News reports indicate that President Donald Trump told the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, Kevin McAleenan, he would pardon him if he were arrested as a result of blocking asylum seekers from entering the country. Trump made the comment during his recent visit to the border at Calexico, California, according to two senior administration officials.
The White House declined to comment, referring the story, which broke via CNN, to the Department of Homeland of Security. A DHS spokesperson then pushed back against it.
“At no time has the President indicated, asked, directed or pressured the Acting Secretary to do anything illegal,” the spokesperson said. “Nor would the Acting Secretary take actions that are not in accordance with our responsibility to enforce the law.”
Given the president's increasingly aggressive campaigns against migrants seeking asylum, an issue to which he's dedicated a lot of thought to as evidenced by his many tweets on the subject, this isn't a statement people are willing to believe.
It was Justin Miller, the national editor for The Daily Beast, who pointed out that the president pardoned former Arizona law enforcement officer Joe Arpaio for not obeying a court order barring him from conducting further "immigration round-ups."
Representative Kathleen Rice (D-NY) has already promised to investigate, saying that McAleenan will "eventually have to testify before" the House Committee on Homeland Security.
Trump made headlines in Calexico for telling border agents to stop all migrants from entering the United States after declaring that “our country is full."
“This is our new statement- the system is full,” Trump said at the time. “We can’t take you anymore. Whether it’s asylum or anything you want – illegal immigration – we can’t take you anymore. Our country is full. Our area is full. The sector is full. Can’t take you anymore, I’m sorry. Turn around. That’s the way it is.”
The news of Trump's remark to McAleenan comes shortly after he appointed McAleenan to lead DHS on an acting basis until a permanent replacement for now-former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is chosen.
Earlier this afternoon, the president stirred controversy after he confirmed that the White House is “giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities,” blaming Democrats who he says have been “unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws.”
In a follow-up tweet, the president claimed the “Radical Left” should be “happy” with the policy.
Democrats have rebuked the White House in response to the proposal, which was apparently rejected both times it came up by administration immigration agencies.