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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 John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump 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 SessionsAlabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future Tuberville incorrectly says Gore was president-elect in 2000 Next attorney general must embrace marijuana law reforms MORE and former Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump turns his ire toward Cabinet members Ex-deputy attorney general says Justice Dept. 'will ignore' Trump's threats against political rivals The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump's erratic tweets upend stimulus talks; COVID-19 spreads in White House 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.”

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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 NielsenJudge says acting DHS secretary appointment unlawful, invalidates DACA suspension Biden's hard stand on foreign election interference signals funding fight The 'Anonymous' saga ended with a dud — a perfect example of the problem of Trump-era media 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.”