President Donald Trump said Friday that Kevin McAleenan was stepping down as the acting secretary of homeland security.
Trump said McAleenan wanted to spend more time with his family and go to the private sector.
“Congratulations Kevin, on a job well done!” Trump tweeted.
In a statement, McAleenan thanked the president “for the opportunity to serve alongside the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security,” adding that the department has “made tremendous progress mitigating the border security and humanitarian crisis we faced this year”.
McAleenan’s departure creates yet another top-level vacancy in Trump’s cabinet in the department responsible not only for immigration enforcement but also for helping states secure elections.
McAleenan had only been in the position since April, and was the fourth person to lead the department in two years. He was appointed acting secretary to replace Kirstjen Nielsen after she quit. Nielsen succeeded John Kelly in the job when Kelly was tapped to be Trump’s White House chief of staff. (Elaine Duke served as acting secretary for six months between Kelly and Nielsen.)
Trump said he would announce a new acting secretary soon. The acting deputy is David Pekoske, the head of the Transportation Security Administration.
Prior to his appointment with DHS, McAleenan worked in various positions with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and was confirmed as commissioner of CBP in March 2018.
He was seen as a level head who could effectively manage the border crisis but, like many other former administration officials who came before, Trump eventually soured on him.
His tenure was marked by internal squabbling and jockeying by others in the department vying for top jobs, all playing out against a backdrop of outrage and horror amid reports of children being held in squalid conditions and images of those who perished trying to make the trek.
Just last week, he spoke to the Washington Post about what the paper described as his “unease” with a law enforcement agency being used for partisan political purposes.
“What I don’t have control over is the tone, the message, the public face and approach of the department in an increasingly polarized time,” he told the Washington Post. “That’s uncomfortable, as the accountable, senior figure.”
The 240,000-person department is tasked with election security and cybersecurity, disaster response and even the Secret Service. But for Trump, the Department of Homeland Security means one thing: immigration.
The president’s signature issue makes the department his focus and his ire, and balancing a White House eager to push major changes with the reality on the ground is a constant challenge.