Who is John Kelly? A look at Trump’s White House chief of staff

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will be leaving his position at the end of the year, President Trump announced on Dec. 8. Speaking to reporters at the White House before departing for the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, Trump called Kelly a "great guy." He did not immediately say who will replace him. … Continue reading “Who is John Kelly? A look at Trump’s White House chief of staff”

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will be leaving his position at the end of the year, President Trump announced on Dec. 8.

Speaking to reporters at the White House before departing for the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, Trump called Kelly a "great guy." He did not immediately say who will replace him.

Kelly, a retired Marine general, was one of Trump’s first Cabinet picks – but he hasn’t had the same role throughout the administration.

First tapped to lead the Department of Homeland Security, Kelly, 68, became Trump’s White House chief of staff in July 2017.

“He’s a Great American and a Great Leader,” Trump said on social media at the time. “John has also done a spectacular job at Homeland Security. He has been a true star of my Administration.”

The decorated military veteran was brought on to bring order to what was seen as a chaotic White House. Since becoming chief of staff, Kelly has worked to create a formal line of authority and decision-making within the administration and reform the security clearance process – something that has found him at odds with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.

Read on for a look at five things you should know about Kelly.

Trump originally appointed him as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

President Trump originally tapped John Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

While still president-elect, Trump originally picked Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Trump’s transition team said Kelly would “spearhead the urgent mission of stopping illegal immigration and securing our borders,” according to The Guardian.

While overseeing the Department of Homeland Security, Kelly took lead on some of Trump’s more controversial actions, including the travel ban of people from Muslim-majority countries.

He assumed the Cabinet office in January 2017, but was abruptly named Trump’s chief of staff six months later in July, replacing Reince Priebus.

He is a Gold Star father

Both of Kelly’s sons, Robert and John, joined the Marines. Robert died in Afghanistan in 2010 at the age of 29.

Kelly was widely praised by those who organized a memorial event for Massachusetts military members who died since the 9-11 attacks. Kelly accepted an invitation to give a speech at the 2010 event, held just three weeks after his son died. But he didn’t mention that he, too, was a Gold Star father, according to the Boston Globe.

“Could you find a classier person? He’s a great man.”

— Marine veteran Chris Lessard

“That was my first impression of General John Kelly,” Marine veteran Chris Lessard told the newspaper. “Could you find a classier person? He’s a great man.”

His status as a Gold Star father was brought into the spotlight as Trump’s chief of staff. Kelly took the helm of a White House press briefing in October 2017 to defend the president’s phone call to the widow of a Green Beret soldier killed in Niger. Trump’s phone call to the widow was criticized by Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., who listened into the conversation and later attacked the president's sentiments.

As a teenager, Kelly hitchhiked across the country

Kelly grew up as in an Irish-Catholic family in Boston.

As a teenager, he hitchhiked across the country multiple times before he was 16 years old, according to the Marines website. He also rode in an empty boxcar on a freight train from Seattle to Chicago before he turned 16, according to the Marines.

He oversaw the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners for Bowe Bergdahl

As White House chief of staff, John Kelly has sought to reform the security clearance process. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

As commander for the U.S. Southern Command, part of Kelly’s duties included overseeing operations at Guantanamo Bay military prison.

During his time there, Kelly also oversaw the transfer of prisoners for Bowe Bergdahl, the Army sergeant who went missing from his remote infantry station near the Pakistani border in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban.

The swapping of five Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl was controversial, but Kelly said in a 2016 Defense Department press briefing that he “follow[s] orders.”

“That's a policy decision to transfer them,” Kelly said, according to a transcript of the briefing. “I know it's caused a lot angst in a lot of areas. I don't — I don't try to slowdown transfers. I — I facilitate transfers.”

He also said the transfer was “dicey” because of the amount of press there at the time. Kelly often criticized media coverage of the detention center, the Miami Herald reported in 2015.

Kelly retired from the U.S. Southern Command in January 2016, having served in the military for more than four decades.

Kelly has an extensive career history with the Marines

Kelly joined the Marines in 1970 after his mother told him his draft number would be coming up, the Boston Globe reported.

He attended school at the University of Massachusetts after he was discharged as a sergeant in 1972, according to his Defense Department biography. But after his college graduation, he joined the 2nd Marine Division, according to the biography.

He served on sea duty in Florida, joined the U.S. Army’s Infantry Officer Advanced Course in Georgia and was stationed in Washington, D.C. He studied at Quantico and the National War College.

It was while Kelly was the Commandant’s Liaison Officer to Congress in the 1990s that he became a colonel, his biography said.

Kelly was stationed in Belgium in 1999, serving as the special assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe before serving multiple tours in Iraq.

Although retired, Kelly was prepared to serve for either Trump or Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton if asked, Time reported. When he got the call from the incoming Trump team – while he was apparently watching college football – Kelly reportedly asked his wife what he should do.

According to Time, his wife said, “If they think they need you, you can’t get out of it. Besides, I’m really tired of this quality retired time we’re spending together.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn.

Tough border stance has DHS boss Kirstjen Nielsen back in Trump’s good graces, reports say

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's tough stance at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent weeks may have saved her job, according to reports.

Nielsen’s post-midterm job performance, particularly her tough response to the migrant caravan, seems to have impressed President Trump, who previously said she wasn't a strong enough defender of the border, Politico reported.

Support from administration allies such as Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also helped Nielsen's cause — as have Nielsen's own words and actions at the border, the report said.

“No one has been working harder to implement the president’s security-focused agenda than Secretary Nielsen,” DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton told Politico. “She is fully focused on supporting the men and women of DHS, the mission at hand, and solving the crisis at the border.”

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In November, Nielsen defended the use of tear gas against migrants entering the U.S., echoing Trump's argument.

“They had to use [it] because they were being rushed by some very tough people. And they used tear gas. Here’s the bottom line: Nobody’s coming into our country unless they come in legally,” Trump told reporters in November, according to the Washington Post.

Nielsen suggested that border agents used tear gas after migrants threw "rocks and projectiles" at them, according to another report by the Post. Authorities were entitled to "self-defense," she added.

In October, Nielsen sat down for an interview on Fox News' "The Story with Martha MacCullum" to discuss the migrant caravan's imminent arrival at the U.S.-Mexico border, which Trump had sharply focused on heading into the November midterms.

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Trump had firmly stated that migrants would not be allowed to enter the country illegally, and hundreds of U.S. troops were set to make their way to the southern border to help Homeland Security and National Guard troops deal with the caravan.

Nielsen echoed the president's words with a warning for any migrants who illegally crossed the U.S. border.

"You will be returned home," she said.

"If they come here illegally with no legitimate reason to stay, they absolutely will be apprehended and removed immediately," Nielsen said, adding that "everything is on the table" for how to deal with the caravan.

"This caravan cannot come to the United States. They will not be allowed in. They will not be allowed to stay," she told MacCallum.

Meanwhile, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a longtime Nielsen supporter, has spent months lobbying to save her job, Politico reported.  And Nielsen's strong relationships with Pompeo and Mattis also have helped, the report said.

Amy Lieu is a news editor and reporter for Fox News.

Who is Heather Nauert? 3 things to know about Trump’s pick for UN ambassador

President Trump has picked Heather Nauert, the State Department’s spokeswoman, as the next ambassador to the United Nations.

If confirmed, Nauert,48, will replace Nikki Haley, who announced in October she would resign at the end of the year.

Nauert’s nomination, which had been widely expected, was confirmed by Trump on Dec. 7. He called her “very talented” and predicted she will be “respected by all.”

Nauert will face a full plate at the United Nations, with Iran and North Korea and other issues dominating the U.S. agenda there. Further, she will confront a stream of anti-U.S. and anti-Israel rhetoric at the world body — something Haley constantly pushed back against during her tenure.

To take over the Cabinet role, Nauert will need to be confirmed by the Senate.

Read on for three things to know about Nauert.

She’s worked in the State Department since 2017

Nauert has served as the State Department’s spokeswoman since April 2017 — and it reportedly wasn’t all happy times. According to The Associated Press, Nauert’s relationship with former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was strained.

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But her relationship with current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appears to have been better. A senior administration official told Fox News Nauert has traveled more than 155,000 miles on 26 international trips — the majority with Pompeo.

She was once the highest-ranking woman at the State Department

President Trump said he will nominate State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

After Tillerson’s departure, Nauert was catapulted into the position of acting undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. For a time, she was the highest-ranking woman and fourth highest-ranking official in the department, according to The Associated Press.

In her role, Nauert oversaw public diplomacy in Washington and all of the roughly 275 overseas U.S. embassies, consulates and other posts. She was in charge of the Global Engagement Center that fights extremist messaging from groups such as the Islamic State.

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She also had a seat on the U.S. Agency for Global Media which oversees government broadcast networks like Voice of America.

She’s a former journalist

Before joining the State Department, Nauert was an anchor and correspondent at Fox News. She worked as a breaking news anchor for “Fox & Friends.”

She has also worked as a general assignment reporter for ABC News.

She has a degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Fox News’ Adam Shaw and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn.

Interior Secretary Zinke accuses House Dem of ‘drunken and hostile behavior’ after call to resign

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke ripped into Arizona Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva on Friday and accused him of past “drunken and hostile behavior” after the lawmaker called for the Cabinet member’s resignation earlier in the day.

In a remarkably scathing Twitter post, Zinke referenced past news reports that Grijalva in 2015 paid a female aide on Capitol Hill nearly $50,000 in a taxpayer-funded settlement after she complained about his drinking and office environment.

“It is hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle,” Zinke said of Grijalva. “This is coming from a man who used nearly $50,000 in tax dollars as hush money to cover up his drunken and hostile behavior. He should resign and pay back the taxpayers for the hush money and the tens of thousands of dollars he forced my department to spend investigating unfounded allegations.”

Zinke also tweeted “#TuneInnForMore,” an apparent reference to the Tune Inn, a popular Capitol Hill bar Grijalva has been known to frequent.

Zinke’s comments appear to be in response to a USA Today op-ed written by Grijalva on Friday headlined, “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke must resign. His multiple scandals show he's unfit to serve.” Grijalva is the ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and says he hopes to serve as chairman when Democrats retake the majority in January.

“Ryan Zinke needs to resign immediately as Secretary of the Interior,” Grijalva wrote. “I take no pleasure in calling for this step, and I have resisted it even as questions have grown about Mr. Zinke’s ethical and managerial failings. Unfortunately, his conduct in office and President Donald Trump’s neglect in setting ethical standards for his own cabinet have made it unavoidable.”

Later Friday, Grijalva responded to Zinke's accusations.

"The allegations against Secretary Zinke are credible and serious," he said. "Instead of addressing the substantive issues raised in this morning’s op-ed, he's resorting to personal attacks."

Grijalva spokesman Adam Sarvana added in a statement to Fox News: "Rep. Grijalva does not work while drunk and does not create a hostile workplace environment.”

Through his committee work, Grijalva has raised ethics questions about Zinke, including over his role in a land development project in Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Mont. In his op-ed Friday, Grijalva said that “scrutiny will only intensify if I'm chairman.”

INTERIOR DEPARTMENT WATCHDOG INVESTIGATING REAL ESTATE DEAL INVOLVING RYAN ZINKE

“As ranking member, I have sent dozens of unanswered letters seeking information about Interior Department policies and Mr. Zinke’s conduct,” he said. “Should I chair the committee in January, as I hope to do, those questions will only intensify as part of my and my colleagues’ legitimate oversight duties.”

Appearing on “Fox News @ Night” on Thursday, Zinke lamented the ethics probes but insisted he has done nothing wrong.

“I am 10 for 10,” Zinke told host Shannon Bream. “I’ve been investigated on my socks. I’ve been investigated for taking jets, which I don’t. I’ve had 10 investigations completed and you know what they all say? Ryan Zinke follows all the rules, all the regulations, all the procedures.”

As for Grijalva, The Washington Times reported a year ago that an unnamed former congressional aide threatened a lawsuit against Grijalva by accusing him of being frequently drunk and fostering a hostile work environment.

TAXPAYERS FUNDED $50G SETTLEMENT TO AIDE WHO COMPLAINED OF HOUSE DEMOCRAT'S DRINKING, REPORT SAYS

The House Employment Counsel negotiated a $48,395 severance – the equivalent of five months additional salary – for the aide, the report said. The accuser, who worked for Grijalva for three months, dropped her complaint after the settlement, the newspaper said.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., speaks during a House Committee on Natural Resources hearing on Nov. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

In a statement at the time, Grijalva acknowledged a settlement had been paid to a former employee but did not discuss the details of what led to it.

“The fact is that an employee and I, working with the House Employment Counsel, mutually agreed on terms for a severance package, including an agreement that neither of us would talk about it publicly," Grijalva said. "The terms were consistent with House Ethics Committee guidance."

Grijalva said the severance funds came out of his "committee operating budget."

"Every step of the process was handled ethically and appropriately," he said.

But critics decried the Grijalva payout as another example of lawmakers being able to deal with complaints lodged against them by aides through secret settlements.

Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.

Trump Cabinet officials in the crosshairs as Dems zero in on DeVos, Zinke, others

President Trump won't be the only high-profile target on House Democrats' investigative agenda when the new Congress is seated in January, with top officials in his Cabinet also expected to face a torrent of scrutiny.

Trump's Cabinet has seen several shakeups this year — including the departures of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. But several controversial figures remain. And Cabinet officials generally are easier for Congress to investigate than senior White House officials and the president, who can assert executive privilege to presumptively shield both his communications and deliberative processes from review.

House Democrats have signaled a particular interest in probing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Housing and Urban Development head Ben Carson. Other possible officials to go under the microscope include Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, though Trump reportedly has indicated she may leave the administration, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos

DeVos, who has reportedly received round-the-clock protection from the U.S. Marshals after being accosted last year, was once called the “most hated Cabinet secretary" by "60 Minutes" host Lesley Stahl.

A wealthy Republican donor with limited education experience, DeVos was confirmed by a 51-50 vote in the Senate — a result ensured only by Vice President Pence's tiebreaking vote, which marked the first time in history a vice president had to vote to confirm a Cabinet official.

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Did protesters take it too far when they tried to prevent new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from entering a Washington, D.C., school? Tucker takes on one DeVos opponent #Tucker

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who is slated to chair an appropriations subcommittee that handles education funding, has criticized Devos on everything from her handling of student loan debt to her department's guidance on campus sexual assault policy. She has vowed to “hold Secretary DeVos accountable for her agency’s failure to uphold federal protections for our students.”

STOSSEL: WHAT THE HATERS DON'T GET ABOUT BETSY DEVOS

Chief among Democrats' objections are DeVos' efforts to enact regulatory rollbacks favorable to major providers of student loans, including Navient and FedLoan Servicing, that DeVos has said are aimed at reducing confusion and inefficiencies in the student loan process.

Democrats have also opposed DeVos' narrowing of the definition of fraud in the student loan context, which conservatives have argued was an important step in reducing potentially frivolous litigation that would ultimately result in big-digit judgments that come out of taxpayers' pockets.

Rep. Mark Takano, who is slated to chair the Veterans' Affairs Committee, told Politico that he wants "to examine the extent to which her rollbacks of regulations negatively impact veterans," who enroll at for-profit colleges at high rates.

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And Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who is expected to chair the House Financial Services committee, has accused DeVos of waging a “full-on attack on civil rights protections for students—particularly students of color, students with disabilities, transgender students, and survivors of sexual assault.”

At a contentious hearing with DeVos in March, DeLauro charged that "despite your statements all morning about supporting states’ rights, what your office has done, you’ve issued a declaration to pre-empt state regulations on companies that collect student loans."

In February, DeVos issued a notice effectively saying states have no legal authority to regulate such lenders, who are facing several lawsuits from state attorneys general and investigations by various agencies.

More recently, DeVos has moved to block efforts by states and federal regulators to obtain information about student loans, citing federal privacy laws. Legal challenges concerning that effort are ongoing, with one judge ruling that the Education Department couldn't assert those privacy protections to hide from discovery requests.

Democrats have also raised concerns about DeVos' new proposed guidance for how campuses should handle sexual assault claims, which Republicans have long claimed are unfair to students accused of misconduct.

"Every survivor of sexual violence must be taken seriously, and every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined," DeVos said in a statement announcing the proposal, which would provide the accused the right to question his or her accuser. The two could communicate through an intermediary and would not need to be in the same room.

But DeLauro, again, was unconvinced: “In the ongoing battle to eradicate sexual assault from college campuses, Secretary Betsy DeVos is on the side of those accused rather than the victims," she said in a statement earlier this month.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke

Zinke, a former Montana congressman and U.S. Navy SEAL who served in Iraq and Bosnia, has come under criticism for his alleged misconduct as interior secretary, centering on a real estate deal in his home state involving a foundation he created and the chairman of the energy giant Halliburton that does business with Interior.

Multiple media reports have indicated the Interior Department's watchdog, Inspector General Mary Kendall, has referred that probe to the Justice Department for possible criminal charges.

Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly, who is expected to lead the House Oversight Government Operations Subcommittee, told Politico that "Zinke is one the most ethically challenged members of the Cabinet and maybe one of the most ethically challenged secretaries of the Interior we’ve had in living memory."

"[There’s] rich material here to look into his behavior and his fitness for continued service in the office," Connolly added.

The 57-year-old Zinke also raised ethical concerns when he blocked two Connecticut tribes from opening a casino and redrew boundaries to shrink a Utah national monument. Kendall's team cleared Zinke in a separate probe into his air travel, faulted him for violating department regulations when he allowed his wife to ride in government vehicles, and said there were insufficient records to determine whether Zinke's staff re-assignments broke policy.

Zinke has also been inundated with criticism even for his legally above-board policy decisions and statements. As head of the Interior, Zinke has reduced the boundaries protecting some national monuments to open more land to drilling and mining operations, angering some in his home state of Montana. Last week, he blamed "radical environmentalists” for the deadly California wildfires that have left dozens dead, saying they'd rather “burn down the entire forest than cut a single tree.”

Zinke: California wildfires driven by ‘way too much fuel’

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke gets firsthand look at California wildfires, urges more active resource management of nation’s forests.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., the probable incoming chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, said it "can't be dismissed as merely a coincidence" that Zinke reportedly sought to replace Kendall with a political appointee shortly after the DOJ referral.

Grijalva made clear on Friday he's going after Zinke in a USA Today op-ed calling for his resignation, prompting a fiery response from the secretary.

But it remains a possibility that Zinke, like former EPA head Pruitt, might step aside rather than face Democrat-led investigations. Citing several sources familiar with his discussions, Politico reported earlier this month that Zinke plans to resign before the end of the year.

"It's laughably false and belongs in The Onion," the Interior's press office wrote on Twitter concerning the report.

President Trump indicated to reporters at a post-Election Day White House press conference on Nov. 7 that Zinke's fate was in doubt.

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“We’re looking at that, and I do want to study whatever is being said,” Trump said. "I think he’s doing an excellent job, but we will take a look at that, and we’ll probably have an idea on that in about a week.”

But two days later, Trump told reporters he had no immediate plans to fire Zinke. "No, I’m going to look into any complaints,” he said. At a roundtable discussion in Biloxi, Miss., on Monday evening, Trump said he's still thinking of potentially changing some Cabinet positions, but added that he'd be very happy if he left his Cabinet as it is now.

For his part, Zinke wrote on Twitter after Election Day that he was "looking forward" to working with new members of Congress in January.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson

Carson, a former neurosurgeon who challenged Trump for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, is most dogged by ethical complaints concerning his allegedly excessive spending at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Earlier this year, HUD announced it would cancel an order for a $31,561 dining set purchased for a costly makeover of Carson's office after a complaint by Helen Foster, HUD’s former chief administrative officer.

Foster said she faced retaliation for objection to the cost of the set, saying that $5,000 was the statutory max. The New York Times first reported on the decision, made in late 2017 — shortly after the White House moved to cut various HUD programs for low-income individuals.

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A HUD spokesperson told The Times that Carson “didn’t know the table had been purchased" — a claim that Democrats are sure to probe in January. House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., already demanded that HUD turn over all documents related to the purchase earlier this year, but a Democrat-led probe would likely be more expansive and could include subpoenas for additional information and testimony by more officials at HUD.

In something of an investigative crossover twist, an email sent by Carson on Oct. 12 apparently described the plan to replace Kendall after she referred her investigation of Zinke to the DOJ.

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In his email, Carson wrote that assistant secretary for administration Suzanne Israel Tufts was leaving to replace Kendall as the Interior Department's watchdog — an assertion the White House quickly called "false." House Democrats have promised to determine how exactly Carson got the idea that Kendall would depart.

Carson has taken criticism for arguing for advocating rent reforms that he says will help boost people out of poverty.  Saying ”$50 a month is not a lot of skin the game," Carson has moved to boost the minimum rent contribution from poor people receiving government housing benefits from $50 to $150.

He has also sought to have residents pay a larger percentage of their income towards rent, and move income verification checks from once a year to once every three years — a change he says will encourage people to work more.

“The real meat of the rent reform is things like making the assessment of income every three years instead of one year so that people aren’t discouraged from taking a raise,” Carson said this summer. “People aren’t discouraged from bringing another income earner in or getting married, things like that. Those are the things that have kept people chronically in poverty.”

But backlash has been severe, with Democrats countering that more work requirements and higher rent costs would drive more people into homelessness.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen

Nielsen has been front-and-center in recent days, after members of the leading migrant caravan from Central America attempted to storm the port of entry at San Ysidro, Calif., on Sunday. During the episode, U.S. Border Patrol authorities used tear gas to disperse the migrants, including several who threw what appeared to be rocks across the border.

At a rally late Monday in Mississippi, Trump seemingly sounded a note of confidence in Nielsen's work overseeing border security efforts, which resulted in dozens of arrests. No members of the caravan made it into the U.S. without being apprehended, according to U.S. officials.

"Are we doing OK on the border, folks?" Trump said to cheers of "Build that wall."

WATCH: HUNDREDS OF MIGRANTS RUSH BORDER AT SAN YSIDRO

"We're not going to have it — you've got to come into our country legally," the president added. "We have a lot of [the wall] built, and it's going up. And the rest of it — it's pretty nasty looking wire, isn't it? We're doing well."

In between his two Mississippi rallies, Trump attended a roundtable with law enforcement leaders on his bipartisan criminal justice reform effort. There, he charged that some migrants — whom he identified as "grabbers" – were essentially using children as human shields at the border.

After the president instituted a zero-tolerance policy that all illegal immigrants should be referred for criminal prosecution, administration officials argued that the Flores consent decree legally prevented them from keeping adults and children in custody together for more than two weeks. That decree, made amid litigation during former President Bill Clinton's administration, ostensibly limits the amount of time that federal authorities can detain illegal immigrant minors who are caught along with their parents.

But amid fierce criticism against both the White House and Nielsen, Trump signed an executive order this summer barring family separations at the border, although it remains subject to legal challenges. Democrats have called for investigations into the family separations, as well as for Nielsen's resignation amid a report by the DHS Office of Inspector General finding various possible deficiencies in the agency's handling of the matter.

Border Patrol: Nearly 1000 migrants rushed border crossing

Former State Department official David Tafuri has reaction on ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight.’

If Nielsen remains "Donald Trump’s puppet, continues to flout the law, lie to Congress and ignore the plight of these children in the face of these findings, then she is truly unfit to lead the Department," Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in October. Thompson is set to chair the House Homeland Security committee.

In a statement late Monday, Nielsen backed up Trump's comments about migrants, just as DHS earlier supported Trump's remarks that the caravan contained hundreds of criminals.

But in an exclusive interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" earlier this month, Trump said he wanted to see more from Nielsen.

"Well, I like her a lot. I respect her a lot," Trump said, referring to Nielsen. "She’s very smart. I want her to get much tougher and we’ll see what happens there. But I want to be extremely tough. …  I like her very much, I respect her very much, I’d like her to be much tougher on the border — much tougher, period."

He added there's a "chance" that Nielsen, who was accosted in a restaurant this summer by far-left progressive activists, will continue in her role.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross

House Democrats have signaled their intent to scrutinize Ross' finances, as well as his responses to federally required disclosure forms and his possible ties to Chinese and Russian interests.

In a letter this summer, several leading Democrats, including likely incoming Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., requested that a government watchdog look into Ross' decision to short Navigator Holdings in October 2017,  just days after he became aware that The New York Times planned to publish a report on his investments with the company.

On Nov. 5, 2017, The Times published a story titled, "Commerce Secretary’s Offshore Ties to Putin ‘Cronies,'" which linked Navigator Holdings to Russian President Vladimir Putin and a Russian oligarch.

“Secretary Ross’ holdings in Navigator, his sale of those holdings, and his lack of transparency with regard to those holdings, are especially troubling given that he is responsible for promoting the interests of U.S. companies and for implementing sanctions against Russia,” the Democrats wrote.

They also questioned whether Ross had properly divested himself of his interest in companies co-owned by the Chinese government and other companies that he can influence — as he said he would during his confirmation hearings – or whether he had simply distributed his holdings among his family members.

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Separately, Democrats have sought to question Ross on the Trump administration's decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, though the Supreme Court has blocked those efforts in connection with several lawsuits.

Ross had claimed in March, when the decision to add the citizenship question was announced, that he considered adding it after a request to do so last December from the Justice Department.

However, in October, Justice Department lawyers filed a new document in which Ross said he now remembered speaking with former senior White House adviser Steve Bannon in spring 2017 about adding the question.

That apparent inconsistency could provide fuel for Democrats' efforts to highlight the citizenship issue more broadly.

Democrats claim a citizenship question would scare illegal immigrants and lead many to avoid participating in the census. Because the number of congressional seats awarded to each district in the House of Representatives is currently determined by population totals provided by census results — citizens and noncitizens — Democrats fear the Trump administration's change will dramatically cut into their representation in Congress.

But late Monday, Bloomberg, citing three people familiar with Trump's thinking, reported that despite these potential headaches and widespread speculation, the president has no plans to replace either Ross or Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

If accurate, the news would mark something of a bailout for Ross, who himself helped Trump avoid a personal bankruptcy in Atlantic City, N.J., in the 1990s. It was evident even decades later that the president hasn't forgotten Ross' investing prowess.

"This guy knows how to make money, folks," Trump said at a rally in 2016 after picking Ross for the top Commerce job. "I put on a killer."

Fox News' Samuel Chamberlain, Dom Callicchio, Bret Baier and Paulina Dedaj contributed to this report.

Gregg Re is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re.

Trump’s replacement of Sessions sparks a media wildfire

It was, for once, a predictable bombshell.

And met by equally predictable waves of media outrage.

Was there anyone in America, paying the slightest bit of attention, who didn't know that President Trump was going to fire Jeff Sessions after the midterms?

I mean, the president has practically been announcing it with a bullhorn.

Sure, we didn't know it was going to happen the day after the Democrats won control of the House (although George W. Bush ousted Don Rumsfeld the day after an even more disastrous election).

But come on. Trump didn't even bother to hide the motive.

He has been angry at his attorney general for a year and a half for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

In truth, Sessions had no choice. As a senator, he was a campaign surrogate for Trump and wound up being questioned on the Hill over his own contacts with Russian officials.

But Trump viewed this as a personal betrayal, and said so, repeatedly. He said it on Twitter. He said it in an interview with The New York Times. He said it in encounters with reporters.

He called Sessions weak and beleaguered. He insisted the Justice Department should be investigating Democrats. Someone even leaked word that Trump privately called his own appointee Mr. Magoo.

It was humiliating, but Sessions hung in there, doing his job, although he knew his days were numbered. He said right there in his resignation letter that he was quitting at the president's request.

But what really fueled the media’s "crisis" coverage was Trump's choice for acting attorney general. It wasn't Sessions' deputy, Rod Rosenstein, the man who appointed Robert Mueller. It was Sessions' chief of staff, Matt Whitaker.

Whitaker is a former prosecutor, as well as a conservative activist, but he is obscure. He is a Trump loyalist, once described as the president's "eyes and ears" at DOJ.

What's more, as a CNN contributor and at other times, he has trashed the Mueller investigation that he will now be overseeing. He's suggesting that Justice could curtail the special counsel's probe by cutting his funding.

"The truth is there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign," Whitaker once said. As for the left, "the last thing they want right now is for the truth to come out, and for the fact that there's not a single piece of evidence that demonstrates that the Trump campaign had any illegal or any improper relationships with the Russians. It's that simple."

So Whitaker has, to put it mildly, a rather dim view of the investigation. And his associates are telling reporters he has no intention of recusing himself. Of course not — that's why Trump wants him.

So it's a big deal that oversight of the Russia probe is moving from Rosenstein, who likes the job Mueller is doing, to a man who's been so critical of the investigation. And criticism from House Democrats who'll soon be in a position to scrutinize these matters is fueling the story.

But a couple of cautionary notes. Whitaker hasn't done anything to impede the investigation since his appointment was announced. And it's possible, if only as a matter of political strategy, that he may not.

It's also possible, amid reports that Mueller is writing his report, that his prosecutors haven't found any evidence of collusion, or obstruction, and he'll be wrapping up soon.

Sessions has been toast for a long time. Whitaker could do something to cause a crisis, at least until a permanent AG (Chris Christie?) is named.

But unless and until there's an effort to rein in Mueller, the media might avoid keeping this cranked up to an 11.

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of “MediaBuzz” (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author “Media Madness: Donald Trump, The Press and the War Over the Truth.” Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.

Trump’s replacement of Sessions sparks a media wildfire

It was, for once, a predictable bombshell.

And met by equally predictable waves of media outrage.

Was there anyone in America, paying the slightest bit of attention, who didn't know that President Trump was going to fire Jeff Sessions after the midterms?

I mean, the president has practically been announcing it with a bullhorn.

Sure, we didn't know it was going to happen the day after the Democrats won control of the House (although George W. Bush ousted Don Rumsfeld the day after an even more disastrous election).

But come on. Trump didn't even bother to hide the motive.

He has been angry at his attorney general for a year and a half for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

In truth, Sessions had no choice. As a senator, he was a campaign surrogate for Trump and wound up being questioned on the Hill over his own contacts with Russian officials.

But Trump viewed this as a personal betrayal, and said so, repeatedly. He said it on Twitter. He said it in an interview with The New York Times. He said it in encounters with reporters.

He called Sessions weak and beleaguered. He insisted the Justice Department should be investigating Democrats. Someone even leaked word that Trump privately called his own appointee Mr. Magoo.

It was humiliating, but Sessions hung in there, doing his job, although he knew his days were numbered. He said right there in his resignation letter that he was quitting at the president's request.

But what really fueled the media’s "crisis" coverage was Trump's choice for acting attorney general. It wasn't Sessions' deputy, Rod Rosenstein, the man who appointed Robert Mueller. It was Sessions' chief of staff, Matt Whitaker.

Whitaker is a former prosecutor, as well as a conservative activist, but he is obscure. He is a Trump loyalist, once described as the president's "eyes and ears" at DOJ.

What's more, as a CNN contributor and at other times, he has trashed the Mueller investigation that he will now be overseeing. He's suggesting that Justice could curtail the special counsel's probe by cutting his funding.

"The truth is there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign," Whitaker once said. As for the left, "the last thing they want right now is for the truth to come out, and for the fact that there's not a single piece of evidence that demonstrates that the Trump campaign had any illegal or any improper relationships with the Russians. It's that simple."

So Whitaker has, to put it mildly, a rather dim view of the investigation. And his associates are telling reporters he has no intention of recusing himself. Of course not — that's why Trump wants him.

So it's a big deal that oversight of the Russia probe is moving from Rosenstein, who likes the job Mueller is doing, to a man who's been so critical of the investigation. And criticism from House Democrats who'll soon be in a position to scrutinize these matters is fueling the story.

But a couple of cautionary notes. Whitaker hasn't done anything to impede the investigation since his appointment was announced. And it's possible, if only as a matter of political strategy, that he may not.

It's also possible, amid reports that Mueller is writing his report, that his prosecutors haven't found any evidence of collusion, or obstruction, and he'll be wrapping up soon.

Sessions has been toast for a long time. Whitaker could do something to cause a crisis, at least until a permanent AG (Chris Christie?) is named.

But unless and until there's an effort to rein in Mueller, the media might avoid keeping this cranked up to an 11.

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of “MediaBuzz” (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author “Media Madness: Donald Trump, The Press and the War Over the Truth.” Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.