President Donald Trump berated Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a dispiriting Cabinet meeting on immigration Wednesday, according to three administration officials, but her colleagues denied reports that she has threatened to quit.
Trump lashed out at his Cabinet, and Nielsen in particular, when told that the number of people arrested for illegally crossing the Mexico border topped 50,000 for the second consecutive month. The blowup lasted more than 30 minutes, according to a person with knowledge of what transpired, as Trump’s face reddened and he raised his voice, saying Nielsen needed to “close down” the border.
“Why don’t you have solutions? How is this still happening?” he said, adding later, “We need to shut it down. We’re closed.”
Administration officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide a candid account of the private meeting.
Trump’s tirade went on so long that many present began fidgeting in their seats and flashing grimaces, White House aides said. Eventually, the topic moved on to health care, bringing relief to many in the room.
Details of the meeting were first reported Thursday by the New York Times.
The president’s eruption was witnessed by Cabinet members plus a number of senior White House officials – including counselor Kellyanne Conway, advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, immigration adviser Stephen Miller and chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow.
Chief of Staff John Kelly, Nielsen’s top ally who recommended her to Trump for the Homeland Security job, also was present.
Nielsen battled back, one person said, telling Trump that laws limit some of what she could do to block the flow of undocumented immigrants. Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended her, saying the administration was looking for new ways to deter illegal crossings.
Mostly, though, Nielsen struggled to get a word in, said one senior official.
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Source: LMT Online