CBP Acting Deputy Commissioner Ronald D. Vitiello visits border wall prototypes near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry on Oct. 26 2017. (Mani Albrecht/CBP)

Surprise Withdrawal of Vitiello’s ICE Nomination as Trump Wants ‘Tougher Direction’

President Trump suddenly withdrew his nomination of Ron Vitiello to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a move that CNN reported White House officials said was prompted by Trump senior advisor and immigration hardliner Stephen Miller.

Vitiello was named to the acting role at the end of June, replacing retired Acting Director Thomas Homan. Trump nominated Vitiello for the permanent position in August.

Vitiello began his career as a Border Patrol agent in Laredo, Texas, in 1985. In 2010, after working in the Operations Division of the former DHS Border and Transportation Security Directorate, he transferred to CBP headquarters to be deputy chief of the Border Patrol.

He was named chief of the Border Patrol in February 2017 and was named acting CBP deputy commissioner later in the year.

In his November confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Vitiello said Americans need to remember “why ICE was created in the first place” to address “critical gaps in our national security” after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I believe Congress shares the goal of a strong border and an immigration system that has integrity,” he said. “…The men and women of ICE are among our nation’s finest and most hard-working public servants and it is a privilege to serve alongside them.”

Vitiello said that ICE’s successes “are too often drowned out or wrongly maligned by misleading rhetoric and misinformation in the public sphere,” and charged that “this kind of rhetoric needlessly escalates the risk in our operational environment, making an already challenging job all the more difficult and dangerous.”

Vitiello’s nomination was passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last month, but a floor vote was delayed by the Senate Judiciary Committee taking up the nomination.

Before departing the White House for Calexico, Calif., today, Trump was asked by reporters about Vitiello’s nomination.

“We’re going in a little different direction. Ron’s a good man,” Trump replied. “But we’re going in a tougher direction. We want to go in a tougher direction.”

CNN reported that White House officials said Miller went to Trump and told the president that Vitiello did not support fully closing the southern border, an idea Trump has publicly toyed with in recent days.

The news outlet also reported that DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was unfamiliar with Trump’s plans until Vitiello’s nomination was pulled.

The Senate was informed by letter Thursday night that the nomination had been withdrawn, and Vitiello was told he would no longer be accompanying Trump to Calexico.

Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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