What They Voted For: Screaming, Flaming Handbasket

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen answers questions during a press briefing at the White House, in Washington, D.C., 18 June 2018. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

This is one of those that doesn’t so much go downhill from there, but, rather, is a screaming, flaming handbasket in medias res:

On Monday, new reporting continued to reveal the realities of the Trump administration policy of forcibly separating children from their adult guardians who cross the border without U.S. citizenship. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly are both on record endorsing the practice as a means of deterring undocumented immigrants from entering the country.

Yet the president and members of his staff have repeatedly and falsely blamed Congress—in particular congressional Democrats—for the nearly-2,000 children who have reportedly been taken into federal custody in just the last six weeks.

(Nuzzi)

The flashback, then:

When top members of Donald Trump’s team add the word “period” to their most outlandish claims, it’s a safe bet they know they’re lying. The day after the president’s inauguration, for example, then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer angrily told reporters, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period.”

(Benen)

Something about ominous setups goes here; unfortunately, all we find is a sick punch line:

Nielsen, in a speech to the National Sheriffs’ Association in New Orleans, said the children are provided food, medical attention, education and anything else they might need.

“We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job,” she said. “This administration has a simple message—If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you.”

Nielsen spoke hours after taking to Twitter to vehemently deny that her department’s border policy dictates separation of children from their parents.

“We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period,” Nielsen tweeted late Sunday.

(Bacon)

This is something of a sensitive nerve for the Trump administration. As Benen noted along the way:

Let’s recap where the Trump administration stands on this:

Donald Trump: Everyone should blame Democrats for the policy.

Stephen Miller: Actually, we love the policy.

Jeff Sessions: Not only do we support the policy, but the Bible justifies the policy.

Melania Trump: It’d be nice if “both sides” got together to fix my husband’s policy.

Kirstjen Nielsen: There’s a policy?

The pressure is mounting such that Secretary Nielsen appealed, during a speech to the National Sheriff’s Association, “Don’t believe the press”, which line she might have borrowed from Ann Coulter, but was cut from the DHS transcript.

Nonetheless, they really, really need you to not believe the press.

Which, in turn, brings us back around to Nuzzi’s glimpse at the White House press briefing on the internment of migrant children.

In what may have been an omen for the utterly stupid catastrophe that was to follow, around 1:15 p.m. a man jumped the White House gate, prompting a lockdown. Sometime later, after the briefing was pushed back, ProPublica published audio of young children separated from their parents screaming and crying inside of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility. In the recording, an agent can be heard joking at their expense. “We have an orchestra here,” he says.

Nielsen appeared agitated as she faced questions. At one point, asked how the treatment of the children separated from their parents wasn’t child abuse, she impatiently responded, “can you be more specific?” . . . .

. . . . Both Nielsen and, when she was done, Sanders, expressed unfamiliarity with the images and stories that have put this issue on every news channel that airs on the dozens of TVs throughout the White House, and on the covers of the newspapers in their mail . . . .

Every once in a while, it seems the answer to otherwise inexplicable durability of a besieged Trump administration official shows through; EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, for instance, keeps his job because he is so effectively harming the Agency. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as lackluster and unreliable as she has established herself, seems perfectly suited to the job for the simple fact that she continues to do it every day. Somewhere in between is the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; consider Benen:

I can appreciate the fact that Nielsen, a curious choice for this cabinet post given her previous failures, is in a difficult position. Trump recently spent a half-hour berating her in front of the entire cabinet, apparently blaming her for the lack of progress on his immigration agenda, and reportedly prompting Nielsen to consider resigning.

But that’s not much of an excuse for the Homeland Security secretary doing lasting harm to what’s left of her credibility.

Earlier this year, Nielsen gave Senate testimony in which she said she didn’t know that Norway’s population is largely white. A few months later, she said she was completely unaware of Russia favoring Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Now, the cabinet secretary is pretending the administration’s family-separation policy doesn’t exist.

Whatever else, Kirstjen Nielsen can stand up and deliver performances like we saw in a roomful of sheriffs, and then again at the White House.

____________________

Image note: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen answers questions during a press briefing at the White House, in Washington, D.C., 18 June 2018. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

Bacon, John. “Amid outrage, Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen ‘will not apologize’ for separating families”. USA Today. 18 June 2018.

Benen, Steve. “Trump’s DHS chief pretends there is no family-separation policy”. msnbc. 18 June 2018.

Nielsen, Kirstjen. “Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen Remarks at National Sheriffs’ Association Conference”. Department of Homeland Security. 18 June 2018.

Nuzzi, Olivia. “Inside the Disastrous White House Briefing on Trump’s Child Separation Policy”. New York. 18 June 2018.

Rodríguez, Juan. “DHS Sec. Nielsen addresses administration policy of separating children from parents at U.S.-Mexico border. ‘These minors are very well taken care of,’ she says. ‘Don’t believe the press.'” Twitter. 18 June 2018.

Wilstein, Matt. “Ann Coulter Smears Immigrant Children as ‘Child Actors'”. The Daily Beast. 18 June 2018.

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