President Trump is not happy with how Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is running the agency, and the White House is coming up with a list of possible replacements, two people with knowledge of the matter told Quartz.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and retiring Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thomas Homan have all been mentioned as possibilities, Quartz reports.
Congress has declined to give Trump the funding to build the wall along the southern border that he promised supporters he'd deliver once in office, and he blames Nielsen for it. The New York Times reported last week that after he berated her in a meeting, she drafted a resignation letter but never sent it. Nielsen told lawmakers during a hearing this week that she never "threatened to resign," and today, Trump said Nielsen was doing "a good job, and it's not an easy job." Catherine Garcia
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen reportedly nearly quit after Trump berated her over immigration
President Trump angrily complained to his Cabinet about the rising number of border-crossing immigrants for more than half an hour on Wednesday, with most of his ire aimed at Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and afterward, Nielsen told colleagues she was close to quitting, going so far as to draft a resignation letter, The New York Times and Politico reported Thursday night. In the Cabinet meeting, "Trump's face reddened and he raised his voice, saying Nielsen needed to 'close down' the border," The Washington Post recounts, and "Trump's tirade went on so long that many present began fidgeting in their seats and flashing grimaces."
A Homeland Security spokesman called the resignation threat report "false," but Nielsen did not deny she considered quitting, saying in a statement that she plans to "continue to direct the department to do all we can to implement the president's security-focused agenda" and Trump is "rightly frustrated" about the border. Nielsen, who reportedly told associates she couldn't continue if Trump saw her as ineffective, was convinced to stay after a post-meeting intervention by Vice President Mike Pence, Politico says.
The number of people caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border dropped sharply during Trump's first year, and he is apparently angry that he has lost one of his favorite talking points now that the number is rising again. Nielsen is Trump's "immigration scapegoat," Axios says, and he blames her for not sealing the border and is angry she has argued against his directive to separate migrant children from their parents. Trump has complained that Nielsen is "not tough enough," and tells staff she's a "George W. Bush person," the Post reports.
Nielsen defended the Trump administration's new "zero tolerance" immigration policy on NPR on Thursday, arguing that America regularly seizes children "when an adult of a family commits a crime." Crossing into the U.S. illegally is a misdemeanor the first time, she added. Peter Weber
As President Trump prepared to launch airstrikes against Syria last week, he was urged by Defense Secretary James Mattis to get congressional approval first, but the president overruled him, wanting to expeditiously back up his tweets promising action, military and administration officials told The New York Times Tuesday.
Mattis was also concerned that if Trump were too aggressive it would provoke Russia, the Times reports, so they compromised with strikes against three targets, avoiding Russian installations. Officials told the Times that Mattis used to have former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster act as a buffer in the White House, but John Bolton is now in the role, and he is not expected to defer to the defense secretary.
The strikes were in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly using chemical weapons against his own people, and after the strikes, Trump said the U.S., Britain, and France were "prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents." Later, Mattis said the attack was "a one-time shot" that sent "a very strong message to dissuade" Assad from using additional chemical weapons. Administration and military officials told the Times that Mattis is worried about the U.S. getting away from its fight against the Islamic State in Syria, and does not want to get troops involved in the country's bloody civil war. Catherine Garcia
"With all due respect, I don't get confused," she said in a statement read by Fox News' Dana Perino on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, told reporters that Haley "got ahead of the curve" by mentioning sanctions and insisted her "momentary confusion" had nothing to do with miscommunication inside the White House.
Kudlow told The New York Times on Tuesday evening that after Haley's statement was read, he called the ambassador and apologized. "She was certainly not confused," he said. "I was wrong to say that — totally wrong. As it turns out, she was basically following what she thought was policy. The policy was changed and she wasn't told about it, so she was in a box." Catherine Garcia
After hearing news reports in early December that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office was issuing subpoenas for information about his business dealings with Deutsche Bank, President Trump became so angry that he told advisers the investigation needed to be shut down, eight White House officials and people close to Trump told The New York Times.
Trump's advisers and lawyers scrambled to get more information from Mueller's office, and were told that the reports were inaccurate, which calmed Trump down. This was the second time he considered getting rid of Mueller; last June, White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit unless Trump stopped pushing him to fire Mueller. At the time, Trump said Mueller should be let go for a variety of reasons, including that he once had a dispute with a Trump golf course near Washington, D.C. Trump told the Times last year that he had set a "red line" that Mueller's investigation should not cross.
One former adviser told the Times that people close to Trump have learned to wait for him to bring up an issue three times before they act on it, and most aides are used to hearing him complain about the special counsel, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. For more on the December incident and Trump's state of mind, visit The New York Times. Catherine Garcia
President Trump has decided to remove H.R. McMaster from his position as national security adviser, but won't fire him immediately to avoid embarrassing the three-star Army general, five people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post.
Trump also wants to have a replacement waiting in the wings, with possibilities including John Bolton, an extremely conservative former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Keith Kellogg, the National Security Council chief of staff, who Trump reportedly describes as "fun." Trump never meshed with McMaster, several White House officials told the Post, and would complain about him being too rigid and his briefings being too long.
Most people in the White House are on edge and the mood is verging on "mania," officials said, especially after Trump's personal aide John McEntee was fired and rushed out of the building on Tuesday. "Everybody fears the perp walk," one senior official told the Post. "It if could happen to Johnny, the president's body guy, it could happen to anybody." Advisers say Trump is feeling emboldened because of recent decisions he thinks were fantastic, including imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum and agreeing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Read more about the shakeup to come at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia
Officials in several countries, including Mexico, Israel, China, and United Arab Emirates, privately discussed ways they could influence President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, finding leverage in his family's business arrangements and Kushner's lack of government experience, current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter told The Washington Post.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster reportedly learned about the contacts Kushner had with foreign officials, which he did not set up through the National Security Council or officially report, and these officials' private discussions on Kushner's vulnerability, during intelligence briefings. U.S. officials told the Post it's unclear if any of these countries acted on their discussions.
Officials also said these contacts with foreign governments are one of the reasons why Kushner has been unable to obtain a permanent security clearance, and his lack of foreign policy experience and business debt have always been viewed as issues. While overseeing the Trump campaign, Kushner was also running his family business, Kushner Cos., which owns the building at 666 Fifth Ave. in Manhattan. The company refinanced the building during the Great Recession, and because a $1.2 billion debt payment is due in January 2019, Kushner Cos. has been trying to secure foreign money for the project. Catherine Garcia
A spokeswoman for first lady Melania Trump confirmed Monday that her office has "severed the gratuitous services contract" with adviser and friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, following news that President Trump's inaugural committee paid Wolkoff's firm $26 million for helping plan inaugural events in January 2017.
Two people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times the contract was terminated last week, after the Trumps made it known they were not happy Wolkoff's firm, WIS Media Partners, received such a large sum of money. The president was also reportedly "enraged" that a friend Wolkoff brought in to help plan events, David Monn, received $3.7 million. Melania Trump's spokeswoman said the first lady "had no involvement" with the nonprofit 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee and "had no knowledge of how funds were spent."
Wolkoff told the Times she was "informed by the White House counsel's office that all gratuitous volunteer contracts were ended," and expects to "remain a trusted source for advice and support on an informal basis." Wolkoff, a New York City society event planner, also said most of the money her firm received went to pay subcontractors, and she split her $1.62 million commission with 14 other staffers for their consulting and creative services. Catherine Garcia