Trump removes Secret Service director after ousting homeland security chief

Move follows security breach at Mar-a-Lago estate

Outgoing US Secret Service director Randolph “Tex” Alles was appointed by President Donald Trump to lead the agency in April 2017. Photograph: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

The White House announced the departure of the head of the Secret Service on Monday, less than 24 hours after the abrupt resignation of homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Secret Service director Randolph "Tex" Alles had "done a great job at the agency over the last two years, and the president is thankful for his over 40 years of service to the country. Mr Alles will be leaving shortly and President Trump has selected James M Murray, a career member of the USSS, to take over as director beginning in May."

The Secret Service is part of the department of homeland security, the department headed by secretary Nielsen until Sunday when Mr Trump demanded her resignation during a meeting at the White House.

Mr Alles, a retired army commander, was appointed by Mr Trump to lead the Secret Service in April 2017. His departure suggests an effort by the US president to oust senior figures in the country's main border and security agencies. Last week he abruptly withdrew the nomination of Ronald Vitiello to lead the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.


Mr Vitiello had been moving through the senate confirmation process and was widely expected to become the new head of the country’s main immigration body. Explaining his decision, Mr Trump said he wanted someone “tougher” for the role.

“We’re going in a little different direction,” he said. “Ron’s a good man. But we’re going in a tougher direction. We want to go in a tougher direction.”

Both Mr Vitiello and departing secret service director Alles reported to Ms Nielsen.

Border closure threat

Mr Trump has in recent weeks renewed his focus on immigration and border issues, threatening to shut down the US-Mexico border completely, though he later rowed back on that threat.

Speaking in California on Friday as he inspected a portion of the border wall, Mr Trump said the country was "full" as he warned immigrants not to seek entry at the US border.

Ms Nielsen's departure was unexpected. The 46-year-old replaced John Kelly as the head of homeland security after he was appointed Mr Trump's chief of staff in August 2017. She remained a close ally of Mr Kelly who resigned his position last December and was replaced by Mick Mulvaney who is in situ as acting chief of staff.

As recently as last week she was touring the border areas. Speaking outside her home on Monday, Ms Nielsen said she wanted to thank the president “for the tremendous opportunity to serve this country”.

“I share the president’s goal of securing the border. I will continue to support all efforts to address the humanitarian and security crisis on the border. Other than that, I’m on my way to keep doing what I can for the next few days,” she said.

It was not clear if the decision to remove Mr Alles was connected with a recent security breach at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida when a Chinese national entered the property with malicious software. “I could not be happier with the Secret Service,” Mr Trump said after the incident.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent