Home­land Se­cu­rity nom­i­nee in­tro­duced

Trump tells Con­gress to `put pol­i­tics aside' and OK ap­point­ment

Tulsa World - - Datelines - By Darlene Superville

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.


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