From: The Honorable Lloyd Doggett
Dear Democratic Colleague,
I draw your attention to key excerpts from a front page article today about what happened yesterday. It is increasingly apparent that the Trump agenda on immigration and other major issues is like seeking a degree from Trump University—big talk, no details, no job, and big debt. It is basically a scam. And it is unclear how much of our government Trump really directs himself as suggested in the article below, with a luncheon overture regarding immigration reform followed by a nighttime speech with an immigrant blame game, which falsely claimed “open borders” and “lawless chaos.”
New York Times: Ever a Showman, Donald Trump Keeps Washington Guessing
By: Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, March 1, 2017
WASHINGTON — The speech was written, the rollout strategy was set. And then President Trump began talking and the plan went out the window. Unless that was the plan all along.
When Mr. Trump sat down with television anchors at the White House for an off-the-record lunch on Tuesday, he was supposed to preview his first address to Congress. Instead, he suddenly opened
the door to an immigration bill that would potentially let millions of undocumented immigrants stay in the country legally.
Such legislation from the “build the wall” president would roil politics in the capital, and Mr. Trump told the anchors that nothing like that was actually in the speech as it was then drafted. But he turned to aides and suggested that maybe they should
include it. After the lunch was over, aides rushed off to alert their colleagues, including Stephen K. Bannon and Stephen Miller, the architects of the president’s immigration crackdown.
Once again, the unlikeliest of presidents had torn up the script and thrown his young administration into upheaval. Once again, Washington was left trying to fathom what his strategy was. Was it mad genius, an improvisational leader proposing a Nixon-goes-to-China
move to overhaul immigration after making a point of deporting “bad hombres”? Or was it simply madness, an undisciplined political amateur unable to resist telling guests what he thinks they want to hear even at the expense of his own political base?
In the end, he did not include it in the speech.
Immigration has been one area where he was evidently still trying to calibrate. After all, Mr. Trump was not always so strident on the issue. After the 2012 election, he denounced Mitt Romney for supporting what he called “self-deportation,” calling it “a
crazy policy” that cost Mr. Romney the Hispanic vote. The Democrats, he said then, did not have a policy “but what they did have going for them is they weren’t meanspirited about it.”
The session with the television anchors started out as a nod to tradition by a president who has broken so many. Like his predecessors on the day of a State of the Union address, Mr. Trump hosted the journalists for what was supposed to be an unrecorded
lunch to give them a sense of what he would tell Congress. But the conversation took a surprising turn when some of the anchors asked about his efforts to deport many of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. Without being prompted,
Mr. Trump then raised the idea of legislation, noting that there had not been any comprehensive law passed by Congress on the subject since Ronald Reagan’s amnesty program in the 1980s.
He told the anchors it was time for a bill that would grant legal status to many of those in the country illegally as long as both sides compromised, similar to the legislation sought but never passed by George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Mr. Trump said he
recognized that it would cause him political problems with his conservative base voters, according to people in the room, but added that he thought he could keep them happy since they had stuck with him throughout last year’s Republican primaries.
When Mr. Trump offered the idea, he let the word “compromise” hang in the air, gauging the reaction. He then turned to Hope Hicks, his director of strategic communications, and suggested that the thought could be added to his speech.
As Mr. Trump’s words settled over the State Dining Room, the president’s aides glanced at one another. They moved quickly to alert Mr. Bannon and Mr. Miller, two of the main keepers of Mr. Trump’s address before Congress.
That the proposal did not ultimately make it into the speech may speak to the influence of Mr. Bannon’s wing. But the town was confused and off balance, just the way Mr. Trump likes it.