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Sessions, Rosenstein Were ‘Driving Force’ Behind Trump’s Child Separation Policy

A detention center, via CBP.

By Steve Neavling

In a May 2018 call with U.S. attorneys along the border with Mexico, then-Attorney General Jeff Session was blunt about what President Trump wanted. 

“We need to take away children,” Sessions told the five prosecutors, referring to Trump’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy, according to an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general, first reported by The New York Times.

In a second call about a week later, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told prosecutors that age was not a factor and that they should not have dropped two cases because the parents had children who were barely more than infants.

Sessions and Rosenstein were a “driving force” behind the controversial policy that led to the separation of thousands of families, despite their past attempts to distance themselves, according to a draft report by Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.

“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,” the draft report said.

In a statement to the Times, a DOJ spokesperson denied the conclusions reached in the Horowitz report, and Rosenstein said he never directed prosecutors to pursue cases they objected to. 

“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.”


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