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Trump HHS Official Says He Never Would Have Advised Administration’s Child Separation Policy

Department of Health and Human Services official Commander Jonathan D. White told a congressional panel that the Trump administration’s family separation policy was not ” in the best interest” of children, and that neither he nor any of his colleagues would ever have supported such a policy, had they been asked.

White is currently serving in HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response , but his testimony encompassed his tenure as Deputy Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which began in 2016.

During a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) told Cdr. White that, “Under the law, the Administration has to consider the best interest of the child when it makes these decisions,” and asked: “Do you believe that the administration’s decision to enact a zero-tolerance policy, which resulted in the forcible separation of thousands of kids from their parents, was in the best interest of the children?”

“I do not believe that separation of children from their parents is in the best interest of the child, but I did not participate in the discussions regarding the policy,” White responded.

And later in the hearing, Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) asked White “Would you have devised [sic] DOJ to implement the policy of zero tolerance, if they had asked?”

“Neither I, nor any career person at ORR, would ever have supported such a policy proposal,” White replied emphatically.

White’s testimony comes on the heels of an inspector general’s report that shows thousands more families were separated under the policy than previously thought, and a Trump administration court filing conceding the fact.

In testimony last year, White also said that in the run-up to the announcement of the zero tolerance policy, he and his agency had warned about “about any policy which would result in family separation due to concerns we had about the best interest of the child,” and that “Separation of children from their parents entails significant risk of harm to children.”

Those warnings were disregarded, and as the most recent reporting suggests, that risk of harm continues.

Watch the clip above, via the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee.

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