POLITICS
06/28/2018 09:05 am ET Updated Jun 28, 2018

Former ICE Spokesman Speaks Out: I Was Asked To Perpetuate A 'Flat-Out Lie'

James Schwab said he "could not fathom working at an organization that was OK with lying to the American public."

A former Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman slammed the agency for being “OK with lying to the American public” in his first TV interview since he resigned in March.

James Schwab told CBS News on Wednesday that he became “extremely uncomfortable” in February when Attorney General Jeff Sessions made false statements about immigration raids in Oakland, California.

“They failed to correct it, it’s a flat-out lie,” Schwab said. “They know it’s a lie. It was just shocking to me that no one wanted to fix that.”

He added: “I could not fathom staying at an organization that was OK with lying to the American public. I hate that.”

Sessions blamed Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf for allowing 800 “wanted aliens” to escape arrest by tipping off the public about ICE plans to raid the city.

But Schwab said that Sessions’ claim was “completely false” and that Justice Department and ICE officials grossly exaggerated the mayor’s impact on the number of arrests.

“Internally, that [raid] was considered a success,” said Schwab, noting that ICE arrested 232 of roughly 1,000 undocumented immigrants it set out to detain that day. “But what they publicly said was that [Schaaf] let people go. Not true.”

During the taping of Schwab’s interview with CBS, two men who identified themselves as agents of the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General’s Office knocked on his front door.

“They just said they wanted to talk to me about the leak with the Oakland mayor. ... I’ve never met her before. I’ve never contacted her,” Schwab told CBS News. He said the agents’ surprise visit was an attempt to intimidate him. 

“This is why people won’t come out and speak against the government,” he said. “To actually prepare and stand out in front of the public and perpetuate something that you know is absolutely false is not OK ― and no special agent from Department of Homeland Security is going to stop me from saying that.”

ICE on Thursday continued to maintain that the Oakland mayor risked public safety. The agency also wishes Schwab well, Liz Johnson, an ICE spokeswoman, told HuffPost in a statement.

“Even one criminal alien on the street can put public safety at risk and as [ICE Director Thomas Homan] stated, while we can’t put a number on how many targets avoided arrest due to the mayor’s warning, it clearly had an impact,” Johnson said.

Neither the Department of Justice nor the Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s office immediately responded to HuffPost’s requests for comment.

This article has been updated to include an ICE spokeswoman’s statement.

CONVERSATIONS