- Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Tuesday she resigned from the Trump administration because she realised that “saying no” to certain things was “not going to be enough.”
- Nielsen was interviewed at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit about her resignation and her oversight of the separation of thousands of migrant families.
- She defended her actions, saying her job was to “enforce the law, not to separate families.”
- She added that her only regrets were that the policies didn’t resolve the issue of migrant border-crossings, and that her department hadn’t arranged for a plan to reunite the families once they were separated.
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Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told an audience on Tuesday that she resigned in April because “saying no” to certain people within the Trump administration was “not going to be enough.”
Nielsen was interviewed at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit by PBS Newshour’s Amna Nawaz, who pressed the former Trump official about her implementation of the notorious “zero tolerance” border policy, which separated thousands of migrant families last year.
When asked why she eventually resigned, Nielsen sought to cast herself as a voice of conscience within the administration, saying she had tried to stop certain efforts, but ultimately realised she couldn’t.
“There were a lot of things that, there were those in the administration who thought that we should do, and just as I spoke truth to power from the very beginning, it became clear that saying no, and refusing to do it myself was not going to be enough, so it was time for me to offer my resignation,” Nielsen said.
Kirstjen Nielsen: "What led me to resign is there were a lot of things that there were those in the administration who thought that we should do, and… it became clear that saying no and refusing to do it myself was not going to be enough." https://t.co/oHuWSj6lIN pic.twitter.com/sOP3PsIfDG
— The Hill (@thehill) October 22, 2019
Nielsen also pushed back against a number of questions about the Trump administration’s family separations, echoing her previous statements that her actions were to “enforce the law, not to separate families.”
But she conceded that her department had pushed forward with the separations without first having a plan to reunite the migrant families.
“What I regret is that we haven’t solved it, and what I regret was that that information flow and coordination to quickly reunite the families was clearly not in place and that’s why the practice was stopped through an executive order,” she said.
Nielsen’s presence at the Fortune summit had already garnered backlash before she arrived. The singer Brandi Carlile and the filmmaker dream hampton both pulled out of the summit after learning Nielsen would be there.
“I don’t think that human rights violators and merit-based abusers of displaced people should be given a platform to ‘reimagine’ history. Ever,” Carlile tweeted Monday.