WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s decision to temporarily head the Department of Justice, acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson, signed the decision to remove a prosecutor from his position in 2017 after the prosecutor’s superiors complained that he was the separated parents of their children Migrants not adequately followed up on documents reviewed by NBC News.
Wilkinson, who once served as deputy chief of staff to former Attorney General Eric Holder, was not a Trump agent when he received the complaints about Joshua Stern, an attorney reporting to the Western District of Texas in 2017. He served as Director of Human Resources for the Executive Office for US Attorneys – a position he was appointed to by Holder in 2014.
In a memo sent to Wilkinson on September 11, 2017, Stern’s supervisors said he had failed to adequately perform his duties because he was “very concerned” about cases asking him to prosecute an immigrant parent. who was separated from him and did not know the whereabouts of their child.
“He repeatedly expressed concern about the separation of the children from their parents,” said the memo about Stern.
The parents in question had been separated from their children in the El Paso area. This is seen as a pilot program for the Trump administration’s 2018 zero tolerance policy, which intentionally separated more than 3,000 migrant families.
Wilkinson’s receipt of the memo would have alerted him that families in El Paso were separated long before the existence of the pilot program became known to the public or even began to be circulated in political memos among Trump officials in Washington.
“Stern seemed particularly concerned that our office was pursuing these cases,” the memo said. “He noted that our law enforcement resulted in children being separated from their parents as parents frequently escaped violence in their home country. He informed us that he had reached out to authorities to help the defense find the To support children of the accused. “
The memo was sent in response to a Sept. 8 Wilkinson request for more details about Stern after Wilkinson telephoned Stern’s boss, then-US attorney for the western district of Texas, Richard L. Durbin. This revealed an internal email that was checked by NBC News.
The memo accompanied an official letter from Durbin to Wilkinson, asking him, “Is there any way to end the relationship? [with Stern] early it would probably be best for everyone involved. “
In that letter, Durbin said that Stern had “sympathies [that] seem to be with the aliens we’re chasing. Durbin also said Stern had been “reprimanded at least twice” for being late for work and was “a little difficult to handle”.
On September 20, nine days after Durbin’s letter to Wilkinson, Wilkinson sent the appropriate documents to clear Stern of his details early on, according to a document audited by NBC News. Wilkinson’s office had to give permission before Stern could be removed from his job early and at short notice and reassigned to another job in the federal government.
Wilkinson, who serves temporarily as acting attorney general until Biden’s nominee for attorney general, Merrick Garland, has been largely viewed as a long-time career official whose low profile has deterred him from addressing anything that might be considered controversial or controversial Conflict of Interest for Incoming Administration.
A recent Justice Department spokeswoman said that at the time of Stern’s reassignment, Wilkinson’s office, the Executive Office of US Attorneys, “has an administrative role in related formalities but does not make decisions on assignments” in terms of detailed staff.
“The department cannot comment on certain personnel matters. Regarding the process of detailed assignment of components to US law firms, the decision as to whether or not to proceed with a detail lies between the borrowing and receiving components, “the spokeswoman said.
The Guardian first reported on Stern’s reassignment and part of Wilkinson’s involvement in it in September 2020. A White House spokesman declined to comment on whether the Biden transition team knew of Wilkinson’s role in Stern’s reassignment or when reviewing Guardian coverage, bumped Wilkinson into the position.
Durbin declined to comment on his early reassignment requests or his communications with Wilkinson. Stern did not respond to a request for comment.
Biden has said he is determined to reunite migrant families separated from the Trump administration and is expected to set up a task force to do so in the coming days. Biden said he would leave it to his Justice Department to determine whether or not officials involved in the policy had committed criminal conduct.