Trump, Nielsen clashed over family separation policy as Trump told border patrol agents to break law

President Trump. Screen capture by U.S. News-CNN via YouTube video

As his conflict with then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen reached the boiling point, President Donald Trump pushed Customs and Border Patrol agents to refuse to allow any migrants through the border last week, defying federal laws and court orders, CNN reported Monday.

At a meeting with top officials (Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, aides Jared Kushner, Mercedes Schlapp, Dan Scavino, and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, among others) in the Oval Office last month, Trump was “ranting and raving, saying border security was his issue,” said one unidentified person who attended the meeting.

According to senior administration officials, Trump ordered Nielsen and Pompeo to close the port of El Paso the next day, Friday, March 22, at noon. In subsequent days, the Trump administration planned to shutter more ports.

Nielsen told Trump that was a bad and possibly dangerous idea, CNN reports, and she reminded him that Texas Republican Governor Gregg Abbott supports him.

She trotted out an alternative plan that would slow down at legal ports. Her argument was that closing all of the points of entry would put a stop to legal trade and travel, but migrants would simply enter between the ports.

But logic is not Trump’s friend and those who attended the meeting report he had this to say:

“I don’t care.”

Acting White House Chief-of-Staff Mick Mulvaney stepped in, eventually discouraging Trump from carrying this out, but that led the President to attempt to refuse entry to those seeking asylum. The fact that it’s legal for migrants from Central America to apply for asylum seemed to be lost on Trump and Nielsen’s alleged attempts to explain this to him were fruitless.

During a Friday visit to Calexico, California, Trump spoke to Border Patrol agents behind closed doors, telling them not to allow any migrants in. If ordered to by a judge, he told agents to respond “Sorry judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room,” two sources told CNN, according to The Hill.

So the agents decided to ask their commanding officers about Trump’s remarks. That’s when their superiors told them the policy is to obey the law. Anyone complying with Trump’s order would face personal liability.

All of this occurred just as the news broke that Nielsen resigned. And like former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson before her, Trump announced her departure on Twitter.

Reports from NBC News say Trump pressed Nielsen for months to resume large-scale separation of families crossing the border, but she resisted and Trump was not happy.  The president’s argument was that separating parents from their children was an effective deterrent. But then that forced Nielsen to keep reminding him he signed an executive order to end this practice.

It’s reported that policy adviser Stephen Miller was instrumental in forcing Nielsen out, and he is a key supporter of separating families at the border. He’s also pushing Trump to purge more officials at the Department of Homeland Security. Earlier in the day, Trump ousted Secret Service Director Randall “Tex” Alles.

And for anyone who thought Nielsen was terrible, there’s this:

There’s the old cliché that “things can always get worse.” This surely seems to be true with the Trump administration.

You can watch this full episode of CNN The Lead With Jake Tapper to find out more.

Featured image by U.S. News-CNN via YouTube video