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In an interview with "Axios on HBO," acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli defended his response to a viral photo of a migrant father and daughter who drowned crossing the Rio Grande.

  • The photo, which showed the daughter's head tucked inside her father's shirt as they both lay face down in the water, struck a cord across America. The two, as well as the family's mother who'd been swimming separately and fled back to shore, had been traveling from El Salvador to the United States.
  • Cuccinelli drew pushback at the time for blaming the father for the drowning, saying that he should have waited to go through the asylum process.

What he's saying:

"The reality is, when you have a tragedy like that and let's make no bones about it, it's a tragedy whenever you — if there was just the father, it'd be a tragedy. But here you've got a father and a daughter. And we ask the question: Why did this happen and who's responsible? And that was the question asked of me. And first and foremost, that father is responsible for his own actions. And anybody who says otherwise, I would take issue with on the answer to the question. You can't just blame other people for a tragedy that he decided to undertake."
— Ken Cuccinelli to "Axios on HBO"

Cuccinelli said he was sympathetic to the human side of the case:

  • "The question about the young girl in the water, what do you think the first thing I thought of when I saw that picture was. It wasn't policy. It was my own children. You know, this is a very human. Every case has people involved. And it can be easy to forget that people have to deal with it on both sides."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials sought to alter election results

Former President Donald Trump and former First Lady Melania Trump exit Air Force One in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Jan. 20. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate whether any current or former DOJ officials "engaged in an improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome" of the 2020 election, the agency announced Monday.

Driving the news: The investigation comes in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged that Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ's civil division, had plotted with President Trump to oust acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen in a scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia.

1 hour ago - Podcasts

Google's chief health officer Karen DeSalvo on vaccinating America

Google on Monday became the latest Big Tech company to get involved with COVID-19 vaccinations. Not just by doing things like incorporating vaccination sites into its maps, but by helping to turn some of its offices and parking lots into vaccination sites.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper into what Google is doing, and why now, with Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Google's chief health officer who previously worked at HHS and as health commissioner for New Orleans.

Biden signs order overturning Trump's transgender military ban

Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

President Biden signed an executive order on Monday overturning the Trump administration's ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.

Why it matters: The ban, which allowed the military to bar openly transgender recruits and discharge people for not living as their sex assigned at birth, affected up to 15,000 service members, according to tallies from the National Center for Transgender Equality and Transgender American Veterans Association.