Kevin McAleenan, the acting director of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has made few changes to the policies set by former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, say current and former agency officials.
Sources close to Breitbart News, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, say DHS management teams have deliberately sidetracked, stalled, and stopped policies sought by President Donald Trump. Those policies, which were promised by his 2016 presidential campaign, were intended to end illegal immigration, build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and empower the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to deport illegal aliens living in the country.
Nielsen, who led DHS between December 2017 and April 2019, used her term to post like-minded allies into key positions with the approval of the White House’s personnel office, sources told Breitbart News. Many job candidates who supported Trump’s policies were blocked even before the interview stage.
Under McAleenan,“You don’t see an influx of these pro-Trump types,” one source said. “This is who McAleenan is bringing with him. All career federal employees — Washington beltway people.”
A DHS official told Breitbart News in a statement that claims suggesting employees at the agency are working against the president are untrue.
“Any suggestion that former Secretary Nielsen’s staff worked against the president’s agenda is patently false,” the DHS official said. “No one would take these extremely difficult and time-consuming jobs if they opposed the president’s agenda.”
Two of the most influential Nielsen allies include Chad Wolf and Elizabeth Neumann — who is described as a personal friend of Nielsen’s.
Neumann, one source said, was given so much power under Nielsen’s direction that she helped to staff the agency to ensure that Trump’s 2016 immigration agenda was either slowed down or thrown out altogether. Neumann’s role as a senior adviser, the source said, was to execute Nielsen’s policy of stopping Trump’s policy initiatives and forcing Trump loyalists out of the agency.
Months before Nielsen’s ouster, Neumann was stripped of much of her influence inside DHS because many administration officials disliked her, sources said. Still, Neumann remains in a threat prevention position at the agency.
Wolf, like Neumann, was a personal friend of Nielsen before becoming her Chief of Staff. Wolf, whom sources describe as an avid opponent of the president and his immigration agenda, remains a senior official coordinating most of all policy at DHS and works with McAleenan on a daily basis, sources said.
One source who spoke anonymously to Breitbart News said Wolf and other Trump opponents working at DHS run the agency as though they are not accountable to the president. Instead, the source said, they implement policies they agree with and stop implementation of policies they oppose.
McAleenan, who led Customs and Border Protection before becoming Acting DHS Secretary, has the same agenda as Nielsen had in terms of slowing Trump’s immigration initiatives, according to sources. Sources describe McAleenan’s DHS as nearly a carbon copy of Nielsen’s.
“There is no daylight between McAleenan’s border policy and Nielsen’s border policy,” the source told Breitbart News. “They are completely synonymous when it comes to immigration and border policy.”
Take, for example, Nielsen’s insistence on implementing Trump’s “border wall system,” a move away from the traditional physical barrier that was promised to voters and toward more technology-driven plans that have failed in previous administrations.
Sources told Breitbart News that the “border wall system” terminology first came from McAleenan and was quickly repeated by Nielsen at congressional hearings. Soon after Nielsen’s use of the phrase, the president began using the term to describe his border policy.
Part of McAleenan’s operation includes bringing on key staff who are either career federal employees or political appointees approved by the White House personnel office. Many of McAleenan’s new hires at DHS, sources said, are staffers from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. Sources repeatedly noted that CBP has a large anti-Trump contingent that was vocal during the 2016 presidential election.
Some of those CBP officials that may be brought on to DHS by McAleenan or have already been moved over to the agency are Patrick Flanagan, Valerie Boyd, and Andrew Meehan, according to sources.
Many of Nielsen’s closest allies, all of whom are described as opponents of Trump’s agenda, are no longer with DHS, but they left at her resignation, not because McAleenan forced them out, sources said.
Three of the most openly anti-Trump Nielsen allies, sources said, who are either set to leave DHS or have already left include Jonathan Hoffman, Miles Taylor, and Chris Krebs.
Hoffman, who has left DHS for a communications job at Trump’s Defense Department, is an aggressive anti-Trump official whom Nielsen had elevated to a spokesperson role at DHS, sources said. Hoffman, one source said, was one of a handful of Nielsen’s most loyal allies at the agency.
Taylor, also a fierce Nielsen ally who opposes Trump, according to sources, remains McAleenan’s chief of staff and has been billed as a national security expert – even though he did not have as much experience as colleagues. Krebs, whom sources said is looking for another job in the Trump administration, was likewise an opponent of Trump’s agenda and played a critical role in Nielsen’s inner circle, which remained largely insular, sources said.
Trump supporters in the agency have said they fear retribution for their support of the president’s agenda — often asking Breitbart News not to reveal certain portions of conversations, worried that the smallest of details will reveal their identity and lead to their ousting.
Trump’s allies, sources said, are becoming fewer and fewer in not only DHS but the administration.
A DHS spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment regarding specific claims in time for this publication.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.