Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump is expected to nominate Kirstjen Nielsen to be Secretary of Department of Homeland Security Thursday, two senior sources with direct knowledge of the nomination told ABC News.
Nielsen previously served as current John Kelly’s chief of staff at DHS before Kelly left the position to become White House chief of staff. Nielsen followed Kelly to the White House, where she has worked as assistant to the president and principal deputy chief of staff since early September.
Kelly served as secretary of Homeland Security for just over six months prior to the resignation of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus in late July. White House aides familiar with Nielsen’s work told ABC
News that she was viewed as one of Kelly’s enforcers — someone who brought structure to the day-to-day operations at the White House, though some were frustrated by her direct style and role in limiting access to meetings and the Oval Office.
Following Kelly’s move, Elaine Duke was named acting secretary and has coordinated the department’s efforts in the wake of three major hurricanes, the largest mass shooting in modern American history and an ongoing debate over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
Duke was criticized in September when she described Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Puerto Rico — where a large majority of the population still lacks electricity — as a “good news story.” After uproar over her comments, including from the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Duke said that she was “proud” of the response but that the situation on the island was still “not satisfactory.”
Around that time, two sources familiar with the search for a permanent DHS secretary told ABC News that the effort was back at “square one,” though Trump said a decision was coming within a month.
Sources at the time were not aware of particular contenders for the role but did note Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas was nearly hired before he was objected to by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others who believed McCaul lacked a hardline stance on immigration.
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.
She previously served as special assistant to the president for prevention, preparedness and response on the White House Homeland Security Council under President George W. Bush and launched the Offices of Legislative Policy and Government Affairs at the Transportation Security Administration.
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