Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan during National Police Week on May 16, 2019. (DHS photo by Tara A. Molle)

McAleenan Steps Down as Acting Homeland Security Secretary

On the six-month anniversary of his tenure as acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan called it quits.

“I want to thank the President for the opportunity to serve alongside the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security,” McAleenan tweeted at 8:01 p.m. EST on Friday night. “With his support, over the last 6 months, we have made tremendous progress mitigating the border security and humanitarian crisis we faced this year, by reducing unlawful crossings, partnering with governments in the region to counter human smugglers and address the causes of migration, and deploy additional border security resources.”

“I will work with the White House and DHS leadership teams on a smooth transition, and remain forever grateful to the men and women of the Department for their steadfast efforts to secure our country,” he added.

McAleenan went to the White House earlier Friday to deliver his resignation letter, with his departure effective the same day. The New York Times reported that he told President Trump by phone this evening that he was leaving, and that he was not forced out of his job.

CBS reported that McAleenan had been weighing the decision to resign for weeks, and CNN reported that White House officials tried to talk the acting secretary — who, sources told the network, felt he had accomplished all he could in the job — out of stepping down.

“Kevin McAleenan has done an outstanding job as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security. We have worked well together with Border Crossings being way down. Kevin now, after many years in Government, wants to spend more time with his family and go to the private sector,” Trump tweeted. “Congratulations Kevin, on a job well done! I will be announcing the new Acting Secretary next week. Many wonderful candidates!”

Trump appointed McAleenan, then the Customs and Border Protection commissioner, to the acting role on April 11, 2019, after the resignation of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. He never nominated McAleenan for the permanent position. Nielsen had replaced former DHS Secretary John Kelly in December 2017.

House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) accused Trump of continuing to “decimate the leadership” at DHS.

“This will only add to the chaos for a Department where there are chronically too many leadership vacancies and positions held by unconfirmed, ‘acting’ officials,” Thompson said in a statement, adding that Trump should nominate a DHS secretary who can be “easily approved by the Senate” ASAP.

“The next Secretary must be able to convey to the American people that the federal government is focused on keeping the country safe from the top threats we face. We know this includes securing our elections from foreign influence, countering domestic terrorism, and ensuring foreign fighters abroad do not come here,” he continued. “The next Secretary must also understand that bowing to President Trump’s obsession over a wall and keeping people out is not part of the job description.”

Ranking Member Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said that McAleenan “was dealt an incredibly tough hand when he took on the role of acting secretary this spring.”

“We were in the midst of a humanitarian and security crisis at our southwest border,” Rogers said in a statement. “Fortunately, he was up to the task. Kevin’s leadership was instrumental in reducing the flow of migrant children and families at our southwest border. I thank Kevin for his decades of public service and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

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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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