Reprinted with permission from Alternet.
President Donald Trump on Friday unexpectedly withdrew his nomination of Ronald Vitiello to permanently head the Department of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Trump, on Friday, told reporters, “We’re going in a little different direction. Ron’s a good man, but we’re going in a tougher direction. We want to go in a tougher direction.”
Vitiello has been serving as acting director of ICE, and Trump’s decision came as a shock to members of the U.S. Senate and the Department of Homeland Security because Vitiello was expected to be confirmed to take over the position permanently.
According to the Washington Post, Trump immigration policy adviser Stephen Miller may have played a major role in Trump’s decision. A senior Trump Administration official told the Post that Miller has been critical of Vitiello in conversations with the president. And another senior administration official, quoted anonymously, told the Post that Miller “wants to put Attila the Hun as director of ICE” — a reference to Miller’s hardline approach to immigration.
Reporting by CNN also alleges that Miller was a key factor in Trump’s decision to withdraw the nomination of Vitiello, who previously served as head of the U.S. Border Patrol. Two White House officials interviewed on condition of anonymity told CNN that Miller urged Trump to pull the nomination.
CNN is also reporting that according to a “source close to the White House,” the GOP senators who were in the process of confirming Vitiello are furious over Trump’s decision and feel like he pulled the rug out from under them.
That anonymous source told CNN, “All of this headway that they’ve made on the Senate side has been completely negated. There are gonna be a number of members on (the) Senate side who are just gonna be beyond pissed off. We just burned a ton of political capital.”
“[Homeland Security Secretary] Kirstjen Nielsen has still not been officially informed about Vitiello’s withdrawal, I’m told,” noted CNN reporter Katilan Collins Friday afternoon.
Since being sworn in as president in January 2017, Trump has not had a permanent ICE director confirmed by the Senate. Trump’s first acting ICE director, Tom Homan, was nominated but never received a Senate floor vote. After Homan’s departure, Vitiello became acting ICE director in June 2018 and was formally nominated to take over the position permanently in August 2018.
Vitiello is expected to stay with ICE for the time being until Trump finds someone else to nominate for the position.