While You Were Offline: Is Homeland Security Being Purged?

Kirstjen Nielsen left her gig as head of the Department of Homeland Security last Sunday.

Jim Watson/Getty Images

Last week was the kind of week where we saw a black hole for the first time , former Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti got hit with 36 charges of tax dodging, perjury, and theft, the National Enquirer maybe went up for sale, and Benjamin Netanyahu won a fifth term as Israel's prime minister. If you're wondering what else people have been talking about over the past seven days, these tidbits are a good place to start.

Is Homeland Security Being Purged?

What Happened: Something is happening at the Department of Homeland Security, with multiple figures being pushed out by the White House and the word "purge" being thrown around like it's nothing.

What Really Happened: Perhaps the US political story of the past week actually got started almost exactly seven days ago, when this news broke on what was otherwise an unusually quiet Sunday.

https://twitter.com/elianayjohnson/status/1115011584575905792

https://twitter.com/JenniferJJacobs/status/1115018836946845696

https://twitter.com/Yamiche/status/1115029306537848834

Yes, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was out after a meeting with President Trump. Even though the think piece industry made hay of the news—as did the behind-the-scenes stories—the actual news developed a few days later, with this announcement.

https://twitter.com/SecNielsen/status/1115755185085853697

https://twitter.com/kaitlancollins/status/1115758930943250439

At the same time as all of this was happening, there was a lot of conversation about the fact that the president had only just withdrawn his nomination for the next Immigration and Customs Enforcement director—Ron Vitiello, who resigned as acting director later in the week—apparently wanting someone "tougher." Sound like a lot? Because if not, this also went down last week.

https://twitter.com/esaagar/status/1115312361123012613

https://twitter.com/ThisWeekABC/status/1115339631745163270

Well, surely he's being removed for good reas—OK, we can't even finish that sentence.

https://twitter.com/peterbakernyt/status/1115353583262867458

For anyone thinking, "Hey, it seems like a bunch of DHS people are disappearing at the same time, is something going on?" Well … yes.

https://twitter.com/NBCPolitics/status/1116070493398937602

So, what is going on? Nothing good, to say the least.

https://twitter.com/rebeccaballhaus/status/1115359644036341761

https://twitter.com/NoahShachtman/status/1115334150414852096

https://twitter.com/nunez_anna/status/1115947645275652098

Of course, to hear President Trump tell it, he's not into separating families at all. Just the opposite apparently.

https://twitter.com/thehill/status/1115777665842049024

It should go without saying, but let's just make sure: He's not telling the truth.

https://twitter.com/GlennKesslerWP/status/1115686952655904769

When it comes to what's going on with the Department of Homeland Security as the president seeks to reset his policies, the word "purge" was being thrown around by many, which isn't a good sign.

https://twitter.com/jdawsey1/status/1115423550121414657

https://twitter.com/PhilipRucker/status/1115421515485450241

The Takeaway: This tweet from Saturday proved to be somewhat prescient, apparently.

https://twitter.com/Carrasquillo/status/1115000537865424896

Bill Barr Goes to Congress

What Happened: If there were those still undecided about Attorney General Bill Barr after his actions surrounding Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, he might have made up some people's minds last week with two appearances before Congress.

What Really Happened: Amidst all manner of suspicion over how he'd handled—and potentially, subverted—Mueller's investigation into potential collusion between Russians and the Trump campaign of 2016, Attorney General Bill Barr appeared before Congress last week across two days (in theory, to talk about the Department of Justice's budget, although the reality was very different) for what was perhaps one of the most anticipated pieces of political theater in recent memory. On his first day of testimony, Barr was asked a lot about his summary of the Mueller report. He wasn't in a particularly talkative mood on the subject, as it turned out.

https://twitter.com/kyledcheney/status/1115616864967774209

https://twitter.com/LisaDNews/status/1115616810823450626

https://twitter.com/mkraju/status/1115617150163615746

That said, he was willing to share a couple of newsworthy details.

https://twitter.com/kaitlancollins/status/1115621561770414081

https://twitter.com/meredithllee/status/1115614773398339585

The next day, Barr returned to testify once again, and he was far more excited to share on a different topic altogether—one that made headlines, for entirely understandable reasons.

https://twitter.com/AaronBlake/status/1115986119341084672

Yes, the Attorney General of the United States testified to Congress that one of the president's pet theories is something that he's looking into—and he specifically used the term "spying," which was noted even during his testimony.

https://twitter.com/hayleymiller01/status/1116003652752281600

Why is the language Barr used a big deal? Well, because what he's talking about might not actually be spying at all.

https://twitter.com/NatashaBertrand/status/1115996934169288704

https://twitter.com/AshaRangappa_/status/1116009797319626754

https://twitter.com/EricHolder/status/1116004025089036288

https://twitter.com/KenDilanianNBC/status/1116017370718441472

https://twitter.com/joshtpm/status/1116037960556863488

There is a particular irony in Barr investigating what he describes as spying, as anyone who remembers his first tenure as AG likely understands.

https://twitter.com/bradheath/status/1116033514909126657

Still, the intended audience for Barr's comments was, at least, appropriately appreciative.

https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1115978871193710592

Meanwhile, all of the spying talk distracted from something else interesting revealed during Wednesday's testimony.

https://twitter.com/desiderioDC/status/1115988560774094854

https://twitter.com/mkraju/status/1115998308147912705

The Takeaway: Remember when people thought Barr could be someone who'd treat the Mueller investigation fairly and wouldn't be too biased because he and Robert Mueller were good friends?

https://twitter.com/DavidJollyFL/status/1116007364229050370

Steven Mnuchin Goes to Congress

What Happened: There are times when it almost seems as if Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is trying to make himself look bad. Last week, an appearance before Congress was most definitely one of those times.

What Really Happened: Of course, Barr wasn't the only Trump appointee speaking to Congress last week. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin appeared before the House Financial Services committee on Tuesday, and it was … perhaps "awkward" would be the most polite way to frame it. You might remember Mnuchin as the Treasury Secretary who posed with a sheet of money in an unfortunate viral photo a couple years ago, or maybe as the man whose wife melted down on Instagram when accused of taking advantage of the American taxpayer. (Fun fact: Mnuchin is currently facing accusations of wrongdoing after selling his business interests to his wife despite not getting approval for that deal from the Office of Government Ethics. But I digress.)

For those wondering how Mnuchin fared when dealing with people asking him questions in a public setting, let's just say that he didn't do great.

https://twitter.com/ericawerner/status/1115727114932826112

https://twitter.com/arappeport/status/1115732235414593536

https://twitter.com/matt_pociask/status/1115737895111987201

https://twitter.com/jkrudler/status/1115740580284391433

Actually, Mnuchin revealed that himself on Twitter not long after.

https://twitter.com/stevenmnuchin1/status/1115745247601090560

But back to his awkward, embarrassing, yet very compelling antics in front of Congress.

https://twitter.com/Randazzoj/status/1115736490342895616

https://twitter.com/Eugene_Scott/status/1115997772690415617

https://twitter.com/fawfulfan/status/1115788577227649030

https://twitter.com/scott_tobias/status/1115735520720633862

https://twitter.com/TalbertSwan/status/1115808920264740864

Well, that went well. Still, surely Mnuchin was appropriately apologetic and humble about his attitude a day later.

https://twitter.com/CNBC/status/1116034808747044865

The Takeaway: If nothing else, we can all agree that Mnuchin definitely came across as someone who was very cool about meetings, right?

https://twitter.com/chrislhayes/status/1115776883143118848

The New Brexit Sequel

What Happened: With a new deadline looming, it was (another) week of important negotiations and votes for the United Kingdom in regards to Brexit. As always, the question of just what is going on is a complicated one.

What Really Happened: Let's return, as we almost certainly must, to the United Kingdom and to Brexit. For those paying attention—which, by this point, has to be everyone, surely, right?—last week started as the latest in a long line of endpoints, with the rescheduled Brexit targeted for April 12 if no deal could be agreed on by Parliament by that point. Except, of course, something happened last week to complicate that.

https://twitter.com/RoyalCentral/status/1115376970014035970

https://twitter.com/YvetteCooperMP/status/1115377236864057345

So, what did this mean in reality? The short answer is… maybe something, maybe nothing.

https://twitter.com/Keir_Starmer/status/1115380831894351872

https://twitter.com/HenryNewman/status/1115396021117489152

https://twitter.com/ollybarratt/status/1115502198933348352

By midweek, British Prime Minister Theresa May was back in front of European Union leaders, trying to sort out another extension for the clearly troubled Brexit. Not everyone was optimistic about her chances ahead of time, as could be seen by a letter to European leaders from European Council president Donald Tusk.

https://twitter.com/joncstone/status/1115668330084544514

https://twitter.com/newswardie/status/1115666901525565440

https://twitter.com/jrmaidment/status/1115662129774977024

But, in the end, everyone seemed to agree that another, second delay to Brexit was preferable than the No Deal reality that was staring both the United Kingdom and Europe in the face.

https://twitter.com/EUCouncil/status/1116156187228217344

For everyone wondering just what this actually means beyond "Thank goodness that Friday deadline's moved again," Twitter was happy to explain.

https://twitter.com/PippaCrerar/status/1116129493104697344

https://twitter.com/PippaCrerar/status/1116130132979273733

And what that means is … not good for May.

https://twitter.com/bbclaurak/status/1116113615411720193

https://twitter.com/bbclaurak/status/1116114280095547394

https://twitter.com/bbclaurak/status/1116115069111275521

https://twitter.com/krishgm/status/1116108443998392320

Well, she did try to quit earlier over this, after all… Now? That’s as up in the air as anything, it seems.

The Takeaway: In announcing the new delay to Brexit, Donald Tusk won the award for Advice Most Likely to Be Ignored By Everyone Involved for the year.

https://twitter.com/BBCBreaking/status/1116135496093261825

Oh, Julian

What Happened: After almost seven years, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was removed from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and arrested. So, that happened.

What Really Happened: Thursday morning, in a surprise move that ended literally years of speculation about whether it would ever happen, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by British authorities after losing his political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy.

https://twitter.com/BBCJLandale/status/1116272479906029568

His removal from the embassy was captured by news agency Rupty, part of the Russia Today network.

https://twitter.com/Ruptly/status/1116277306161618944

https://twitter.com/Hadas_Gold/status/1116355392144068608

The London Metropolitan Police soon confirmed the arrest.

https://twitter.com/metpoliceuk/status/1116273279583576065

https://twitter.com/nickeardleybbc/status/1116273785966092288

And British Home Secretary Sajid Javid released a statement on the matter, as well.

https://twitter.com/sajidjavid/status/1116273602574340096

What was behind the arrest? Turns out, US United authorities had requested he be extradited, as Assange's attorney made public.

https://twitter.com/suigenerisjen/status/1116290879260639232

https://twitter.com/NewsGuyGreg/status/1116328408932397056

Immediately, people started speaking out.

https://twitter.com/Snowden/status/1116285397284290560

https://twitter.com/pamfoundation/status/1116293898664595456

https://twitter.com/pamfoundation/status/1116294393533796352

https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/1116296902142771200

https://twitter.com/PrisonPlanet/status/1116318153934606336

https://twitter.com/TheRickWilson/status/1116349686187687938

As of this writing, it's unclear what the next steps in this story will be, but let's be real: You know that the president is going to say something about this soon, and it might not be a repeat of his 2016 declaration of love. Or, really, any of them.

The Takeaway: Take it away, Assange.

https://twitter.com/joshdcaplan/status/1116361059173060608

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