Kirstjen Nielsen has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent days. Before the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border gained national attention, she was a less well-known Cabinet member, and she reportedly considered resigning after President Trump berated her at a meeting for failing to secure the border. As a veteran of the George W. Bush administration, she was viewed with distrust, and some Trump officials were reportedly hoping to use the border crisis to scapegoat and fire her.
Then at Monday’s White House press briefing, Nielsen offered cold, technical responses on children being ripped away from their parents, and claimed falsely that only Congress can fix the issue. CNN reportsthat members of the Trump administration were impressed:
The unenviable task seems to have paid off for Nielsen internally. The President’s praise was echoed throughout the halls of the West Wing this week when multiple officials lauded Nielsen for a job well done after she sparred with reporters during the particularly tense White House briefing Monday, two people familiar with the reaction told CNN.
Inside, Nielsen was confronted by protesters from the group Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America. While Secret Service agents prevented the demonstrators from approaching Nielsen and her companion, they were able to stand in the restaurant and heckle Nielsen about the family separation policy. Video shows this went on for at least ten minutes, as Nielsen looked at her phone and didn’t acknowledge the activists.
“She was in the corner on her phone, just staring at her phone. Not engaging at all,” witness Erica Olmstead told the Daily News. She said some other patrons were noticeably “ambivalent” about the scene, but others joined in, clapping and chanting at Nielsen.
“We will not stand by and let Secretary Nielsen dine in peace, while she is directing her employees to tear little girls away from their mothers and crying boys away from their fathers at our border,” Margaret McLaughlin, a member Metro DC DSA’s steering committee, said in a statement. “Secretary Nielsen and everyone else who has carried out these brutal and cold-blooded orders to rip apart families should never be allowed to eat and drink in public again.”
Slate’s Osita Nwanevu said Nielsen quickly called it a night:
DHS Secretary Nielsen just got driven out of a Mexican restaurant here on 14th Street by activists. DSA, I believe.Osita Nwanevu (@OsitaNwanevu) June 20, 2018
While having a work dinner tonight, the Secretary and her staff heard from a small group of protestors who share her concern with our current immigration laws that have created a crisis on our southern border.Tyler Q. Houlton (@SpoxDHS) June 20, 2018
Homeland Security did a fabulous job yesterday at the press conference explaining security at the border and for our country, while at the same time recommending changes to obsolete & nasty laws, which force family separation. We want “heart” and security in America!Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 20, 2018
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