Shown at left is top aide to Kelly Kirstjen Nielsen, who will be nominated by the White House to take over the Department of Homeland Security. (DHS/Sipa USA/TNS)

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

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has nominated Kirstjen Nielsen, a cybersecurity expert and top aide to chief of staff John F. Kelly, to take over the Department of Homeland Security, the White House announced on Wednesday.

The appointment of Nielsen likely will mean a continuation of policies followed by Kelly. The retired Marine general won Trump’s praise for his tough approach to immigration enforcement during his six months running the department.

Nielsen, who previously served as Kelly’s deputy at Homeland Security, has experience in disaster response and started a consulting firm that gave her extensive expertise in cybersecurity, a top priority for the department.

In picking Nielsen, Trump passed over potential nominees with close ties to administration officials who favor hard-line efforts to restrict both legal and illegal immigration.

Among the people under consideration, according to a former Homeland Security official, were Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who is heading Trump’s voter fraud commission and who has been a leader in the immigration-restriction movement, and Rep. Lou Barletta, who launched his political career as an anti-immigration mayor.

The decision to go with Nielsen indicates that Kelly, by recommending a top aide and a Homeland Security veteran, was able to exert more influence than Stephen Miller, Trump’s speechwriter and domestic policy adviser.

The choice was greeted with praise and some relief by Homeland Security veterans, who said Nielsen is well prepared to take the job.

“The job is really difficult for anybody. It’s part cop, part consoler-in-chief, part cyber-guru and part politician,” said Stewart Verdery, a lobbyist and former assistant secretary at Homeland Security. “… she’s an expert [in] a lot of them.”

Acting Secretary Elaine Duke told her staff about the expected appointment Wednesday, according to the Homeland Security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to comment on the internal discussions. Trump’s decision to choose Nielsen was first reported by Politico.

The sprawling department includes the agencies responsible for policing borders and immigration, a central focus for the Trump administration, including Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

he department also includes the Federal Emergency Management Agency, meaning Nielsen also will assume responsibility for marshaling the government’s response to restoring Puerto Rico, Houston and Florida.

Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said he is “concerned” about Nielsen’s readiness to take over FEMA, given her tenure in the George W. Bush administration during Hurricane Katrina. She served as Bush’s special assistant in charge of preparedness and disaster response.

“It is extremely important that the DHS secretary stay above the partisan fray and not allow the position to be a political pawn of the White House,” he said.US

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Lakeshore Elementary School was closed in March shortly before SFUSD closed all schools due to coronavirus concerns. The district is now working to prepare all elementary schools to reopen by mid-January.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
School district preparing buildings for hybrid learning

SFUSD plans to use 72 elementary schools and 12 early education sites for first phase of reopening

There have been at least 142 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among workers at San Francisco International Airport. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Supes back SFO worker healthcare legislation despite airline, business opposition

Costs of ‘Health Airport Ordinance’ in dispute, with estimates ranging from $8.4 M to $163 M annually

Thankfully, playgrounds that were closed due to the pandemic during the summer have reopened.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
The perils of parenting, COVID-style

At long last, it’s OK to take your little one out to play

Ten candidates are running for a seat on the Board of Trustees of the San Francisco Community College District.. (Courtesy photos)
Strong leadership needed as City College faces multiple crises

Ten candidates vying for four seats on CCSF board

City officials closed San Francisco County Jail No. 4 on the top floor of the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. in September, reducing the number of beds in the jail system by about 400. 
Kevin N. Hume/
S.F. Examiner
SF jail closure prompts doctor to call for release of more inmates

Reduced space increases risk of COVID-19 spreading among those in custody

Most Read