Trump: Young illegal immigrants here can ‘rest easy’
Deportation emphasis is on criminals, he says
WASHINGTON — Young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and now here illegally can “rest easy,” President Donald Trump said Friday, telling the “dreamers” they will not be targets for deportation under his immigration policies.
Mr. Trump, in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, said his administration is “not after the dreamers, we are after the criminals.”
The president, who took a hard line on immigration as a candidate, vowed anew to fulfill his promise to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. But he stopped short of demanding that funding for the project be included in a spending bill Congress must pass by the end of next week in order to keep the government running.
“I want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall,” Mr. Trump said in the Oval Office interview. Asked whether he would sign legislation that does not include money for the project, he said, “I just don’t know yet.” Throughout the campaign, he had firmly and repeatedly guaranteed that Mexico, not U.S. taxpayers, would pay for the wall.
Mr. Trump spoke as he nears his 100th day in office, a marker that he criticized Friday as “artificial.” Still, the White House is eager to tout progress on the litany of agenda items he promised to fulfill in his first 100 days, despite setbacks including court bans on his proposed immigration limits and a high-profile failure in repealing and replacing the current health care law.
The president said Friday he spent his first 100 days laying the “foundation” for progress later in his administration, including by building relationships with foreign leaders. He cited German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a leader he was surprised to have developed strong chemistry with, given that he has been critical of her handling of immigration policies.
As a candidate, Mr. Trump strongly criticized President Barack Obama for “illegal executive amnesties,” including actions to spare from deportation young people who were brought to the country as children and now are here illegally. But after the election, Mr. Trump started speaking more favorably about these immigrants, popularly dubbed “dreamers.”
On Friday, he said that when it comes to them, “This is a case of heart.”
This week, attorneys for Juan Manuel Montes said the 23-yearold was recently deported to Mexico despite having qualified for deferred deportation. Mr. Trump said Mr. Montes’ case is “a little different than the dreamer case,” though he did not specify why.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was launched in 2012 as a stopgap to protect some young immigrants from deportation while the administration continued to push for a broader immigration overhaul in Congress.
Mr. Obama’s administrative program offered a reprieve from deportation to those immigrants in the country illegally who could prove they arrived before they were 16, had been in the U.S. for several years, and had not committed a crime since being here. It mimicked versions of the so-
called DREAM Act, which would have provided legal status for young immigrants but was never passed by Congress.
Iran deal in limbo
Mr. Trump said it was “possible” the U.S. will withdraw from the nuclear accord with Iran forged by Mr. Obama and five other world leaders. He said he believes Iran’s destabilizing actions “all over the Middle East and beyond” are violating the spirit of the accord, though the State Department this week certified that Tehran is complying with the tenets of the deal aimed at curbing its nuclear program.
Tax cut promise
Mr. Trump said he would unveil a tax overhaul package next week that would include a “massive” tax cut for both individuals and corporations. He would not provide details of rate proposals or how he planned to pay for the package but asserted the cuts for Americans will be “bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever.”
Congressional Republicans seemed caught off guard by Mr. Trump’s announcement and did not appear to have been briefed on the details of the White House’s forthcoming plan.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin initially set a goal of getting tax reform passed by August but now says the administration still hoped to get a bill passed before the end of the year.
Shift on Assange
If the Justice Department wants to charge WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, “it’s OK with me,” the president said.
Mr. Trump said he is not involved in that decisionmaking process but would support Attorney General Jeff Sessions if he charged Mr. Assange with a crime.
The administration has stepped up its rhetoric against WikiLeaks in recent days, despite the fact that Mr. Trump welcomed the group’s release of a top Hillary Clinton aide’s emails during the election.
Mr. Sessions told reporters Thursday that Mr. Assange’s arrest is a priority as the Justice Department steps up efforts to prosecute those who leak classified information to the media. CIA Director Mike Pompeo last week denounced WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence service” and a threat to U.S. national security.
Exxon waiver rejected
The Trump administration has rejected a request from Exxon Mobil to waive U.S. sanctions against Russia to allow the company to resume oil drilling around the Black Sea.
The decision comes two days after it was reported that Exxon was seeking a waiver to resume a joint venture with Rosneft, a Russian state-owned oil company. Exxon said it filed the request in 2015.
The disclosure of Exxon’s application was criticized in Congress by lawmakers who said the Trump administration should not reduce sanctions after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered in last year’s presidential election.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was Exxon’s CEO before joining Mr. Trump’s Cabinet. While at Exxon, he cultivated close ties with Rosneft and Russian officials including President Vladimir Putin, and he spoke against sanctions that were imposed in 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine.