Senator Merkley to Open Perjury Investigation into DHS Secretary Nielsen

Nielsen stated under oath that “we’ve never had a policy for family separation,” but secret memo released yesterday shows that DHS was actively planning a family separation policy as early as December 2017

WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 18, 2019 – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today formally requested that FBI Director Christopher Wray open a perjury investigation into Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, after new documents show that Nielsen lied in sworn testimony to Congress about the administration’s family separation policy.

A previously-undisclosed administration memo, which Merkley released publicly yesterday, shows explicitly that high-level administration officials worked to create a new policy to “separate family units.” Yet in sworn testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Nielsen stated explicitly that the administration did not have a family separation policy.

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“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,” Merkley said in a letter to Wray. “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.

“Despite this fact, while testifying under oath before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Secretary Nielsen stated unequivocally ‘I’m not a liar, we’ve never had a policy for family separation,’” Merkley continued. “In light of these conflicting facts, the FBI should immediately investigate whether Secretary Nielsen’s statements violate 18 U.S. Code § 1621, 18 U.S.C § 1001, or any other relevant federal statutes that prohibit perjury and false statements to Congress.”

The full text of the letter follows below. A signed copy of the letter is available here.

Dear Mr. Wray,

I write to request an investigation to determine whether Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen committed perjury during her sworn testimony before the House Committee on the Judiciary on December 20, 2018.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (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. This policy, called “Separate Family Units,” was specifically designed to gain media attention and generate a “substantial deterrent effect.”[1] Despite this fact, while testifying under oath before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Secretary Nielsen stated unequivocally “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 Nielsen’s statements violate 18 U.S. Code § 1621, 18 U.S.C § 1001, or any other relevant federal statutes that prohibit perjury and false statements to Congress.

Sincerely,

 

Cc: The Honorable Jessie K. Liu
U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia

555 Fourth Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20530

[1] Department of Homeland Security “Policy Options Memo to Respond to Border Surge of Illegal Immigration,” December 2017.