We have others, but right now he’s the man.’
POTUS is famous for lopping off the heads of various departments and replacing them with the title of “acting.” Previously, the title was temporary, but not now. Trump claimed that he liked having acting heads, because they knew their jobs were always on the line.
Read the chairmen’s letter below: