Nielsen apparently made the mistake of trying to use reason when discussing the issue with the president. Observers say she attempted to explain to her boss that there were many complex issues involved. She also tried to make him understand that the Homeland Security Department has legal restrictions which govern what she can and cannot do.
Trump, perhaps thinking he was still acting in a reality TV show, appeared angry and impatient as if he was ready to blurt out “you’re fired!” at any moment. Nielsen told him she and her DHS team were doing everything they could, but the president didn’t want to hear it.
“Why don’t you have solutions? How is this still happening?” he said to Nielsen, “We need to shut it down. We’re closed.”
Media reports said that Nielsen was ready to resign and that she had drafted — but not submitted — a letter of resignation for the president.
1/NYT just broke that Kristjen Nielsen Sec'ty of Homeland Security came perilously close to resigning after Trump berated her in front of the entire Cabinet yesterday for what he perceives as her failure to secure the borders adequately, robbing him of his favorite talking ..
— Mona (@Monaheart1229) May 10, 2018
DHS, unsurprisingly, denied that Nielsen was ready to resign.
Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Houlton said in a tweet that media reports were false.” The secretary, he wrote, was “hard at work on Thursday “on the President’s security-focused agenda and supporting the men and women of @DHSgov.”
The @nytimes article alleging that the Secretary drafted a resignation letter yesterday and was close to resigning is false. The Secretary is hard at work today on the President's security-focused agenda and supporting the men and women of @DHSgov.
— Tyler Q. Houlton (@SpoxDHS) May 10, 2018
Nielsen issued a statement on Thursday evening and did not deny the meeting was heated, but reiterated her support for Trump’s positions, writing:
“The President is rightly frustrated that existing loopholes and the lack of Congressional action have prevented this administration from fully securing the border and protecting the American people. I share his frustration. Border security is the most basic and necessary responsibility of a sovereign nation” and said she would “continue to direct the Department to do all we can to implement the President’s security-focused agenda.”
There have been more reports lately that Trump’s frustrations over immigration are growing, including his frustrations with Nielsen and with Congress.
During a rally in Indiana Thursday, Trump expressed his frustration, saying that, “We have the worst immigration laws in the history of mankind” and that he wants voters to “give me some reinforcements, please” by electing new Republicans to Congress.
Mexican border apprehensions have been ticking up in recent months, leading the president to increase his calls for a border wall. He’s mad at Congress for not funding his wall which they have not done because it is unpopular with the American people. He also has accused DHS leaders of not being aggressive enough in separating children from their parents at the Mexican border.
Washington insiders said that Nielsen is unlikely to resign. “She feels like she’s doing the best she can and doing a good job on immigration, but she also has to follow the law,” a person close to her said. “It’s frustrating to have your boss unhappy about that.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s deputy secretary position is vacant, so if Nielsen resigned there would be nobody to replace her.