White House Deputy Chief of Staff Kirstjen Nielsen will be nominated by President Trump to be the new Secretary of Homeland Security.
In this August 22, 2017 photo, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Deputy Chief of Staff Kirstjen Nielsen speak together as they walk across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington.
Nielsen, 45, now serves as the deputy White House chief of staff. Neither the White House nor Nielsen responded to requests for comment, however, and sources cautioned against jumping to conclusions.
Prior to Nielsen's work for the current administration, she consulted on homeland security and preparedness matters, according to her biography at The George Washington University where she was a senior fellow at the school's Center for Cyber and Homeland Security. People close to her "have counseled her to lighten up and to pay more attention to the perfunctory niceties of a not-so-nice-job", they wrote when she became deputy White House chief of staff. She's the first nominee to lead DHS to have previously worked there. She also ran the Transportation Security Administration's offices of legislative policy and government affairs, a section she started. Acting secretary Elaine Duke has been leading DHS in the meantime. Duke recently got into some controversy when she said that the hurricane response effort in Puerto Rico was a "good news story". Increased border security and a possible overhaul of the immigration system remain top campaign promises Trump has yet to fulfill, including his trademark wall on the border with Mexico.
One former Homeland Security official, who asked for anonymity so that the person could speak candidly, says the pick is a controversial one, and that people at the department are already speaking about leaving if the nomination moves forward.
"Kirstjen can hit the ground running and there won't be a learning curve", Ridge said.
Kelly has recently found himself caught in the middle of a deteriorating relationship between Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has, on occasion, expressed frustration with the president and shown a lack of interest in his own staff at the State Department.