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Kirstjen Nielsen's attempt to suck up to Trump ended badly. It always does.

Dana Milbank on

WASHINGTON -- "I have determined," Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wrote in her resignation letter Sunday night, "that it is the right time for me to step aside."

And how did she come to this determination?

Well, maybe it was that her boss, the president, had just demanded her resignation and then tweeted news of her ouster to his nearly 60 million followers.

This was vintage Nielsen: boldly asserting the dubious in the face of the obvious. During her rocky tenure, she secured the homeland against facts and decency alike as she struggled in vain to suck up to President Trump and thereby keep her job.

It ended badly. It always does. Trump publicly mocked Attorney General Jeff Sessions before firing him. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was reportedly fired while sitting on the toilet. Trump changes Cabinet secretaries like suits and will soon have temporary appointees in half a dozen Cabinet-level jobs. An honest help-wanted ad for a Trump Cabinet position would go like this:

"Flailing administration seeks Cabinet secretary willing to sacrifice dignity for employer's vanity. No relevant experience needed. Successful candidate must be morally flexible. Familiarity with abusive personalities a plus. Willingness to be publicly humiliated required. Employee will be fired in about 12 months and thereafter be permanently unemployable. Non-disclosure agreement mandatory. Interested candidates should contact the prison warden."

 

Yet the 46-year-old Nielsen, who reportedly never supervised more than 15 people before taking over the 240,000-person department, thought she'd be different. And in a sense she was: Nobody debased herself quite as often as Nielsen did in her quest to keep the job, defending Trump after the "s---hole countries" and Charlottesville scandals, enduring frequent rebukes from Trump and leaks about her imminent firing, embracing his incendiary language and enduring his extralegal instincts, swallowing her moral misgivings to embrace the family-separation policy (while denying any such policy existed), and implausibly claiming that children weren't being put in cages. Excerpts from a hearing last month:

Lawmaker: "Are we still using cages for children?"

Nielsen: "Sir, we don't use cages. ..."

Lawmaker: "I've seen the cages. I just want you to admit that the cages exist."

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