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Former Trump refugee director did not notify superiors about family separation warnings

Former Trump refugee director did not notify superiors about family separation warnings
© Screenshot/ABC News

The controversial former head of the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement told a House panel Tuesday that he did not pass along warnings about the psychological impact of separating children from their families. 

Under questioning from Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, Scott Lloyd said he did not tell his superiors that separating children from families could have lasting health consequences.

Lloyd’s testimony was the first time he has spoken about the policy since it was implemented under his watch.

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Commander Scott White, a top career official in the public health service corps, told lawmakers he repeatedly raised concerns with Lloyd as far back as 2017, when the policy was first being discussed internally.

White said he told Lloyd family separation would be inconsistent with the agency’s legal requirement to act in the best interests of children.

White, who is in charge of reunifying separated children with their families, said that Lloyd assured him that no family separation policy would be implemented.

Lloyd was grilled by Rep. Jayapal (D-Wash.) about his conversations with White.

“Did you ever say to the administration, this is a bad idea, this is what my child welfare experts have told us, we need to stop this policy? Did you once say that to anybody above you?” Jayapal asked.

"To answer your last question, I did not say those words," Lloyd said.

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Lloyd, who joined HHS in March 2017, was effectively removed from his post in November. He is now a senior adviser at the agency’s Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives.

His tenure at ORR was rocky and dogged by controversy.  Aside from separated children, he also faced scrutiny and outrage from abortion rights groups and congressional Democrats for his role in blocking unaccompanied minors in federal custody from getting abortions.

Lloyd’s testimony comes a month after a report from an HHS watchdog found the Trump administration separated thousands more migrant children from their parents than was previously known. Those separations occurred before the “zero tolerance” policy was implemented.

The policy from then-Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHouse Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists Senate Judiciary begins investigation into DOJ lawmaker subpoenas NSA leaker Reality Winner released from federal prison MORE was publicly announced in April 2018 and created a massive outcry. The backlash forced the administration to walk it back three months later.

More than 2,600 children remained separated from their parents when a federal court ordered the administration to reunite them.