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Trump and Aides led to family separation at border, documents say

WASHINGTON – President Trump and senior White House aides have vigorously pushed the hardening policy that has led migrant families to be separated on the border with Mexico, a senior Justice Department official says in a new report of the inspector general of the department, and other internal documents.

In the report, officially released on Thursday, Gene Hamilton, a senior justice official, said the policy was implemented after complaints from the president and other White House people involved in implementing the program. Immigration of the President.

“The attorney general was aware of the White House’s desires for further action related to tackling illegal immigration,” Hamilton said in the report in response to questions about the origins of the program, in which the ministry began to prosecute adult migrants who arrived at the border with children.

Mr. Hamilton said former Attorney General Jeff Sessions “saw the need for swift action” from Mr. Trump and that after a White House meeting on April 3, 2018, Mr. Sessions ” directed that I write a memo that establishes a zero tolerance approach to border immigration law enforcement.

In a statement released Thursday after the Inspector General’s report, Rod J. Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general involved in politics, expressed deep regret over the zero tolerance policy and the role it played in its implementation.

“Since leaving the ministry, I have often wondered what we should have done differently, and no problem has dominated my thinking more than the zero tolerance immigration policy,” he said. . “It was a failed policy that should never have been proposed or implemented. I wish we had all done better.

Notes obtained by The New York Times of two meetings – one between federal prosecutors along the Southwestern border and Mr. Sessions, and the other with Mr. Rosenstein – also indicate that law enforcement were pushing the separation policy in response to pressure from the president.

In a May 11, 2018 meeting with Mr. Sessions, the attorney general told prosecutors, “We have to take children,” according to the notes. Moments later, he described Mr. Trump as “very intense, very focused” on the matter, according to a person taking notes at the meeting.

Another person who attended the same meeting wrote of the same part of the conversation involving Mr. Trump: “INTENSE: sue everyone.”

Mr Trump has repeatedly tried to evade responsibility for his administration’s family separation policy by wrongly blaming Democrats and former President Barack Obama. But the Inspector General’s report and other documents directly implicate the Trump White House.

On May 14, just days after Mr. Sessions met with his prosecutors, Stephen Miller, the chief architect of Mr. Trump’s immigration policy in the White House, emailed Mr. Hamilton noting a newspaper article indicating that American lawyers sometimes refused to do so. prosecute migrants who crossed the border illegally, in part because migrants were crossing with young children. Mr. Hamilton replied, “This article is a big deal.”

Eight days later, on May 22, Rosenstein met again with US lawyers who deal with border issues to insist that they prosecute any cases of illegal crossings referred to them by the border patrol. He dismissed concerns from at least one prosecutor that children under 5 would be separated from their parents if adults were prosecuted.

“If they refer, then go on. THE AGE OF THE CHILD DOESN’T MATTER, ”Rosenstein said, according to notes from one person at the meeting, who wrote in all caps.

Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and new chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement: “Those who have planned and executed the zero tolerance policy will have to live with the knowledge that their cruelty and cowardice are responsible for the scars these children will bear for the rest of their lives. They must be held accountable for the fundamental human rights violations they have committed. “

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As Circle of Trump Aides dwindles, some plans to stay until the end

WASHINGTON – Hope Hicks was so close to President Trump that he heeded her advice last June to challenge protesters and walk through Lafayette Square for a photoshoot she organized to project an image of ‘harshness’. The plan backfired when peaceful protesters had to be driven from the square with flash grenades and chemical spray, but Ms Hicks remained a valued adviser.

Now Mrs. Hicks is nowhere to be found. She has only been to the White House sporadically since Mr. Trump lost the election, while still receiving his $ 183,000 taxpayer-funded salary.

And yet she has no plans to add her name to the growing list of White House officials and cabinet secretaries who submit their resignations or make public statements condemning the Trump-instigated mob attack. on the Capitol, in which two people were killed and three others died. medical emergencies. Ms Hicks doesn’t want to create problems for Mr Trump, said a person familiar with his thinking, so she just plans to stay silent. Her last scheduled day is next week, which she said people were already ready for before the Capitol was taken.

Some people at Trumpworld have started to label the group that staunchly stuck with Mr. Trump as a “dead end,” those advisers who are so closely associated with him that they have few options available to them if not is to stay by his side.

Nick Luna, the president’s body man, is still working in the building, even as the west wing emerges; Johnny McEntee, director of the presidential office of personnel; and Dan Scavino, the president’s former golf caddy has become deputy chief of staff for communications. Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, still works in the West Wing and plans to stay until the lights are out. But it has been described by his colleagues as a shock in recent days.

Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, is still there too, but she did not come to the West Wing on Friday, telling her staff that she should spend the day at home. Judd Deere, deputy White House press secretary, plans to stay until January 20.

Stephen Miller, the president’s main political adviser who has been by his side since the 2016 campaign, still works for Mr. Trump. But even Mr. Miller is much less crowded because of his newborn baby, who was sick in the hospital. His first day back full-time at his West Wing office was January 6.

His wife, Katie Miller, works as director of communications for Vice President Mike Pence, whose close relationship with the President has broken off in recent weeks. Ms. Miller was on maternity leave.

A group of more senior officials have struggled to manage their roles: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; Larry Kudlow, the national economic adviser; Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser; and Christopher Liddell, the leader of the White House transition team. But all have decided to stay in their jobs until the inauguration to try to keep Mr. Trump in check and to ensure that unfinished business is completed, despite their disappointment at Mr. Trump’s destructive behavior, said someone familiar with their plans.

“I intend to stay and try to do whatever it takes for the country,” Liddell said in an interview with a New Zealand publication. “It’s actually essential that I keep my job for the next 12 days. It is an incredible and unstable situation. “

Pat A. Cipollone, the White House lawyer, considered stepping down, but on Friday night he was still in office.

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, was seen in the West Wing on Friday after his flight home from the Middle East. His presence was seen as an attempt to control the damage. He and his wife, Ivanka Trump, had been absent from the White House in recent weeks. A garbage transport truck was spotted in front of their house Thursday in the exclusive Kalorama neighborhood in Washington.

Those who were still at work were angry with those who had left. After Stephanie Grisham, a former White House press secretary, resigned on Wednesday, many Trump advisers said they saw it as an opportunistic move on the part of someone who had already verified long ago.

Former colleagues were particularly angry on Friday with Alyssa Farah, the former White House communications director, who appeared keen to reinvent her role in the Trump administration by claiming in an interview with Politico that she had resigned in December because “I saw where it was heading. “

“These are the shallows showing their true colors,” said Jason Miller, the Trump campaign strategist. “Democrats are always going to hate them, the Trump base is going to hate them because they’re a rat that jumps ship.

Alan rappeport contribution to reports.