House Democrats are demanding answers from Kevin McAleenan, the newly appointed acting Homeland Security secretary, amid reports that the president offered to pardon him if he faced jail time for denying migrants entrance into the United States.
"We request that you promptly provide details concerning this reported directive to close the border and the related offer of a pardon," House Judiciary Democrats wrote in a letter sent to McAleenan on Tuesday. Warning that such a pardon offer would violate the Constitution, the Committee's Democrats demanded McAleenan identify DHS employees present during President Donald Trump's alleged comments.
Both Trump and a DHS spokesman denied the president engaged in any inappropriate conversations with McAleenan.
The letter linked to Friday's New York Times report, which cited three unnamed sources claiming that Trump directed McAleenan to close the border and offered to pardon him. Trump's alleged comments reportedly raised DHS officials' concerns, although one of the Times' sources said Trump could have intended his comments as a joke.
Fox News has not confirmed rumors of the reported pardon. The group of Democrats, led by Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., portrayed the rumored offer as part of a broader pattern of misconduct on the president's part.
"The reported discussion between you, President Trump, and other Department personnel follows a troubling pattern of conduct that has emerged over the past two years that appears to demonstrate that President Trump views the pardon power as a political tool, or even worse, as an expedient mechanism for circumventing the law or avoiding the consequences of his own conduct," the letter read.
Tuesday's letter came amid reported turmoil at DHS when former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen allegedly told the president his plans to close the border were illegal. Nielsen reportedly resigned after Trump told McAleenan, then commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, to ignore Nielsen's hesitation and close the border.
"I never offered Pardons to Homeland Security Officials, never ordered anyone to close our Southern Border (although I have the absolute right to do so, and may if Mexico does not apprehend the illegals coming to our Border), and am not 'frustrated,'" he tweeted on Friday. "It is all Fake & Corrupt News!"
According to the Times, DHS spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton similarly said “[a]t 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," he added.
Trump and congressional Democrats have struggled for months to come up with a solution to the complicated legal and political situation at the southern border. The president recently proposed sending the influx of migrants to sanctuary cities, a plan that House Democrats blasted as an "unlawful attempt to score political points."