With all of the litigation surrounding the Department of Homeland Security and Donald Trump's immigration policies, it seems like a curious time to fire DHS's general counsel, but that's what happened yesterday.
The White House on Tuesday fired John Mitnick, the general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security, after months of shake-up at an agency responsible for carrying out President Trump's immigration agenda. [...]Mr. Mitnick's exit comes as the department fights off multiple lawsuits challenging Mr. Trump's immigration policies.
The New York Times' report on this added, "The White House this year has turned the Department of Homeland Security -- which oversees securing the country's borders, disaster relief efforts and addressing domestic terrorism and cybersecurity threats -- into a revolving door of officials, creating a void of permanent leadership."
Quite right. If it seems as if the Department of Homeland Security has been losing top-level staff at a breakneck pace, it's not your imagination. Since April, we've seen Trump part ways with his Homeland Security secretary (Kirstjen Nielsen), acting ICE chief (Ron Vitiello), acting Homeland Security deputy secretary (Claire Grady), Citizenship and Immigration Services director (Lee Cissna), and Customs and Border Protection commissioner (John Sanders). Now, the DHS general counsel is out, too.
In the spring, when there were rumors that John Mitnick was on the chopping block, Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) began pushing back, urging the administration to keep him. That effort apparently didn't have much of an effect.
Indeed, as regular readers may recall, Politico reported in mid-April that congressional Republicans were "alarmed" and "blindsided" by the DHS purge and had begun urging Trump not to part ways with anyone else. The president apparently did not take that advice to heart.
Eric Columbus, a veteran of the Obama administration's Justice Department and DHS, noted last night that the Department of Homeland Security is now led by an acting secretary, acting deputy secretary, acting general counsel, acting under secretary for management, acting CBP commissioner, acting ICE director, acting USCIS director, and acting FEMA administrator.
The president hasn't even nominated anyone for any of the posts except FEMA -- and the nomination for Trump's choice to lead the emergency-management agency, Jeffrey Byard, appears to be failing.
The president, however, loves his “actings,” convinced that they give him “flexibility,” though this still isn’t how the federal government is supposed to work.