WASHINGTON — Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, told colleagues she was close to resigning after President Trump berated her on Wednesday in front of the entire cabinet for what he said was her failure to adequately secure the nation’s borders, according to several current and former officials familiar with the episode.
Ms. Nielsen, who is a protégée of John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, has drafted a resignation letter but has not submitted it, according to two of the people. As the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Ms. Nielsen is in charge of the 20,000 employees who work for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Mr. Trump’s anger toward Ms. Nielsen at the meeting was part of a lengthy tirade in which the president railed at his entire cabinet about what he said was its lack of progress toward sealing the country’s borders against illegal immigrants, according to one person who was present at the meeting.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Thursday that “the president is committed to fixing our broken immigration system and our porous borders.”
“We are a country of laws, and the president and his administration will enforce them,” she said.
A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on Thursday evening.
Mr. Trump’s anger about immigration has grown in recent weeks, according to several officials. He repeatedly claimed credit for the fact that during his first year in office, illegal border crossings dropped to their lowest levels in decades. But this year, they have risen again, robbing him of one of his favorite talking points.
One person familiar with Mr. Trump’s blowup at the meeting said it was triggered by a discussion about why Mexico was not doing more to prevent illegal border crossings into the United States. Another person said the president was primarily focused on the Homeland Security Department because he views Ms. Nielsen as primarily responsible for keeping illegal immigrants out of the country.
During the meeting, Mr. Trump yelled about the fact that the United States has a porous border and said that more needs to be done to fix that. When members of his cabinet pointed out that the country relies on day laborers who cross the border each day, Mr. Trump said that was fine, but continued to complain, one person said.
Ms. Nielsen viewed the president’s rant as directed mostly at her, and she told associates after