WASHINGTON — President Trump journeyed to Capitol Hill this evening to meet with House Republican legislators behind closed doors in advance of this week’s votes on GOP compromise immigration bills, amid growing discontent over the administration’s policy of separating families at the border.
Trump, however, didn’t stick to immigration in the basement huddle, veering to fighter jet contracts, the opioid crisis, taxes, military funding, trade and more; he also reportedly revived his campaign-era line about being able to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose popularity among his base. He also mocked Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) for losing his primary in what Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) tweeted was “a classless cheap shot.”
Of the situation down on the southern border, one GOP member of Congress told CNN that Trump said “the crying babies doesn’t look good politically.”
The lawmaker also said Trump slammed House Republicans for not supporting him enough, asserting that some red state Democrats are nicer to him.
Reps. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) said Trump told Republicans that his daughter Ivanka had approached him concerned about the images of family separation. Curbelo said Ivanka “encouraged him to end this and he said he does recognize that it needs to end and the images are painful and he’s looking for a legislative solution.”
Curbelo said Trump did not indicate that he’s willing to use his executive powers to dial back the stepped-up enforcement policy.
Trump told lawmakers he stands “1,000 percent” with the members who are pushing for immigration legislation that meets the White House demands of border wall funding and other reductions in legal immigration.
The immigration bills that are expected to come to the floor this week are compromises in the sense that they’re trying to bring together the disparate GOP caucus: a more moderate version is from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), while a more conservative version is from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). Democrats are expected to reject both, while conservative GOPs aren’t likely to go for Ryan’s bill and moderate GOPs may reject Goodlatte’s.
Trump only said to reporters after the meeting, “The system’s been broken for many years. The immigration system, it’s been a really bad, bad system, probably the worst anywhere in the world. And we’re gonna try and see if we can fix it.”
Trump then went over to the Trump International Hotel for a fundraiser with super PAC America First Action.
White House spokesman Raj Shah said the president “spoke to the House Republican conference on a range of issues.”
“In his remarks, he endorsed both House immigration bills that build the wall, close legal loopholes, cancel the visa lottery, curb chain migration, and solve the border crisis and family separation issue by allowing for family detention and removal,” Shah said.
Democrats led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) today introduced the Keep Families Together Act, which prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from separating families except in extraordinary circumstances such as the termination of parental rights, a decision from a child welfare agency, or human trafficking indicators that have been reviewed by the chief of the Border Patrol in that sector. Officials who violate the rules would be subject to financial penalties.
All Customs and Border Protection officers would also have to complete child welfare training, and a report on family separation would be due to Congress every six months.
“An overwhelming majority of Americans from across the political spectrum oppose the Trump administration’s policy of tearing children from their parents’ arms and locking them away in cages. It is cruel, inhumane, and inconsistent with American values,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. “I urge Speaker Ryan – who claims to disagree with this policy – to not just speak out against it but take action and bring this legislation to the Floor without delay. Together, we can pass it on a bipartisan basis as a message of unity in support of keeping families together.”
Trump told the National Federation of Independent Businesses earlier in the day, “When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally, which should happen, you have to take the children away. Now we don’t have to prosecute them, but then we’re not prosecuting them for coming in illegally. That’s not good. We want to end the border crisis by finally giving us the legal authorities and the resources to detain and remove illegal immigrant families altogether and bring them back to their country.”