Democrats and their liberal allies plan to proceed making Kirstjen Nielsen the face of what they view as one of the vital outrageous intervals of the Trump presidency. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Photos
Liberal activists say she was complicit in an immoral migrant little one separation coverage — and must be ostracized by company America.
Kirstjen Nielsen’s picture makeover has already begun—however it could be a tough promote.
Simply days after she introduced plans to resign as Homeland Safety secretary, Nielsen and her allies are working to rehabilitate her status, arguing that she’s not the heartless villain depicted by liberal critics already pressuring large corporations to not rent her.
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Virtually as quickly as phrase of her resignation beneath strain leaked, Nielsen’s allies started spinning a story of her tenure that casts her not as an enabler of President Donald Trump’s most controversial immigration insurance policies, however as a guardrail towards much more excessive motion.
Specifically, they burdened that the coverage for which Nielsen is most fiercely reviled — separating detained migrant youngsters from their mother and father — gave her no pleasure, and that she slow-walked or resisted different Trump calls for on border safety.
“I feel Nielsen has been handled unfairly. A caricature was created by individuals who oppose the best way the President talks about immigration or who even oppose present immigration legislation that’s been on the books for many years — and that caricature is nothing just like the individual she truly is,” mentioned Thad Bingel, a former George W. Bush administration Homeland Safety official who helped information Nielsen by way of her Senate affirmation.
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However it is going to seemingly show troublesome for Nielsen to shed her unsavory picture. Finally, she applied the kid separation coverage and different controversial Trump strikes somewhat than resign in protest, as many critics argued she ought to. And Democrats and their liberal allies plan to proceed making her the face of what they view as one of the vital outrageous intervals of the Trump presidency.
“She deserves accountability. She doesn’t deserve a giant fats paycheck,” mentioned Karl Frisch, spokesperson for the advocacy group Restore Public Belief. Cupboard secretaries, notably ones at high-profile departments like DHS, usually go on to earn profitable salaries with large companies and Washington-based lobbying companies.
The group has organized an open letter to high American companies urging them to not rent Nielsen and different Trump administration officers. “She represents a extreme reputational danger to anybody, any establishment, that might have interaction along with her,” Frisch mentioned.
Restore Public Belief is planning to launch a collection of digital adverts meant to carry Nielsen and different Trump administration officers concerned within the household separation coverage accountable. The adverts shall be focused at Okay Road, Wall Road and Fortune 500 corporations, in accordance with an individual accustomed to the matter.
Different Nielsen allies declined to go on the report, however privately made the case that she has unfairly shouldered a lot of the blame for a kid separation coverage fiasco that was mishandled by different administration officers, from senior White Home aides to Well being and Human Providers Division officers who’ve struggled to reunite minors with their mother and father. (Trump halted the coverage final 12 months days earlier than a choose declared it principally unlawful.)
Having defended the administration on Capitol Hill and stood alongside the president as he warned of a flood of harmful immigrants coming into the nation, Nielsen has grow to be the face of the administration’s immigration insurance policies. Her critics say pictures of minors being detained in fenced-in amenities alongside the border will canine her for all times.
The vitriol she engendered was evident final June when a gaggle of liberal activists hounded her out of a Mexican restaurant in Washington, chanting, “Disgrace!”
Regardless of the continuing effort to stigmatize Nielsen, two main Washington-based company recruiters instructed POLITICO she is going to seemingly land a well-paid enterprise job. However they each mentioned her baggage might make image-conscious companies, terrified of boycotts and Twitter backlashes, assume twice about hiring her.
“My assumption is that she most likely leads to a consulting agency or one thing like that. I’m unsure that an organization, for her first job out of this, goes to take a danger on that,” one of many recruiters mentioned. “She’s going to have some challenges.”
The second recruiter famous that her expertise with emergency administration and cybersecurity points might assist her land profitable consulting gigs.
Individuals near Nielsen mentioned she continues to be plotting her post-government plans. Her allies count on her to put low for a number of months after she leaves DHS, as she recovers from an exhausting 16 months main the company.
“I might see her entering into the cyber or danger resiliency sectors in company America as a result of that’s her background earlier than she got here in, and clearly she did plenty of work on that within the division and the belief is she is going to proceed that work,” a senior administration official mentioned.
Nielsen’s final official public act shall be talking at a celebration of the brand-new DHS headquarters on Wednesday on the outdated St. Elizabeth’s Hospital website in Washington. She is going to converse with out formal written remarks and should take the chance to replicate on her tenure on the division.
Nielsen isn’t the primary ousted administration official who has needed to grapple with the reputational burdens of getting served a controversial president. Certainly, a number of Trump White Home officers have already laid out a potential path ahead.
Former White Home chief of workers John Kelly, an in depth Nielsen ally, rapidly sought to publicly distance himself from the president, arguing in a prolonged interview final 12 months with The Los Angeles Instances that he acted as a guardrail towards Trump’s most excessive impulses. Kelly went even additional in a speech earlier this 12 months, rejecting the president’s assertion that migrants are harmful and saying that constructing a wall throughout the complete U.S.-Mexico border could be a “waste of cash.”
Shortly after White Home counsel Don McGahn left the White Home in November, the New York Instances reported that McGahn rebuffed Trump’s push to prosecute Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey. Some Trump officers interpreted the leaks as an act of picture administration by McGahn to indicate that he, too, was extra a restrainer than an enabler of Trump.
Some in Trump’s circle have privately stewed about what they understand as McGahn and Kelly’s efforts to rebuild their status among the many Washington institution. They see echoes of that technique in a collection of current leaks in regards to the administration’s inner immigration debate which have painted Nielsen in a optimistic gentle. A CNN report posted the day after Nielsen’s resignation depicted her as telling Trump that closing ports of entry alongside the U.S.-Mexican border could be a “dangerous and harmful” concept, because the story put it.
Nielsen has few allies within the White Home, the place aides say she had an off-puttingly brusque fashion whereas serving as Kelly’s deputy within the chief of workers’s workplace.
“She’s not a monster,” mentioned one former senior administration official who labored along with her. However, the previous official added of the household separation coverage, “She not solely didn’t resign on precept, however she gave the orders, and signed the paperwork and went earlier than Congress and the general public and the media and argued for this stuff.”
“She’s the face of it,” the previous official added.
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