U.S. President Donald Trump is ousting the head of the Secret Service, the agency that protects him and his family and other former U.S. leaders.
Several U.S. news agencies reported Monday that Trump directed acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to fire Secret Service director Randolph "Tex" Alles, a Trump appointee who had held the position for two years. There was no immediate public explanation for the dismissal.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Alles "has done a great job at the agency over the last two years, and the president is thankful for his over 40 years of service to the country. Mr. Alles will be leaving shortly."
She said Trump had selected James Murray, a career Secret Service veteran, as the agency's new director, starting in May.
But Alles refuted the media accounts, saying he had known for weeks. In a statement released by the Secret Service, Alles said, "“No doubt you have seen media reports regarding my "firing." I assure you that this is not the case, and in fact was told weeks ago by the Administration that transitions in leadership should be expected across the Department of Homeland Security."
Alles reported directly to outgoing Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen, who herself resigned under pressure Sunday after meeting with Trump. The U.S. leader had increasingly voiced his displeasure at the growing number of undocumented Central American migrants surging through Mexico to seek asylum in the United States and had frequently blamed Nielsen for the immigration crisis at the border.
Just five days ago, Trump said he "could not be happier with Secret Service," even after a breach of security at Trump's oceanfront retreat in Florida.
Aides familiar with Alles' ouster said it was unrelated to the incident at Mar-a-Lago, the Trump resort, where a Chinese woman was detained after illegally entering the facility carrying four cellphones, a laptop and a thumb drive that the Secret Service said a preliminary analysis showed contained malware.
"Secret Service has done a fantastic job from Day 1. Very happy with them," Trump said when asked about the trespasser.
Some Washington reports said Alles' dismissal was part of a wholesale purge of top Department of Homeland Security officials being orchestrated by White House aide Stephen Miller, newly empowered by Trump to oversee tougher immigration policies. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director Francis Cissna is also expected to leave soon.
Alles had previously been acting deputy commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In this role, he was the agency’s chief operating officer. He was a 35-year Marine Corps veteran, retiring in 2011 as a major general.