Trump to nominate Kelly deputy as DHS head

Last Updated Oct 11, 2017 4:12 PM EDT

An administration official confirms that President Trump is expected to nominate Kirstjen Nielsen to run the Department of Homeland Security, CBS News’ Pat Milton reports. 

Nielsen was John Kelly’s deputy when he served as Trump’s first DHS secretary and moved with Kelly to the White House when he was tapped to be Trump’s chief of staff. She is an expert in homeland and national security policy and previously served as a special assistant to former President George W. Bush and worked for the Transportation Security Administration.

Elaine Duke has been filling in as acting secretary of the department. But she raised eyebrows when she described the aftermath of Hurricane Maria as a “good news story.”

Duke, sworn in back in April, previously served as DHS Under Secretary for Management from 2008-2010. 

Neither the White House nor Nielsen responded to requests for comment on the plans, which were first reported by Politico.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., the ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement he was pleased the president had made a decision on filling the post “after letting the critical national security position remain vacant as the nation faced multiple major hurricanes and a domestic terrorism attack.”

But Thompson said he had questions about her background, including her past work for the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, Gov. Tom Ridge, R-Pennsylvania, the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, said in a statement on Wednesdday that Nielsen is “extremely well versed in the all-hazard threats challenging the security and resilience of our homeland—from cybersecurity and terrorism to natural disasters.”

Ridge added, “Kirstjen can hit the ground running and there won’t be a learning curve. Most importantly, in this hyper-political environment, Kirstjen is not a self-promoter. She is a patriot and takes a mission-focused approach to her work. I think her no-nonsense, business-like manner is what earned the confidence, first of General Kelly, and now the President.” 

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