Trump told border patrol agents to defy law, block migrants: CNN

President TrumpDonald John Trump2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate Senate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House 'Teflon Don' avoids the scorn of the 'family values' GOP — again MORE told Customs and Border Patrol agents last week to refuse to allow any migrants through the border in defiance of federal laws and court orders, CNN reported Monday.

On Friday, during a visit to Calexico, Calif., Trump told border patrol agents behind the scenes not to let any migrants in and, if ordered to by a judge, to respond, “Sorry, judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room,” two sources told CNN.

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When the agents later asked their commanding officers about the remarks, their superiors said policy was to obey the law and that they would face personal liability if they complied with Trump's orders, according to the network.

The news comes amid the ouster of Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen, who has frequently found herself the subject of Trump's ire over illegal immigration policy.

During Friday's trip to the border, Trump reportedly told Nielsen and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard Pompeo2 US service members killed in Afghanistan after Pompeo visit The Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? State Department need not be at odds with itself on Republic of Cyprus policy MORE to shut down the port of El Paso on March 22, with plans to close other ports later.

Nielsen pushed back on the idea, arguing that closing down the ports would simply shut down legal commerce and travel while migrants entered between the ports. Trump reportedly responded “I don’t care,” according to two people in the room, CNN reports.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? On The Money: Sanders unveils plan to wipe .6T in student debt | How Sanders plan plays in rivalry with Warren | Treasury watchdog to probe delay of Harriet Tubman bills | Trump says Fed 'blew it' on rate decision The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump targets Iran with new sanctions MORE was eventually able to talk Trump out of the plan, leading Trump to pivot to instead refusing entry to asylum seekers. Nielsen allegedly tried in vain to explain to Trump that migrants from Central America are legally allowed to apply for asylum.

Monday's articles echo earlier reports from NBC News that Nielsen’s resignation Sunday night was largely due to Trump pressuring her to resume the separation of parents from their children at the border. Trump argued family separation was the most effective deterrent, while Nielsen reminded him he had already signed an executive order ending the practice, according to NBC.

The family-separation policy led to sharp and bipartisan backlash last year, with even some of Trump's strongest allies decrying it before the president backtracked and ended the practice.

Trump adviser Stephen Miller is reportedly pushing him to remove further senior Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, including Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Lee Cissna, and the department's general counsel, John Mitnick.

The White House and DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.