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Trump nominates Kirstjen Nielsen, a top John Kelly aide, as Homeland Security Secretary

Michelle Mark
kirstjen nielsen

(Kirstjen Nielsen, Chief of Staff of U.S. Department of Homeland Security, center, walks to Air Force One as she departs Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.Associated Press/Alex Brandon)

President Donald Trump has nominated Kirstjen Nielsen, a longtime aide to chief of staff John Kelly, to head the Department of Homeland Security, the White House said on Wednesday.

In an announcement, the White House touted Nielsen's former homeland security experience, and expertise "in the areas of homeland security policy and strategy, cybersecurity, critical infrastructure, and emergency management."

The announcement noted that Nielsen is the first nominee for the position to have previously worked in the department.

The Homeland Security Department's top job has been vacant since July, when Kelly was given the chief of staff role after the ousting of his predecessor, Reince Priebus. Acting secretary Elaine Duke has been leading DHS in the meantime.

Nielsen, 45, is known for her national security and cybersecurity expertise, and previously served in the Transportation Security Administration and on the White House Homeland Security Council under the George W. Bush administration.

Nielsen is also known for being a brusque enforcer of Kelly's agenda in the West Wing, where her reportedly curt, no-nonsense manner caused some backlash among Trump aides.

According to Politico, multiple Trump loyalists even privately referred to Nielsen as "Nurse Ratched," the fictional character from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" known for her austere and corrupt influence over the mental institution she managed.

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