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TOMORROW: Confirmation Vote on Nielsen Despite Senators’ Serious Concerns About Her Independence From White House

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Questions Raised After WH Chief of Staff John Kelly Attempted to Strong Arm
Acting DHS Secretary Duke in the DHS Decision on Honduran TPS

Tomorrow, members of the Senate committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs are scheduled to vote on the confirmation of Kirstjen Nielsen, the Trump Administration’s nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The vote comes despite concerns expressed by Senate Democrats about the nominee’s independence from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. According to press reports, Kelly attempted to intervene in the decision to deport more than 57,000 Hondurans currently living with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Nielsen is currently Kelly’s deputy and reportedly deeply loyal.

On Thursday, the Senate Homeland Committee delayed a vote given that committee members had 200+ follow-up questions following the hearing.

Below are excerpts from related press reports.

Washington Post: Democrats want DHS nominee to return to Senate panel for more questioning

Five Democratic senators say they want to hold an additional confirmation hearing for Kirstjen Nielsen, the Trump administration’s nominee to lead the Homeland Security Department, citing a Washington Post report Thursday detailing efforts by the White House to pressure the agency’s acting director on a major immigration decision.

Nielsen testified Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and made no stumbles, calmly fielding questions on a range of security topics. But five members of the confirmation panel — all Democrats — sent a letter to committee leaders later Thursday calling for her to return for further questioning under oath.

On Thursday, the panel postponed its confirmation vote on Nielsen, after senators submitted 197 written follow-up questions about her testimony. That vote is now set for Tuesday morning.

Wall Street Journal: Homeland Security Chief Resisted White House Pressure on Immigrant Program

The next round of decisions for at least two Central American countries rested with his replacement, Ms. Duke, who refused to succumb to White House pressure, two people familiar with the matter said.

“She’s not the most popular person over at the White House,” said one person familiar with the debate.

The other person said, “The White House came down on her really hard” before and after the decisions were announced.

Immigrant advocates responded to news of the White House pressure with alarm, saying there should be ino political influence over the upcoming decisions about other protective programs.

“Those DHS decisions should be based on the facts, based on the statutes, but not based on undue political interference,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of the advocacy group America’s Voice.

CNN: White House chief of staff tried to pressure DHS secretary to expel Hondurans

White House chief of staff John Kelly pressured acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke to terminate protections for tens of thousands of Honduran immigrants currently living in the US, sources tell CNN.

Duke received multiple calls from Kelly pressuring her, in Duke’s perception, to end Temporary Protected Status for Honduran immigrants on Monday’s decision day, leaving Duke “distraught and disappointed” and ready to leave the department, according to a source familiar with Duke’s thinking.

The Trump administration characterized the call as Kelly weighing in through a normal process and said Duke was committed to remaining at her post.