Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Migrants walk into the interior of Mexico after crossing the Guatemalan border near Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico on Oct. 21, 2018.

Migrants walk into the interior of Mexico after crossing the Guatemalan border near Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico on Oct. 21, 2018. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

'Egregious Abuse of Power': Report Says Trump Offered Pardon to CBP Head if He Broke Law and Blocked Asylum-Seekers

"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."

Andrea Germanos

"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.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Campaigners Warn of 'Wave After Wave of Variants' as Long as Vaccine Apartheid Remains

"Omicron is with us because we have failed to vaccinate the world. This should be a wake-up call."

Jake Johnson ·


'Utterly Obscene': Just 8 Pfizer and Moderna Investors Became $10 Billion Richer After Omicron Emerged

"Pharma execs and shareholders are making a killing from a crisis they helped to create," said one justice campaigner.

Jon Queally ·


Ilhan Omar Calls Kevin McCarthy 'A Liar and a Coward' for Refusing to Condemn Boebert's Islamophobia

"This is who they are," said the Minnesota Democrat. "And we have to be able to stand up to them. And we have to push them to reckon with the fact their party right now is normalizing anti-Muslim bigotry."

Jon Queally ·


'Congress Must Act': Bernie Sanders Demands End of Filibuster to Codify Abortion Rights

"We must pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade as the law of the land in this country. And if there aren't 60 votes to do it, and there are not, we must reform the filibuster to pass it with 50 votes."

Jon Queally ·


Human Rights Defenders Warn Biden Border Policy 'Quickly Transforming Into Trump 2.0'

Like his predecessor, President Joe Biden now being accused of "using racist, xenophobic tropes about immigrants to weaponize Covid-19 against migrants and asylum-seekers."

Jon Queally ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo