White House officials challenged the veracity Monday of an account of a private conversation Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said he had with President Obama. On June 18, Kyl, the Senate Republican Whip, told a North Tempe Tea Party town hall that in an Oval Office conversation between the two of them about securing the US-Mexico border, "here's what the president said: 'The problem is,' he said, 'if we secure the border, then you all won’t have any reason to support ‘comprehensive immigration reform.’ In other words, they’re holding it hostage. They don’t want to secure the border unless and until it is combined with ‘comprehensive immigration reform.’” The White House Monday rejected Kyl's account. “The President didn’t say that and Senator Kyl knows it," White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer told ABC News. "There are more resources dedicated toward border security today than ever before, but, as the President has made clear, truly securing the border will require a comprehensive solution to our broken immigration system.”
Kyl spokesman Ryan Patmintra said the senator stood by his account, which he said was "about as straight forward as you can get."
"There were two people in that meeting, and Dan Pfeiffer was not one of them. Senator Kyl stands by his remarks, and the White House spokesman’s pushback that you must have comprehensive immigration reform to secure the border only confirms Senator Kyl’s account." Kyl's account was first reported on the conservative website Red State .
To back up its claim that President Obama has already moved forward on securing the southern border, the White House provided background on President Obama's "Strategic and Integrated Southwest Border Strategy," stating that in the past year the US government has doubled the personnel assigned to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces, tripled the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement intelligence analysts; and required the Department of Homeland Security to -- for the first time -- screen all southbound rail shipments for illegal weapons, drugs, and cash; among other steps. -Jake Tapper