A top Customs and Border Protection official apologized Tuesday to a BuzzFeed News reporter who was aggressively questioned by an agent about articles regarding President Donald Trump at a passport control checkpoint in a New York City airport.
"On behalf of the agency, I would like to extend our apologies to Mr. David Mack for the inappropriate remarks made to him during his CBP processing upon his arrival to the United States," CBP Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs Andrew Meehan said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. "The officer’s comments do not reflect CBP’s commitment to integrity and professionalism of its workforce. In response to this incident, CBP immediately reviewed the event and has initiated the appropriate personnel inquiry and action."
Mack, BuzzFeed News' deputy breaking news director, landed at JFK Airport Sunday night after a brief trip to the United Kingdom to renew his US work visa. After waiting in line with other non-US residents — Mack is an Australian citizen — he was called to approach the CBP agent at passport control.
Mack said that the agent saw BuzzFeed listed as his employer on his visa and began to ask him questions about the outlet's reporting on special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia.
"The immigration agent at JFK just saw that I work for BuzzFeed and just grilled me for 10 minutes about the Cohen story, which was fun given he gets to decide whether to let me back into the country," Mack wrote Sunday night in a Twitter thread.
"He was 100% convinced Mueller had personally given a press conference calling us fake news and I had to politely assure him that didn’t happen while also not wanting to piss him off any further," Mack said. "There were literally dozens of people waiting and I shit you not he was about to Google the Mueller response to see if it was televised or at least grill me about it."
In an FAQ about what international travelers should expect upon entering the United States, the CBP website lists questions about citizenship, the nature of the trip, and any items brought back to the country.
Mack said the agent repeatedly questioned him about BuzzFeed News' response to the outlet's report that Trump instructed lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, and appeared unsatisfied when Mack said that the outlet stood by its reporting.
The agent also questioned Mack about the Mueller inquiry and its results, longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone's alleged ties to WikiLeaks, and the opinions of a cohost on The View.
The agent ended the interview by saying that although he doesn't agree with Trump on everything, he supports his border security plans because of his line of work. As he walked away, Mack said that he heard the agent tell the next person in line that that Mack worked for BuzzFeed.
"We appreciate the government's prompt response and apology for this unfortunate incident," BuzzFeed News spokesperson Matt Mittenthal said. "Customs agents do not get to weaponize their political opinions against residents legally entering the United States."
Meehan personally apologized to Mack on behalf of the agency in a telephone call Tuesday morning.
Meehan said that the highest levels of the agency's leadership is aware of the incident and that "corrective action" has been taken "in terms of the officer and the conduct that officers are expected to hold and abide by."
"I hope — I can only hope that you treat this incident as incidental. It does not reflect the agency, and certainly not the professionalism that its officers strive to maintain," Meehan said.
"From one human to another, we're sorry," he added, calling it "a very serious issue." Mack said he was grateful for the apology.