Trump says acting Homeland Security chief McAleenan will step down

President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE announced Friday night that Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan would step down from his position.

“Kevin McAleenan has done an outstanding job as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security. We have worked well together with Border Crossings being way down," tweeted Trump, who tapped McAleenan to lead the department earlier this year.


"Kevin now, after many years in Government, wants to spend more time with his family and go to the private sector,” Trump tweeted. “Congratulations Kevin, on a job well done!”

Trump said that he will announce McAleenan’s successor next week, adding: “Many wonderful candidates!” 

Trump named McAleenan the department’s acting chief in April after Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenBiden picks first Latino to lead Homeland Security Judge says acting DHS secretary appointment unlawful, invalidates DACA suspension Biden's hard stand on foreign election interference signals funding fight MORE's resignation. McAleenan was never nominated for the position full-time, and his eventual successor will require Senate confirmation.

His tenure was marked by successes in carrying out Trump's agenda in multiple areas. He oversaw a steady drop in the number of apprehensions at the southern border and the rollout of multiple policies aimed at reducing the number of illegal and legal immigrants allowed to enter the country.

McAleenan recently accompanied Trump on a tour of a section of border wall outside of San Diego, Calif.

But he was viewed with skepticism by hard-line immigration advocates inside and outside the administration, and he acknowledged in a recent interview with The Washington Post that he had been unable to control the message emanating from his agency.

“I think the words matter a lot,” McAleenan said. “If you alienate half of your audience by your use of your terminology, it’s going to hamper your ability to ever win an argument.”

Some of his critics accused McAleenan of leaking information ahead of planned immigration raids earlier this year that forced the operation to be postponed. He denied the allegations, but it underscored the degree to which he struggled to win over some influential voices within the administration.

He faced additional criticism from Democrats throughout his time on the job for the administration's treatment of migrants at detention centers near the border. 

McAleenan worked for the FBI and for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. He ascended to the top job in DHS after Trump forced Nielsen out when she was unwilling to carry out some of his policies.

Her exit was part of an agency-wide overhaul orchestrated by senior White House aide Stephen MillerStephen MillerPresident says Trump Jr. doing 'very well' after COVID-19 diagnosis Donald Trump Jr. tests positive for COVID-19 Giuliani's son, a White House staffer, tests positive for coronavirus MORE, one of Trump's most influential advisers on immigration.

Most of the top jobs in immigration enforcement are being filled on an acting basis. Mark Morgan is leading CBP on an acting basis, Matt Albence is serving as the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Ken Cuccinelli is the acting head of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Cuccinelli in particular has emerged as the public face of Trump's immigration agenda, and may be a candidate to replace McAleenan. However, his appointment would likely remain on an acting basis as multiple GOP senators have cast doubts on his ability to be confirmed.