Trump's Comment to Border Official Causes a Stir

President reportedly told McAleenan to close the border, promised a pardon. But was it a joke?
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2019 7:19 AM CDT
Updated Apr 13, 2019 7:26 AM CDT
Trump's Comment to Border Official Causes a Stir
In this March 6, 2019, file photo, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan speaks during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The New York Times and CNN are reporting that President Trump had an eyebrow-raising conversation with US immigration official Kevin McAleenan. Both outlets say Trump urged McAleenan in private to close the southern border to migrants, then promised him a pardon if he ran into legal trouble for doing so. One caveat: Both outlets say they're not sure if Trump was joking. Trump reportedly made the comments during last week's visit to the border at Calexico, California. At the time, McAleenan was the Customs and Border Protection commissioner, but he has since been promoted to interim Homeland Security director in the wake of Kirstjen Nielsen's resignation.

"At no time has the president indicated, asked, directed or pressured the acting secretary to do anything illegal," says a Homeland Security spokesperson. "Nor would the acting secretary take actions that are not in accordance with our responsibility to enforce the law." The context: Trump had earlier threatened to close the border, then eased off on the threat when it became clear Congress would balk; instead, he gave Mexico a one-year warning to stop illegal immigration. The reported comments to McAleenan came one day after that warning. (More President Trump stories.)

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