If two of President Donald Trump’s key Cabinet members, chief of staff John Kelly and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, are indeed on shaky ground, it was no more apparent than this week’s reported Cabinet battle of President Donald Trump’s authorization of lethal force at the border.
A Cabinet meeting to discuss granting troops the right to use lethal force to defend border patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico border got heated between border security hawks against Gen. Kelly and Nielsen, three sources told Politico.
Gen. Kelly and Nielsen had argued President Trump’s authorization of force exceeded his constitutional powers, according to the report.
But White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council President Chris Crane, and president of the border patrol union Brandon Judd reportedly won out, as President Trump authorized Defense Secretary James Mattis’ troops deployed to the border to use lethal force, crowd control, temporary detention and cursory searches. The troops will not be armed but reportedly may use batons and shields.
White House legal counsel Emmet Flood warned about a potential overreach of constitutional authority, according to a Politico source. Vice President Mike Pence was reportedly also at the heated debate, but did not take a position.
Nielsen ultimately sided with President Trump, while Gen. Kelly finally signed off on the final draft of the order, according to Politico sources.
“While a range of issues were discussed on a Monday call, the Cabinet memo was not one of those topics,” Nielsen wrote in a statement, per the report. “In reality, I have been clear: our agents and officers must have the ability to protect themselves, and to be protected by others, if they face critical situations on the border.
“I have been and will continue coordinating closely with Secretary Mattis to ensure that our people have the support and protection they need to do their jobs.”
White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley defended the order that was ultimately signed.
“The brave men and women at Customs and Border Protection willingly put themselves in extremely dangerous situations every day to protect Americans and their families,” Gidley wrote in a statement, per Politico. “The president’s authorization ensures the Department of Defense can step in to protect those who protect us.”