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By Julia Ainsley

WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday that Customs and Border Protection picked up nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists last year “that came across our southern border.”

But in fact, the figure she seems to be citing is based on 2017 data, not 2018, and refers to stops made by Department of Homeland Security across the globe, mainly at airports.

In fiscal 2017, the latest year for which data is available, according to agency data and the White House’s own briefing sheet, the Department of Homeland Security prevented nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists from “traveling to or entering the United States.”

According to Justice Department public records and two former counterterrorism officials, no immigrant has been arrested at the southwest border on terrorism charges in recent years.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders leaves after speaking to the press outside the White House on Jan. 4, 2019.Jim Young / Reuters

The White House did not respond to a request for comment about Sanders’ statement.

Ahead of President Donald Trump’s meeting Friday afternoon with Congressional leaders to negotiate the end of the government shutdown, the White House issued briefing materials that stated “3,775 known or suspected terrorists [were] prevented from traveling or entering the U.S. by DHS” in fiscal year 2017. Nowhere did the briefing materials state the known or suspected terrorists were stopped at the southern border.

Ned Price, who served on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council, said many of those 3,775 were stopped simply because their name matches that of someone on a terrorist watch list, which have grown in recent years, and not because they pose a threat.

“So-called terrorist watchlists are an important tool in our national security arsenal, but they are far from fool-proof in large part because of their sheer size. The number of people on such lists ballooned in the years after 9/11, with some reports indicating that more than one million names had been associated with suspected terrorist activity. That’s why false-positives, including in the case of crossings at our southern border, are commonplace. Even the late Ted Kennedy was registered on one such list when attempting to fly, presumably because of the commonality of his name,” Price said.

Nick Rasmussen, the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center from December 2014 through December 2017 said, “During my tenure, the threat of terrorists trying to infiltrate the United States across our southern border was much more of a theoretical vulnerability than an actual one. It simply isn’t the case that terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda see the southern border as the optimal the way to get would-be terrorists into the country.”

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at a press conference at the White House Friday afternoon that more than 3,000 immigrants have been stopped at the southwest border, over an unspecified period, because they are special interest aliens. DHS classifies nearly all immigrants crossing the border who is a national of a country outside of the Western Hemisphere as a Special Interest Alien, according to DHS reports.

A spokeswoman for the National Counterterrorism Center did not respond to a request for comment.

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Boris Johnson's Brexit mission starts NOW – 99 days for new PM to prove doom-mongers wrong

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BORIS JOHNSON takes over as Prime Minister today vowing to work “flat out” to get the UK out of the EU this autumn and unleash “a new spirit of can-do” to make the country great.

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Mueller makes last-minute request for aide to appear with him during his testimony

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One of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s longtime aides will appear alongside him during his highly-anticipated testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, a spokesperson said Tuesday, but is not expected to be sworn in.

Mueller’s team made a last-minute request that Aaron Zebley be sworn in and testify with him during his scheduled hearings before Congress on Wednesday, a congressional source familiar with the request told NBC News.

Mueller is slated to testify on his report into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the country’s influence on President Donald Trump for three hours before the House Judiciary Committee, take a break, then appear for at least two additional hours before the House Intelligence Committee.

For the first hearing, Zebley will sit alongside Mueller as his counsel, according to the Judiciary Committee spokesperson. The committee, however, is not updating its guidance to include Zebley as a witness. This means that Zebley will not be sworn in. Mueller can confer with him as he is questioned by the panel, according to committee rules, but cannot answer questions.

The ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, said Tuesday that GOP members had “not gotten assurances from the House Democrats on the committee that he [Zebley] will not speak.”

“He’s not supposed to speak in that role to anyone on the committee or asked questions. And we’re asking, and, frankly, that that be confirmed before the hearing. So we don’t have to waste time with it tomorrow,” Collins said.

Jim Popkin, Mueller’s spokesperson, disputed the idea that Zebley’s presence at the hearings amounted to an 11th-hour addition.

“Aaron Zebley was the Deputy Special Counsel and had day-to-day oversight of the investigations conducted by the Office,” Popkin said in a statement Tuesday. “He will accompany Special Counsel Mueller to the Wednesday hearings, as was discussed with the committees more than a week ago.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday during a conversation at the Center for American Progress that his panel was still working out what Zebley’s function might be.

Trump lashed out about Zebley’s role in Mueller’s testimony, tweeting Tuesday night that the decision “very unfair.”

“Just got back only to hear of a last minute change allowing a Never Trumper attorney to help Robert Mueller with his testimony before Congress tomorrow,” Trump said. “What a disgrace to our system. Never heard of this before.”

Zebley is especially close to Mueller, serving as his chief of staff at the FBI when Mueller was the director. Zebley is also an alumnus of the law firm WilmerHale, where Mueller worked after leaving the FBI.

Zebley followed Mueller to the Justice Department when he was tapped to be special counsel in 2017. Zebley is also a former FBI agent who was involved in an international hunt for al Qaeda terrorists before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In June, Mueller agreed to testify before Congress about his Russia investigation after he was subpoenaed by Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Judiciary, and Schiff.

Popkin said Monday that the former special counsel will make a brief opening statement when he testifies about his 22-month investigation, and will offer his 448-page report as his full statement for the record.

In May, Mueller stressed at a press conference that if he were called to testify he would stick closely to his written report. “Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made,” he said.

“We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself. The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”

In a letter on Monday, the Justice Department also issued stern guidance to Mueller, stating that “any testimony must remain within the boundaries of your public report because matters within the scope of your investigation were covered by executive privilege.”



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IDS reveals what Tories MUST do to deliver Brexit, 'save' the country and defeat Corbyn

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IAIN DUNCAN SMITH has called on fellow Tories to unite around new party leader Boris Johnson to ensure he defeats Jeremy Corbyn and deliver Brexit.

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