Retired Marine Gen. John Kelly’s move from secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to White House chief of staff leaves big shoes for the White House to fill.
At DHS, Kelly emerged as a key force in the administration, taking the lead on some of President Trump’s more controversial policies – including his executive orders suspending the admission of refugees into the U.S. and placing a moratorium on visitors from multiple Muslim-majority countries.
“He has been a true star of my administration,” Trump tweeted on Friday as he announced the personnel change.
With Kelly being sworn in as White House chief of staff Monday morning, the Department of Homeland Security needs a new “star.” Here’s a look at who President Trump might tap for the post.
As Kansas’ secretary of state, Kris Kobach serves as the vice chair of Trump’s task force investigating alleged voter fraud in the country.
Kobach, who is vying to be the next governor in Kansas, reportedly turned down previous offers of employment in the Trump administration in order to stay in Kansas. One of those positions was with DHS, according to the Kansas City Star.
In November, Kobach, 51, met with Trump and was infamously photographed holding a “strategic plan” for DHS for the next year. The visible portion of the plan included reducing the number of Syrian refugees admitted into the U.S. to zero and calling for “extreme vetting questions” for “high risk aliens,” the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
Seth Stodder, a former DHS official, told Politico that Kobach would be a “radioactive” pick for the position.
“It would be one hell of a confirmation hearing,” Stodder said. “I just can’t imagine that happening.”
As the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, is a top contender to take over for Kelly, according to Politico.
Before Trump tapped Kelly to lead DHS, McCaul, 55, advocated for the job himself.
Then, the possibility of McCaul heading up DHS angered border hawks who thought the congressman was too weak on border security and would be too pro-amnesty for those who are in the country illegally.
McCaul praised Trump’s foreign policy decisions as “strong and decisive” in an editorial for Fox News last week.
“I may not agree with President Trump on each and every issue, but his administration has clearly demonstrated that the world can be a much more peaceful and prosperous place when America leads from the front,” McCaul said.
Thomas Homan has been the acting director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement since January 2017.
He is a former New York police officer, Border Patrol agent, supervisory special agent and deputy assistant director for investigations at ICE, according to his ICE biography.
Homan traveled with Trump to Long Island last week when the president gave a speech vowing a stronger crackdown on MS-13, the violent Central American gang plaguing certain areas of the country – including Long Island.
Trump has called his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, “beleaguered” and has publicly criticized the former Alabama senator for recusing himself from the investigation into potential Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
But amid the fighting, Sessions could move to DHS – where he would still be able to tackle illegal immigration.
Dana Perino, the former White House press secretary for George W. Bush, argued that a move could ease tensions between Trump and conservatives who would be angry if Sessions was fired.
“Conservatives that came to Jeff Sessions’ defense this week all said, ‘But he’s doing the best on the issue we care about most and that is immigration.’ Well, where can Jeff Sessions do even more on immigration? As the secretary of Homeland Security,” she said Friday on Fox News’ “The Five.”
But not everyone seems thrilled with the idea. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted on Saturday that “DHS Secretary Jeff Sessions doesn’t sound right, doesn’t feel right.”
“AG Jeff Sessions has a good ring to it,” Graham said.
As deputy secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke is set to take over the department on an interim basis with the departure of Kelly.
Duke, who was sworn into her position in April 2017, “leads all efforts related to the strategic execution of DHS’s vital missions,” according to her DHS biography. She was confirmed with a vote of 85 to 14 in the Senate – with one Republican abstaining and 13 Democrats voting against her.
She has served in various positions in the federal government for nearly 30 years and sat on the Homeland Security Advisory Council, her biography states. The Hill reported that Duke would be “noncontroversial” and a “bipartisan pick” to become DHS secretary.
Duke does waiver from Trump on one key issue – the border wall. During her confirmation hearing, she said she would be open to exploring more virtual ways to secure the country’s borders, The Hill reported.