Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen called Saturday’s murder of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue “a pure act of evil.”
During an interview with “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace, Nielsen (pictured above) said, “You’ve heard that from the president and vice president yesterday, that’s what it is. We all condemn this in the strongest terms possible.”
Eleven people died in the Tree of Life synagogue Saturday. Police arrested Robert Bowers Saturday morning; he surrendered and now faces 29 charges, including 11 for murder.
On the case of Cesar Sayoc, the man accused of mailing more than a dozen crude explosive devices to multiple Democratic leaders and supporters, Nielsen said if any other perpetrators were involved, they also would be brought to justice.
“I think the president has made it extraordinarily clear that we will never allow … political violence to take root in this country,” Nielsen said when Wallace asked about a headline in Saturday’s Washington Post highlighting Sayoc’s support of President Donald Trump.
The Post’s Sunday morning front page following the tragedy in Pittsburgh mirrored Saturday’s decidedly anti-Trump tone, with one headline reading, “Trump, allies set the tone for the violence they denounce, critics say” and another saying, “Bomb suspect found an inspiration in Trump.”
The newspaper’s headlines prompted White House press secretary to ask in a tweet, “Is there any tragedy the Washington Post won’t exploit to attack President @realDonaldTrump?
Is there any tragedy the Washington Post won’t exploit to attack President @realDonaldTrump? The evil act of anti-Semitism in Pittsburg was committed by a coward who hated President Trump because @POTUS is such an unapologetic defender of the Jewish community and state of Israel. https://t.co/0tCNpepC9k
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) October 28, 2018
“I firmly believe in the First Amendment, but anybody who uses the First Amendment as a cover to threaten or commit an act of violence will not be tolerated. There is no place for hate in this country. Hate is hate; violence is violence. We will do all we can at the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that such attacks are not perpetrated,” said Nielsen.
When Wallace asked if Trump will seal the border even for asylum seekers, Nielsen had the following message for those in the caravan: “Do not come. You will not be allowed in. There is a right way to emigrate to the United States and this is not it. This caravan is not getting in … Those who choose to enter illegally will be stopped.”
Wallace pressed Nielsen on the authority by which Trump might order the sealing of the border using the “travel ban” he issued early in 2017 — and which was upheld in June 2018 by the Supreme Court.
“We have a crisis at the border right now,” said Nielsen. “I think what the president is making clear is every possible action, authority, executive program, is on the table to consider, to ensure that it is clear that there is a right and legal way to come to this country and no other ways will be tolerated.”
“If you want a job, that is not asylum. If you want to be reunited with your family, that is not asylum. If you want to just come live in the United States, that is not asylum.”
Nielsen pointed out that some in the caravan broke through the border between Guatemala and Mexico and have refused Mexico’s offers of asylum and work permits.
“What the president and I are both saying, and we want to be clear on this is, if you seek asylum, do so in the first safe country. Mexico has offered you refuge,” said Nielsen.
“If you want a job, that is not asylum. If you want to be reunited with your family, that is not asylum. If you want to just come live in the United States, that is not asylum,” she added.
“This is about the rule of law … We stop 3,000 people a year who have … travel patterns similar to terrorists from attempting to come in the southwest border,” said Nielsen, adding that authorities stop 10 known or suspected terrorists a day from getting into the United States.
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.