Trump, Dem over­tures test loy­al­ties

Deal or no deal, talks on young im­mi­grants spark a back­lash

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY JULIE PACE AND STEVE PEO­PLES As­so­ci­ated Press

Wash­ing­ton — Few is­sues have an­i­mated Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ar­dent sup­port­ers more than his pledge to build a wall along the na­tion’s South­ern bor­der. Now, Trump’s de­ci­sion to put that prom­ise aside — at least tem­po­rar­ily — while he pur­sues a deal with Democrats to pro­tect young im­mi­grants brought to the coun­try il­le­gally may test the lim­its of that loy­alty.

Some avid Trump back­ers praised the pres­i­dent as a prag­ma­tist try­ing to make deals with whomever he can. But oth­ers re­coiled at the prospect of Trump join­ing forces with Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi on im­mi­gra­tion, and seem­ing to get lit­tle in re­turn.

“Many sup­port­ers of the pres­i­dent won­der whether our king has been cap­tured and (White House chief of staff John) Kelly and a clique of gen­er­als and their glob­al­ist friends are now gov­ern­ing,” said Roger Stone, a long­time in­for­mal ad­viser to Trump. His com­ments re­flected the grow­ing con­cern among some Trump back­ers about the di­min­ished pres­ence of na­tion­al­ist ad­vis­ers in the West Wing.

The wor­ries were sparked by Trump’s star­tling ef­forts to forge con­sen­sus with Schumer and Pelosi — “Chuck and Nancy,” as the pres­i­dent has co­zily re­ferred to the Demo­cratic duo — over the fate of nearly 800,000 peo­ple brought to the U.S. il­le­gally as chil­dren. Trump, Schumer and Pelosi dis­cussed the mat­ter at a pri­vate White House din­ner Wed­nes­day night.

On Thurs­day, top law­mak­ers, White House of­fi­cials and Trump him­self squab­bled over whether an agree­ment had been struck to pro­tect the im­mi­grants — and if so, ex­actly what it was.

In face of an in­tense back­lash from con­ser­va­tives in­side the Capi­tol and out, Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP House mem­bers adamantly

in­sisted that there was no agree­ment to en­shrine pro­tec­tions for the im­mi­grants brought to Amer­ica as chil­dren and now here il­le­gally.

John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Se­nate Repub­li­can, put it this way: There was “a deal to make a deal.”

Trump him­self said he was “fairly close” to an agree­ment that could pro­tect the young “Dream­ers” while also adding bor­der se­cu­rity, as long as his long-promised wall with Mex­ico was also sep­a­rately ad­dressed. Pelosi and Schumer in­sisted there was dis­cus­sion and even agree­ment on leg­is­la­tion that would of­fer even­tual cit­i­zen­ship to the im­mi­grants in ques­tion.

“We agreed it would be the DREAM Act,” Schumer told re­porters, re­fer­ring to a bi­par­ti­san bill that would al­low im­mi­grants brought here as chil­dren and now in the U.S. il­le­gally to work their way to cit­i­zen­ship in as lit­tle as five years if they meet cer­tain re- quire­ments.

What was clear was that the out­come for the “Dream­ers” them­selves was still un­re­solved and sub­ject to much fur­ther de­bate and ne­go­ti­a­tion — and that the pol­i­tics of im­mi­gra­tion, which has de­feated Congress for years, re­mained as tricky and ex­plo­sive as ever. Af­ter win­ning the White House on a cam­paign that was re­mark­ably harsh to­ward im­mi­grants and re­volved around con­struc­tion of an enor­mous wall along the en­tire bor­der with Mex­ico, Trump’s sud­den pivot in­fu­ri­ated some of his clos­est al­lies, and seemed to con­tain more po­ten­tial to alien­ate his base than any of his other un­con­ven­tional moves.

“He was so ex­plicit dur­ing the cam­paign on the is­sue of the bor­der wall and bor­der se­cu­rity that if he were to back­track on that prom­ise I don’t think he’d have a sin­gle friend left in the coun­try. Democrats aren’t go­ing to sup­port him and he would lose the en­tire Repub­li­can base,” said GOP Rep. Tom McClin­tock of Cal­i­for­nia. “This was a core ex­plicit and graph­i­cally clear prom­ise he made to the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

But some of Trump’s sup­port­ers praised the pres­i­dent for what they see as prag­ma­tism.

“He’s to the point he needs to get some­thing done. The Repub­li­can Party has failed him mis­er­ably,” said Jeff Jor­gensen, the GOP chair­man in western Iowa’s con­ser­va­tive Pot­tawat­tamie County. “Hats off to him. If you need to cross the aisle to get things done, then cross the aisle.”

While al­low­ing young peo­ple who came to the U.S. il­le­gally to stay in the coun­try is broadly pop­u­lar, im­mi­gra­tion hard­lin­ers con­sider it amnesty. As a can­di­date, Trump vowed to re­peal the ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion signed by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama al­low­ing the young peo­ple to stay. But he’s strug­gled with the is­sue as pres­i­dent, of­ten speak­ing sym­pa­thet­i­cally about the young im­mi­grants. Ear­lier this month, he an­nounced that he would re­scind their pro­tec­tions in March, but said he wanted Congress to pass leg­is­la­tion pro­tect­ing them from de­por­ta­tion.

Trump has tested the lim­its of his sup­port­ers’ loy­alty be­fore, of­ten to find that they were un­shaken by his pol­icy re­ver­sals. He failed to ful­fill his pledge to re­peal Obama’s sig­na­ture health care law. He’s backed off his tough talk on China, de­clin­ing to la­bel Bei­jing a cur­rency ma­nip­u­la­tor. The United States is still a party to the Iran nu­clear deal, de­spite Trump’s prom­ise to rip up the agree­ment.

But im­mi­gra­tion, and the bor­der wall in par­tic­u­lar, hold spe­cial res­o­nance with Trump sup­port­ers. Some of Trump’s ap­peal to the white, work­ing-class vot­ers who formed the ba­sis of his vot­ing bloc stemmed from his prom­ises to crack down on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. At his rau­cous cam­paign ral­lies, vot­ers of­ten broke out into chants of “build that wall.”

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials quickly rec­og­nized the danger in Thurs­day’s back­lash, and the White House shifted into dam­age con­trol mode, with press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders deny­ing a deal had been struck or the wall ex­cluded from it. Some also won­dered aloud whether the pres­i­dent was aware of the minu­tiae of the DREAM Act leg­is­la­tion dis­cussed on Wed­nes­day, in­clud­ing the fact that it in­cludes an

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