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Trump reportedly promised to pardon his new DHS head if he illegally closed the border

President Trump has tossed around threats of closing the southern border, but two reports say he took the proposal a step further.

Last week, Trump told his then-Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan to close the border to asylum seekers, two senior officials informed both The New York Times and CNN. Trump also reportedly said that if McAleenan got in trouble for it, he would pardon him, though the officials didn't make it clear if Trump appeared to be joking.

The number of asylum seekers is swelling at the border and pushing the immigration court system beyond capacity. Trump's administration has tried several formal and informal policies to curb the flow, but federal judges have shot down nearly all of them. Trump then floated closing the border entirely, but backed down and said he would give Mexico a "one-year warning" before taking further action.

This reported conversation from last week, though, suggests Trump kept the shutdown idea alive — and it reportedly "alarmed officials at the Department of Homeland Security who were told of it," the Times writes. It also happened before then-Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen was even ousted from her position and McAleenan was slotted into her place in an acting role.

A DHS spokesperson told CNN that "At no time has the president indicated, asked, directed, or pressured the acting secretary to do anything illegal. Nor would the acting secretary take actions that are not in accordance with our responsibility to enforce the law." Read more at The New York Times.