The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, retired General John Kelly, will be the new White House chief of staff starting Monday.
In the calmest of administrations at any time, this would raise questions about what such a decision would mean for the White House and DHS. But in an administration already rife with firings, departures, policy changes, and surprise announcements, Kelly’s new move could end up producing wide-ranging effects from a series of simple decisions — like who will run DHS now.
About two hours after Trump sent his tweet announcing Kelly’s move to the White House, DHS announced that Elaine Duke, the Senate-confirmed deputy secretary of DHS, will become acting secretary on Monday.
This follows the succession order in place at the department — which then-President Obama signed in December 2016.
Although Trump nominated Duke, there’s no reason to believe that he ever believed that she would be — even temporarily — running the department. (See, for example, his attacks on Rod “Baltimore (but not actually)” Rosenstein, who he nominated to serve as No. 2 at the Justice Department without apparently knowing much about him.) Duke has worked in DHS under presidents of both parties, and appears to be generally respected by those who know her work.
Now, she is set to be the acting head of DHS over several months, until a successor is nominated and confirmed. Duke would be responsible for overseeing the agencies and offices responsible for several of the policies Trump feels most strongly about — including aspects of the travel ban, deportation and detention policies, and the border wall.
For instance: Under the travel ban, Kelly was responsible for conducting a worldwide review to determine “whether, and if so what, additional information” is needed to determine basis that people seeking visas or other admission to the the US are not security threats, on a country-by-country. Kelly was required to submit a report…