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