Donald Trump is tapping Ken Cuccinelli, the anti-immigrant crusader and former attorney general of Virginia, to lead immigration efforts at the Department of Homeland Security, multiple sources reported Tuesday. Though Cuccinelli had reportedly been in consideration for the role of White House immigration czar, that job remains unfilled.
Cuccinelli’s hiring at DHS comes a month after Trump declared his intention to take immigration policy in a “tougher direction.” So far, he’s dismissed former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen because she wouldn’t break the law for him, and withdrawn a nominee to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement because the guy wasn’t brutal enough. Bringing Cuccinelli onboard is in line with these moves.
Prior to winning election as attorney general, Cuccinelli served in Virginia’s state Senate, where he sponsored bills to compel employees to speak English in the workplace and made an ill-fated attempt to repeal birthright citizenship, a change Trump would endorse years later. As Virginia’s AG, he boosted his immigration hard-liner bona fides by supporting Arizona’s SB 1070, known as the “papers please” law. He also briefly flirted with birtherism.
Unsurprisingly, Iowa’s Steve King is “one of his very favorite congressmen.”
In 2013, Cuccinelli made an unsuccessful bid for governor of Virginia. At the time, he was a frequent Fox News guest known as a far-right culture warrior willing to fight anything Democrats favored. Action against climate change? He waged a war against a top climate scientist at the University of Virginia and fought the Obama EPA. Equal rights for everyone? He wanted to ban sodomy. Access to a doctor for more people? He tried to kill Obamacare. Cuccinelli ended up losing the election to Terry McAuliffe by 56,435 votes.
The next time we heard from the “Cooch,” he had emerged as an early NeverTrumper. Cuccinelli aligned himself with Ted Cruz in the 2016 Republican primary and attempted to protect “movement conservatism” from Trump. He lost that battle too.
Cuccinelli then joined CNN, where he ran into trouble for the way he treated women on air. In one notable incident, he told former Bernie Sanders spokesperson and current Joe Biden adviser Symone Sanders to “shut up.”
The only blemish on that record, from the standpoint of the Trump administration, would be Cuccinelli’s work for Ted Cruz in 2016. But like the Texas senator, Cuccinelli has seen the error of his ways and fallen in line. Just last month, he was on CNN railing against the “factless, baseless advancement of the collusion theory.” Now he’s going to work for Trump.