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Source: DHS Secretary Nielsen Did Not Resign Willingly; DHS Secretary Nielsen Resigns From Administration; Remembering Nixon's Tax Scandal Amid Fight For Trump's Returns. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 7, 2019 - 20:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

[20:00:16] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for being with us.

Our breaking news after months of rumors and speculation, Kirstjen Nielsen is officially out as secretary of Homeland Security. And she did not resign willingly, according to a source. And this all went down after a scheduled meeting a short time ago between Nielsen and the president at the White House.

Sources telling us it did not go well. The president was frustrated. Frustrated with the fact that his administration couldn't just stop asylum seekers from entering the United States, contrary to U.S. law. And then there's this. A senior administration official tells CNN Secretary Nielsen believed this situation was becoming untenable. With the president becoming increasingly unhinged about the border crisis and making unreasonable and even impossible requests.

Let's get right to CNN's Boris Sanchez at the White House tonight.

Boris, bring us up to speed on what we know.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. We're actually just learning from my colleague Jeff Zeleny about some of the feelings in this meeting on behalf of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. A source close to her tells CNN that she did not resign willingly. That she was under pressure to do so by President Trump. The source telling us that Nielsen did not fight to keep the job and that she did not grovel or try to beg for the position.

We should add some context here. I spoke to a White House source previously who sort of laid it out this way. She was brought in under Chief of Staff John Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security, but the president was never fully convinced that she was the right person to lead the department. Ultimately, she stayed for an extended period in large part because the White House was going through so much turmoil because there we so many different people leaving, and they would have a difficult time finding a replacement for her.

Further, I was told that the former Chief of Staff Kelly sort of defended her in that role. When he left in December it kind of opened the door for her to leave. Ultimately, she took the brunt of the president's frustration on the issue of immigration. What many in the administration have called a broken system and a crisis at the border.

I did want to add to what you noted about the president making these sort of unreasonable or unhinged requests of agents at the border telling them to stop migrants. This is something I hear almost every day from sources that President Trump makes requests that are impossible.

Now critics will charge the president with being authoritarian and try to supersede his actual power. Others will defend him in saying that look, he's somebody who doesn't totally understand politics. He doesn't come from this world. So he doesn't know what a president can legally do or cannot do. And he sort of needs guardrails to sort of instruct him in the right direction. Despite all of that, the president clearly upset and frustrated and wanting a change at the Department of Homeland Security.

I did want to read to you a portion of Nielsen's resignation letter. Listen to this. Quote, "Despite our progress in reforming Homeland Security for a new age, I have determined that it is the right time for me to step aside. I hope that the next secretary will have the support of Congress and the courts in fixing the laws which have impeded our ability to fully secure America's borders and which have contributed to discord in our nation's discourse. Our country and the men and women of DHS deserve to have all the tools and resources they need to execute the mission entrusted to them. I can say with confidence our homeland is safer today than when I joined the administration."

So Nielsen sort of pointing the finger at Congress and at courts suggesting that that's part of the reason she couldn't fulfill the president's vision for the immigration system. And clearly he wanted somebody new in that role, Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Boris Sanchez, thank you.

CNN had reported as far back as November that Trump had been eyeing replacements for Nielsen, frustrated at her handling of his signature issue, immigration. Just one example on the very day that Nielsen had thanked officials from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras for working on what she hailed as an historic pact to target unauthorized migration, the president tweeted that those countries were doing nothing. He threatened to cancel aid to them altogether and to close the U.S.-Mexico border entirely.

The president's frustration immigration evident just yesterday during an event in Las Vegas. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So Congress must end catch and release so that illegal border crossers can be quickly and safely returned to their home. Get out. Sorry, get out. Sorry. Can't handle it. And I told my people yesterday, our country is full. We're full. Our system is full. Our country is full. Can't come in. Our country is full.

[20:05:02] What can you do? We can't handle anymore. Our country is full. Can't come in. I'm sorry.


CABRERA: Joining us now, David Gergen, CNN senior political analyst and former adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. Joe Lockhart, Clinton White House press secretary, Juliette Kayyem is back, CNN national security analyst and former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, and Matt Lewis, senior columnist for "The Daily Beast."

David, first to you, what are your thoughts regarding Kirstjen Nielsen's resignation?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well., it looks like they want to turn off the lights on the Statute of Liberty, doesn't it? Look, I think the politics of 2020 are playing a significant role in how this is unraveling. The president made -- as you say, made immigration a signature issue of his campaign. He created a sense of crisis that wasn't there, but he wanted to make sure everybody knew just how important this was. And then he set off to fix it, and everything he's tried to do hasn't worked.

And I think he's extremely frustrated because he wants -- in 2020, he wants to go back to immigration, scare people again, bring them into -- get himself re-elected and then he'll probably forget about it. But I think for the next couple of years, he really wants to, you know, change direction. And it's very clear in what the administration did just a few days ago, with a fellow they had in line for running ICE that they've said, no, no, no, we're going to withdraw that because he's not tough enough. We want somebody tougher.

It's very clear that's what they want here and we ought to keep an eye on Steve Miller because he's the force behind what's wrong with this.

CABRERA: We'll talk more about him in just a moment. But first, Joe, since we haven't heard from you yet. What is your reaction?

JOE LOCKHART, CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think it's an important inflection point to look at what David said was the signature issue for Donald Trump. It has failed across the board. It has failed politically. The midterms were about it. The Republicans lost in a virtual landslide in the House.

From a policy point of view, it has failed because the numbers keep going up. So they can't claim anything. And then this whole idea that Mexico was going to build the wall and -- or pay for the wall and were going to build a wall. Nothing has happened there. Nobody really expected that. And even the most troubling is you solve these problems by going to the source of them.

You don't solve them by building a wall. If people are leaving their country you increase aid to those countries to help those countries to make life better for people so that they don't try to emigrate. They have made every decision and, you know, I think she'll be remembered as, you know, one of the worst public servants we've seen in a generation. CABRERA: And whose fault is that, though, in terms of your

perspective that she was one of the worst public servants?

LOCKHART: Well, she has an unreasonable -- and that's the nicest term I can think of -- boss in the president but she is the person who implemented the zero tolerance policy. She's the person who separated families at the border. She's the person who had to admit that they didn't know where the families were. That it's unconscionable what they did. And none of this has worked. So none of it is surprising.

You know, again, this is really about the president, and this is a policy that's failed and I agree with David completely that what he's trying to do is to create so much fear that you'll have to stick with the guy who is there as supposed to whoever the Democrats nominated. It hasn't worked yet either on the political side or the policy side.

CABRERA: And David, a senior administration official is telling CNN that Secretary Nielsen, quote, "believed the situation was becoming untenable." That the president was becoming increasingly unhinged about the border crisis and making unreasonable, even impossible requests. We keep hearing that word unhinged to describe the president. What do you make of this?

GERGEN: I am -- this is a very familiar pattern. It sometimes seems to get worse than it was before. But he has been unhinged on any number of issues. And, you know, I think he gets himself all spooled up, he gets really, really angry, he lashes out, then he gets rid of people. He blamed others. Never takes any blame on himself. Never takes any blame for mistaken policies, you know, terrible errors of judgment.

And by throwing people out, he looks like he's a tough guy. And I come back to this, but the toughness is central to the persona he wants to create for voters. He helped to win with 2016 and he wants to win in 2020 by being this big, tough guy who will break all the rules in order to protect patriotic Americans from this terrible scourge. And it is playing upon the fears, and it has the overtones of authoritarianism.

He always wants to say, I don't care about the damn rules. Anybody comes in looking for asylum, don't let them in. We're full. Well, nonsense and it's against the law as you keep saying, Ana.

CABRERA: We have an acting DHS secretary now. We have an acting ICE director. An acting Department of Defense Secretary.

Matt, a quarter of the president's cabinet is in acting capacity or unfilled. Is this a pattern?

[20:10:02] MATT LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, it's seems like a pattern. You have to wonder if Donald Trump maybe likes that a little bit. These are people who are not going to build their own little silos, their own little fiefdoms, right? These are people who are more than your normal -- department head. Beholden to the president. That's probably just the way he likes it. I don't know if that's going to be -- if this is going to be ongoing,

right, like the chief of staff, acting chief of staff. There may be, just like we have an attorney general now, there may eventually be somebody in charge of DHS. But you know, I think that this is part of the Trump playbook, certainly.

CABRERA: Juliette, the interesting thing here about Nielsen is while, you know, we have the reporting that she and the president weren't necessarily always on the same page, she stood by the president. She tried to implement the policies that he desired. And even in her resignation letter, she is not pushing back against him. She continues to toe the line, so to speak.

And I think about what happened with Mattis when he resigned, and that was because he said I can't do this anymore. I don't see eye to eye. I don't believe that this is in the best interest of the American people and the national security of this country. Does it surprise you that Nielsen went out this way?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Not at all. I don't think there's any evidence in the public record, and she really wasn't known before she became secretary. I don't think there's any evidence in the public record to suggest that she is very different than Donald Trump. These rumors and stories that we heard about her broken heart, and she's trying to placate Trump, but she feels bad about it. Those are always put out by people in the administration when they get bad press.

But I didn't believe it because, look, she chose to be the face of the family separation. I just want to begin and end with that. An ahistorical, immoral and unsuccessful policy that ultimately you cannot talk about without talking about secretary Nielsen. So I just don't see any evidence to suggest that she was heartbroken about these policies. And her problem was not Donald Trump. It was reality. It was the reality of what border enforcement is.

It is simply you try to minimize the number of unlawful crossings, allow access to lawful crossings, the hundreds of thousands that we have a day. And you protect or at least give some hearing to asylum seekers. It's not rocket science. It is difficult. It is emotional. The president, as David said, by calling it a crisis, by acting like we had no resources to deal with an issue that we had been dealing with, the numbers were going down, simply created this crisis in numbers that we see now.

They're going up. And so if everyone just kept their heads, this would have been a challenge that we could address. But instead the president is basically the instigator of the failed policy which then he uses, of course, to buttress his anti-immigrant stance. One could argue he's doing that purposefully. I won't. I will simply say that we are in a circular firing squad when it comes to the border and the president has to face reality that his policies are ineffective.

CABRERA: Everyone, stand by. Got to squeak in a quick break. Our breaking news continues right after this with reaction from the 2020 candidates. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:17:32] CABRERA: Breaking news on CNN. A major shakeup in the president's cabinet. The secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, is out. Handing in her resignation during a Sunday meeting at the White House. A resignation, a source tells CNN, was not given willingly and that she had been under pressure to step down.

Many of the men and women running for the White House starts tweeting their reactions. We have this from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. "About time. Nielsen's legacy of tearing innocent families apart will follow her for the rest of her life, and she should be ashamed of the role she played. She was completely unqualified to lead DHS, and that's why I voted against confirming her."

Julian Castro sending this. "Secretary Nielsen has been a willing partner in the most cruel and shortsighted immigration agenda in decades. We must defeat Donald Trump and create a more compassionate and sensible immigration system that puts people first." From Senator Kamala Harris, "Kirstjen Nielsen misled the American people and defended Trump's inhumane policy of separating children from their parents. It was long past time for her to go."

This from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. "I voted against Kirstjen Nielsen's nomination and called for her resignation over the administration's inhumane treatment of immigrant families six months ago. What this country truly needs is a moral reset on immigration policies. We won't get that in this administration."

Back with us now, David Gergen, Joe Lockhart, Juliette Kayyem and Matt Lewis.

David, the sentiment across the Democratic candidates feels -- seems to be good riddance. So how are the 2020 hopefuls going to paint Nielsen's sudden resignation? Or maybe the better question is, how do they use this issue of immigration now moving forward in the election cycle?

GERGEN: Oh, I think that the issue right now is very ripe for the Democrats. And it's not surprising. I think 2020 politics are going to be -- both sides now heavily. And what you see here is that Democrats are first of all making a point that Nielsen was running an immoral policy. That she should be ashamed. And that sort of thing. But they're also talking about the chaos and how these things aren't working.

Those are two issues that -- at the end of the day, the Democrats are going to have their own formula on immigration that is a lot more, you know, solidified than where they are right now. They're all over the lot with so many candidates. But the only way they can really, really succeed on this issue is to have their own policy, too.

[20:20:01] CABRERA: Joe, put yourself in the job of being in the White House Press Office right now.

LOCKHART: Yes. CABRERA: What's going on there?

LOCKHART: Chaos. And I think chaos is what they depend on. There's a pattern here. There's a couple of points. That whenever the narrative is going in the wrong direction, like the last week or so has been for the president, on a number of fronts, he always comes back to immigration. He always comes back to where he announced his candidacy. That I'm going to stop the animals, the rapists, the criminals from coming in. So that is a very deliberate strategy. So I think they are pursuing that strategy.

CABRERA: We saw before the midterm election --


LOCKHART: We saw before the midterm election that we're going in the wrong direction.


LOCKHART: It made it worse but that was their strategy. I think that the real injustice here, though, and it goes to David's point of what's the Democrats' strategy going to be is, we had a moment when Trump became president where there was a deal. Where Democrats and Republicans came together, put $25 billion together to actually strengthen the border, do all sorts of new technology, deal with the DACA situation with the kids who are here because of their parents entering illegally.

And the president had signed off on it. And a guy by the name of Stephen Miller killed it. And this is a guy who's never gotten a single vote. Three or four years ago was a junior aide to Jeff Sessions who has somehow hijacked our immigration policy and found a willing person to work with in President Trump. And the Democrats, I think, what they need to do is go back to that proposal, which is this is a complicated issue.

You can't just build a wall and say it's done. And you need to deal with DACA, you need to deal with putting more money at the border. And again I think Democrats I think instinctually are afraid of this issue because it is a wedge issue. It is an emotional issue, but they shouldn't be afraid now. I think it can be a very powerful one for them in 2020.

CABRERA: Matt Lewis, if it is Stephen Miller who is sort of orchestrating the immigration policy or position of this administration right now, we know he had a hand in it with Ron Vitello and his nomination being pulled from being the head of ICE, should we be bracing for an even -- even more intensified border crisis?

LEWIS: Well, that's very possible. Look, I think that -- a couple of things. First, I think if you look at the wave of appointments, right, so you start off with John Kelly. Somebody who is a serious person who is independent to some degree from Donald Trump. Then you end up with Nielsen who I think was trying to implement policies that Stephen Miller and Donald Trump wanted. Doesn't absolve her, but trying to implement it.

I think the next person more likely will be an ideologue, someone like a Stephen Miller-type person. So look, part of the M.O. of Stephen Miller and I think Steve Bannon before him was that it doesn't get better until it gets worse. They have this weird apocalyptic strategy. They want things to be bad. They like chaos. That's not -- that's a feature, not a bug. And we saw it with the family separation.

Part of the strategy, they wanted it to be so bad that it would be a deterrent. Now that didn't work out, but that was their strategy. And so that -- I think it would be reasonable to conclude we might be seeing more of that in the coming months.

CABRERA: And we've talked to Trump's biographers who have also said that this is a man who thrives in chaos.

Juliette, how dependent is DHS security in the department on its secretary?

KAYYEM: It's very dependent to set policy. So there's a whole bunch of operational components, Secret Service, FEMA, ICE, CBP, Coast Guard, of course. That's what we call the muscle in the department. So that's about 200,000-plus men and women who are, you know, protecting our borders, protecting our infrastructure, protecting our cybersecurity from any threat, whether it's immigrants or terrorists or a climate event or a pandemic.

So it is important and sort of setting the policy for the department. For the most part, a lot of our public safety and security, obviously, starts at the local level and then goes to a state and then the department. But when it comes to, does the department matter in terms of border enforcement, the question is absolutely yes. It does in aviation with TSA, Maritime, with Coast Guard and then of course CBP and ICE with the border.

That sounds like a lot of acronyms but it's a long way of saying that DHS' failures at the secretary level in having policies that have been effective permeates the men and women who are on the field every day. I have often said if you think Donald Trump actually likes CBP agents, you would -- you'd be surprised because you would never put a CBP agent at a border with, let's begin from day one, with a Muslim ban that they knew nothing about beforehand.

[20:25:08] With the family separation plan that they were not trained or authorized or had any idea what to do when they separated these kids from their parents. And then, of course, now with this anti- asylum issue. President Trump does not support first responders. He uses them. And that's what we're seeing on the ground throughout the department and then, of course, at the border.

CABRERA: All right. My thanks to all of you. Juliette, Matt, David, and Joe, I appreciate it. Our breaking news continues after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CABRERA: The breaking news, Kirstjen Nielsen has resigned as the nation's Homeland Security secretary.

[20:30:00] This comes just one day after President Trump made this controversial declaration in Las Vegas.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, Congress must end catch and release so that illegal border crossers can be quickly and safely returned to their home. Get out. Sorry. Get out. Sorry. I can't handle it.

And I told my people yesterday, our country is full. We're full. Our system is full. Our country is full. Can't come in, our country is full. What can you do? We can't handle any more. Our country is full. Can't come in, I'm sorry.


CABRERA: Joining us now, CNN Chief Media Correspondent and Anchor of "RELIABLE SOURCES" Brian Stelter. Did President Trump go too far with that comment, our country is full? Did Kirstjen Nielsen just no longer fit in?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I hope she'll tell us. I hope she'll actually speak out about what happened, maybe what went wrong inside the administration. It seemed like, tonight, she's trying to strike a cordial note, try to be friendly on the way out.

Maybe that will change in the weeks or months to come. We've not seen many Trump administration cabinet officials break with him, after leaving, maybe that'll change. I do think the President's rhetoric there, about being full, it speaks to the broader problem that we've seen with his comments about immigration and why it's been so hard for officials like Nielsen to respond.

He is talking about a situation that is so far untethered from the facts, something you discussed here on the program yesterday, all of the inaccuracies in his comments about immigration, all of his misunderstandings or misimpressions about how this world works.

I think that has created an almost impossible position for these government officials that are trying to report to him and provide what he wants.

CABRERA: It did seem like Nielsen wanted to hold on to her job, though, she was making the rounds on T.V.

STELTER: Yes, she was. And according to one of our colleagues, there's new reporting that she was doing interviews on T.V., in part, to impress President Trump, in order to make him pleased with her performance. For example, Nielsen was on Tucker Carlson's show the other night, talking about this being like a Category 5 hurricane, the situation on the border being like a Category 5 hurricane. So, she was trying to make that impression, maybe trying to reach the President directly. That's when on Carlson's show is one of these right-wing opinion shows that stirs up hatred of immigrants. And so she chose that show to appear on. There's also been a lot of criticism of Nielsen on FOX News.

CABRERA: Let's play a quick thought from Laura Ingraham.



LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Mr. President, sometimes, sometimes, your rhetoric doesn't match the policy. And we're getting, sometimes, mixed messages. Mr. President, you are the only leader on the scene who can keep Americans and their wages, frankly, safe.

But for that to happen, consistent, bold policy and follow-through with the determined rhetoric, got to have the policy follow-through.


CABRERA: Do you think that has anything to do with what we just saw happened?

STELTER: You know, she sounds -- Laura Ingraham sounds, in that clip, like she's trying to be the White House Communications Director or someone, trying to give the President a message. The President has been under pressure, not just from Laura Ingraham, but from others on FOX and others on right-wing media.

To some degree, that pressure has been there for 2-1/2 years, but, it's been ramped up recently. For example, a week and a half ago, Lou Dobbs on FOX Business, one of the President's favorite hosts, called for him to fire Nielsen, said that the country is in danger of tens of thousands or even millions of Americans being killed by illegal immigrants.

The rhetoric on some of these FOX shows is absolutely extreme. But it is what the President is hearing all the time. They are contributes to his frustration and his struggles on this issue. But that's going to continue. The President wants a black or white solution to what is a situation filled with greys. I think that's the bottom line problem.

CABRERA: I also think about, this is now going to be his third DHS secretary, whoever comes in and replaces Nielsen. And does this just go to show that, really, there is no messenger other than the President --

STELTER: Other than the President.

CABRERA: -- when it comes to this issue specifically, his signature issue. Could anybody do the job to his liking?

STELTER: Right. He believes he is the most tapped in to what his audience wants to hear on this issue. So far, he seems dissatisfied by everybody that's come along, trying to solve it for him. But, again, there is no black or white solution. The President maybe thrives on this chaos, all those roll-over, all this change, but I'm not sure the country does.

CABRERA: All right. Brian Stelter, as always, we appreciate you being here, thanks. Quick break, we'll be right back.



CABRERA: More now on our breaking news, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, resigning just hours ago. Sources tell CNN she had been under pressure to step down. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just issued a scathing statement, saying in part, it is deeply alarming that the Trump administration official who put children in cages is reportedly resigning because she is not extreme enough for the White House's liking.

And we have this from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. When even the most radical voices in the administration aren't radical enough for President Trump, you know he's completely lost touch with the American people.

Joining us now, CNN National Security Analyst, Samantha Vinograd, a Former Member of President Obama's National Security Team. Sam, what's your reaction to that statement we just heard, well, both statements, really, from Schumer and Pelosi?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Ana, I've been in the White House when presidents decide that it's time for a Cabinet Secretary to move on or when a Cabinet Secretary actually resigns. And sometimes, that is over differences of opinion.

The difference here is that President Trump and Secretary Nielsen have really seen eye to eye on the radical policies that Schumer and Pelosi reference in their statements. And what I really want to know is what happened behind the scenes?

Was Secretary Nielsen asking for things that the President didn't want to give, or did she really point out to him that laws matter, regulations matter, and that she can't do some of the things that he's asking her to do, and it raises a larger point of what is President Trump actually looking for in a Cabinet Secretary? What is he actually using them for?

I don't think he really wants a new Secretary of Homeland Security or a new Secretary of Defense or really emboldened Secretary of State. What he wants is people to be his propaganda puppets, and to do what he says when he says it, and not come to him with actual facts or analysis that differ from his own opinions which are drawn, by the way, from who knows where.

[20:40:10] CABRERA: So, how much does it matter who he puts now, in that role, as Nielsen's replacement? VINOGRAD: I actually think it matters a lot less than under any previous administration. I cringe to think who is tougher than Kirstjen Nielsen, and who is going to be more radical in terms of supporting the President's views, publicly, on these inhumane and horrifically ill-conceived policies.

But because the President doesn't really listen to his team, to a certain extent, these positions are placeholders, and he makes policy by tweet. He discounts what his experts say, and I think that's actually going to be a big part of the calculus of anybody who was even considering putting their hat in the ring for this position.

CABRERA: So, now, just add one more to the names of Acting Cabinet Secretaries. We have Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, Jonathan Cohen, Acting Ambassador to the United Nations, just to name a few, Sam, with so many temporary chiefs, what is the potential impact on National Security?

VINOGRAD: The potential impact is that no other government is operating with half a team, right? I mean, every other government has almost a fully confirmed Cabinet, if not a fully confirmed Cabinet. This really speaks to the President's character and it signals abroad that he can't really retain and attract top talent for any period of time.

And I think really gives insights, unfortunately, to our adversaries and our allies about what kind of manager he is, and what kind of team he runs. That does not do us a great service. It paints him as, really, an unhinged, to use a word that's been used a lot about him.

CABRERA: But could unpredictable be a good thing, in terms of keeping adversaries, in particular, on their toes?

VINOGRAD: I don't think that governing by fear has been a proven National Security tactic that's really worked. And that is what President Trump has done with National Security when he's threatened to close a border, then backed down, he's threatened fire and fury, and then backed down.

Just from a management standpoint, if Kirstjen Nielsen was so scared about getting fired that she went on FOX News and other outlets and gave these interviews to try and save her job, I actually wonder what the other Cabinet Secretaries are feeling about their job security tonight, and whether they need to try to enter some toughest-guy-in- the-room contest to try to convince the President that they're worth keeping.

CABRERA: Samantha Vinograd, thank you.

VINOGRAD: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: Be right back.



CABRERA: We're back with our breaking news, President Trump's Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, out. In a source telling CNN, she didn't go willingly.

New reaction now to this shakeup, coming in from a powerful Republican, Senator Ron Johnson, the Chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, saying this, as our hearing last week clearly demonstrated, we have a crisis at our southwest border.

We need steady, informed and effective leadership in the administration and in Congress to have any hope of fixing our out-of- control border security and immigration problems.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is joining us now. Polo, I know you're hearing new reaction from those who are inside DHS.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. My colleague, Geneva Sands, hearing from an official at the Department of Homeland Security, it's interesting what we're hearing from this particular official here, which is basically explaining why this official believes that -- or at least one of the factors that went into the decision that happened today.

This official telling our colleague that according to what they know, is that Nielsen did everything she could to make the problem better, saying this official, obviously referring to this surge of migrants at the border that we've seen, especially the last couple of weeks.

And when asked if she met the President's expectation, this official telling our colleague that she met the expectations of the speed of government, Congress has a lever here and the worst place for one to be, according to this official, is in that kind of situation.

So, what we're getting from this individual is that the problem got bigger on her watch and there was only so much that she could do to actually fix the problem.

CABRERA: I know you spent a lot of time at the border. You're from McAllen, Texas.


CABRERA: I know you've been in touch with some of the border officials who are working on the ground. What are you hearing from them?

SANDOVAL: There's a lot of disappointment. And it's important to point out this isn't necessarily the communities along the border. This is the law enforcement community. I've heard from two border patrol officials there, on the ground, who said that they personally liked working with her.

She visited the border on many occasions. She told her colleague, Chris Cuomo, went, at least, two dozen times to the region during her tenure. And so, I think that what you're seeing now is, a lot of concerns from law enforcement on the ground is, will the replacement, whether it be the temporary that we've discussed, or the long-term replacement, reflects less of the ideology of the President and more of the operational aspects of the day-to-day performance of the Department of Homeland Security.

As we've mentioned, the Department -- the border patrol aspects of this, the immigration aspects, it is one piece of the pie, a significant one. But there are so much others, in what we're seeing now, the temporary replacement, somebody who does have that experience when it comes to immigration, but then there's FEMA, and hurricane season is around the corner.

So, there will be, obviously, a lot of pressure on that replacement, whether it be the temporary one or the long-term. But again, yes, she has been the subject of plenty of criticism, but she also had her share of support, particularly among the men and women who patrol that 2,000-mile border.

CABRERA: All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you for that reporting. Coming up, why a mostly forgotten tax scandal involving Nixon is getting a new look under President Trump.



CABRERA: Stop me if this sounds familiar, a secretive President, under audit, or so he says, and facing mounting questions about whether there was something hidden, something fishy, deep within his tax returns. No, not Donald Trump, but Richard Nixon, who gave this speech in 1973.


RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to say this to the television audience. I made my mistakes, but in all of my years of public life, I have never profited, never profited, from public service. I've earned every cent and in all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice.

And I think, too, that I can say, that in my years of public life, that I welcome this kind of examination, because people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. I've and earned everything I got.


[20:55:08] CABRERA: Nixon's famous, I am not a crook, line, spoken about a mostly forgotten tax scandal is getting new attention these days, as the fight over Trump's tax returns heats up.

Joining us now, CNN Presidential Historian and Former Director of the Nixon Presidential Library, Timothy Naftali, Tim, Nixon had been facing allegations that he was grossly underpaying the government. Do you see parallels between the pressure he was facing and what Trump is facing right now?

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I see parallels in that Richard Nixon was hiding things. He didn't want the public to know. And in the end, he paid over $400,000 in back taxes and penalties to the IRS, because he had under -- he had actually taken a deduction that he wasn't allowed to take.

He had sold his papers. He had -- he basically donated his papers to the U.S. government, and taken a huge tax deduction when it was no longer possible to do so.

So, I don't know whether President Trump is guilty of tax evasion, but Richard Nixon was.

CABRERA: Well, and that's why I was asking about the pressure they were both facing, because you're right, we don't know what is, perhaps --

NAFTALI: We don't know.

CABRERA: -- in the tax returns. But let me ask you, Tim, the New York Times --

NAFTALI: Here's the --

CABRERA: -- reported this week.


CABRERA: Sorry. We have a delay. You go ahead first.

NAFTALI: No, I was just going to say that in the end, the House decided, in a bipartisan vote, not to make cheating on his taxes, one of the articles of impeachment against Nixon. The House decided that while that's a crime, that's not an impeachable crime.

CABRERA: The New York Times reported, this week, that after Democrats took control of the House, Trump tried to get the Senate to fast-track his nominee for IRS Chief Counsel, even before the Chamber had held confirmation hearings for Attorney General, William Barr.

And I bring that up because when Nixon, ultimately released his returns, he had them vetted by Congress, and that Congress' in-house office of nonpartisan tax experts. Not the IRS. Why was that?

NAFTALI: Well, I mean, at the time, I believe what Nixon was trying to do was to regain some public confidence. One of the really interesting parallels is that Nixon had people placed in the IRS to make it possible for him to use the IRS, politically.

And one of the -- one of the scenes tonight, in tonight's episode of "TRICKY DICK," is a product of the creation of the enemies list, which happened in 1971, which is Nixon's desire to hurt his opponents, his adversaries, by using the IRS.

So, one of the reasons why we always have to be careful, that our politicians don't politicize the IRS, is that it is a very dangerous instrument if used improperly.

CABRERA: There is a brand-new episode of "TRICKY DICK" airing right after this show, top of the hour, exploring how Nixon won the presidency, in part, because of a promise to end the Vietnam War. Here's a quick preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are protesting Richard Nixon's stupid action of expanding the war in Southeast Asia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Nixon doesn't want peace. You're not going to tell me that somebody escalates war that wants peace. He's just lying to the American people.

NIXON: You know, you see these bums, you know, blowing up the campuses. Listen, the boys that are on the college campuses today are the luckiest people in the world, and here they are, burning up the books. I mean, storming around about this issue. I mean, you name it. Get rid of the war, there'll be another one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't have the President of the United States, alienating students, refer to students as bums.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The statement itself, really, was an affront to students, emotionally.


CABRERA: Quickly, if you will, Tim, we got about 30 seconds, but what impact did the Student Anti-war Movement have on Nixon's presidency?

NAFTALI: It pushed him -- it pushed him to reduce the number of troops as quickly as possible, which put him in a strange position of trying to get the North Vietnamese to negotiate. When the North Vietnamese understood that the longer they waited, the fewer the number of boots on the ground, there would be, in Vietnam.

So, there's no question that the dissidents, the dissent movement, the student movement, which is not just students, but many adults, too, that pushed America to leave the war faster, which left Nixon, actually, in a difficult situation.

CABRERA: All right. Tim Naftali, looking forward to tonight's episode. Thank you. Be sure to tune in. A brand-new "TRICKY DICK" airs next, right here, on CNN. That does it for me. Really appreciate you joining us this weekend. I'm Ana Cabrera. Have a great night and a great week.