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Secret Service director is the latest casualty in DHS shake-up

Randolph Alles is out a day after Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen abruptly resigned.

Director of the US Secret Service Randolph Alles speaks during a press conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC in October 2018.
Director of the US Secret Service Randolph Alles speaks during a press conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, in October 2018.
AFP/Getty Images/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds
Emily Stewart covered business and economics for Vox and wrote the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

A day after Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen abruptly resigned, the director of the Secret Service is out, too.

On Monday, the White House confirmed that Randolph “Tex” Alles, whom President Donald Trump appointed as director of the Secret Service in April 2017, would be leaving his post, after multiple media outlets reported that he had been ousted. The announcement comes amid a broader shake-up at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and follows the arrest of a Chinese woman who allegedly breached security at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort carrying multiple electronic devices.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Trump is “thankful” to Alles “for his over 40 years of service to the country.” Alles served for 35 years in the US Marine Corps, retired in 2011, and held multiple positions at US Customs and Border Protection prior to becoming Secret Service director.

Alles’s ouster is the latest development in personnel changes at DHS. Eileen Sullivan and Maggie Haberman at the New York Times report that L. Francis Cissna, head of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, and John Mitnik, DHS’s general counsel, are also headed for the exit. If those departures become official, it will leave the top echelons of the department responsible for the nation’s public security relatively empty.

Last week, Trump abruptly withdrew his nomination of acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement head Ron Vitiello to lead agency permanently. He told reporters he was “going in a tougher direction.” And Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is also under DHS, stepped down in February.

One administration official told CNN that there is a “near-systematic purge happening at the nation’s second-largest national security agency.” There has been some reporting that the shake-up is taking place as a result of a push from longtime Trump aide and immigration hawk Stephen Miller.

But why Alles, specifically, is being pushed out now is unclear.

There are conflicting reports on whether the ouster is related to the Secret Service’s arrest of a 32-year-old Chinese woman, Yujing Zhang, in late March at Mar-a-Lago. Zhang was charged with lying to a federal agent and knowingly entering a restricted area after entering the resort and being discovered with four cellphones, a hard drive, a laptop, and a malware-infected USB drive. On Monday, prosecutors said they found more electronic devices and cash in Zhang’s hotel room.

The Secret Service said in a statement after the incident that it was Mar-a-Lago, not them, who decides who and who does not get into the property. Trump just last week said that he “could not be happier” with the Secret Service, which has “done a fantastic job from day one.”

CNN reports that Alles’s ouster is not related to the Mar-a-Lago incident, and an official told NBC News that it “was not based on any single event.” The Times, however, reports that Trump sought Alles’s resignation “in part” because of the incident.

The Times also reported Trump had “soured on” Alles and that the director had been told about 10 days ago to come up with an exit plan for himself and devise a timeline. According to the report, Trump made fun of Alles’s appearance and called him “Dumbo” because of his ears.

Alles in an internal memo to the Secret Service obtained by Elizabeth Landers of Vice said that contrary to reports, he was not fired. He said was told “weeks ago” by the administration that “transitions in leadership should be expected” across DHS. “It is my sincere regret that I was not able to address the workforce prior to this announcement,” he said.

Either way, he’ll be gone soon. Sanders said that Alles would be “leaving shortly,” and Trump has selected James Murray, a career member of the Secret Service, to take over as director in May.

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