Trump nominates Kirstjen Nielsen as next DHS head

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Deputy Chief of Staff Kirstjen Nielsen speak together as they walk across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, to board Marine One with President Donald Trump for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. then onto Yuma, Ariz. to visit the U.S. border with Mexico and attend a rally in Phoenix.

Andrew Harnik / AP

Last Updated Oct 11, 2017 4:12 PM EDT

President Trump nominated Kirstjen Nielsen to run the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday. 

Nielsen was John Kelly's deputy when he served as Trump's first DHS secretary and moved with Kelly to the White House when he was tapped to be Trump's chief of staff. She is an expert in homeland and national security policy and previously served as a special assistant to former President George W. Bush and worked for the Transportation Security Administration.

Elaine Duke has been filling in as acting secretary of the department. But she raised eyebrows when she described the aftermath of Hurricane Maria as a "good news story."

Duke, sworn in back in April, previously served as DHS Under Secretary for Management from 2008-2010. 

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., the ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement he was pleased the president had made a decision on filling the post "after letting the critical national security position remain vacant as the nation faced multiple major hurricanes and a domestic terrorism attack."

But Thompson said he had questions about her background, including her past work for the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, Gov. Tom Ridge, R-Pennsylvania, the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, said in a statement on Wednesday that Nielsen is "extremely well versed in the all-hazard threats challenging the security and resilience of our homeland—from cybersecurity and terrorism to natural disasters."

Ridge added, "Kirstjen can hit the ground running and there won't be a learning curve. Most importantly, in this hyper-political environment, Kirstjen is not a self-promoter. She is a patriot and takes a mission-focused approach to her work. I think her no-nonsense, business-like manner is what earned the confidence, first of General Kelly, and now the President."