Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon has announced on Twitter that he is formally asking FBI Director Christopher Wray to launch a perjury investigation into the role that Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, regarding comments she made about the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border. Merkley’s request follows the leaking of a government memo, which the Democratic senator says contradicts Nielson’s claim that separating families was not an official policy of the Trump Administration.
In the letter to Wray, Merkley writes, “The FBI has previously indicated that the Department of Justice requires a formal criminal referral from Congress to initiate an investigation concerning congressional testimony. I write today to execute such a criminal referral. Compelling new evidence has emerged revealing that high-level Department of Homeland Security officials were secretly and actively developing a new policy and legal framework for separating families as far back as December 2017.”
The Dec. 16, 2017 memo, obtained by Merkley’s office and first reported by NBC News, specifically mentions “separate family units” and “prosecution of family units” as well as “placing the adults in adult detention.” But when Nielson visited Twitter on June 17, 2018, she posted, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”
That same day, the Homeland Security secretary tweeted, “This misreporting by members, press & advocacy groups must stop. It is irresponsible and unproductive. As I have said many times before, if you are seeking asylum for your family, there is no reason to break the law and illegally cross between ports of entry.”
In his letter to Wray, Merkley also wrote, “While testifying under oath before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Secretary Nielson unequivocally stated, “I’m not a liar. We’ve never had a policy for family separation.’ In light of these conflicting facts, the FBI should immediately investigate whether Secretary Nielson’s statements violate… federal statutes that prohibit perjury and false statements to Congress.”