President Donald Trump is moving closer to a deal with Democrats that would protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation and put off funding for his marquee campaign promise of a border wall along the US-Mexico border.
The bombshell developments, which were first announced in a statement Wednesday night by Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi and reiterated by Trump himself Thursday morning, were met with immediate outrage from conservatives and put pressure on the President’s Republican allies in Congress.
The two Democratic leaders announced that following a dinner at the White House, they had “agreed to enshrine the protections of (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”
Trump insisted on Twitter Thursday morning that “no deal was made” on DACA, and Schumer and Pelosi later issued a statement clarifying that what was agreed upon was Trump supporting congressional actions to put DACA protections into law.
“What remains to be negotiated are the details of border security, with a mutual goal of finalizing all details as soon as possible,” the statement said. “While both sides agreed that the wall would not be any part of this agreement, the President made clear he intends to pursue it at a later time, and we made clear we would continue to oppose it.”
Asked about the discussion Thursday morning, Trump told as he departed the White House for Florida that “the wall will come later.”
“We’re right now renovating large sections of wall. Massive sanctions. Making it brand new. We’re doing a lot of renovations we’re building four different samples of the wall to see which one we’re going to choose. The wall is going to be built — it will be funded a little bit later,” he added. Earlier Thursday, he tweeted that the wall was under construction “in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls” and will continue to be built.
The President also said House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are “very much on board” with plans to make DACA — which protected nearly 800,000 individuals who were brought to the United States illegally as children from deportation — permanent. The Trump administration announced last week it would give Congress six months to pass legislation preserving those provisions before the program was terminated.
McConnell and Ryan’s offices did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment Thursday morning.
Trump also defended on Twitter the undocumented immigrants protected under DACA, calling them “good, educated and accomplished young people” who “have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own.”
Outreach to Democrats
If a deal on some immigration and border issues happens, it would be the second major agreement between Trump, Schumer and Pelosi this month following their pact last week to raise the debt ceiling and extend government funding into December that left the GOP and some of Trump’s closest allies flabbergasted.
The bipartisan DREAM Act — a more comprehensive immigration bill that was proposed years ago but never passed — would be part of the proposed arrangement, a person briefed on the meeting said Wednesday night.
A White House official said in a statement following the dinner Wednesday that the topics discussed at the dinner included tax reform, border security, DACA, infrastructure and trade.
“This is a positive step toward the President’s strong commitment to bipartisan solutions for the issues most important to all Americans,” the statement said. “The administration looks forward to continuing these conversations with leadership on both sides of the aisle.”
White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short confirmed that the President and Democrats agreed to work to find a legislative fix for DACA, but he called Democrats’ claim of a deal that would exclude wall funding “intentionally misleading.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders immediately pushed back on the idea the wall would be dropped.
“While DACA and border security were both discussed, excluding the wall was certainly not agreed to,” Sanders tweeted on Wednesday.
Schumer’s communications director Matt House retweeted Sanders’ statement, then added that Trump had indeed agreed to leaving the border wall out of the equation — at least for this round.
“The President made clear he would continue pushing the wall, just not as part of this agreement,” House tweeted.
Schumer and Pelosi’s statement on Wednesday quickly sent shockwaves through Trump’s conservative base, as his hardline stance on immigration was a core tenet of his campaign.
“Unbelievable! Amnesty is a pardon for immigration law breakers coupled with the reward of the objective of their crime,” tweeted Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.
Conservative commentator Laura Ingraham tweeted that “Dems’ “Border security” pledge is MEANINGLESS.” Staunch Trump ally Sean Hannity added, “Weak R’s have betrayed voters. @POTUS needs to stay the course and keep his promises or it’s over! Pelosi and Schumer can never be trusted.”
And Breitbart News, run by Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, headlined news of the alleged deal Wednesday with “Amnesty Don.”
Amid the criticism Wednesday night, Trump weighed in on tax reform and his former election rival, Hillary Clinton, waiting to respond to the reaction until Thursday morning.
GOP leaders absent from dinner
Making a deal that finds a way to keep the individuals who benefit under DACA in the United States shows the challenge of striking bipartisan deals in Washington.
Congressional Republican leaders were absent from Wednesday’s dinner, which featured Chinese food and chocolate pie for dessert, sources said, and it was not immediately clear how they would handle such legislation on Capitol Hill.
The dinner took place the same day House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy met with Democratic leadership and representatives from groups in the Capitol.
“It’s the beginning of a listening that the President asked us to do,” McCarthy said. “We’ve got a broken immigration system we’ve got to fix. It was the beginning of a discussion where we were listening to concerns.”