Donald Trump's Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, became the subject of widespread ridicule this week after she declared, "We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period." Three days later, Nielsen stood by the president's side as he signed an executive order to alter the policy that she said didn't exist.
But the DHS chief isn't the only member of the Trump cabinet drawing scrutiny for ridiculous claims about the administration's policy. For example, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sat down yesterday with David Brody, a correspondent for TV preacher Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. In reference to the president's executive order, Brody asked Sessions about the "media narrative out there has been that Trump administration is caving to pressure -- that these optics have not been good for the administration." The attorney general replied:
"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. What we intended to do was to make sure that adults who bring children into the country are charged with the crime they've committed. Instead of giving that special group of adults immunity from prosecution, which is what, in effect, what we were doing. So I think it’s the right thing. We’ll work our way through it and try to do it in the most compassionate way possible."
The line that stood out, of course, was "We never really intended to do that." Of course they intended to do that. We know this for sure because Trump administration officials have told us, more than once, that they intended to do exactly what they ended up doing.
Slate published several examples of this, including one from Sessions himself, who just last month declared, in a speech in which he appeared to be speaking to would-be undocumented border-crossers, "If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law."
A month later, the attorney general cited the Bible as a defense for breaking up children and their families.
As recently as this week, Sessions said he hoped Trump's family-separation policy would serve as a deterrent for others considering crossing the border.
So when the attorney general says the administration "never really intended" to separate immigrant families, as if this were somehow an unfortunate accident, no one should believe him.
Dishonesty about a misguided policy is a problem. Lazy dishonesty about a misguided policy is insulting.