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Trump, in unexpected move, withdraws nomination to head ICE

NBC News logo NBC News 4/5/2019 Peter Alexander and Adam Edelman
a man wearing a suit and tie: Acting ICE leader Ron Vitiello © Steve Helber Acting ICE leader Ron Vitiello

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has withdrawn his nomination of Ron Vitiello, a longtime border official, to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a document sent to members of Congress Thursday and obtained by NBC News.

A Department of Homeland Security official confirmed the document's veracity.

President Donald Trump on Friday morning, speaking to reporters on the White House South Lawn ahead of a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, said the White House is going in a "tougher direction" and a "different direction" on a pick to lead the law enforcement agency.

However, the decision about Vitiello was not expected and there's still confusion about the circumstances.

Vitiello had been expected to travel later Friday with Trump to Calexico, California, where the president is scheduled to visit a newly-constructed border barrier section. It's not clear whether he will still do so.

Related video: Trump backs off threat to close border amid backlash (NBC News)

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News of Vitiello's nomination being withdrawn was first reported by The Associated Press.

Trump had nominated Vitiello, who is the acting head of ICE — the agency tasked with enforcing immigration law in the interior of the U.S. — to be the organization's permanent leader last August.

Vitiello has been a law enforcement agent for more than 30 years, starting in 1985 with the U.S. Border Patrol.

Peter Alexander reported from Washington, and Adam Edelman reported from New York.

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