Slew of Departures From Capitol Hill
WASHIGTON, D.C. – April 09, 2019
Just one day after Trump announced the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Randolph “Tex” Alles would step down as head of the Secret Service, the White House confirmed.
“United States Secret Service Director Randolph ‘Tex’ Alles has done a great job at the agency over the last two years, and the President is thankful for his over 40 years of service to the country,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “Mr. Alles will be leaving shortly, and President Trump has selected James M. Murray, a career member of the USSS, to take over as director beginning in May.”
Murray is a career Secret Service employee, previously serving in the role of deputy assistant director of protective operations.
Some officials told the NYT on Monday that although plans had already been made for Alles’ removal before the arrest of a suspicious Chinese woman carrying malware on a thumb drive at Mar-a-Lago last week, they believe the incident helped accelerate his leave.
Several reports indicated L. Francis Cissna, head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, as well as John Mitnick, the DHS general counsel, would also leave their jobs. Last week, Trump announced that he would withdraw his nominee Ron Vitiello from consideration to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Instead, the department will be taken in a “tougher” direction.
Over the weekend, former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen stepped down, creating a vacancy at the top of the department.
In her resignation letter, Nielsen said she planned to step down effective April 7. However in a subsequent tweet, Nielsen said she would stay on until April 10 “to assist with an orderly transition and ensure that key DHS missions are not impacted.”
I have agreed to stay on as Secretary through Wednesday, April 10th to assist with an orderly transition and ensure that key DHS missions are not impacted.— Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen (@SecNielsen) April 8, 2019
Trump, who has complained about Nielsen for months, has been looking for a replacement who will do a better job of implementing his immigration agenda since last November, USA Really wrote. The President was also unhappy that Kirsten Nielsen has ceased taking an active part in solving the crisis on the border with Mexico.
Trump quickly named current Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan as acting secretary. However, a provision of the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill signed into law by President Obama clearly designates the DHS undersecretary for management as the top official in the event that both the secretary and deputy secretary positions are vacant. Obama subsequently issued an executive order setting the line of succession at DHS, placing the deputy secretary and undersecretary for management at the top, but said the president “retains discretion” to depart from that order as provided under the vacancies law.
Claire Grady is currently the undersecretary for management and the acting deputy secretary and the White House is also reportedly planning to remove her to clear the path for McAleenan’s appointment.
The delay with Nielsen’s resignation could give the White House more time to sort out its legal options for the vacancy.
Since March, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a component of Homeland Security, has been headed by Pete Gaynor in an acting capacity as well. The department is also without a Senate-confirmed deputy secretary, chief financial officer, inspector general, and head of the Science and Technology directorate.
This slew of departures, apparently without plan or precedent, drew criticism on the Hill. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Johnson’s homeland security counterpart in the House, called on the administration to quickly fill vacant positions.
“This could not come at a worse time for the day to day management of the Department of Homeland Security and the over 220,000 employees that need leadership in order to best help keep the country secure,” Thompson said.