The art of the deal — maybe

Con­ser­va­tives re­coil at news of Trump-Pelosi-Schumer ac­cord on DACA and wall con­struc­tion

The Mercury News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Erica Werner and Jill Colvin

WASH­ING­TON » The fate of 800,000 young im­mi­grants hung in the bal­ance Thurs­day as top law­mak­ers, White House of­fi­cials and President Don­ald Trump him­self squab­bled over whether an agree­ment had been struck to pro­tect them — and if so, ex­actly what it was.

In the 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. Demo­cratic lead­ers Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer — whose din­ner with Trump

Wed­nes­day night was at the heart of the con­tro­versy — 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 re­quire­ments.

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.” “At this point, who want Trump im­peached?” con­ser­va­tive com­men­ta­tor Ann Coul­ter re­marked over Twit­ter.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials quickly rec­og­nized the dan­ger in the 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 on Thurs­day whether the president was aware of the minu­tiae of the DREAM Act leg­is­la­tion dis­cussed on Wed­nes­day, in­clud­ing the fact that it in­cludes an even­tual path to cit­i­zen­ship.

“We’re not look­ing at cit­i­zen­ship, we’re not look­ing at amnesty. We’re look­ing at al­low­ing peo­ple to stay here,” Trump told re­porters as he trav­eled to view hur­ri­cane dam­age in Florida.

“But very im­por­tantly, what we want: We have to have a wall,” Trump said. “If we don’t have a wall, we’re do­ing noth­ing.”

De­spite Trump’s de­nial, two peo­ple briefed on Wed­nes­day night’s pro­ceed­ings said that cit­i­zen­ship was ex­plic­itly men­tioned when Democrats raised the DREAM Act. Bud­get Di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney, who was among the group din­ing on Chi­nese food (a Schumer fa­vorite) in the White House Blue Room, spoke up to say that the bill does in­clude a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship, ac­cord­ing to the peo­ple briefed, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­close the pri­vate pro­ceed­ings.

Mul­vaney spokesman John Czwartacki said the OMB di­rec­tor does not re­call us­ing that spe­cific phrase, but does re­mem­ber point­ing out the dis­tinc­tion be­tween DACA pro­tec­tions and the DREAM Act.

Whether or how Trump di­gested Mul­vaney’s state­ment was un­clear. But the pos­ture struck by Ryan and oth­ers on Capi­tol Hill seemed de­signed to pro­tect the president from a back­lash from his con­ser­va­tive base. Ryan en­er­get­i­cally dis­puted the idea that any deal had been struck, though his ar­gu­ment seemed to turn largely on se­man­tic dis­tinc­tions.

“These were dis­cus­sions, not ne­go­ti­a­tions; there isn’t an agree­ment,” Ryan said. “The president wasn’t ne­go­ti­at­ing a deal last night. The president was talking with Demo­cratic lead­ers to get their per­spec­tive. I think the president un­der­stands that he’s go­ing to have to work with the con­gres­sional ma­jori­ties to get any kind of leg­isla­tive so­lu­tion.”

For their part, immi- grant ad­vo­cates and Latino law­mak­ers re­acted cau­tiously, with sev­eral say­ing that any cel­e­bra­tion would be pre­ma­ture. Many im­mi­grants have been con­sumed by worry since Trump an­nounced last week that he was end­ing for­mer President Barack Obama’s De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, or DACA, which has granted tem­po­rary work per­mits and de­por­ta­tion re­lief to hun­dreds of thou­sands of im­mi­grants brought here as mi­nors.

In New York, Martin Batalla Vi­dal, who came to the U. S. with his par­ents when he was 7, said he’s taken col­lege classes, does “mean­ing­ful” nurs­ing home work and pays taxes. He spoke at a rally by civil rights groups.

Trump gave Con­gress six months to come up with a so­lu­tion be­fore the pro­tec­tions would end, although what he would ac­tu­ally do ab­sent con­gres­sional ac­tion is un­cer­tain. De­spite promis­ing to end DACA on Day One of his ad­min­is­tra­tion, Trump has strug­gled openly with the ques­tion of what to do about this sym­pa­thetic group of young im­mi­grants.

Rep. Ruben Gal­lego, DAri­zona, a leader of the Con­gres­sional His­panic Cau­cus, said the cau­cus hasn’t seen any de­tails, and “we’re not go­ing to trade the pro­tec­tion of Dream­ers for the de­por­ta­tion of oth­ers.”

“I don’t think the president ac­tu­ally un­der­stands what he’s say­ing half the time,” Gal­lego said. “So I’m afraid that if you strike a deal with him, that he’ll go back on his word at any point.”

But Trump has ap­peared to en­joy his new­found lus­ter as a bi­par­ti­san deal­maker since a dis­as­ter-and-debt deal he struck with Pelosi and Schumer last week stunned Wash­ing­ton and gar­nered a stack of pos­i­tive head­lines. Schumer, too, clearly rel­ishes the deal­mak­ing; he was caught on a live mi­cro­phone on the Se­nate floor Thurs­day glee­fully telling Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ken­tucky, “He likes us! He likes me, any­way.”




President Don­ald Trump, with first lady Me­la­nia Trump, answers ques­tions while de­part­ing the White House on his way to Florida Thurs­day to as­sess hur­ri­cane dam­age.

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