DHS Kirstjen Nielsen: Anyone That Crosses Border Illegally Should Face Consequences For Illegal Entry


FOX News' Bret Baier interviewed Secretary of Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday's edition of Special Report.

BRET BAIER, FOX NETWORK HOST: Let’s talk more about immigration and other subjects with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Madam Secretary, thanks for being here.


BAIER: First, the court deadline, the 26th, it’s two days.


BAIER: Will you all be able to make that?

NIELSEN: Well, we’re on track to do it. We’re working hand and glove with HHF and it’s certainly our intention to reunify all families that are suitable.

BAIER: So Casey put up those numbers. I’ll put up the graphic. The one that really stuck out is the 463 parents possibly deported without their children. How will you be able to reunite parents with their kids if - - if they’ve already been deported?

NIELSEN: Well the part (inaudible) to the parents. So if the parents contact us that they would like to be reunited of course we’ll work with them. That is you know the way the conference (ph) works is the parents always have the choice to take the children with them. So these are parents who have made the decision not to bring their children with them and then will continue to work with the court to understand how we can best comply with the order.

BAIER: What’s your biggest challenge with complying with this order?

NIELSEN: I have to be honest. It’s the court cases and laws conflict. So we’ve gone back, as you know, through multiple findings - - filings and asked. We have TBPRA, we have Flores settlement. We have these very archaing detailed legal decisions. How do they fit with what this particular judge is asking us to do?

BAIER: As you know, obviously this is a political thing. Everything is in Washington. Senator Kamala Harris weighed in on this whole deal.


SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS, CALIFORNIA: It is clear when the Administration created this no tolerance policy that there was never the intention and certainly the design of any system to reunify these children with their parents. And so what we have seen over the ensuing weeks is complete pandemonium.


BAIER: So can you concede that at least the roll out of this was a big mistake? Was kind of a logistical screw up?

NIELSEN: Well we had a plan. I think what we’ve found in the midst of the plan is we had these intervening court cases and we’re possible for folks to fully recognize this. We really want to protect the children. So we don’t want to cut corners. We want to make sure they’re going with a parent. We want to make sure they’re going with somebody that won’t cause them any harm. And as you know with the first batch, we found 20 percent were either not parents or had very serious criminal histories. So that continues to demonstrate to us, we have to take the time to assure that that parent or guardian or adult who’s presented themselves is suitable to take care of the child.

BAIER: Was the set up originally as a deterrent?

NIELSEN: I knew it wasn’t. It was set up for the sole purpose of enforcing the law. It’s against the law to come to the United States between ports of entry. So what this President said is, I don’t want you to exempt any class. I want the law to apply equally to a single adult to a family to a two parent family to a single parent. Anyone that comes across that border illegally needs to have consequences for that illegal entry.

BAIER: For Capitol Hill, do you think there’ll be a government shut-down over wall funding or a failure to address DACA, the issue of DACA or both?

NIELSEN: I can’t - - I can’t, you know, speak to that in detail.

BAIER: Forecast the fight ahead.

NIELSEN: Yes. I think there’ll be a fight. I do. I think the President’s been very clear actually on both issues. But I think different parts of Congress have also been clear. So we’ll continue to work with them hand and glove to find a package that will work. I think what’s really important for Congress to continue to do however is to look at how to fix the immigration system. You know, these truths we have as Americans should all be true at the same time. We should be able to keep children with their families.

BAIER: But - - but the hope that that’s going to happen before the mid-terms?

NIELSEN: It’s a - - I’d like to remain optimistic. I will continue to work with them every day. But, in the mean time, I’m also working very closely with the Northern Triangle countries, with Mexico, been to Guatemala twice. I’ve met with the current president, with the future president of Mexico. We’re really trying to find other answers to help these flows that are emanating from these countries to find asylum or to seek shelter.

BAIER: Is the Administration willing to come off the full wall funding? Something short of that, if there’s a negotiated deal?

NIELSEN: Yes. We’re - - as you know the Homeland budget unfortunately is one of the last one to be passed here out of the committees. We haven’t asked for the $25 billion which is, you know, one part of the discussion. We’ve asked for a lesser amount. But we’ll continue to - - to work with Congress. We would like to build as much more wall as we can. We’re building the first wall, the new wall that we’ve had in 10 years. So the President is pushing forward on his promises.

BAIER: So you’re - - at least inside the Administration confident that there is going to be a wall.

NIELSEN: We will have a wall. Yes.

BAIER: Now whether Mexico pays for it or not.

NIELSEN: We’re asking for it in appropriations, to be appropriated by Congress.

BAIER: Yes. I want to turn to another subject and that is hacking as cyber security.


BAIER: Wall Street Journal piece entitled "Russian Hackers Reach U.S. Utility Control Rooms". Hackers working for Russia claim 100’s of victims last year in a giant long running campaign that put them inside control rooms of U.S. electric utilities where they could have caused blackouts. They got to the point, according to an official, where they could have thrown the switches. This story was jarring. How much is that happening?

NIELSEN: Well, we actually did put out a joint bulletin. The reason it’s in the news now which is good, it’s because we’re starting to do webinars to help the private sector understand how to mitigate and to recognize the threat. What we saw was targeting a particular industrial system which manage our grid, manage the generation and distribution of energy. And in one case, we did see access to a very limited distribution asset. It would not had it failed have had an effect on the larger grid, but nonetheless, it shows us the capabilities there. So we’re going to work hand and glove with Department of Energy and with private sector partners to make sure we’re prepared.

BAIER: Which country’s the best at cyber attacks, Russia, Iran, China?

NIELSEN: So different. Russia, we see with very immediate effect. They’re being, if you’ll excuse the expression a bit, noisy about it. They’re not covering their tracks as much as they used to. China’s really playing more of a long game. So we see them imbedding. We see them waiting. They’re patient but they’re not necessarily that we’ve seen trying to disrupt anything as we see the potential for with the Russians.

BAIER: Mid-term elections, 100 days away. (inaudible) came out with a poll. How concerned are you about Russian appearance in 2018? Very concerned, 42 percent. Trump Administration efforts to protect the 2018 election from Russian interference should be doing more. 62 percent. Will you insist that Congress approves legislation to address election security or is it too late for that?

NIELSEN: I don’t think anything’s too late. But what I would say is, legislation has to be very carefully crafted. Because of course, the responsibility for the elections is first and foremost with the state and local officials. So, we’re happy to report at DHS that all 50 states are working with us. That we’re providing a narrative services to them but that figure that you gave me on the percentage of Americans who are concerned. It needs to be higher. We know they have the capability. We know they have the intent. It would be foolish to assume they don’t try to disrupt or send discord in our democracy.

BAIER: So that message is not what America heard from the President in Helsinki. Just take a listen to some of those sounds.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I said it should have been. I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia. Sort of a double negative.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Getting along with President Putin, getting along with Russia is a positive not a negative. Now, with that being said, if that doesn’t work out, I’ll be the worst enemy he’s ever had.


BAIER: All right. And today, Madam Secretary the President tweeted, I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming election based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me. They will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump. There’s a lot of mixed messages over the past week and a half. Does the President truly believe that Russia’s going to try to attack the mid-term elections?

NIELSEN: President believes in the intel assessment from the last election and I think the key here is we know they have the capability. We know they have the intent. We see it in their foreign influence campaigns and then we saw it in their attempts to hack the election. So we have to be prepared. So we’ll continue on DHS portfolio will continue to work with the state and locals on the election infrastructure. But we have to be very clear the capability and the intent of the Russians is there. We must prepare for them to attempt to send discord.

BAIER: And so for people looking at the past week and a half at the President’s comments, what do you say to them?

NIELSEN: I think he clarified - - I think he does and has made clear that he does believe the intel assessment from last year, but that was last year. What I would like to direct your - - your viewers at home and the voters to do is make sure you know what your state is doing, ask them. How are you preparing? Will I get my provisional ballot? What if I have a question? What do I do? I mean the main thing we can do as a society is to make sure that we trust our processes, that our votes are counted and they’re voted correctly.

BAIER: Can the Russians change a vote?

NIELSEN: They have the capability to - - well we’ve seen they have the capability in many different critical infrastructure sectors. No votes were changed.

BAIER: Were unchanged. Can they change them now?

NIELSEN: Well if you base it on historical capability, we did not see them doing that.

BAIER: Why not say to the states, just go to paper ballots.

NIELSEN: We have. We have. Use some sort of method for audit ability if you will for redundancy. Paper ballots or auditing is another way to insure your voters that they voted.

BAIER: A couple more things, one is I had Michael McCall on a few months ago. He said there were terrorist investigations in all 50 states.


BAIER: Are there still terrorist investigations in all 50 states?

NIELSEN: There are. The FBI director said that just a few days at Aspen. It - - it’s - - unfortunately that’s true. We at DHS prevent 10 known or suspected terrorists from traveling to this country a day. So they’re very active.

BAIER: So there’ve been 10 a day trying to get in.

NIELSEN: Ten a day. Yes.

BAIER: How many attacks you think DHS and FBI has stopped since President Trump’s been in office?

NIELSEN: It’s - - it’s tough to quantify. A merit I would say, with conjunction with our national partners. Some perhaps could have been in Homeland, some across, you know, some are interests abroad. We work as a community now. We have about 2,000 people from DHS abroad for just that reason. To make sure that we’re connecting the dots and we’re also moving towards a National Vetting Center which we’re very excited about because that will bring to bear all of what USG has to make sure we have the information to fight the terrorists.

BAIER: Last thing. You know, this Administration does a lot in one week. Sometimes Friday’s feel like a dog years from Mondays. But, a few months ago, the New York Times had details of a cabinet meeting where you were said to be the target of the President’s anger, quote "land feed tirade" about securing the border. Since you’ve been sworn into the job, have you every offered your resignation?

NIELSEN: I’ve never offered my resignation. As long as I can support the men and women of DHS I will be in this job and serve proudly.

BAIER: You’ve got a lot to do.


BAIER: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for the time.

NIELSEN: Thank you so much for your time.

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