2:40 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Please. Melania and I are honored to welcome to the Cabinet and welcome everybody to the White House because this is a very, very special place, and I am going to be very proud to announce my nomination for the next Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen.
In my opinion, and in my campaign for President, I promised that my highest priority would be to secure America’s homeland. I pledged to protect our country from the many threats we face from all around the world, to keep our people safe and secure at home, and to give our full support to the men and women of law enforcement.
For the first six months of my administration, the Department of Homeland Security was led by the great four-star general, John Kelly. Where is John Kelly? Stand up, John. (Applause.) A Marine. He’s a proud Marine. (Applause.) He’s done a great job.
Secretary Kelly led the department to make historic strides in all of its critical missions, from immigration enforcement, to guarding our coasts, our waterways, to enhancing our resilience against natural disasters and emergencies. He’s one of the finest people I have ever had the privilege to know, and we are deeply fortunate that he is now here at the White House as our Chief of Staff. Do you agree with that, Kirstjen?
MS. NIELSEN: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: I do too. (Laughter.) That was a close one, right?
During John Kelly’s time at DHS, right by his side was Kirstjen, the chief of staff for the department. He would be the first to tell you that she was critical to his success. There, she quickly reinforced a sterling reputation as a dedicated leader whose number-one priority is always the safety and security of our country and our citizens, not politics or ideology. That sets her apart.
There will be no on-the-job training for Kirstjen. She is ready on day one. Would you say?
MS. NIELSEN: Yes, sir. Ready, ready, ready.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. At DHS, Kirstjen was integral to the progress we have made in controlling our borders, confronting gang violence, preparing for disasters, and protecting aviation security.
Given her great talent, her knowledge, and devotion, I selected Kirstjen as the Principal Deputy Chief of Staff at the White House. In her current position, Kirstjen plays a crucial role in managing White House functions and coordinating with federal agencies and with Melania, who has got — really, she’s done some great work for a lot of different groups. And she is the one that will very much miss you in your current position, I can tell you. Is that a correct statement? She was a little disappointed to hear this news. (Laughter.)
Through her wisdom and her leadership, she has won the universal respect of my entire Cabinet and senior White House staff.
Previously, Kirstjen served President Bush as Special Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Senior Director for Prevention, Preparedness, and Response. In this role, she oversaw policy and implementation related to protecting our critical infrastructure, our cybersecurity, counterterrorism, and emergency preparedness. She is also a former senior fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University.
Additionally, for the first time in history, a former employee at the department is going to lead the department. So that’s the first. That’s the way it should be. It should have happened a lot over the years, but it didn’t. (Laughter.)
She joined the Transportation Security Administration in a policy role soon after the September 11th attacks. It’s hard to imagine a more qualified candidate for this critical position.
She is joined today by her father, James. James — where is James? Stand up, James. Great father. (Applause.) Her uncle and aunt from North Carolina, Trevor and Mary Ellen Burton (ph), and several other family members and loved ones. Her mother is no longer with us, but, Kirstjen, we know she is looking down on you today and she is incredibly proud.
We will be very sad to see this incredible woman leave the White House, but we are truly thrilled for all that she is going to accomplish for our nation, for the citizens of this great country in her new role.
In light of the serious threats facing our country, and the urgent disaster recovery efforts, I call upon the Senate to put politics aside and confirm this tremendously qualified and talented nominee with a strong bipartisan vote.
At this crucial time, we need the Senate to confirm a Secretary of Homeland Security, one who is ready to lead on day one. Kirstjen has my full faith and confidence, and she also has the complete confidence of the law enforcement officers, dedicated professionals, and senior leadership at the Department of Homeland Security.
The officers and agents at Homeland Security risk their lives for our country every single day. They work together day and night to shield us, to protect us, and to inspire everything that we’re about. They are totally devoted to this nation. They are driven by a love of country and by a conviction that every American, no matter who they are or where they come from, should have a community that is safe where their families are secure and where their needs will always come first.
These great public servants, and every American across our country, deserve a Homeland Security Secretary as committed and ready as Kirstjen. For the last three months, Acting Secretary Elaine Duke has provided exactly that kind of leadership during a crucial time for our country. Melania and I are particularly grateful for her contributions to the rapid and lifesaving response for the families affected by the wildfires in California and during one of the worst hurricane seasons in United States history. She is going to be a great partner for Kirstjen as Deputy Secretary at the department.
Kirstjen, congratulations again to you, your friends, and your family. I know you will fulfill your duties with dedication, determination, and resolve. And I know you will never waver in fulfilling your obligations to the citizens, the laws, and the country we all took an oath to protect. May God bless you. May God bless America. Good luck. (Applause.)
MS. NIELSEN: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. President. Thank you for the honor of this nomination and for your extraordinary leadership. I am humbled by the trust you are placing in me. And should I be confirmed, I will, with the utmost strength and dedication, work every day to protect and secure our homeland.
I also want to thank the First Lady, the Vice President, the members of the Cabinet who are here with us today. I know it’s last minute, I know how busy you are, so I greatly, greatly appreciate the time and effort that you made to be here today.
It’s an incredible privilege to work at the White House and, before that, to have served in this administration at the Department of Homeland Security. I’m especially honored because I had the privilege of serving alongside the great men and women who stood up DHS after the terrible attacks of September 11, 2001.
Since the department’s creation, I witnessed and continue to witness the dedication of these men and women, their professionalism, and their unwavering resolve to protect the nation. I share the President’s profound commitment to the security of our country and the safety of the American people. Truly, there is nothing more valuable than to feel safe and secure in your homeland.
Mr. President, if confirmed, it will be the highest honor of my life to again work with and support these remarkable public servants and to continue to serve all of the American people.
In recent weeks, communities across our nation have been struck by natural disasters of historic proportions. Americans across the country have seen the devotion of this department and the extraordinary team at DHS who, along with their federal, state, local, and territorial partners, have been working around the clock to save lives, provide mental care and vital supplies, and to rebuild our communities.
I also know that this rebuilding will take years, and I want to echo what the President has said many times: We will remain fully engaged in the long recovery effort ahead of us.
If confirmed as the sixth Secretary of Homeland Security, I will work every day to enforce the law, secure our borders, our coasts and our waterways, and to protect Americans from dangerous criminals, terrorists, cyberattacks, and all the other threats facing our homeland today.
If confirmed, I look forward to continuing the record of exceptional leadership that General John Kelly and Acting Secretary Elaine Duke have established at DHS — truly big shoes to fill. I will also continue to give the dedicated men and women of the department the support, tools, resources that they need and deserve to carry out their difficult and often dangerous missions.
I look forward to speaking with the members of the Senate — both Republicans and Democrats — to answer their questions and seek their advice, and, if confirmed, to work closely with them and all members of Congress in the years ahead.
Finally, I want to thank General Kelly for allowing me to serve with him. He is the epitome of selfless service and truly leads by example. Sir, it’s a tremendous honor.
I would also like to thank my family for their incredible love and support throughout my life. This day would not have been possible without all of you.
Through my service, I hope to make all of you proud and to live up to your high standards and the standards the American people expect and deserve.
Thank you again, Mr. President, for this opportunity to serve your administration and to help fulfill your commitment to defend the nation we all love. Thank you. (Applause.)
2:52 P.M. EDT