President Donald Trump reportedly told Kevin McAleenan, who is currently the acting Homeland Security secretary, he would pardon him if he were sent to jail for blocking people from entering the United States along the southern border. Several outlets reported that Trump had that conversation with McAleenan last week when they were in Calexico, California. At the time, McAleenan was the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. Trump then named him head of Homeland Security after Kirstjen Nielsen resigned Sunday.
Although several outlets have reported the conversation citing anonymous sources, the context of the pardon promise changes a bit depending on who is doing the reporting. CNN, for example, says Trump vowed to “pardon him if he ever went to jail for denying US entry to migrants.” The New York Times, however, said the pardon promise came as the two were talking about closing the southern border entirely. Everybody does note though that it wasn’t necessarily clear whether Trump was joking. Although Trump had threatened to close the border earlier this month, he later backtracked and said he would give Mexico one year before taking such drastic action.
Homeland Security issued a statement that doesn’t quite deny Trump’s promise of a pardon.
“At no time has the President indicated, asked, directed or pressured the Acting Secretary to do anything illegal,” the department said in a statement. “Nor would the Acting Secretary take actions that are not in accordance with our responsibility to enforce the law.”
Trump also denied that he offered the pardon. “Of course this is not true,” he wrote on Twitter. “Mainstream Media is corrupt and getting worse, if that is possible, every day!”
Support our journalism
Help us continue covering the news and issues important to you—and get ad-free podcasts and bonus segments, members-only content, and other great benefits.Join Slate Plus