Kelly aide Kirstjen Nielsen to be named DHS Secretary

Image Kirstjen Nielsen

President Donald Trump is planning to nominate Kirstjen Nielsen to succeed John Kelly as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Politico, Reuters and other outlets reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources. Nielsen previously worked at a cyber think tank at George Washington University, blocks from the White House, and is considered well-versed in some of the more technical missions at the department, such as sharing cyber threat information with the private sector.

The White House says Nielsen has "extensive professional experience in the areas of homeland security policy and strategy, cybersecurity, critical infrastructure and emergency management". But he would also remove from his White House a person who brought a regimented style to a freewheeling and often dysfunctional West Wing, much to the chagrin of some senior officials and people close to the president who chafed under her dictates.

Nielsen, 45, now serves as the deputy White House chief of staff.

The official announcement of her nomination could come as early as later on Wednesday, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

After Kelly's move, the Cabinet-level DHS secretary position has gone unfilled, with Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke serving in the interim.

At the White House, however, as Kelly's enforcer, Nielsen quickly emerged as a controversial presence.

Nielsen, 45, served as Kelly's chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security at the start of the administration and was a key player in the rollout of the president's immigration crackdown and travel ban.

If Nielsen's appointment is confirmed by the Senate, she would become the first former employee to run the department established after the terror attack on September 11, 2001.