OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
CNN’s Jake Tapper uncharacteristically pressed a Democratic official — Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — on Sunday over comments he and President Joe Biden have made regarding the alleged actions of some horseback-riding Border Patrol agents who were tasked with preventing Haitian migrants from entering the country illegally.
Last week, in response to allegations that the agents used their reins to “whip” migrants — a claim that has since been widely debunked by media sources and immigration officials — the president appeared to threaten the agents who had been removed from frontline enforcement and relegated to desk duty.
“To see people treated like they did, horses barely running over, people being strapped – it’s outrageous,” Biden told a press conference.
“I promise you, those people will pay. There will be an investigation underway now and there will be consequences. There will be consequences,” the president threatened.
Mayorkas himself appeared to have already made up his mind that the agents had acted inappropriately.
“I was horrified by what I saw,” Mayorkas said on CNN. “I’m going to let the investigation run its course. But the pictures that I observed troubled me profoundly. That defies all of the values that we seek to instill in our people.”
The comments both shocked and outraged Border Patrol agents, according to Fox News.
“Border Patrol agents were stunned and angered by the comments, which both claimed without evidence that migrants were run over and whipped, and at the same time cast a shadow over the investigation,” said the report.
“Would you go to work and do your best knowing that if you do your boss is going to ‘make you pay’?” one agent told the outlet, noting further: “I’m dumbfounded and don’t know what to say.
“Is the president threatening to throw us in prison?” the agent asked.
“I see the administration wants to fry our agents. He just started a war with Border Patrol,” said another, according to Fox News.
In his interview with Mayorkas, Tapper asked the DHS chief if, given what he and Biden have said about the case already, they could be fair to the agents in question.
“The facts that are determined will drive the outcome” of the investigation, Mayorkas said, “nothing less and nothing more.”
Jake Tapper to DHS Sec. Mayorkas: "Can the Border Patrol count on you and President Biden, who has said that people will pay, to come to a determination based on the facts and not based on Twitter outrage?" pic.twitter.com/alUVTBRBIu
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) September 26, 2021
“What those images suggest — what they appeared to portray was horrifying. And that, I think, deserves attention,” Mayorkas continued. “That is quite different than fact determinations, and I will tell you, I served as a federal prosecutor for 12 years and we conducted independent investigations despite what appearances might have been and the public outcry about them.”
Tapper responded by noting “some of the initial descriptions of the images were just patently false.”
“There’s now video out there that provides more context. Having seen the video, are you certain that there was actually wrongdoing?” Tapper pressed.
“I am going to let those investigators make that determination, and then that determination will drive the outcome of the investigation,” Mayorkas responded robotically.
“Can the Border Patrol count on you and President Biden, who has said that people will pay, to come to a determination based on the facts and not based on Twitter outrage?” Tapper asked.
“They sure can,” Mayorkas responded, going on to praise Customs and Border Patrol agents generally, before Tapper said the DHS chief should “share those words” with Biden.
For their part however, agents are less than confident that following Biden’s and Mayorkas’ remarks they’re going to get a fair shake.
“Now that the president of the United States has already said they did wrong, how is an investigator supposed to do a true and honest investigation?” the head of the Border Patrol union, Brandon Judd, told Fox News last week.
“Because if that investigator finds they did nothing wrong — and they didn’t do anything wrong — but if that investigator finds they didn’t do anything wrong, how is that investigator’s job going to go?”