In a rare view inside a White House meeting between President Donald Trump and lawmakers of both parties in Congress, television cameras rolled for almost an hour as the President urged each side to do all they can to find agreement on how to deal with illegal immigrant “Dreamers” along with tougher border security measures, as Mr. Trump even called on the House and Senate to consider a second phase of legislative action on comprehensive immigration reform.
“If we do this properly – DACA – we’re not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform,” the President said at one point. “And if you take it that further step, I’ll take the heat, I don’t care.”
In the meeting, the President again made clear his preferences – he wants a DACA deal that is combined with an end to chain migration, an end to the visa lottery, and money for his border wall – as Mr. Trump told lawmakers they need to work together and figure out a compromise.
“I would love not to build the wall, but you need the wall,” the President said near the end of the 55 minute White House photo op.
At the meeting, two GOP lawmakers, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX), said they would release a bill on Wednesday that links to DACA to changes in immigration security and new resources for a border wall; it’s not clear what those details will be, as the President basically said he would sign whatever compromise the Congress could approve.
“You folks are going to have to come up with a solution,” the President said at one point.
In a fascinating give-and-take, Democrats argued for a simple bill that only deals with DACA and illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” while the President said again and again that he wants those items tied together, as it’s clear most Republicans would not accept legislation which only focuses on stopping “Dreamers” from being deported.
At one point, the President seemed to agree with Democrats – who want to proceed with a measure that only solves the DACA issue – but after one top Republican objected, Mr. Trump then went back to his plan of DACA combined with the border wall and more.
Reporters also asked about other matters, getting the President’s first comments about the chance that entertainer Oprah Winfrey might run for the White House in 2020.
“I’ll beat Oprah,” the President said confidently, while downplaying the idea that she would run.
The President also endorsed the idea of the Congress returning to the use of budget earmarks, arguing the lack of such spending items has made it more difficult to convince members to vote for major legislation.
The session was unusual – often, reporters are allowed into such a meeting for a few minutes, and then are shooed out.
This time, the cameras rolled while the President engaged in a back-and-forth on policy. It wasn’t just platitudes, as he repeatedly called on them to seize the moment and find a bipartisan agreement.
“Most fascinating meeting I’ve been involved with in twenty plus years in politics,” tweeted Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) about the televised White House meeting.