Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks to President Donald Trump. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Over the past few months, President Trump has clashed with top officials — including outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen — over border security, urging them at different points to reinstate a stricter family separation policy, deny asylum seekers entry, and shut down the port of entry in El Paso, CNN's Jake Tapper reports.

The bottom line: A senior administration official reportedly told CNN, "At the end of the day, the President refuses to understand that the Department of Homeland Security is constrained by the laws."

Details: Multiple sources told CNN that Trump pushed Nielsen to separate families, even those that entered through legal ports of entry and were legal asylum seekers, because he "thinks the separations work to deter migrants from coming."

  • Trump reportedly told border agents not to let migrants into the country and to tell judges: "Sorry judge, I can't do it. We don't have room." He has repeatedly claimed that the U.S. is full and does not have room for more immigrants in recent tweets and speeches.
  • On shutting the El Paso border, Trump was warned that it would inflict negative consequences on legal trade and travel, but told officials: "I don't care."

Go deeper

The apocalypse scenario

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democratic lawyers are preparing to challenge any effort by President Trump to swap electors chosen by voters with electors selected by Republican-controlled legislatures. One state of particular concern: Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls the state house.

Why it matters: Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, together with a widely circulated article in The Atlantic about how bad the worst-case scenarios could get, is drawing new attention to the brutal fights that could jeopardize a final outcome.

Federal judge rules Trump administration can't end census early

Census workers outside Lincoln Center in New York. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled late Thursday that the Trump administration could not end the 2020 census a month early.

Why it matters: The decision states that an early end — on Sept. 30, instead of Oct. 31 — would likely produce inaccuracies and thus impact political representation and government funding around the country.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

Where bringing students back to school is most risky

Data: Coders Against COVID; Note: Rhode Island and Puerto Rico did not meet minimum testing thresholds for analysis. Values may not add to 100% due to rounding; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Schools in Southern and Midwestern states are most at risk of coronavirus transmission, according to an analysis by Coders Against COVID that uses risk indicators developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The big picture: Thankfully, schools have not yet become coronavirus hotspots, the Washington Post reported this week, and rates of infection are lower than in the surrounding communities. But that doesn't mean schools are in the clear, especially heading into winter.

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