WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump denied he was “cleaning house” in the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday as wary Republican senators tried to warn Trump off from demanding further resignations.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced her resignation Sunday night, and on Monday, the White House announced the departure of Randolph “Tex” Alles as head of the Secret Service. Last week, Trump pulled his nomination of acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Ron Vitiello.
Monday and Tuesday rumors percolated that additional Homeland Security officials were about to be eased out of their positions.
Some legal experts challenged Trump’s decision to name U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner Kevin McAleenan the department’s acting secretary. Undersecretary for Management Claire Grady, they claimed, is first in line — to take over the acting perch, or to get a pink slip to make room for McAleenan.
But Grady resigned Tuesday, after more than 28 years at the departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
Asked about the fate of others, the Homeland Security department referred the Review-Journal to the White House, which did not respond to queries.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told Fox News Monday night he was concerned for L. Francis Cissna, the head of Citizenship and Immigration Services, among others. “Those are good public servants” with whom Grassley has a personal connection, he said. “They are the intellectual basis for what the president wants to accomplish in immigration.”
On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., who is on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, called on Trump to choose a permanent replacement who is unlike Nielsen.
“We need someone who is going to defend our country against serious threats from terrorists and other bad actors, not manufactured one that are made up by the president. We cannot have a continuation of what happened under Secretary Nielsen, who implemented one of the most inhumane and atrocious policies our country has ever seen — separating kids, including babies as young as 3 months old, from their parents.”
Trump also told reporters that former President Barack Obama separated children, but, “I’m the one that stopped it.”
The Associated Press fact checked the claim and found it false. While the Obama administration did separate children for cause, the AP explained, “Family separations were the exception before Trump made them the rule.”
Trump suspended most child separations in June.
“Just so you understand, President Obama separated the children. Those cages that were shown — I think they were very inappropriate — they were built by President Obama’s administration, not by Trump. President Obama had child separation. Take a look. The press knows it. You know it. We all know it. I didn’t have — I’m the one that stopped it.
“Now, I’ll tell you something: Once you don’t have it, that’s why you see many more people coming. They’re coming like it’s a picnic because ‘let’s go to Disneyland.’ President Obama separated children. They had child separation. I was the one that changed it.”
-President Donald Trump, Dec. 9