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Former Washington Journalist
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Donald Trump began the week with an intention to take fresh action and take an even more aggressive stance on his signature issue of border security with what appeared to be a top-to- bottom housecleaning of political border security officials.
Just a day or two later, Trump found himself under attack from Democrats and Republicans alike–while late-night comedians and others used the occasion to remind Americans of Trump’s cruel and inhumane family separation policy at the border.
In fact, there was some reported evidence that Trump’s goal with his personnel purge was specifically to “reboot” the family separation policy, but under the intense scrutiny of the past days he had to backpedal.
The focal point of the whole mess, of course, was the forced resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
“Oh, well, look at that — Kirstjen Nielsen, the woman responsible for Trump’s border enforcement has been deported out of the White House. Boo-hoo, boo-hoo,” quipped Daily Show host Trevor Noah.
“You know what makes it worse? Not that she just lost this job, Nielsen is leaving the White House with her reputation in tatters. Remember, she was the face of the Trump administration’s family separation policy where kids were slipped from parents and kept in cages. Basically the only job she can get now is working with R. Kelly,” Noah joked, referring to the former hip hop star accused of mountains of sexual assault and misconduct allegations.
Except this was no laughing matter in Washington.
Trump also jettisoned a nominee for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying that he was going “in a tougher direction,” as well as the chief of the Secret Service.
It came to the point where the most senior Senate Republican, Charles Grassley of Iowa, had to step in and warn Trump to refrain from dismissing any other Homeland officials.
“Let me be clear, President Trump is to blame for making the situation at the border worse. His terrible and cruel policies have broken families apart and have caused chaos in our immigration system. This is now self-evident,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
“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 added. “There is now currently no permanent secretary nor deputy secretary at the department. The department will quickly need proven, Senate-confirmed leaders in place that can work with Congress in good faith to help keep the country safe and to fix the Trump-inflicted situation at the border.”
Trump’s frustration with Nielsen, and others, stems from his frustration that he orders them to take steps to stem immigration which would break the law, according to Jake Tapper of CNN.
“Conflicts with Nielsen had been building for months, but had escalated in recent weeks, for instance, two Thursdays ago when a meeting at the Oval Office with the president and other top officials, including Secretary Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, top aides Jared Kushner, Mercedes Schlapp and Dan Scavino, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and more. The president, according to one attendee, was ‘ranting and raving,’ saying border security was his issue,” Tapper reported.
“Senior administration officials tell me that President Trump then ordered Nielsen and Pompeo to shut down the port of El Paso, Texas, by the next day, Friday, March 22nd, at noon. The plan was that in subsequent days, the Trump administration would then shut down other ports,” Tapper added. “Nielsen, at the meeting, told the president that would be a bad–and even a dangerous–idea, according to attendees, not to mention, she said, that the governor of Texas, Republican Greg Abbott, has been very supportive of the president.”
NeverTrumper Republican Ana Navarro, a CNN political commentator, said that his staff is simply a reflection of Trump’s shortcomings.
“Look, the bottom line is you’re not going to be able to get great people unless you have a great leader. And every single case I have ever been exposed to, the staff is a very accurate reflect of the leader, of the principal,” Navarro said.
“In this case, when the leader is Donald Trump that wants to be surrounded by yes men and yes women, who wants to be told he’s right about everything and wants to be legitimized and validated even though he is ignorant and has no idea what he is doing, then no, you’ll never be able to find a talented group of people because his only loyalty test–his only qualification–is: Will they do and say as he wants them to do and say? That’s a narcissistic strongman lacking the ability to hear other voices and opinions and to know that sometimes he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know,” she added.