Thomas Homan, a tough-talking former Trump administration immigration official who has been touted as a possible replacement for Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, offered nothing but praise Wednesday for the current occupant of the job.
The Washington Post reported this week that President Trump has told advisers he has decided to remove Nielsen, in part because of what he views as her lackluster performance on immigration enforcement and that he is looking for someone to more forcefully implement his agenda.
Homan, a former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who appears regularly on Fox News, said during an interview with the network that he considers Nielsen “a strong secretary.”
“With immigration, you know, 50 percent of America hates you 100 percent of the time,” Homan said on “Fox & Friends.” “You can’t win on this topic because it’s so divisive, so controversial, so emotional, but I think she’s working hard and doing a good job.”
Homan, a former police officer and Border Patrol agent, said his phone “blew up” amid reports that Trump is planning to replace Nielsen. But he would not speculate about what the president might do.
“I think we’ve got a secretary in place; I think we need to support her,” Homan said. “She was asked to step up. She grabbed the bat and stepped up to the plate. So all these people want to attack her all the time and attack this administration. I don’t see them stepping up to the plate.”
Nielsen has been reluctant to leave the administration before reaching her one-year mark as secretary on Dec. 6, but she has been unhappy in the job for several months, according to colleagues. Trump has berated her during Cabinet meetings, belittled her to other White House staff and tagged her months ago as a “Bushie.” The reference to her previous service under President George W. Bush was apparently meant to cast suspicion on her loyalty.
When Nielsen has tried to explain the laws and regulations that prevent the government from drastically curtailing immigration or closing the border with Mexico, as Trump has suggested, the president has grown impatient and frustrated, aides said.
Nielsen’s departure would leave a leadership void at the government’s third-largest agency, which has 240,000 employees and a $60 billion budget. The deputy secretary job at DHS has been vacant since April, and the White House has not submitted to Congress a nomination for that post.
Nick Miroff, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker contributed to this report.