On Tuesday, approximately an hour after President Trump took to Twitter to compare immigrants entering the United States to vermin, The New York Times issued a confounding statement.

“We conducted an extensive White House interview with Stephen Miller for a weekend story about the Trump administration’s border policy,” it read. “Miller was quoted, on the record, in that story. After the original story was published, producers of ‘The Daily’ [podcast] planned to … use audio excerpts from the Miller interview. White House officials objected, saying they had not agreed to a podcast interview. While Miller’s comments were on the record, we realized that the ground rules for the original interview were not clear, and so we made a decision not to run the audio.”

The weekend story in question traces the genesis of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, specifically how the president was convinced to separate immigrant children from their parents. Written by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael D. Shear, the piece quotes extensively from White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, who emerges as the most dogged champion of the practice.

“No nation can have the policy that whole classes of people are immune from immigration law or enforcement,” Miller claimed. “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law.”

Of course, there is no immigration law dictating that parents be separated from their children at the border, despite the administration’s best efforts to blame the Democratic Party for its own cruel agenda. As the Times observes, “For George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the idea of crying children torn from their parents’ arms was simply too inhumane—and too politically perilous—to embrace as policy.”

But Miller has proved undaunted. In a separate piece for the Times published Saturday, Davis reveals the White House aide has adopted the president’s fraudulent claim while simultaneously claiming credit for breaking up immigrant families at the border.

“The loopholes, both legal and judicial, are now wholly owned and belong to Democrats, because they alone oppose their changing,” Miller told her. “No one in our government is willing to take moral lectures from people who support and perpetuate policies that grievously harm innocent Americans.”

Meanwhile, Politico reports that Miller, along with officials in the departments of Justice, Labor and Homeland Security and the Office of Management and Budget, is quietly plotting “fresh immigration crackdowns” ahead of the midterm elections. New restrictions currently under consideration include “tightening rules on student visas and exchange programs; limiting visas for temporary agricultural workers; making it harder for legal immigrants who have applied for welfare programs to obtain residency; and collecting biometric data from visitors from certain countries.”

The Times released its statement all the same.

It should go without saying that there is no established practice of withholding on-the-record conversations from podcast distribution, but time and again the Gray Lady has demonstrated a willingness to placate this administration in exchange for access to Trump and his inner circle. Moments like these expose the limits of transactional journalism. With the president employing rhetoric and implementing policy that echo some of the darkest chapters in modern history, the American public deserves to hear its officials explain themselves.

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