- President Donald Trump told the former Customs and Border Protection commissioner to illegally block asylum-seekers from entering the US – and that he’d pardon him if he were jailed, CNN reported on Friday.
- The commissioner, Kevin McAleenan, is now the acting Homeland Security secretary after Kirstjen Nielsen resigned under pressure on Sunday.
- The Department of Homeland Security has denied the report, saying, “At no time has the President indicated, asked, directed or pressured the Acting Secretary to do anything illegal.”
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President Donald Trump last week told the commissioner of the Customs and Border Protection (CPB) agency to illegally block asylum-seekers from entering the US – and that the president would pardon him if he were sent to jail, CNN reported on Friday, citing senior administration officials.
Trump reportedly made the remarks during his visit to Calexico, California, last week amid a soaring number of border crossings that have enraged the president and prompted him to purge multiple top officials at the Department of Homeland Security.
Trump told McAleenan that he “would pardon him if he ever went to jail for denying US entry to migrants,” one of the senior officials told CNN, paraphrasing Trump’s words. Blocking migrants from entering the country to seek asylum is illegal.
Trump reportedly made the comments to Kevin McAleenan, who has since taken on the role of acting Homeland Security secretary, after Kirstjen Nielsen resigned on Sunday. CNN reported that it was unclear whether Trump meant the remarks as a joke.
Also on Friday, The New York Times, citing three people briefed on the conversation, reported that Trump asked McAleenan to close the US-Mexico border and said he would pardon him if he ran into legal issues in doing so.
CBP declined to comment to INSIDER on the CNN report. The White House referred CNN to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which told the network in a statement that Trump never instructed McAleenan to do anything illegal.
“At no time has the President indicated, asked, directed or pressured the Acting Secretary to do anything illegal. Nor would the Acting Secretary take actions that are not in accordance with our responsibility to enforce the law,” the DHS statement said.
The news follows a number of reports suggesting that Trump has encouraged or pressured DHS officials to push for illegal policies. NBC News, citing three US officials, reported he told Nielsen to resume family separations despite a federal court order blocking such an action.
CNN also reported last week that Trump had instructed Border Patrol agents to illegally block migrants from entering and to say, “Sorry judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room,” if they were brought to court.
Trump has lamented laws that prevent US troops from aggressively blocking the migrants from entering.
“Our military, don’t forget, can’t act like they would normally act because if they got a little rough, everybody would go crazy,” the president said while attending a GOP fundraiser in Texas.