Trump disputes that he's 'cleaning house' at DHS amid leadership changes

President TrumpDonald TrumpSix big off-year elections you might be missing Twitter suspends GOP Rep. Banks for misgendering trans health official Meghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' MORE on Tuesday denied that he is “cleaning house” at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) despite a series of shake-ups in leadership at the agency.

“I never said I‘m cleaning house. I don’t know who came up with that expression,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

“We have a lot of great people over there,” he added.


Over the past four days, Trump has withdrawn his nominee to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), announced the resignation of DHS Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenFar-left bullies resort to harassing, shaming Kyrsten Sinema — it won't work Ex-Trump official: 'No. 1 national security threat I've ever seen' is GOP Left-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides MORE and ousted the head of the Secret Service.

Trump named Customs and Border Protection (CBP) head Kevin McAleenan as the new acting DHS secretary, leaving CBP without a full-time director. 

He has yet to put forward a new nominee for ICE, but told reporters he wants to go in a "tougher direction."

White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, one of the administration's most prominent immigration hawks, has reportedly pushed for other changes at DHS. The agency is also without a deputy secretary.

Several lawmakers have taken issue with the rapid turnover atop the sprawling agency, which oversees immigration enforcement, emergency management, cybersecurity and terrorism prevention. 

Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyIn Montana, a knock-down redistricting fight over a single line Trump-backed bills on election audits, illegal voting penalties expected to die in Texas legislature The Memo: Conservatives change their tune on big government MORE (R-Utah) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyAnother voice of reason retires Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — FDA moves to sell hearing aids over-the-counter McConnell: GOP should focus on future, not 'rehash' 2020 MORE (R-Iowa) are among those who have voiced concerns about the vacancies at DHS, and have urged against further changes in the immediate future.

The president, who has intensified his focus on curbing illegal immigration at the southern border in recent weeks, railed Tuesday against congressional Democrats and a federal judge’s ruling from a day earlier that blocked the Trump administration’s policy of having some asylum seekers remain in Mexico while their case is processed in the U.S.

“We’re fighting the bad laws, the bad things that are coming out of Congress,” he said. “All they have to do is spend 20 minutes and we could fix this whole problem. We have the worst laws of any country anywhere in the world.”

Trump expressed a desire to do away with or reform the country’s asylum system and programs such as the visa lottery and so-called chain migration. The latter program allows U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to petition the government for their close relatives to immigrate to the country.

--Updated at 1:39 p.m.