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

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative 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Over the past four days, Trump has withdrawn his nominee to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), announced the resignation of DHS Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenDOJ to Supreme Court: Trump decision to end DACA was lawful Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign Trump casts uncertainty over top intelligence role 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 RomneyRomney: 'Putin and Kim Jong Un deserve a censure rather than flattery' A US-UK free trade agreement can hold the Kremlin to account Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity MORE (R-Utah) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces White House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord 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.