Kirstjen Nielsen digs in after surviving Trump's wrath

But in the four months since her dismissal seemed inevitable, Nielsen has engineered a remarkable comeback.

More than a dozen former and current administration officials and others close to Nielsen who spoke with POLITICO on the condition of anonymity described the DHS chief as a former dead woman walking whose unexpected survival has opened a new chapter for her management of a powerful cabinet department. Cabinet colleagues and Republican allies now describe her as a rising star, all the stronger for having survived Trump’s wrath. She has managed to forge a stable relationship with Trump and now spends at least as much one-on-one time with him as any other Cabinet secretary.

That, they say, is thanks to her skillful handling of Trump’s border wall fixation, as well as to the departure of former White House chief of staff John Kelly, whose close relationship with Nielsen often made her collateral damage in his frequent clashes with Trump and his senior advisers.

“Having General Kelly removed from the relationship has given her a more direct point to the president,” said a person close to Nielsen.