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Trump 'just wants to separate families,' because border security is 'his issue,' according to senior Trump officials

President Trump did not just clash with outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen over the legality and effectiveness of reinstating the migrant family-separation policy he ended last summer amid bipartisan outrage, as NBC News reported Monday morning. He wanted to expand "zero tolerance" to all migrant families who traveled over the U.S.-Mexico border, legally or illegally, in the U.S. or at the border, CNN reports, citing multiple sources.

Nielsen noted that federal courts had blocked family separation and White House staffers argued it would be another unmitigated PR disaster, CNN reports. But Trump said he thinks separating families is an effective deterrent. "He just wants to separate families," a senior administration told CNN.

At a meeting two weeks ago, Trump also ordered Nielsen and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to close the border at El Paso, Texas, the next day, with more ports of entry to come, CNN says. Trump was "ranting and raving, saying border security was his issue," one attendee recounted. Nielsen reportedly listed a bunch of practical and political objections to that decision, offered some alternatives, and was told by Trump, "I don't care." Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney apparently talked him out of closing the El Paso port of entry.