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Trump, DHS refute ‘fake story’ that Trump offered DHS chief pardon if he ever commits border crimes

Then-U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan briefs President Donald Trump about illegal immigration and illicit drug smuggling during an interagency meeting at CBP’s National Targeting Center in Sterling, Virginia, Feb. 2, 2018. (Jetta Disco/Department of Homeland Security)
April 15, 2019

President Trump last week blasted media reports suggesting he would pardon Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kevin McAleenan.

“Another Fake Story on @NBCNews that I offered Pardons to Homeland Security personnel in case they broke the law regarding illegal immigration and sanctuary cities. Of course this is not true. Mainstream Media is corrupt and getting worse, if that is possible, every day!” the President tweeted late Friday night.

DHS also issued a statement refuting the report.

“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,” DHS spokesperson Tyler Houlton said in a statement reported by the Associated Press on Saturday.

The report from NBC News citing The New York Times said that three officials briefed on a discussion between President Trump and McAleenan said the President urged the secretary to close the southern border to stop the flow of immigrants and would pardon McAleenan if he faced legal opposition for the action.

One of the officials suggested the remarks could have been intended as a joke, but it reportedly sparked alarm in the agency.

“It was another instance of the president trying to undo a decision and to stretch the boundaries of his power, even when told there were legal issues at stake,” the NYT asserted.

Despite push-back and refutes from the President and DHS, the NYT insisted its reporting was correct and Trump was mistaken.

“Re-reading this tweet – haven’t seen NBC story but CNN and NYT reported accurately that POTUS said DHS’s McAleenan should ignore Nielsen’s refusal to close border to asylum seekers and he’d grant a pardon if McAleenan got in legal trouble for it. POTUS may be conflating 2 things,” NYT White House correspondent  Maggie Haberman said in a tweet.

President Trump has vowed repeatedly to close the southern border if Congress doesn’t act on a border security bill.

“If we don’t make a deal with Congress, the border’s going to be closed. 100 percent,” he told reporters in the Oval Office earlier this month, according to an Associated Press report.

“Security is more important to me than trade,” he added.

Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have criticized the act of closing the border, citing the detriment it will have on trade.