Trump names top Kelly aide, a cybersecurity expert, to run Homeland Security

Jabin Botsford  The Washington Post via Getty

President Trump said on Wednesday that he meant to name Kirstjen Nielsen, a top White House aide, to lead the Department of Homeland Security, elevating a former homeland security official in the George W. Bush administration who has lately worked to impose order in Mr. Trump's chaotic West Wing.

But even before Trump formally announced Nielsen's appointment during an East Room ceremony that was attended by much of the Cabinet and senior members of the White House staff, the top Democrat on a key committee signaled that he had questions about Nielsen's background. "Truly, there is nothing more valuable than to feel safe in your own country".

Prior to coming to the White House, Nielsen was Kelly's Chief of Staff while he served as the department's Secretary.

Nielsen was retired Marine Corps General John Kelly's chief of staff when he was secretary of homeland security during the opening months of Trump's presidency. Her supporters say she has been trying to help professionalize the White House.

Trump said Thursday that Nielsen will need "no on the job training" and will be "ready on Day One".

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If confirmed, Nielsen would replace Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke, who was widely criticized for characterizing the federal government's response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico as a "good news story".

Nielsen will be the public face for immigration enforcement during the impending fight in Congress over legislation to toughen border security and provide permanent legal status to young people now covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump is ending. But her regimented style in a freewheeling and often dysfunctional West Wing frustrated some senior officials and people close to the president, who chafed under her dictates. Trump's decision to choose Nielsen was first reported by Politico.

Nielsen, 45, is the first nominee to have experience at DHS.

Nielsen served on the White House Homeland Security Council as a special assistant to Bush and worked on global cybersecurity policy for the United Nations.

Nielsen's departure from the White House would mark the latest upheaval in Trump's White House team. On Wednesday, some of them described Ms. Nielsen's promotion as a solution to a toxic personnel situation, while others fretted privately that her departure would create a void at the White House that would be hard to fill. But Nielsen is not expected to face an especially hard fight, given her background as an experienced professional and a no-nonsense, nonpartisan manager.

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