King: Primary source for drug-muling comment dead
Congressman references 'hands-on' experiences along southern border
In the aftermath of a controversial comment about immigration and drug smuggling, U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, has said he built his words largely on the observations of border-patrol officials with whom he talked in the Southwest.
"It was pretty close to the descriptions that I have been given by the border patrol agents and other officers down on the border," King told the Daily Times Herald. "The weight and the description physically is what they give me. It's within this scenario. I've seen it, too, of course."
King continues to defend an interview he gave in July to conservative news website Newsmax in which he said he didn't agree with the suggestion that many Hispanic youths who aren't legal U.S. citizens are also high-achieving. "For every one who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert," King said.
In an interview Wednesday afternoon, the Carroll Daily Times Herald and Jefferson Bee & Herald asked King to provide the identities of the border officials he says made the observations so the media could approach them for original sourcing. The congressman balked at any suggestion that he is simply a misunderstood middleman for border officials in the fallout.
"First, let's not characterize me as the middleman although a lot of this message comes from them - their long-term broad and objective perspective that they deliver to me," King said. "But it's also for me eyes-on, hands-on."
King said he has participated directly in drug-enforcement efforts on the southern border.
"There are, in our files, pictures of me unloading illegal drugs from the false bottom of a truck," King said. "I unloaded 240 pounds out one day and sacked them by the scales to be weighed for evidence."
King said he didn't want to release those photos "just because it blows this thing up, it just starts the message again."
"There's pictures of me with a harness on, the harness that they use to stack that marijuana in when they're walking across the desert," King said. "So it isn't like I'm just a messenger. This is hands-on stuff."
Border patrol officials will approach him, wearing civilian clothes, "in a ranch house out in the desert" with information on the drug war, he said. The written documentation they provide the congressman does not include names, dates and places, because officials don't want to be identified, King added.
"They're handing me that paper and meeting with me in a clandestine way because they don't want to have any repercussions come down from on high," King said.
King did, however, get specific with an exchange he says he had with Mike Kring, a top U.S. border crossing official at Sasabe, Ariz., which hosts a port of entry.
King said Kring had terminal cancer and planned to retire at the time of the conversation, allowing Kring to be open and frank in the discussion.
"I give you that name because I know he can't answer you," King said. "Terminal cancer. Ready to retire. The reason I know I can give you that name, and I don't have to worry about divulging somebody, is because he did have terminal cancer and he is dead."
King said Kring told him a good deal of information about drug trafficking and cartels.
"I don't want to use any more names down there," King said.
Robert Daniels, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said in a phone interview that Kring is a former longtime border-patrol official in Arizona who is deceased. Daniels would not comment further on Kring's career.
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