Homeland Security nominee introduced
Trump tells Congress to `put politics aside' and OK appointment
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday introduced his choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security, a former staffer at the sprawling post-9/11 federal agency who he says will need “no on-the-job training” for the lead role.
Trump also called on Congress to “put politics aside” and confirm deputy White House chief of staff Kirstjen Nielsen by a “strong, bipartisan vote.”
But even before Trump had formally announced Nielsen's appointment during an East Room ceremony attended by much of the Cabinet and senior members of the White House staff, at least one congressional Democrat said her role during Hurricane Katrina should be scrutinized.
The Senate must confirm Nielsen's nomination.
“There will be no on-thejob training for Kirsten. She is ready on Day One,” Trump said, essentially declaring her fit to begin serving, if not for the Senate. Elaine Duke has led the department in an acting capacity through recent destructive hurricanes in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“In light of the serious threats facing our country, and the urgent disaster recovery efforts, I call upon the Senate to put politics aside and confirm this tremendously qualified and talented nominee with a strong bipartisan vote,” Trump said.
Nielsen told the president she was “humbled by the trust you are placing in me.” She stands to become the sixth secretary of the department, which was created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Nielsen had been chief of staff to John Kelly when he was Trump's first homeland security secretary. Kelly brought her to the White House after Trump named him chief of staff in July, and Trump quickly tapped Nielsen to be Kelly's deputy.
An expert in homeland security and national security policy, Nielsen previously served as a special assistant to President George W. Bush and worked for the Transportation Security Administration.
In a nod to the critical role that Homeland Security has played during the government's response to the recent hurricanes, Nielsen pledged Thursday that the agency will “remain engaged” in storm recovery efforts for the long term.
Nielsen's involvement in hurricane planning and response came under harsh scrutiny a decade ago during congressional examinations of the Bush administration's performance after Hurricane Katrina struck southern Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005. Nielsen at the time was a key Bush administration official in the chain of command, working as senior director for preparedness and response with the White House's Homeland Security Council.
Reports issued two years later by the Senate and the House were highly critical of the Bush administration's handling of Katrina. The reports did not specifically impugn Nielsen's performance, but both faulted the council for failing to take the lead in staying on top of the disaster.