LEESBURG, Virginia — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi characterized the ongoing purge of top officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as spiraling out of control, placing blame on President Donald Trump for how migrants are being treated on the US border with Mexico.
During a meeting with reporters at the House Democratic Caucus’ annual issues conference on Wednesday, Pelosi said the firings were abrupt and Trump’s agenda is “contrary to the values of our country.”
Pelosi said she had a previously scheduled phone call with recently ousted Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Monday but that it was canceled after her sudden resignation.
“The secretary of Homeland Security, I had an appointment to speak with her at 5 o’clock in the east — 2 o’clock in California — on Monday,” Pelosi said. “And at 1 o’clock, she realized that she wasn’t going to be available for a call at 2 o’clock. It came as a surprise to her that she was leaving that office.”
Pelosi also took issue with the way several top officials have been booted from their positions to make way for Trump’s new picks to lead the department.
“Now let me just say, I’m no fan of the policies that she implemented,” she said. “But what we see happening there is the succession is that the deputy will become the secretary, and so they have to replace everyone so the president can get his new team in there.”
After Nielsen’s departure, Claire Grady, the DHS management undersecretary, also resigned to make way for US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan to take the reins as acting DHS secretary.
“What is happening on our border is something that is so contrary to the values of our country,” Pelosi said. “So undermining of our commitment to our family values and that his administration just is in a downward spiral of indecency.”
The purge has expanded beyond Nielsen and her deputy. Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles resigned Tuesday as well. On Wednesday afternoon, Ronald Vitiello, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, resigned just one week after the White House pulled his nomination from the Senate.
The mass removal of top officials at DHS is reportedly part of a power grab by the White House adviser Stephen Miller, an immigration hardliner who has the president’s ear.
But Pelosi characterized the administration’s actions in recent days as solely a Trump ordeal.
“And now the president is saying he is the decider on how all of that goes,” she said. “Well, we all know that. This is his agenda.”
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