Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is just a few weeks removed from unceremoniously getting the boot at her old job, which means her redemption tour should be starting right...about...now.
A new piece in the New York Times has some information about Nielsen and her efforts to focus on election security in 2020, a concern that was apparently not shared by President Donald Trump. In fact, the Times reported, chief of staff Mick Mulvaney apparently told Nielsen not to bring up the subject of potential Russian interference in the 2020 election.
The account of this Mulvaney-Nielsen conversation is sourced to “three senior Trump administration officials and one former senior Trump administration official.” (No prizes for guessing who the former official might be.) Per the Times:
But in a meeting this year, Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to one senior administration official, Mr. Mulvaney said it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.”
Even though the Department of Homeland Security has primary responsibility for civilian cyberdefense, Ms. Nielsen eventually gave up on her effort to organize a White House meeting of cabinet secretaries to coordinate a strategy to protect next year’s elections.
The Times also cites this year’s Worldwide Threat Assessment, submitted to Congress in January, as an example of Nielsen bravely trying to do her job even as the White House tried to keep her hands tied:
Before she resigned under pressure on April 7, Ms. Nielsen and other officials looked for other ways to raise the alarm.
The opening page of the Worldwide Threat Assessment, a public document compiled by government intelligence agencies that was delivered to Congress in late January, warned that “the threat landscape could look very different in 2020 and future elections.”
“Russia’s social media efforts will continue to focus on aggravating social and racial tensions, undermining trust in authorities and criticizing perceived anti-Russia politicians,” the report noted. It also predicted that “Moscow may employ additional influence tool kits — such as spreading disinformation, conducting hack-and-leak operations or manipulating data — in a more targeted fashion to influence U.S. policy, actions and elections.”
What do we get out of these Nielsen-related anecdotes?
1. Kirstjen Nielsen valiantly tried to do her job, but was prevented from doing so by a White House that valued optics over election security.
2. The president is baby.
Earlier this month, Politico reported that Nielsen and her top allies were trying to “rehab her image” post-Trump administration. This is what that looks like: leaking details from her time in the administration which make Nielsen look like something less than wholly complicit in the dumb and shitty crimes of the Trump administration.
Don’t fall for it. Nielsen dutifully did her job for nearly a year and a half. She blamed parents for the death of their own kids in U.S. custody, through the family separations whose very existence she denied and then kept denying. She doesn’t need redemption; she needs a conscience, and all indications point to her still not having one.