Homeland Security chief expected to leave; more churn likely

258
In this Sept. 5, 2018 file photo, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks to George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, in Washington. President Donald Trump has soured on Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and she is expected to leave her job as soon as this week. That’s according to two people who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

WASHINGTON | President Donald Trump is considering an administration-wide shakeup as prepares his White House for a divided government, with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen expected to be among the next staffers to go, perhaps as soon as this week.

Trump has been critical of Nielsen and White House chief of staff John Kelly, in part over frustration that his administration is not doing more to address what he considers a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to two people with knowledge of the issue. But the scale of the contemplated changes is much broader, as Trump gears up for a wave of Democratic oversight requests and to devote more effort to his own re-election campaign.

According to those familiar with the situation, Trump has discussed replacing Kelly with Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers. Kelly, a retired Marine general, has been credited with bringing order and process to a chaotic West Wing, but he has fallen out of favor with the president as well as presidential daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Ayers, an experienced campaign operative, would restore a political-mindset to the role, but he faces tough opposition from some corners of the West Wing, with some aides lobbying Trump directly against the move.

Other changes are being mulled, as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are being discussed for replacement. And in an extraordinary move Tuesday, first lady Melania Trump’s office called publicly for the firing of Trump’s deputy national security adviser, Mira Ricardel.

For all of the talk of churn, Trump often expresses frustration with aides and then does not take action. Talk of Kelly’s exit has percolated for months and he remains in place.

Nielsen had hoped to complete one year in the job and leave in December, but it appeared unlikely she would last that long, said two sources. Both people who had knowledge of the debate spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Curbing illegal immigration is Trump’s signature issue — and one he returns to as a way to rally his most loyal supporters.