MSNBC Panel Asks If Kirstjen Nielsen Thinks Being Trump's 'Punching Bag' and the Face of Child Separation Policy Was 'Worth It'

After news broke of Kirstjen Nielsen's resignation on Sunday, an MSNBC panel was quick to ask if the former Department of Homeland Security secretary's backing of President Donald Trump's mercurial and harsh immigration policies had been "worth it."

Trump announced Nielsen's decision to leave the White House in a tweet earlier Sunday, where he also confirmed the appointment of Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan as Acting DHS secretary.

"Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service," the president tweeted. "....I am pleased to announce that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become Acting Secretary for @DHSgov. I have confidence that Kevin will do a great job!"

Confirming the news, Nielsen posted her resignation letter to Twitter. "This afternoon I submitted my resignation to @POTUS and thanked him for the opportunity to serve in his administration. It's been an honor of a lifetime to serve with the brave men and women of @DHSgov," she tweeted. "I could not be prouder of and more humbled by their service, dedication, and commitment to keep our country safe from all threats and hazards." In a separate tweet, Nielsen said she will remain DHS until April 10.

Although it's unclear whether Nielsen left on her own volition or whether she was pushed out, the move comes after a year of clashes between her and Trump over her the enforcement of immigration and border security policies to the president's standards.

During a segment on MSNBC on Sunday evening, host Kassie Hunt discussed Nielsen's departure from the Oval Office with Washington Examiner correspondent David Drucker, Reuters reporter Jeff Mason and NBC News correspondents Hans Nichols and Ken Dilanian. The panel started by speculating over whether Nielsen resigned on her own terms or whether she was forced to, before Hunt aired a clip of the former DHS secretary defending Trump's child separation border policy.

"I want to show you something that's going to be a legacy for this administration, which is the children at the border, some of whom were kept in what has been described as cages," Hunt said before airing the clip.

"They're not cages," Nielsen told lawmakers in Capitol Hill on March 6 in the footage. "They're areas of the border facility."

Commenting on Nielsen's role in implementing the separation policy, Hunt said, "I was reading through the statement from [Rep.] Bennie Thompson [D-Miss.], chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the House. Many Democrats have called for her to step down over this very issue, but he also pointed out that this is the president's policy, we shouldn't necessarily blame it all on her."

"It's deeply ironic that she's getting pushed out after becoming known for defending what many view as indefensible, the child separation policy, the wall… policies that many independent experts say don't make sense," Dilanian added.

"Here's my question, does she think it was worth it?" Hunt asked.

"Where does she go from here? She's in her mid-40s. She does have an entire career ahead of her but doing what after what she's just gone through," Mason said.

"She was willing to own the toughest parts, the most criticized parts of President Trump's immigration policy. She was in some ways internally a punching bag and she absorbed it all, and she kept going to work," Drucker said. "I think a lot of this for the president is about shifting to 2020, showing that he's tough, trying to make a statement for what he wants to do next."

"Personally for her, it's a really interesting move that he wants more because you wonder exactly how he can get more because policies are often constrained by the law, constrained by practical reality," Drucker added, referring to reports that her resignation comes as Trump seeks to implement "tougher" immigration policies.

A few minutes later, Hunt ended the segment by repeating her question: "My question again to Kirstjen Nielsen is was becoming the face of these policies worth it?"

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Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security, testifies before the House Homeland Security Committee at the Cannon House Office Building at a hearing entitled, The Way Forward on Border Security on Wednesday, March 6, 2019, in Washington, DC. Nielsen resigned from her position on Sunday. Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images
MSNBC Panel Asks If Kirstjen Nielsen Thinks Being Trump's 'Punching Bag' and the Face of Child Separation Policy Was 'Worth It' | U.S.