During a Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit event on Tuesday, former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen spoke to a forum, explaining her decision to leave the White House in April and defending some of her more controversial stances.
Nielsen said that leaving the White House was the right thing to do, as standing up to policies she didn’t agree with within the administration “was not going to be enough.”
“There were a lot of things that, there were those in the administration who thought that we should do, and just as I spoke truth to power from the very beginning, it became clear that saying no, and refusing to do it myself was not going to be enough, so it was time for me to offer my resignation,” Nielsen said, per reporting from CNN.
Some saw her decision as one of conviction. Others, however, wanted Nielsen to answer for some of her other choices while inside the White House — including signing off on a memorandum that pushed forward the policy to separate migrant families.
Nielsen said she didn’t regret enforcing the law “because I took an oath to do that.”
“What I regret is that we haven’t solved it and what I regret that that information flow and coordination to quickly reunite the families was clearly not in place and that’s why the practice was stopped through an executive order,” she explained.
Thank you @HillaryClinton for dropping out of #FortuneMPW. Kristjen Nielsen's family separation policy devastated thousands of immigrant families and she needs to be held accountable for that before reentering public life. #StopNormalizingHatehttps://t.co/xPGXJvWvX2
— Define American 🇺🇸 (@DefineAmerican) October 18, 2019
Nielsen’s words also rang hollow to some in the audience, after it was announced this month that she was being nominated by Trump to serve on the National Infrastructure Advisory Council. When forum host, PBS NewsHour correspondent Amna Nawaz, asked why she was essentially working with the White House again, Nielsen hit back.
“Are you telling every CEO in here that they should never advise the government?” Nielsen asked in a rhetorical fashion.
Nielsen’s opposition to Trump, noted by pundits for occurring both inside the White House and after she resigned, prompted many to suspect that perhaps she was the one who penned an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times last year. Former FBI agent Josh Campbell, for example, compared her resignation letter to that of the op-ed writer, and concluded the two had very similar writing styles.
“As a trained investigator, I’m just going to go on record now saying that anonymous NYT op-ed was LOADED with commas and em dashes. And so is this resignation letter,” Campbell wrote in a tweet in April.
The anonymous op-ed writer — whether they’re Nielsen or someone else altogether — is set to release a new book about Trump and the White House, due out in November of this year.