Former CIA Director Michael Hayden on Monday assailed the Trump administration for using illegal immigrant children as political "leverage," warning its zero-tolerance policy of separating kids from their parents shows "the skies are darkening" as they did ahead of Germany's Nazi regime.
In a seering rebuke on CNN's "The Situation Room," Hayden explained his controversial posting of a picture of a train station in Birkenau where German Nazis "separated mothers and children."
Hayden said he did not intend to compare the zero-tolerance policy with the Nazi death camps.
"I have been there," Hayden said Monday. "I have walked up and down that railroad. That's what happened. That's where families were separated . . . I am not saying what's going on at our southern border is like what happened there.
"What I said to that was, as you walk through that portal, it's impossible to casually assume civilization, civilized life is a given. What I was trying to describe was something broader. Even broader than what's going on on the southern border. It's what's happening to us as a people."
"I showed the picture in 1944, but my story is Berlin 1933," Hayden continued. "You had a new government in power with a cult of personality, a cult of nativism, a cult of untruth, a cult where it was acceptable to punish the marginalized segments of society. I'm not saying our needle is in the red. I'm not saying we're becoming Nazis. What I was trying to say was the needle is moving in the wrong direction. The way I described it to myself before I hit send was, the skies are darkening. I want to send up a flare."
Hayden charged the administration is using the illegal immigrant children for political ends.
"It was very clear that these young people are being used as leverage, used as leverage to deter people from coming across the border, but also used as leverage politically," he said. "They don't want the clean bill simple solution, comprehensive reform, which means a far broader answer that politically is going to be very hard to get. They seem insensitive then to what happens to these young folks."
Hayden lamented "the center line of acceptable American discourse has changed" under President Donald Trump.
"Now, suddenly that's not so far out there that you never hear it," he said. "It's tucked up against the edge and moving more towards the center. That should be scary."
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