Watchdog finds top DOJ officials were 'driving force' behind Trump's child separation policy: NYT

Watchdog finds top DOJ officials were 'driving force' behind Trump's child separation policy: NYT
© Greg Nash

Top officials at the Justice Department were the chief drivers of President TrumpDonald TrumpGaetz was denied meeting with Trump: CNN Federal Reserve chair: Economy would have been 'so much worse' without COVID-19 relief bills Police in California city declare unlawful assembly amid 'white lives matter' protest MORE's immigration policy mandating the separation of those suspected of crossing the border illegally from their children, according to notes and a watchdog investigation reported by The New York Times

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Biden administration should resist 'slush-fund' settlements Garland should oppose Biden effort to reinstate controversial 'slush funds' practice MORE and former Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinRosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Comey argues Trump shouldn't be prosecuted after leaving Oval Office Trump turns his ire toward Cabinet members MORE were the two officials primarily pushing attorneys to prosecute immigrants suspected of illegal crossings, and pushed for them to be separated from children as young as infants, according to a report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz that was obtained by the Times.

“We need to take away children,” Sessions told prosecutors on one call, according to their shorthand notes, adding: “If [immigrants] care about kids, don’t bring them in. [We] [w]on’t give amnesty to people with kids.”


Rosenstein “instructed that, per the A.G.’s policy, we should NOT be categorically declining immigration prosecutions of adults in family units because of the age of a child," added John Bash, an outgoing U.S. attorney in western Texas.

Horowitz's report also accuses the former officials of pushing up the agency's case numbers at the expense of undocumented immigrant families.

“The department’s single-minded focus on increasing prosecutions came at the expense of careful and effective implementation of the policy, especially with regard to prosecution of family-unit adults and the resulting child separations,” Horowitz wrote.

The news of Sessions and Rosenstein's involvement come as the two, who were since fired and resigned from the agency, respectively, comes as the Justice Department has largely deflected criticism on the policy to the Department of Homeland Security, which has also defended the program.

“Congress and the courts created this system, and Congress alone can fix it," former DHS secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenLeft-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' House Republican condemns anti-Trump celebrities during impeachment hearing MORE told a congressional panel during 2018 testimony.

In a statement to the Times, a Justice Department spokesperson reportedly rejected the conclusions drawn by Horowitz in his draft report, and again blamed DHS for referring the cases to attorneys. Sessions declined to comment to the Times, while Rosenstein argued that he never directed attorneys to prosecute cases they did not believe should be sent to court.

“If any United States attorney ever charged a defendant they did not personally believe warranted prosecution, they violated their oath of office,” Mr. Rosenstein said in a statement. “I never ordered anyone to prosecute a case.”