Political News

The Trump administration's compassion gap

The Trump administration's compassion gap

(CNN) - You care, but does the President? Anytime a commander in chief faces that question, it's a sure sign that something is wrong.But Donald Trump and his administration are finding their hu ... Continue Reading
A day of great confusion at court for parents separated from their kids at the border

A day of great confusion at court for parents separated from their kids at the border

MCALLEN, Texas (CNN) - Criminal cases against migrants who had been separated from their children stalled in two federal courts on Thursday, sowing confusion despite US President Donald Trump's order ... Continue Reading
There are 2,300 migrant kids spread across the US. What happens to them next?

There are 2,300 migrant kids spread across the US. What happens to them next?

(CNN) - Parents and children who together try to enter the United States illegally will no longer be separated at Mexican border.

But it's not clear when -- or if -- at least 2,300 children taken from their parents under the prior policy will be reunited. Neither is the long-term plan for families who are detained jointly.

Here's what we know:

Will the detentions continue?

It appears the "zero tolerance" policy has been curtailed, at least for the moment, based on emails obtained by CNN. According to the emails from Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Customs and Border Protection has told its field offices to suspend referrals for prosecution for parents who cross the border illegally with children. The apparent change, which can be reversed, further illustrates the confusion over how to implement the executive order signed Wednesday by President Trump intended to halt family separations at the border.

The executive order signed Wednesday by President Donald Trump replaces family separation with family detention.

The executive order seeks more authority to detain families together until the end of their immigration proceedings.

It states that it is the policy of the administration "to maintain family unity," a new position from the administration's previous defense of separating families, when it said those affected had put themselves in that position by crossing the border illegally.

Trump's order asks that families be housed together "where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources."

Will the separated children be reunited?

The short answer is: It's too early to tell.

So far, the administration has not provided details on how it plans to unite the at least 2,300 children separated from their families.

Those separated children have been designated as "unaccompanied alien children" and are in facilities or foster homes spread across states far from the US-Mexico border, including Michigan, New York, South Carolina and more.

The executive order does not address the uniting of families already separated -- and existing policies place the onus on parents to find their children in Department of Health and Human Services custody and seek to reunite with them.

"For the minors currently in the unaccompanied alien children program, the sponsorship process will proceed as usual," HHS spokesman Kenneth Wolfe said Wednesday.

In that program, children typically are connected with friends, relatives or other suitable volunteers to care for them, but in most cases, the children were alone when they entered the US illegally. And once a parent is in an adult detention facility, it is unlikely HHS can release their child back to them, as they would not qualify as a sponsor.

Later Wednesday, the HHS' families division's spokesman said Wolfe "misspoke." But he didn't provide details on any plans to unite separated families.

"It is still very early and we are awaiting further guidance on the matter," Brian Marriott said.

"Our focus is on continuing to provide quality services and care to the minors in HHS/ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) funded facilities and reunifying minors with a relative or appropriate sponsor as we have done since HHS inherited the program."

Parents have been told to call hotlines to find their children, and the government, in a flyer distributed to immigrants, says it will work across agencies to schedule regular phone communication. But the programs are difficult to navigate, immigrant advocates told CNN, and parents in immigration officials' custody or jail cannot receive phone calls.

A former director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said he was "really shocked" to see that the executive order did not address the issue.

"I thought the whole point of this was to reunite the kids," John Sandweg said.

What about children who hadn't gotten to HHS sites?

Before getting transferred to HHS oversight, US Customs and Border Protection, which operations mainly along the border, can hold children for as long as 72 hours.

Children still in CBP custody when Trump's executive order went into effect now will stay there until their parents return from court proceedings, then be detained with them, an announcement made Thursday by the border agency implies.

"For those children still in Border Patrol custody, we are reuniting them with parents or legal guardians returned to Border Patrol custody following prosecution," a CBP spokesperson said in the statement.

Who will detain the families?

Unlike in the past, adults will not be turned over to the Justice Department when they face criminal charges.

Instead, they'll be under the custody of the Department of Homeland Security, a change the administration had previously said it could not make.

The order maintains an exception for when a child is at risk or there is concern the parent would pose a risk to the child's welfare.

There's also a catch that says the families will be detained to the "extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations" -- again something that remains to be worked out.

Where will the families be held?

The order instructs federal agencies -- notably the Defense Department -- to prepare facilities to house the potentially thousands of families who will be detained. It is unknown how the agencies will proceed now that the zero tolerance policy has been effectively neutered.

There are now far more beds for single adults than for families. With thousands of families apprehended crossing the border illegally on average each month, detaining them could rapidly tax government resources.

"The secretary of defense shall take all legally available measures to provide ... existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families, and shall construct such facilities if necessary and consistent with law," Trump's executive order states.

The military would have no responsibility for any of the activities, defense officials say. Officials compared it with being a "landlord" but not responsible for the management of the housing, security, food services or other activities.

When will their cases be heard in court?

In the executive order, Trump makes an effort to have families' cases decided faster in immigration courts.

Until now, if a family had a potentially valid claim of asylum, it could wait months or years for an immigration court hearing, during which time they could live and work in the United States.

To expedite the process for deporting a family or granting its members legal status, Trump ordered the Justice Department to "prioritize" cases "involving detained families" -- presumably allowing them to jump the immigration court line.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to make clear that the executive order does not address the uniting of families.

Melania Trump makes surprise visit to border facility

Melania Trump makes surprise visit to border facility

MCALLEN, Texas (CNN) - First lady Melania Trump touched down in McAllen, Texas, Thursday for a publicly unannounced and hastily planned trip to get a firsthand look at the crisis affecting immigrant families at the US border.

"I want to thank you for your hard work, your compassion and your kindness," the first lady said at a roundtable briefing at Upbring New Hope Children's Shelter, with doctors and medical staff, social workers and other experts on hand.

"She wants to see what's real," the first lady's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told CNN during a news briefing en route to Texas, explaining Trump's decision to visit.

Trump becomes the first member of the President's inner circle to personally witness the situation that has captured the country's attention. Something else that grabbed attention: the jacket the first lady donned as she left Washington.

She wore an olive green jacket, which said on the back: "I really don't care. Do U?" in white graffiti-style lettering. Trump was not wearing the jacket when she landed in McAllen.

The $39 jacket is last season Zara.

The first lady's team said there was no hidden meaning behind the sartorial choice.

"It's a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today's important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn't going to choose to focus on her wardrobe," Grisham said.

Touring in Texas

The facility opened to the first lady was of course selected keeping in mind press would be accompanying her. Other such facilities around the country have denied access to Democratic lawmakers and media.

While photos and audio from the unfolding crisis on the border have shown tender age children crying for their parents, Trump, CNN and other members of the media were at a facility with children aged 12-17. The portion of the trip designed to show a family processing facility was canceled due to severe flash flooding in the area.

Upbring New Hope Children's Shelter, part of Lutheran Social Services of the South, is a Department of Health and Human services-overseen facility, which operates with the assistance of HHS funding.

Trump was greeted by Upbring CEO Dr. Kurt Senske, who outlined Upbring's five markers of success: safety, life skills, health, education and vocation. The facility opened in 2014 and currently houses 55 children. Of the children -- 27 boys and 28 girls -- approximately 10% arrived in the United States with their families and have since been separated.

Trump, during a roundtable with officials, asked how often the children speak to their families by telephone, how they are emotionally cared for on arrival and on average how long they stay at the facility before being placed elsewhere.

The first lady stopped to visit with children in three separate classrooms during her tour.

"Where are you from?" she asked several of the kids, along with "How old are you?" and "Have you made friends?"

The children answered, some via a teacher translating from Spanish to English.

The children are "usually distraught" when they arrive, Trump was told by officials, but "when they see the environment, they start relaxing."

Basic needs are taken care of -- showers, clothing, food, medical care.

"The first 24 hours are crucial," a staff member told the first lady.

How children are processed

An administration official briefing the media before the visit said most children at an HHS-funded and regulated facility such as this one remain there for approximately 58 days, receiving medical, dental, vision and psychological care, as well as what the official described as the ability to be inside a "safe and happy environment."

The official emphasized the predominant mission at this stage of the process, for unaccompanied children is to place them back with appropriate sponsors. Those sponsors can be their parents, if the parents are not involved in the judicial or criminal process or they can be other approved family members already living inside the United States.

If neither of those options is possible, which is the case in about 10% of the unaccompanied children, they are placed with vetted foster families or volunteers.

All of this information was something the first lady wanted to learn in person, said Grisham, who told the media Trump informed her staff -- and her husband, President Donald Trump -- that she had decided she needed to see for herself the family intake and unaccompanied children facilities.

The facilities have dominated the news for days on end, causing heated political battles from the White House to Capitol Hill, ricocheting around the world in an uproar of disbelief and consternation.

A readout of the trip from the White House on Thursday night included this statement from the first lady:

"Today's visit impacted me greatly. I was very impressed with the center and the hardworking staff and leadership there -- and thank them for all of their hard work. The children were eager to learn and were kind and in good spirits. Spending time with them reinforces the fact that these kids are in this situation as a direct result of adult actions. It is my hope that Members of Congress will finally reach across the aisle and work together to solve this problem with common sense immigration reform that secures our borders and keeps families together."

How it came together

" 'I'm headed down to Texas,' " is what Grisham said the first lady told her husband, and "he was supportive."

Grisham confirmed the trip would have taken place whether or not the President had signed an executive order on Wednesday intended to stop the separations.

"This was 100% her idea," said Grisham of Trump's decision to travel to McAllen, making clear the first lady is not on a mission assigned by the President nor is she acting as his emissary. "She wanted to come down."

The first lady intends to inform the President of what she sees.

"She will continue to update her husband," said Grisham, confirming what was reported first Wednesday by CNN, that the first lady had been lobbying the President behind the scenes, encouraging him to stop the separation of children as swiftly as possible, either via legislative process or executive power.

The latter was ultimately the route the President chose, in a stunning reversal of his previous rhetoric.

"As with many topics she will continue to give her husband her opinions," Grisham said.

Like most of the country, the first lady has been watching media reports about children taken from their parents and placed in holding facilities.

It is unclear what, exactly, Trump intends to accomplish from this visit to Texas, outside of seeing firsthand what is happening.

Since becoming first lady, Trump has said she wants to champion helping children, yet has been for the most part vague about how exactly she intends to accomplish her goal. In May, Trump unveiled her "Be Best" platform, which outlined three predominant avenues of focus: health and well-being; kindness and safety online, and highlighting the effects of the opioid crisis on children and families.

Trump misrepresents North Korea nuclear agreement

Trump misrepresents North Korea nuclear agreement

WASHINGTON (CNN) - United States President Donald Trump offered a misleading characterization of his deal with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un on Thursday, insisting the nation had agreed to begin "total denuclearization" right away.

In reality, the document he signed with Kim at their June 12 summit in Singapore only reiterated North Korea's previous commitment to "work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

Sitting in the Cabinet Room next to Defense Secretary James Mattis, Trump insisted the document read: "We will immediately begin total denuclearization of North Korea," an opaque phrase that the United States and North Korea view differently.

Trump also said North Korea had begun destroying test sites.

But only Wednesday, Mattis said he was "not aware" of any indications that North Korea had taken concrete steps to dismantle any more of its infrastructure for the launching of ballistic missiles or any additional steps to fully denuclearize following the June 12 summit in Singapore between Trump and Kim.

"Obviously, we are at the very front end of the process, the detailed negotiations have not begun," Mattis told reporters on Wednesday. "I wouldn't expect that at this point."

Trump's comments come as South Korean President Moon Jae-in is in Russia, where he is pitching the economic benefits of peace on the Korean Peninsula.

"A great historic transformation is now underway on the Korean Peninsula," Moon said during a speech at the Duma, the Russian Parliament, Thursday.

"A solid peace regime between the two Koreas will also be able to develop into a multilateral peace and security cooperation regime in the region."

Short on details

Kim and Trump became the first two sitting leaders of their country ever to meet face-to-face earlier this month. Trump said he developed a "special bond" with Kim and upon his return to the United States tweeted that "there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea."

Though many experts and analysts welcomed the developing rapport between the two leaders, in light of last year's heightened tensions, the agreement signed by Trump and Kim was largely viewed as short on specifics.

According to the document, "President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK (North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea), and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

It also declared that the "DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

Analysts were troubled by the use of that phrase because most believe North Korea has a different definition of the "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" than the United States.

Experts believe North Korea sees the "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" as something that would involve US or South Korean concessions, including the possible removal of US troops from the Korean Peninsula.

Successive US administrations, including Trump's, have instead stated their ultimate policy goal is the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

When asked by a reporter about why the words "verifiable and irreversible" were not included in the document signed by Trump and Kim, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the word "complete" encompasses "verifiable and irreversible."

He then said he found the question "insulting and ludicrous."

WaPo: National Enquirer sent Trump stories to Michael Cohen before publication

WaPo: National Enquirer sent Trump stories to Michael Cohen before publication

(CNN) - Executives from the National Enquirer provided President Donald Trump's attorney Michael Cohen the opportunity to review articles and cover photos featuring Trump or his political opponents b ... Continue Reading
Vulnerable House Republican calls for Trump to fire Stephen Miller

Vulnerable House Republican calls for Trump to fire Stephen Miller

(CNN) - As chaos and confusion continued to swirl in Washington about the fate of some 2,000 migrant children separated from their parents at the border, a tweet from vulnerable Republican Rep. Mike Coffman on Thursday made it clear that Republicans are bracing for major blowback on the Trump administration's immigration policy in November.

Coffman, a Colorado US House member who is a top Democratic target this fall, took on President Donald Trump and his top policy adviser Stephen Miller, who helped shape the administration's "zero tolerance" policy toward illegal crossings at the border.

"The President should put a General, a respected retired CEO or some other senior leadership figure on the job of making sure each and every child is returned to their parents," Coffman tweeted. "And the President should fire Stephen Miller now. This is a human rights mess. It is on the President to clean it up and fire the people responsible for making it."

Coffman's tweet reflected the political gravity of the family separation crisis for Republicans as they try to maintain control of the House of Representatives in November.

As the President and his advisers have tried to blame Democrats for the heart-wrenching results of their zero-tolerance policy, many Americans -- including moderate Republicans and suburban women -- have recoiled in horror from the scenes and sounds of young children torn from their parents at the border.

The public relations crisis for the Republican Party comes at a time when some vulnerable Republicans are deeply frustrated about their party's inability to strike a compromise on immigration -- which was punctuated late Thursday with the leadership's decision to delay a vote on a comprehensive compromise immigration bill.

With an eye toward the fall, when Hispanic voters could come out in force, top targets like Coffman, Reps. Will Hurd of Texas and Jeff Denham and David Valadao of California -- who represent the heavily Latino Central Valley -- are testing how far they can distance themselves from the President's harsh immigration rhetoric and his administration's actions.

The high-wire act will be to show their independence from Trump without alienating his loyal base of Republican voters -- or incurring his wrath.

Denham, who introduced the immigration compromise bill, advocated for a permanent solution to family separations on CNN this week by talking about his feelings as a father. He pointed out that the legislation he helped craft was "a 100% fix to make sure that children are not separated from their parents."

"Look, I'm a father," he told CNN's John Berman on Wednesday. "I'm always going to make sure that my children are protected and never separated from me. So we need to fix that under law. Not executive order. Not the stroke of a pen."

Denham, whose district is 40% Latino, also pressed the White House to make administrative fixes immediately: "We need to make sure we have these family residences, not orphanages that we used to send kids to, but family residences to keep kids with their parents. Deciding where their parents (are), where the kids should go. We should never separate the two."

Hurd told CNN's Erin Burnett on Wednesday that "it's a little ridiculous that we have to legislate that you shouldn't take kids from their mommies."

On Thursday, explaining his vote against the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act, favored by conservatives, Hurd said in a statement that he could not support the bill "that fails to effectively address family separations at the border."

Another strident critic of the Trump administration's policy, GOP Rep. Mia Love of Utah, could potentially face the wrath of voters this fall in her race in Utah's 4th District, because there are so many Utah Republicans who disagree with the Trump administration on immigration policy.

For years, the Mormon Church has urged government officials to show greater compassion toward immigrants. This week the Mormon Church said in a statement that it was "deeply troubled" by the "aggressive and insensitive treatment" of the families separated at the border.

In an interview with the Deseret News, Love called the Trump administration's policy "horrible" and "absolutely terrible."

"Separating families at the #border is not a right or left issue. This is simply right and wrong," Love tweeted.

Love, the daughter of Haitian immigrants who is facing a fierce challenge from Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, also put up a poster-like image of herself on Twitter with a bold orange and white headline that said, "Fixing Immigration. Keeping Families Together."

But McAdams' campaign manager, Andrew Roberts, said Love had not gone far enough. He criticized her for not speaking out against the administration's policies earlier this year when officials signaled that the administration was headed in a far more aggressive direction when it came to separating families.

"Once again, Rep. Love is all talk and no action," Roberts said. "She knows Utahns disapprove of her past efforts to separate families and deport DREAMers and is desperately trying to cover her tracks during a competitive campaign. Love's actions, however, speak louder than her words. Instead of fighting to get more support for the discharge petition in its final hour -- ensuring a vote on multiple immigration bills -- she chose to fundraise with Speaker Ryan -- giving power back to the very DC political bosses she wants Utahns to believe she doesn't answer to."

Senior Justice officials meeting with special counsel team biweekly, source says

Senior Justice officials meeting with special counsel team biweekly, source says

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Two senior Justice Department officials from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's office were seen by CNN entering the special counsel's office in DC on Thursday afternoon, and ... Continue Reading
Trump's family separation course-correction only adds confusion

Trump's family separation course-correction only adds confusion

WASHINGTON (CNN) - One thing that's clear from President Donald Trump's executive order trying to reverse course from his policy that resulted in family separations at the border: It's still not clear how it will work.

Officials across the government were hurriedly meeting Thursday to try to come up with clear guidance on the implementation. Agencies gave few answers -- and sometimes corrected those answers -- about what the order meant.

Trump's move itself seemed to come together hastily Wednesday with reports about the imminent order leaking out even as key lawmakers in Congress and a source inside one of the agencies that would carry out the order saying they did not know what was going to be in it.

The executive order the President signed kept in place the "zero-tolerance" prosecution policy that resulted in families caught crossing illegally at the border being separated because the adults are charged with a crime, but it said that the administration would aim to keep families together during that process going forward.

But that left a number of questions unanswered, not the least of which was what would happen to the more than 2,300 children now in government shelters all over the country who had been separated from their parents since the policy went into effect in April and whether those families would be reunited.

Even more questions remained about how families could be kept together while the adults were also charged with a crime, why they were ever separated in the first place if that was an option, and what would happen to the families after 20 days, when a court settlement requires children to be released from detention.

"Discussions regarding implementation of the executive order are still ongoing," an administration official said Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, conflicting messages emerged from the administration.

Asked about how families will be reunified on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said there was a plan that seemed to refer to the current procedure placing the responsibility on the parents to track their children down in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services by calling government hotlines.

"We have a plan to do that, as you know we do it on the back end," Nielsen said. "So a combination of DHS, DOJ, HHS reuniting as quickly as we can. But don't forget the vast majority of those kids are (unaccompanied), so we have to find them someone."

Nielsen appeared to be referring to the roughly 80% of children in HHS custody who came to the US illegally alone, but there are more than 2,000 children who were still separated from their families as a direct result of her agency's decision to refer the adults for prosecution.

Nielsen then ignored a question about what happens when the 20 days are up.

Trump himself muddied the waters on Thursday, saying at a White House event that separations may continue, which appeared to be an attempt to continue to falsely blame Democrats for his own policy even as his executive order reversing course demonstrated that he had the ability to change it even when he had been insisting he didn't.

"Democrat and court-ordered loopholes prevent family detention and lead to family separation, no matter how you cut it," Trump said. "I signed a very good executive order yesterday, but that's only limited. No matter how you cut it, it leads to separation ultimately."

And a Justice Department filing seemed to say that the executive order's way to keep families together -- by keeping them in DHS custody through their court proceedings -- was not possible.

"Under current law and legal rulings, including this Court's, it is not possible for the U.S. government to detain families together during the pendency of their immigration proceedings. It cannot be done," federal attorneys wrote to the judge asking to have the 20-day restriction she imposed waived.

Meanwhile, a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson put out a statement to the media that the agency "has taken immediate steps" to put the order into effect, and that families would be kept together and transferred to family detention if they were caught crossing the border illegally.

"The Border Patrol will continue to refer for prosecution adults who cross the border illegally," the statement said, adding that any children still in Border Patrol custody -- likely a small number as Border Patrol has been quickly transferring children to HHS when separated from parents -- would be reunified with their parents after any criminal proceedings.

But according to email traffic sent Wednesday night and Thursday morning that was obtained by CNN, Customs and Border Protection has told its field offices to suspend referring any parents who cross the border illegally with their children for prosecution for misdemeanor illegal-entry charges. The move, which could be reversed, effectively neuters "zero tolerance" as long as it is in effect.

In different email traffic obtained by CNN, it was clear there was plenty of confusion in the aftermath of the executive order.

The order requires families to be held together, meaning they will need to be kept in detention space that is designed for families.

But late Wednesday evening, after the executive order was signed, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official sent a notification that the family detention centers ICE runs would close for three days. Those would be the places families are sent if they are to be detained together, as the order maintains.

The notice said families could not be sent there in the meantime.

By Thursday afternoon, a different ICE official said the residential centers were back open and to spread the word, allowing for families to be transferred again.

The statements and miscues followed further mixed messaging from the administration on Wednesday.

Hours after the order was signed, the White House convened a call for reporters with Gene Hamilton, the counselor to the attorney general, who said he could not answer implementation questions. While Hamilton said the order would have "immediate effect," he demurred on what exactly it would be, citing that the order acknowledges that implementation will be subject to what resources are available.

"There will be an implementation phase that follows. Certainly (DHS) and (HHS) will be working and collaborating closely on the best way to implement this executive order," Hamilton said. "I can't say what they're going to do. ... The President's executive order makes clear what the policy is going forward."

And HHS put out a statement only to walk it back without further clarity hours later.

"For the minors currently in the unaccompanied alien children program, the sponsorship process will proceed as usual," HHS spokesman Kenneth Wolfe told CNN.

Later Wednesday, the agency put out a statement from Brian Marriott, a senior communications official at the Administration for Children and Families, the same division of HHS where Wolfe works. Though the statement said Wolfe "misspoke" about the executive order, Marriott did not say a clear plan for putting children back with the parents they had been separated from was in place.

"It is still very early and we are awaiting further guidance on the matter," Marriott said. "Our focus is on continuing to provide quality services and care to the minors in HHS/ORR funded facilities and reunifying minors with a relative or appropriate sponsor as we have done since HHS inherited the program. Reunification is always the ultimate goal of those entrusted with the care of UACs, and the administration is working towards that for those UACs currently in HHS custody."

Ex-DHS secretary: No formal policy of family separation during Obama administration

Ex-DHS secretary: No formal policy of family separation during Obama administration

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said Thursday evening that there had been no formal policy to separate the detained families of illegal immigrants under President ... Continue Reading
 Emails suggest 'zero tolerance' effectively on hold, despite what Trump admin says

Emails suggest 'zero tolerance' effectively on hold, despite what Trump admin says

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Though the Trump administration outwardly is maintaining that it is continuing its "zero-tolerance" border policy, email traffic obtained by CNN shows that the policy has effectivel ... Continue Reading
Jeff Sessions changes tone on family separations at the border

Jeff Sessions changes tone on family separations at the border

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Trump administration continues to reverse course on its messaging surrounding highly controversial US immigration policies following days of significant pushback.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday seemed to contradict previous statements he had made about the practice of separating children from their parents after they have crossed the border illegally.

Sessions said in an interview with CBN News that the administration "never really intended" for families to be divided, according to a transcript of the interview.

"It hasn't been good and the American people don't like the idea that we are separating families. We never really intended to do that," Sessions said during the interview, which is set to air Friday and Monday on "The 700 Club."

"What we intended to do was to make sure that adults who bring children into the country are charged with the crime they have committed. Instead of giving that special group of adults immunity from prosecution, which is what, in effect, what we were doing," he continued.

This comment breaks from what Sessions had said earlier in June during a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, where the attorney general warned that undocumented individuals who didn't want to be forced apart from their children should not cross the border with them in the first place.

"But the law requires us to keep children in a different facility than we do for adults," Sessions had told Hewitt. "And every time somebody, Hugh, gets prosecuted in America for a crime, American citizens, and they go to jail, they're separated from their children. We don't want to do this at all. If people don't want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them."

Sessions later added that although it is not the "goal to separate children," it is "legitimate to warn people who come to the country unlawfully bringing children with them that they can't expect that they'll always be kept together."

A spokeswoman for Sessions said the attorney general has been clear all along.

"The AG has been clear: We do not want to separate families. He has also been clear when he has urged people repeatedly to go to any port of entry to claim asylum instead of risking the dangers of crossing the border illegally and being prosecuted," said Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that is aimed at keeping families together at the border.

"We're signing an executive order. I consider it to be a very important executive order. It's about keeping families together, while at the same time being sure we have a very powerful, very strong border," Trump said.

Texas Democrat: 'Strong racist element' to child detentions

Texas Democrat: 'Strong racist element' to child detentions

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Rep. Beto O'Rourke charged Thursday that racism is a factor in Trump administration policy leading to the detention of children at the border. "This is a President who has called ... Continue Reading
Republicans push vote for key immigration bill into next week

Republicans push vote for key immigration bill into next week

(CNN) - Republicans -- in a last minute decision -- decided to postpone a vote on a comprehensive immigration bill for the second time in less than a day, a sign of the struggles leaders are having to unite the conference on such a contentious topic.

An aide told CNN that the plan is for members to work over the weekend to try to craft a bill that can gain more support next week.

"There's active negotiations," said Rep. Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas. "They are just going to try and take (it) and add a few things to it to get another 20 votes."

According to two people in the room, the decision to postpone the vote came in the final 20 minutes of the conference meeting when many of the members had already left. Majority Whip Steve Scalise and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy "saw a potential opening" in the discussions, per one person. The decision was made to try to make something happen in the days ahead.

"It was a well-attended conference where it gave our entire conference an opportunity to have a full discussion on these very important issues," said Rep. Jeff Denham, a Republican from California who has worked with lawmakers for weeks on compromise legislation.

"While we've all been in negotiations the last several weeks, we feel like we've continued these good discussions on, but two new issues came up. We're having a discussion about E-verify and ag jobs, two more very important issues that we have yet to discuss so far, so we're going to spend the weekend and delay a vote until next week and see if we can come to a compromise on those two final issues," he added.

For days, aides and members had been trying to tamp down expectations for the compromise vote, noting that the most important thing was to put a bill on the floor to assuage concerns of House moderates rather than actually pass something, but the move Thursday night suggested that there was still more work to be done. And the optics became more complicated for leaders Thursday when the conservative immigration bill -- the one that members had said would not have the votes and shorthanded as the Goodlatte bill after Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia -- earned more votes than expected although it still failed.

The announcement that the vote was postponed came at the end of two-hour conference meeting where members went point by point through the massive immigration bill.

"I think the fact they're going through the bill section by section at 5:15 p.m. the day before the bill is going to be voted on is indicative of there is more work that needs to be done," Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei said before the bill was postponed.

The depressing predictability of the immigration debate

The depressing predictability of the immigration debate

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sometime over the next week, an immigration bill that aims to resolve the fate of DACA and fund President Trump's border wall will very likely fail to secure a majority of votes on ... Continue Reading
Trump admin asks judge for permission to detain children with parents past 20 days

Trump admin asks judge for permission to detain children with parents past 20 days

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Justice Department on Thursday sought to modify a federal court order that limits the ability of US officials to detain immigrant children longer than 20 days.The move is par ... Continue Reading
Border Patrol union president on catch and release: 'No way it can stop'

Border Patrol union president on catch and release: 'No way it can stop'

(CNN) - There is "no way" the "catch and release" of deportable immigrants can stop under President Donald Trump's executive order to keep undocumented immigrant parents and children together, said B ... Continue Reading
Top US Navy leader resigns amid misconduct probe

Top US Navy leader resigns amid misconduct probe

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The US Navy's top enlisted leader announced Thursday he is resigning "to avoid any distraction," as an inspector general investigates allegations that he "fostered a hostile work en ... Continue Reading
Senators call on National Science Foundation to investigate climate change grants

Senators call on National Science Foundation to investigate climate change grants

(CNN) - Four Republican senators have called on National Science Foundation Inspector General Allison Lerner to investigate the foundation's grant-making process, citing a grant charged with enabling ... Continue Reading
US, Iranian top diplomats spar online

US, Iranian top diplomats spar online

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Iranian counterpart squared off in a battle of strongly-worded statements this week, with Pompeo tweeting his apparent support for Iranian ant ... Continue Reading