WASHINGTON — President Trump last week urged his soon-to-be acting homeland security secretary to close the southern border — and said that he would pardon the official if he were to run afoul of the law.
That’s according to two people familiar with the private conversation who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss what was said.
The conversation with Kevin McAleenan came during the president’s trip last week to Calexico, California, and a day after Trump told reporters that he was delaying his threat to close the border because Mexico appeared to be stepping up its efforts.
It was not clear whether the president was joking or why McAleenan would find himself in personal legal jeopardy.
Friday night, Trump tweeted that he did not offer pardons to homeland security personnel if they broke the law.
Another Fake Story on @NBCNews that I offered Pardons to Homeland Securiy personnel in case they broke the law regarding illegal immigration and sanctuary cities. Of course this is not true. Mainstream Media is corrupt and getting worse, if that is possible, every day!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2019
A DHS spokesman says that, ‘‘At no time has the president indicated, asked, directed or pressured the acting secretary to do anything illegal.’’
Also Friday, Trump said he is ‘‘strongly looking at’’ the idea of transporting migrants to so-called sanctuary cities that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Trump told reporters at the White House that if leaders of those districts and municipalities really want to open their arms to immigrants, ‘‘we can give them an unlimited supply.’’
He says: ‘‘They’re always saying they have open arms. Let’s see if they have open arms.’’
White House and Homeland Security officials had said as recently as Friday morning that the ‘‘sanctuary cities’’ idea has been discussed, but quickly dismissed, after DHS lawyers voiced opposition.
Trump nonetheless revived it in a pair of tweets that took DHS officials by surprise.