Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen walks with President Donald Trump...

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen walks with President Donald Trump as they visit a newly constructed part of a border wall Friday in Calexico, Calif. Credit: AP / Jacquelyn Martin

Cast change at Homeland

As Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen became the face of family separations and other harsh policies demanded by President Donald Trump to stop the human flow across the border. In the end, as the migrants kept coming, Trump decided she wasn't draconian enough to suit him.

Trump announced Nielsen's resignation via tweet after the two met Sunday afternoon at the White House. Her departure came after Trump's frustration spilled out in increasingly erratic ways. They included threats to close the border — rescinded amid reminders of the economic devastation that would result — and his sudden withdrawal of his nominee to lead ICE, Ronald D. Vitiello, because he wanted the agency to go in a “tougher direction."

Trump's relationship with Nielsen has long been tumultuous. Stephen Miller, the hard-line White House immigration policy adviser, is said to have pushed to get her out. 

For Nielsen's part, she "believed the situation was becoming untenable with the president becoming increasingly unhinged about the border crisis and making unreasonable and even impossible requests,” a senior administration official told CNN. Those included steps to block asylum-seekers that she and others said would violate laws that they both wanted Congress to change.

Trump named Kevin McAleenan, the Customs and Border Protection commissioner, as acting secretary.

For Democrats, satisfaction in seeing Nielsen depart was tempered by the dread of what might come next. "About time," tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren. "@SecNielsen’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." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement: "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."

To read Nielsen's resignation letter, click here. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Mysteries of his 1040

Before Donald Trump announced his run for president, he made the release of his tax returns sound like a sure bet. "If I decide to run for office, I'll produce my tax returns, absolutely," he said in May 2014. "And I would love to do that." In February 2015, he said he would "certainly show tax returns if it was necessary."

He kept the tease going into 2016 even as it became increasingly clear he was never going to give them up. Then and now, he blamed an ongoing audit, though that didn't legally stop him. Donald Trump Jr. likely came closer to the real reason that September — there was no upside in inviting public scrutiny. The returns would "create … financial auditors out of every person in the country asking questions that would detract from [Trump's] main message.”

The voters didn't punish Trump. Now, with his lawyers mobilized for a court fight to keep it that way, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that congressional Democrats will “never” succeed in getting the returns from the IRS.

"Keep in mind, that’s an issue that was already litigated during the election," Mulvaney said on "Fox News Sunday." "Voters knew the president could have given his tax returns, they knew that he didn’t, and they elected him anyway — which, of course, is what drives the Democrats crazy.”

On ABC’s “This Week,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) defended the House Ways and Means Committee's request to see the documents. “There's a real question … as to whether the president's personal financial interests impact his public decision-making." See Figueroa's story for Newsday.

As for everyone else...

With tax returns due next week, most Americans think they aren't getting a tax cut from the 2017 Republican "reform" bill, according to the latest poll numbers from Wall Street Journal / NBC.

Only 17 percent believe their own taxes will go down, the surveyors found. Another 28 percent believe they’ll pay more, while 27 percent expect to pay about the same and 28 percent did not say.

Predictably, core Trump voters showed a somewhat rosier reaction to the widely boasted measure signed by the president in 2017, with 36 percent looking to a tax cut.

Still, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center calculates a huge majority of Americans stood to get tax cuts for this first filing after enactment of the law.

Yet apparently the cuts are mostly so small, many people didn't notice.

Janison: From Russia with love

Sure, Robert Mueller's probe found no collusion that fit any criminal statutes. But shouldn't those who worked on Trump's 2016 campaign want to explain a few nonlegal questions for accountability's sake, asks Newsday's Dan Janison.

For example, would help from hackers, Russian or otherwise, be greeted with open arms again if they came the president's way? How might the administration react if the Chinese government lets loose with embarrassing data against either side? If offered dirt from a Russian on opponents, would Trump Jr. again respond: "If it's what you say it is, I love it?"

Aren't Trump's campaign apparatchiks just a little bit curious why Paul Manafort and associate Rick Gates in 2016 were trafficking in political data with Konstantin Kilimnik, who's allegedly tied to Russian intelligence agencies?

Green deal ripe for 2020 fight

Ever since Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx) introduced her Green New Deal in early February, Trump and Republicans have been trying to turn it against Democrats.

Never one to shy away from exaggeration, Trump mocked it as a “policy of taking away your car, taking away your airplane flights … of ‘you’re not allowed to own cows anymore.’ ” To Ocasio-Cortez and her progressive allies, it's a blueprint for urgently needed remedies to head off "cataclysmic climate disaster" and bring about social and economic justice, too.

While Democrats share the goals, some moderates caution against what they said is an unrealistic political and economic approach. But all the Democratic senators campaigning to replace Trump have signed on to the Green New Deal, elevating its place in the 2020 debate. See Emily Ngo's story for Newsday.

Trump's bid for Jewish support

With Trump accusing Democrats of going soft on anti-Semitism and support for Israel, Republicans are planning to spend more than $10 million to try to build Jewish support for Trump, Politico reported.

The Republican Jewish Coalition plans an aggressive campaign painting Trump — who himself has faced accusations of stoking anti-Semitism  as a strong defender of the Jewish state.

In a speech to the RJC, Trump referred to Israel's leader Benjamin Netanyahu as "your prime minister," drawing a rebuke from the American Jewish Committee. "Mr. President, the Prime Minister of Israel is the leader of his (or her) country, not ours," AJC tweeted. "Statements to the contrary, from staunch friends or harsh critics, feed bigotry."

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) tweeted: "I somehow doubt the president would say 'your Taoiseach' to a roomful of Irish-Americans."

Democrats' ups and downs

Massachusetts Democrats aren't enthusiastic about the 2020 bid of Warren, a home-state senator. An Emerson College poll shows her placing third, with 14 percent of the vote. Sen. Bernie Sanders is in first place with 26 percent, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden at 23 percent.

New Jersey's Sen. Corey Booker reported raising more than $5 million since he announced his presidential bid. That puts him behind Sanders, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, Sen. Kamala Harris of California and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

What else is happening:

  • Federal officials said in court documents that they may need two years to identify what could be thousands of immigrant children who were separated from their families at the border.
  • With Nielsen's departure, five key posts are now held by fill-ins: the secretaries of the Homeland Security, Defense and Interior departments; White House chief of staff; and UN ambassador. 
  • The growing attention on Buttigieg is a first for an openly gay candidate, The Washington Post writes. His rise symbolizes an acceptance gay Americans could hardly imagine even a decade ago, but the impact of anti-gay sentiment remains to be seen.
  • New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, in Las Vegas while exploring a presidential run, said the country needs “a program of actual redistribution” of wealth. He spoke to an audience of about 35 people at an event organized by an immigrant advocacy group, the New York Post reported. On Sunday, he sat down with seven Democrats at a diner in Pahrump, Nevada.
  • The author of a doctored video that Trump tweeted to mock Biden last week is a stay-at-home dad in Kansas whose memes caught the attention of White House social media director Dan Scavino, according to The New York Times. The meme-maker prefers anonymity, using the pseudonym CarpeDonktum.
  • At least four Democratic hopefuls — Sanders, Warren, Booker and O'Rourke — are looking to replicate the digital-focused strategy of Trump's 2020 campaign chief Brad Parscale by giving senior campaign leadership roles to data and social media experts, Politico reports.
  • Don't forget the Republican advantage inherent in the embattled Census question on citizenship — the ability to draw themselves districts that exclude the undocumented.
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