The Atlantic Festival Clarifies Kirstjen Nielsen’s Role – Still Not a Good Idea

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday The Atlantic issued a press release listing Kirstjen Nielsen, the former Homeland Security Secretary who implemented and defended Trump’s horrific family separation policy, as a participant in The Atlantic Festival next week. That press release has now been edited to indicate Nielsen will be interviewed “about among other things, the Trump administration’s immigration policy.” Restore Public Trust released the following statement in response to The Atlantic’s attempt to mollify its critics: 

“The Atlantic has now edited its press release to clarify that Nielsen will be interviewed about Trump administration’s immigration policy and other issues. For an event that bills itself as a ‘fun’ time to be had with influential leaders, this is hardly reassuring,” said Karl Frisch, a senior advisor to Restore Public Trust. “The Atlantic shouldn’t be complicit in Nielsen’s attempt to rehabilitate her public image following her central role in Trump’s horrific family separation immigration policy. Period. End of story. Her invitation should be revoked.”


  • Tuesday, September 17, 2019: The Atlantic Announced Nielsen Would Be Joining Other Headliners At Their Three-Day Festival In DC. “The Atlantic Festival will open next Tuesday with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in conversation with The Atlantic’s editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg, kicking off three full days of events from September 24-26, 2019, at the Harman Center for the Arts and venues across Washington, D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood. Also just announced: Kirstjen Nielsen, former Secretary of Homeland Security; and Disney CEO Bob Iger in conversation with Laurene Powell Jobs, founder and president of Emerson Collective, which is the majority owner of The Atlantic.” [The Atlantic – Press Release, 9/17/19]


  • Wednesday, September 18, 2019: The Atlantic Updated Their Press Release, Clarifying That Nielsen Would Be At The Festival To Be Interviewed About Trump’s Immigration Policy (Among Other Things). “The Atlantic Festival will also interview former Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen about, among other things, the Trump administration’s immigration policy, which she implemented as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.” [The Atlantic – Press Release, 9/17/19]


  • June 2018: Nielsen Offered “Forceful Defense” Of Family Separation Policy, “Erroneously” Insisted It Was Not New. “Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Monday effectively became the public face of the Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ strategy that has separated more than 2,000 immigrant children from their families over six weeks, offering a forceful defense of the practice while erroneously insisting that it was not the result of a new policy. Pressed into service amid a maelstrom of bipartisan criticism, Nielsen addressed reporters at the White House’s daily briefing in an attempt to quell the mounting outrage over images of children crying after being taken away from their parents by Border Patrol agents at the southern border. Yet Nielsen’s response, which at times contradicted itself, offered evidence that the administration — and perhaps Nielsen herself — was still struggling to formulate a message to counter critics who have accused the Trump White House of creating a humanitarian disaster.” [Washington Post, 6/18/18]
  • Nielsen: “We Will Not Apologize For Doing Our Job.” “Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Monday defended her department’s policies amid increasingly intense scrutiny over separating children from adults accused of illegally crossing the border. Nielsen, in a speech to the National Sheriffs’ Association in New Orleans, said the children are provided food, medical attention, education and anything else they might need. ‘We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job,’ she said. ‘This administration has a simple message — If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you.’” [USA Today, 6/18/18]
  • Former Homeland Security Advisory Council Member Elizabeth Holzman Urged Nielsen To Quit In Her Resignation Letter, Calling Family Separation Implementation “Child Kidnapping, Plain And Simple.” “On June 28, two days after [Judge Dana] Sabraw’s reunification order, DHS officials held a conference call for members of the DHS’s Homeland Security Advisory Council, a group of security experts and former officials who provide recommendations and counsel to the secretary. One member, David A. Martin, said officials had few answers when dismayed members asked how they planned to bring families back together: ‘They were saying, ‘Well, we’re working on it.’ ’ Two weeks later, he and three other members quit the panel in disgust… Another member who resigned, Elizabeth Holtzman, said the failure to create records to track parents and children demonstrated ‘utter depravity.’ ‘This is child kidnapping, plain and simple,’ she wrote in her resignation letter, urging Nielsen to quit.” [Washington Post, 7/28/18]
  • Memo Showed Nielsen “Signed Off” On Policy “Knowing It Would Lead To Family Separations,” Contradicting Her Claims There Was No Such Policy. “A memo signed by Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen contradicts statements she made at the height of the family separation crisis last spring that the administration did not have a policy of separating children from parents. Nielsen signed off on the option to prosecute all adults who crossed the border illegally, including those with kids, knowing it would lead to family separations. The administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy, which sought to prosecute every adult caught crossing the border illegally, resulted in thousands of families being separated, with some parents being deported without their children.” [BuzzFeed, 9/27/18]

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Press Release

DHSKirstjen NielsenPress Release

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