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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Early on in the January government shutdown, there was a meeting in the White House Situation Room between President Trump, then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, administration staff and congressional leaders from both parties.

Behind the scenes: Nielsen was trying to explain the chaos at the border. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi kept interrupting her, saying she thought the Trump administration was manufacturing the crisis and distorting statistics, according to four sources who were in the room.

So Nielsen, visibly frustrated with Pelosi, turned to Kevin McAleenan, then the head of Customs and Border Protection (last week, Trump gave him her job). He was sitting along the wall with the other staff, behind the main table.

  • Nielsen asked McAleenan to dig into the figures and explain some of the intricacies of the situation. "She was like, 'You don't have to listen to me because I am the president's DHS secretary; listen to the career professional,'" one source recalled.
  • Pelosi interjected that McAleenan was also one of the president's people.
  • Then Trump said of McAleenan: "He's an Obama guy!"
  • McAleenan replied quietly that he was a career guy before becoming a political appointee under Trump.

A senior White House official said Trump "was trying to say Kevin has credibility on the issue and worked in another administration."

  • And Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill responded: "It is a statement of fact that this administration has used false statistics in an effort to support their anti-immigrant policies that are creating a massive humanitarian challenge at the border."

Between the lines: It's a bit ironic that Trump's pick to make DHS more aggressive is someone he called "an Obama guy."

Editor's note: This post has been corrected to reflect the fact that McAleenan was the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (not Nielsen's deputy).

Go deeper

Updated 53 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

NRA declares bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will seek to reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment."

The big picture: The move comes just months after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution

Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.