Nielsen had served as Kelly's deputy at DHS and followed him to the White House when he replaced Priebus.
Former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge issued a statement praising Nielsen on Wednesday, calling her a "homeland security veteran" and saying: "Kirstjen can hit the ground running and there won't be a learning curve". While two of those people cautioned that the president could always change his mind before a formal announcement, the others said the decision was slated to be announced formally Thursday.
President Donald Trump is expected to nominate Kirstjen Nielsen to lead the Department of Homeland Security, filling a vacancy left by current White House chief of staff John Kelly when he left DHS in July, multiple outlets reported Wednesday.
"The decision wouldn't have been made without the chief of staff's endorsement", a source told CNN, referring to Kelly's endorsement of Nielsen.
Her detractors viewed her no-nonsense style as brusque, and complained that she could be unresponsive as she worked with Kelly to streamline West Wing operations and instill discipline in a White House often void of structure.
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Before her time in the private sector, she served during the President George W. Bush administration as special assistant to the president and as senior director for prevention, preparedness and response at the White House Homeland Security Council.
She also worked for the Transportation and Security Administration under former President George W. Bush. Now, with Kelly's urging, President Trump will nominate Nielsen to head DHS, which has been run by acting director Elaine Duke since Kelly's departure.
Neilsen is an expert in homeland and national security policy.
At the White House, however, as Kelly's enforcer, Nielsen quickly emerged as a controversial presence.