Former colleagues of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen — from Georgetown University to her stint with the Bush administration to her homeland security career — have theories for why the wonky career bureaucrat they once knew has transformed into the poster child for the Trump administration’s most extreme immigration policies.
According to a Politico Magazine report, her behavior is baffling to some of those familiar with her personality.
“This almost Cruella de Vil press conference that she held was shocking to those of us who know her,” said Arick Wierson, Nielsen’s classmate at Georgetown. “That’s not the Kirstjen we know.”
To others, the about-face can be interpreted as responsibility to stick with the turbulent administration and provide a sense of quiet calm from the inside.
“She is motivated by a sense of duty,” Thad Bingel, Nielsen’s colleague from the Bush administration, told Politico. “She really doesn’t care about getting credit, or in some cases the blame, just that the right result happens.”
Still, others interpreted her evolution as full-on careerism.
“She had a choice: She either loses this spectacular job, or she does the bidding of a President who is using these kids in a game of brinkmanship so he can get his wall,” one of her former homeland security coworkers told Politico.
Whatever her motivation, Nielsen seems to have won over President Donald Trump for now. But the DHS secretary will likely continue performing a delicate dance to appease her famously mercurial boss, with whom loyalty is fleeting and alliances can rise and fall in a matter of days.