Homeland Security Chief Nearly Resigned This Week

Kirstjen Nielsen speaks during a press briefing on border security at the White House in Washington U.S

Homeland Security Director Kirstjen Nielsen told staffers that she almost submitted her resignation Wednesday after President Trump reprimanded her in front of the entire cabinet, several officials familiar told the New York Times.

The White House declined specific comment on whether Trump berated Nielsen, her assumed resignation letter and on whether Trump maintained confidence in Nielsen, who shot at DHS in December.

Trump reportedly railed against Nielsen on Wednesday, saying that she failed to adequately secure the United States border, former officials with knowledge of the incident said to The Times.

Immigration is an important policy point of the Trump administration, and attempted illegal border crossings have been rising in recent months.

Asked about the heated exchange at the meeting, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Thursday that "the president is committed to fixing our broken immigration system and our porous borders".

She added that there was some credence to Trump's frustration, citing "loopholes" and "lack of congressional inaction" that have prevented tougher border laws.

"I share his frustration", Nielsen's statement said. As the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Nielsen is in charge of the 20,000 employees who work for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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A Homeland Security spokesperson later denied the claims made in The Times's report: "The [New York Times] article alleging that the Secretary drafted a resignation letter yesterday and was close to resigning is false", spokesperson Tyler Houlton said. The New York Times, which first reported Thursday afternoon that Trump had berated Nielsen, said that she had told colleagues she was close to resigning, citing several current and former officials familiar with the episode.

"And now Kelly says to our own John Roberts - good reporting - 'I wanted to call her to make sure she wasn't going to quit.' So I guess the cover story didn't hold very long", he added.

A White House source, who requested to be anonymous, confirmed the incident and said the argument was "heated and angry".

Following the release of the report, Nielsen said in a statement that Trump "is rightly frustrated" on border security issues.

One White House official said Nielsen was in the building again Thursday. "The laws in this country for immigration and illegal immigration are absolutely awful".

Illegal crossings plunged in the early phase of Trump's presidency, but have since returned to levels consistent with the last several years of the Obama administration. The president's anger was stoked by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who remarked that the Department of Homeland Security could just arrest people at the border, the source said. A recent target of the president has been a migrant caravan traveling from South America to the USA border.

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