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

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump denies telling Bolton Ukraine aid was tied to investigations Former senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Title, release date revealed for Bolton memoir 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Over the past four days, Trump has withdrawn his nominee to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), announced the resignation of DHS Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenActing DHS secretary says he expects Russia to attempt to interfere in 2020 elections House Homeland Security rip DHS's 'unacceptable' failure to comply with subpoena Trump puts Kushner in charge of overseeing border wall construction: report 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 RomneyDemocrats step up pressure over witnesses after Bolton bombshell Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Des Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee MORE (R-Utah) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTax season could bring more refund confusion Graham vows Biden, Ukraine probe after impeachment trial Social security emerges as latest flash point in Biden-Sanders tussle 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.