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Kirstjen Nielsen digs in after surviving Trump's wrath

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She has managed to forge a stable relationship with Trump and now spends at least as much one-on-one time with him as any other Cabinet secretary.That, they say, is thanks to her skillful handling of Trump’s border wall fixation, as well as to the departure of former White House chief of staff John Kelly, whose close relationship with Nielsen often made her collateral damage in his frequent clashes with Trump and his senior advisers.“Having General Kelly removed from the relationship has given her a more direct point to the president,” said a person close to Nielsen.“Kirstjen is still standing strong as secretary because she gets results and doesn’t get distracted,” said Chad Sweet, a former DHS chief of staff in the George W. Bush administration.Twice in recent weeks, Trump has approvingly told Nielsen she’s “got a big job,” leading her to feel as though he now understands the complexities of her position as well as her intentions, according to a close confidant.As DHS prepares to start its move to a new campus in Southeast Washington next month, Nielsen has been spending time working from office space in the Reagan Building on Pennsylvania Avenue because of its close proximity to the White House and Capitol Hill. One challenge for Nielsen will be restoring morale at a department whose employees have grown exasperated by Trump’s laser focus on illegal immigration, especially when White House officials would seek support from the agency’s front office, which one former senior administration official described as “not well run.” The White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment.“It’s frustrating because you’re getting hit from the outside, but you’re not empowered to do anything about it on the inside,” the former official said.DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton said Nielsen “has always worked diligently to support the frontline operators” in the department, in addition to “working 24/7 to keep our country safe and lead the dedicated team members at DHS.”“We are seeing the results of significant Department-wide efforts over the last 14 months to implement more of the President’s security-focused agenda — immigration enforcement regulations have been issued, election infrastructure has been secured, multiple major natural disasters have been effectively mitigated, terror plots have been thwarted, [Migrant Protection Protocol] has been implemented and new border wall is being built,” Houlton added in a statement to POLITICO.

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