After a series of resignations and dismissals at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a senior Republican senator is “very, very concerned.”
Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa told the Washington Post he was worried about reports of another dismissal — this time of Lee Francis Cissna, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The reports came after the dismissal of Randolph Alles, head of the Secret Service, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen just days earlier. Earlier in the week, the White House pulled its nominee for the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well, leaving that post vacant.
Other reports circulated around the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) acting No. 2 official, Claire Grady. Sources told Reuters she could leave as soon as Tuesday afternoon, though Trump has denied accusations that he is “cleaning house.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blamed the “chaos” in the administration on Trump himself.
Schumer said Tuesday on the Senate floor that Trump “cannot keep changing personnel, changing strategy, tweeting your way through a problem as serious” as immigration.
The New York Democrat said the result is “chaos when it comes to border issues, all created by the president and his whimsical, erratic and oftentimes nasty pursuit of policy.”
Grassley told the Post that the officials who were leaving were “good public servants” with the proper qualifications for Trump’s goals.
“The president has to have some stability, and particularly with the No. 1 issue that he’s made for his campaign throughout his two and a half years of presidency,” Grassley said. “He’s pulling the rug out from the very people that are trying to help him accomplish his goal.”
Elaine Kamarck, founding director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institution, agreed, saying the new people filling those positions will have less pull when making strategy decisions.
“It doesn’t look to me like he will be able to put people in there who can develop a legislative strategy because ‘acting’ (department heads) are at a loss to do that because they don’t have the full faith of the Congress,” Kamarck told Global News.
Vacancies in other parts of the administration
It’s not just the DHS that is leader-less.
Other vacant roles include the directors of the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and ICE as well as vacancies in positions like the secretary of the U.S. Air Force.
The position of defence secretary has been empty since Gen. Jim Mattis resigned.
Many ambassador positions remain empty as well. While Trump has nominated people for many positions, they await confirmation in the Senate.
According to data from the Partnership for Public Service, there are 284 vacant leadership positions in the Trump administration out of the 717 jobs that need Senate confirmation.
Experts told CNN in January that interim officials — such as those who are acting in these positions — are limited in what they can do with “long-term and strategic decisions.”
“People underestimate the corrosive effect it has,” Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, told CNN at the time. “It’s like when you have a substitute teacher in your classroom. They aren’t going to take on the tough issues.”
Kamarck explained that the government has been slow to nominate and confirm many roles because of Trump’s unique approach.
She said that usually, administrations will look to previous governments of their own party for people with expertise, but Trump’s relationship with the Bushes has meant he is “reluctant to nominate people who worked for (former president George W. Bush) and who would have the relevant experience.”
That has meant Trump has been slow to put people to nomination. That, combined with the fact that many people have either pulled out or have been removed from their positions, means it’s slow going to get the positions filled.
Here are some other senior figures who have been fired, quit or otherwise changed roles in the administration in the past year.
Linda McMahon —The Republican fundraiser was one of Trump’s first cabinet picks. She served as director of the Small Business Administration until March, when she resigned to join Trump’s re-election campaign. Trump nominated U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza to the position in April.
Clete Willems — A key figure in trade talks with China and a deputy to Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, Willems said in March that he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Heather Wilson — The U.S. Air Force secretary, considered a top candidate to become the next defence secretary, decided to return to academia.
Bill Shine — Eight months after being hired as the White House communications director, Shine resigned to work on Trump’s re-election campaign. A source close to Trump said the president had lost confidence in the former Fox News executive.
Jim Mattis — In a candid resignation letter that laid bare his growing divide with Trump over Syria and Afghanistan policies, the defence secretary abruptly quit, shocking allies and Congress. Trump named Mattis’ deputy, Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, to the role in an acting capacity soon afterward.
Ryan Zinke — Trump’s first interior secretary left at the end of 2018 amid investigations into his use of security details, chartered flights and a real estate deal.
John Kelly — A retired Marine Corps general, Kelly was hired as White House chief of staff to bring order to the chaotic Trump White House but ultimately fell out with his boss. Trump named his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, to the job on an acting basis on Dec. 14, 2018.
Jeff Sessions — The Republican and former U.S. senator from Alabama was finally forced out as attorney general on Nov. 7, 2018 after months of being attacked and ridiculed by the president for recusing himself from a special counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He was replaced briefly by Matthew Whitaker until William Barr was confirmed to the job.
Nikki Haley — The former South Carolina governor stepped down at the end of 2018 as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Trump first put forward State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert as her successor, but she later withdrew. Trump has since nominated Republican donor and U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft for the position.
—With files from Reuters and the Associated Press
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