Trump immigration chief caught pretending not to know about his racist tweets

Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli said it's not racist to demand American-born women of color "go back" to home countries.

Trump's immigration chief pretends not to know about president's racist tweets
Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli tried to block President Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Now he is defending Trump's racist tweets. (Photo credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was asked during an interview Monday about President Donald Trump’s racist tweets calling for American-born congresswomen of color to be thrown out of the country.

After unsuccessfully pretending to have been too busy focusing on deportations and litigation to know about the tweet, Cuccinelli argued that they were not racist and might even help spur congressional action on border reform.

One day earlier, Trump attacked Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) on Twitter, claiming they had “originally come from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world,” and suggesting they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” a common racist trope.

Three of the four women were born in the United States. Omar emigrated from Somalia as a child.

Cuccinelli, an arch-conservative former Virginia attorney general who joined the administration last month after attempting to block Trump’s nomination at the 2016 Republican National Convention, was asked about the tweets on CNN on Monday morning.


Cuccinelli first pretended not to know about the tweets, saying he was busy.  “I didn’t see that tweet, actually,” Cuccinelli claimed. “I can hear what you’re reading, but I spent the weekend reading litigation and regulatory materials related to asylum. I can see the president’s commenting on some of the splits in the Democratic caucus in the house, presumably.”

Host Alisyn Camerota eventually forced Cuccinelli to admit that fellow CNN anchor Jake Tapper had, in fact, read him the same tweets a day earlier.

Cuccinelli also claimed Monday that Trump’s demand that American citizens of color — including those born here — leave the country was not in fact racist. “I see that as presumably political hand grenades,” he said. But calling it racist, he said, “I wouldn’t go that far, no. Certainly not.”

He then blamed congressional Democrats for Trump’s racism, saying “all they do is complain, they don’t fix anything.”

Finally, Cuccinelli suggested that Trump’s attacks might even be helpful and might “jar them into actually addressing the problem, whether it’s out of happiness or being upset with him or whatever it may be.”

Cuccinelli is no stranger to racism. In 2012, he praised white nationalist Rep. Steve King (R-IA) as his “very favorite” congressman.


Cuccinelli himself also compared immigrants to rats in 2012. When asked during an interview with conservative radio show The Morning Majority on January 12 that year about how to best deal with rats at Occupy D.C. protests, Cuccinelli replied, “If you don’t move an animal at least 25 miles, it’ll come back. And so what’s the solution to that? Well, cross a river… it is worse than our immigration policy — you can’t break up rat families. Or raccoons or all the rest and you can’t even kill them. Unbelievable.”