Report: DHS Chief Threatened To Quit Over Stephen Miller’s Attempt At Another Staff Shakeup

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Stephen Miller’s attempt to shift the soon-to-be ICE director nominee to another agency reportedly left acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan threatening to quit, officials said.

Miller — a White House senior adviser who’s taken an outsized role with immigration issues — reportedly urged President Donald Trump on Wednesday to make Mark Morgan the next commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), said officials who spoke with The Washington Post. They said Miller wanted Morgan to lead CBP, despite him being tapped by the president to be the next Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director, because Miller wanted the current acting ICE director to remain in place.

However, this request did not sit well with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kevin McAleenan, the man who leads all of DHS’ various agencies.

McAleenan on Thursday told senior administration officials, including White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, that he was the leader of the department — not Miller, administration sources told WaPo. The acting DHS chief went on to argue that personnel decisions should be left up to him, or at the very least he should be involved in the decision-making process, they said.

One White House aide reportedly likened the altercation to an “immigration knife fight.”

McAleenan ended up winning the White House brawl: Morgan will become the next acting ICE director in the coming week, DHS officials said, and Matthew Albence —the current acting ICE director — will go back to his position as ICE deputy director.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan speaks about the impact of the dramatic increase in illegal crossings that continue to occur along the Southwest during a news conference, in El Paso, Texas, March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

U.S. CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan speaks about the impact of the dramatic increase in illegal crossings. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

The incident marked the latest White House immigration clash involving Miller.

It was recently discovered that, prior to then-DHS chief Kirstjen Nielsen’s removal in April, she blocked a secret White House plan backed by Miller that called for apprehending thousands of parents and children in a sweeping operation to crack down on illegal immigration, DHS officials said. Nielsen and then-ICE acting director Ron Vitiello had objected to the “hastily put together” plan, arguing the administration wasn’t prepared. (RELATED: Nancy Pelosi Claims Democrats Have Always Acknowledged The Border Crisis)

The Trump administration embarked on a major immigration staff shakeup in April — removing Nielsen from DHS, pulling Vitiello’s nomination to officially lead ICE, and accepting acting Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security Claire Grady’s resignation. Miller led the removals in large part.

DHS did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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