a simple request
January 18, 2019

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) dropped a bombshell Thursday, and he thinks it could saddle one Trump administration official with perjury charges.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has consistently maintained that the Trump administration has never had a policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border. She tweeted it in June 2018, and told it to Congress as recently as last month.

But the December 2017 memo Merkley released Thursday shows otherwise. In the draft memo, senior DHS and Justice Department officials can be seen discussing a legal route to separating migrant families long before it decided on the zero tolerance policy that ultimately split them, CNN notes. That means Nielsen may have "committed perjury" when testifying to Congress in December, Merkley wrote in a Friday letter asking the FBI to investigate Nielsen's claim.

The zero tolerance policy led to at least 2,700 children being separated from their families, the Trump administration has decided. But a Thursday report from the Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general shows the actual number of split children is probably "thousands" higher, seeing as the Office of Refugee Resettlement said it saw a "steep increase" in family separations that started in summer 2017, the report said. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 11, 2018

If President Trump had his way, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) would have an R next to her name, rather than a D.

In an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday, Heitkamp revealed that when she met with Trump in December 2016, "he asked me to switch parties." Heitkamp was at Trump Tower to discuss his incoming administration, and there had been rumblings that he might pick the moderate Democrat for his Cabinet. Heitkamp told the Post she "just laughed" at the notion of switching parties, adding, "I think he knows it's not going to happen."

North Dakota went big for Trump in 2016, and Heitkamp will likely face Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer, a close Trump ally, this fall. She told the Post she disagrees with Trump on tariffs but finds common ground with him on deregulation and caring about "working people." Heitkamp also shared that she's close enough to Trump that they're able to joke around with each other. "He's always ribbing me a little bit about being too conservative to be a Democrat," she said. Catherine Garcia

May 8, 2017

Unable to get through to their boss on their own, White House advisers called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office last month and asked if he would call President Trump to persuade him to not pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) unilaterally, several people in the Canadian government told Canada's National Post.

It worked — on April 26, after it was reported by several media outlets that the administration was drafting an executive order to exit NAFTA, Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto phoned Trump in the afternoon, and that night, the White House issued a statement saying Trump was not going to terminate the agreement. "You never know how much of it is theater, but it didn't feel that way," a senior Canadian diplomat told The National Post, before politely adding: "Maybe they're just learning how to be a government. At least they were open to the conversation, and that stopped them doing something rash and destructive."

Trudeau argued that if the U.S. left, it would likely cause a major economic disruption, costing U.S. jobs. Trump said it was an "honor" to work with Trudeau and Peña Nieto on the matter, and he likes "both these gentlemen very much. I respect their countries very much. The relationship is very special. And I said, I will hold on the termination — let's see if we can make it a fair deal." The White House did not respond to The National Post's request for a comment. Catherine Garcia

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