‘Egregious abuse of power:’ Report says Trump offered pardon to CBP head if he broke law and blocked asylum-seekers

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Penn.) called it "a textbook example of abuse of power and reckless disregard for the rule of law – and it's no 'joking' matter."

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SOURCECommon Dreams
Image Credit: Mark Lambie/El Paso Times

“Maybe someone should hold a hearing into all the different ways Trump has asked people who work for him or the government to break laws.”

That’s what journalist Garance Franke-Ruta suggested Saturday in leading off a Twitter thread with a list of reported examples.

Number three on her list: reporting by CNN on Friday that President Donald Trump promised Customs and Border Patrol chief Kevin McAleenan a pardon if border agents violated U.S. law and blocked asylum-seekers from entering the country.

The floated pardon, Jake Tapper reported, came last week when the president was in Calexico, California. There, Trump reportedly told border agents behind closed doors they should block entry to migrants at the southern border. After Trump left, their supervisors, however, told them they must obey the law, CNN reported at the time.

From the new reporting:

Two officials briefed on the exchange say the president told McAleenan, since named the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, that he “would pardon him if he ever went to jail for denying U.S. entry to migrants,” as one of the officials paraphrased.

The White House referred CNN to the Department of Homeland Security. A DHS spokesman told 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.”

The New York Times also reported Friday:

Trump last week privately urged Kevin McAleenan, the border enforcement official he was about to name as acting secretary of homeland security, to close the southwestern border to migrants despite having just said publicly that he was delaying a decision on the step for a year, according to three people briefed about the conversation. […]

One of the people briefed on the conversation said it was possible Mr. Trump had intended the comments [including the pardon offer] to Mr. McAleenan as a joke. But the conversation, which took place during the president’s visit to the border town of Calexico, Calif., alarmed officials at the Department of Homeland Security who were told of it, according to the people familiar with the remarks.

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) called the alleged pardon offer an “egregious abuse of power [that] must be condemned in the strongest terms.  And Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Penn.) called it “a textbook example of abuse of power and reckless disregard for the rule of law – and it’s no ‘joking’ matter.”

Trump, for his part, dismissed the allegation late Friday.

As Franke-Ruta pointed out, though, there are numerous examples of the president asking people who work for him or the government to break the law, including his allegedly asking Michael Cohen to orchestrate hush money payments or asking then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to stop asylum-seekers from entering.

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