The question became moot, of course, because Nielsen and her boss were able to smooth things over. But on Sunday, concerns about life after Trump came crashing back down. Following an Oval Office meeting with the president, in which he vented his frustration over the continued increase in migrant traffic, Nielsen submitted her resignation.
From almost the beginning of this administration, aides senior and junior alike have worried about their job prospects after they’ve finished working for Trump. Over the past two years, I’ve spoken with more than a dozen officials who have wondered whether a Fox News contributorship is their only private-sector bet. Some officials made the calculation early on to avoid television as much as possible, fearing that any sort of public profile could torpedo their credibility and attractiveness to future employers. As the face and name most prominently attached (besides Trump) to family separations, arguably this White House’s most unpopular policy, Nielsen won’t have an easy time finding her place in the job market, according to current and former administration aides, as well as Republican lobbyists and political operatives. If their predictions are right, Nielsen will confirm some Trump associates’ worst fears about their attachment to the administration—that they might go, in some cases, from being respected Republican players to personae non gratae.
“Family separations make her completely and totally unhirable,” one former senior White House official told me. “I mean, major companies will face employee or shareholder protests over hiring any high-profile Trump person. But for someone who oversaw that debacle, holy crap—it’d be insane.” Nielsen’s team did not respond to a request for comment.
Many high-profile ex–Trump officials have indeed struggled to land prestigious jobs. Former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus returned to his old law firm. Former Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried and failed to land a Fox News gig. (In February, Spicer signed on as a correspondent for the entertainment-news show Extra.) Those gigs are a far cry from, say, global chief communications officer of McDonald’s, the title ex–Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs nabbed after leaving the White House. Or senior vice president of Amazon, the role that Jay Carney, Gibbs’s successor, currently holds.
“I think it’s important to remember that Republicans almost always have a tougher time landing sexy corporate posts” after exiting an administration, the operative close to Nielsen’s team said. “But Trump has just exacerbated that to such an insane degree.”
On Friday, two days before Nielsen had even resigned, Bloomberg reported that immigration groups were urging Fortune 500 companies not to hire current and former Trump-administration officials who had been involved in family separations. The letter, signed by 41 groups, name-checked officials including Kelly, Nielsen, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. On Sunday, the groups ran a full-page ad in The New York Times that read: “Attention corporate America: Don’t let hate into your boardroom.”