President Donald Trump has reportedly offered a virtual get out of jail free card to administration officials willing to break the law as part of his increasingly authoritarian crackdown on legal immigration into the United States.
According to two White House officials who spoke with CNN’s Jake Tapper, the president promised Customs and Border Patrol chief Kevin McAleenan that he would pardon him if McAleenan were sentenced to jail for carrying out an illegal order to block lawful asylum seekers from coming into the country during a recent visit to the border in Calexico, CA.
One of the officials who spoke with CNN paraphrased Trump’s comments to McAleenan, claiming the president said he “would pardon him if he ever went to jail for denying U.S. entry to migrants.”
Earlier this week, CNN reported the president told CBP agents during the Calexico visit that “if judges give you trouble [for denying migrant’s seeking asyling entry] say, ‘Sorry, judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room.’” The confused agents were then told by their supervisors that, yes, they still needed to obey the law, regardless of the president’s order.
The Department of Homeland Security flatly denied the report, telling CNN:
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.
Nevertheless, no matter how troubling it may be that Trump was reportedly directing government officials to break the law, the fact that he subsequently may have promised a pardon for at least one member of his administration takes things to a whole other level—one in which the president is actively working to subvert existing laws in pursuit of his monomaniacal anti-immigration ends.
I’ve reached out to the White House for comment on Tapper’s reporting and will update this story if it responds.