The Trump Apologists and the Crying Children

Apparently there are some people close to Donald Trump with the capacity for shame. Not decency or courage, of course, but at least furtive recognition that they’re complicit in something vile.

.. The New York Times reported on a mother deported to Guatemala without her 8-year-old son. In The Washington Post, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics described a shelter for toddlers where staffers aren’t allowed to hug or hold the bereft children.

.. ProPublica obtained a recording of small children wailing for their parentsin a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, while a Border Patrol agent joked, “We’ve got an orchestra here.”

.. several people associated with the White House stepped forward to dissemble. Kirstjen Nielsen, head of the Department of Homeland Security, sent out a series of tweets denying that the administration’s policy was in fact the administration’s policy. “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period,” she lied.

.. Melania Trump’s spokeswoman put out a slippery statement distancing the first lady from the president’s actions and sowing confusion about their cause. “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform,” the statement said, as if her husband were not responsible for the separations.

.. Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, claimed that “nobody” in the administration likes the policy.

.. It’s hard to tell if these women are engaged in deliberate gaslighting or frantic reputation maintenance.

.. Perhaps Nielsen is worried about her post-White House prospects now that she’s best known for the systematic traumatization of children.

.. Maybe Melania Trump realizes that being the trophy wife of a child-torturer is bad for her brand. (#BeBest!)

.. no one should be able to squirm out of admitting that the evil practice of family separation is Donald Trump’s doing, abetted by everyone who abets him.

.. while some Trump apologists — as well as Trump himself — deny their role in tearing families apart, others in the administration boldly own it. “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry, period,” Trump’s senior policy adviser Stephen Miller told The Times.

.. The only alternative to the current policy, they say, is what they call “catch and release,” a dehumanizing term borrowed from fishing

.. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, dispatched this argument in a Facebook post on Monday. “The administration’s decision to separate families is a new, discretionary choice. Anyone saying that their hands are tied or that the only conceivable way to fix the problem of catch-and-release is to rip families apart is flat wrong,” he wrote. Some in the administration, he added, “have decided that this cruel policy increases their legislative leverage.”

.. The administration’s justifications and denials are meant to obscure that fact. Consider Nielsen’s suggestion, during a speech on Monday, that the administration is worried about child smuggling

.. Officers separated them — according to a lawsuit, Ms. L could hear her daughter in the next room, screaming — and the girl was sent to Chicago while her mother was held in California.

.. When the A.C.L.U. sued on Ms. L’s behalf, officials claimed they’d taken the girl because Ms. L couldn’t prove she was her parent. The judge in the case ordered a DNA test

.. “The truth is they’ve been doing this all along for deterrence purposes, as sometimes they boldly said in the press,” Lee Gelernt, an A.C.L.U. lawyer who argued the case, told me. “But when confronted in a federal lawsuit, they tried to retroactively justify it by saying they couldn’t figure out whether it was the mother.” It’s hard to know who’s worse — the sociopaths like Miller who glory in the administration’s cruelty, or those who are abashed enough to lie about the filthy thing they’re part of, but not to do anything else.

 

The grim desperation of Kirstjen Nielsen

If there’s one member of President Trump’s Cabinet who is the most embattled right now, it might be Kirstjen Nielsen. And the Department of Homeland Security secretary seems to be willing to say just about anything to get back on the president’s good side.

Behind the scenes, Nielsen is reportedly fighting Trump’s decision to separate migrant children from parents who cross the U.S. border. But on Sunday night, she took to Twitter to offer some pretty remarkable spin by arguing that no such policy exists.

“We do not have a policy of separating families at the border,” she said. “Period.”

.. While no specific policy says children must be taken from their families, the Trump administration has decided to interpret the law to put those who cross the border illegally in jail regardless of whether they bring children — and children cannot be placed in jail. The inescapable upshot of that is that the children must be separated from their families in a way they simply weren’t in the past two administrations.

.. Other members of the Trump administration have acknowledged this policy shift, which makes Nielsen’s contention rather strange. Nielsen seems to be trying to muddy the waters by arguing that asylum seekers coming to regular points of entry aren’t being separated from their families. There have been reports that they have been separated. And, regardless, this is decidedly a shift in practice.

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Nielsen’s testimony to Congress in January was also somewhat cringeworthy. After declining to confirm that Trump described Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” in a meeting she had attended, Nielsen was asked about Trump reportedly citing Norway as an example of a country with more desirable immigrants. Spotlighting a heavily white Scandinavian country in contrast to countries with heavy black populations led to plenty of inescapable conclusions — for just about everyone except Nielsen, it seemed.

Here’s the exchange with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.):

LEAHY: What does he mean when he says he wants more immigrants from Norway?

NIELSEN: I don’t believe he said that specifically. . . . what he was specifically referring to is, the prime minister telling him that the people of Norway work very hard. And so, what he was referencing is, from a merit-based perspective, we’d like to have those with skills who can assimilate and contribute to the United States, moving away from country quotas and to an individual merit-based system.

LEAHY: Norway is a predominantly white country, isn’t it?

NIELSEN: I actually do not know that, sir, but I imagine that is the case.

Norway is 95 percent white.

What’s remarkable about the whole thing is that Nielsen has publiclyappeared to be one of Trump’s staunchest defenders. Yet he has privately berated her for an uptick in illegal immigration and apparently doesn’t trust her because she worked in the Bush administration.

If this is a motivational tactic, it appears to be working. But it also means Nielsen might be sacrificing her credibility for something of a lost cause.