The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Democrats must be ready to take this drastic step against Trump

Senators on Feb. 13 expressed optimism they can find a solution to protect “dreamers” who were shielded under the DACA program. (Video: Jordan Frasier/The Washington Post, Photo: Oliver Contreras/The Washington Post)


If you read through the coverage of the battle over the “dreamers,” you’ll come away with the impression that we are locked in a conventional Washington standoff, in which two opposing sides are each demanding concessions in exchange for making concessions of their own. If a compromise is to be reached, each side hopes to tug it as far in their direction as possible; if not, well, they just couldn’t find a way to meet in the middle, and in true Washington fashion, both sides will then play the “blame game.”

But treating this situation as a normal negotiation fundamentally obscures its profound asymmetry. One side is putting forth genuine good-faith compromise offers that would require concessions by both sides. The other just isn’t doing this at all — instead, they are demanding that they must be given everything they want, while spinning their demands as reasonable in a manner that is absolutely saturated with bad faith from top to bottom.

Today, various groups in the Senate will move toward putting forth proposals that would legalize as many as 1.8 million dreamers in exchange for concessions. Axios reports that a “senior administration official” says President Trump will veto anything that does not advance all of his demands: a wall on the border and an end to the diversity visa lottery system and family-based migration, which would mean deep cuts to legal immigration.

That senior official claimed that this constitutes “the mainstream, middle ground on immigration.” GOP senators are making similar claims. John Cornyn (Tex.) says the president shouldn’t budge, because his proposal is “enormously generous,” while Democrats are being “heartless” toward the dreamers by failing to accept it. Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.) insists that Trump’s proposal is a “sweet bipartisan deal,” and that if Dems reject it, Republicans are “looking pretty good from a PR standpoint.”

The idea that the tradeoff Republicans want represents the middle-ground, mainstream position in this debate is absurd on its face: a recent Quinnipiac University poll found that only 17 percent of Americans favor cuts to legal immigration, while 81 percent favor legalizing the dreamers. But beyond this, the basic facts of this situation illustrate the absurdity of the GOP position:

  1. Trump is the one who ended protections for the dreamers to begin with.
  2. Trump then said he wanted Congress to come up with a bipartisan solution protecting them in a more permanent way.
  3. Trump has repeatedly said protecting the dreamers is the right thing to do. Whether he means this or not is beside the point; perhaps entirely because he doesn’t want to be blamed for driving them underground, he wants to be associated with an outcome in which they are protected.
  4. Dem and GOP senators produced a version of the deal Trump asked for, one in which the dreamers would be legalized in exchange for cutting diversity visas and nixing any possibility of legalization for the dreamers’ parents. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer even expressed openness to giving Trump money for his wall.
  5. Trump rejected those offers. Dems repeatedly asked administration officials what further concessions they might accept and got no answer. Now officials are threatening a veto if Trump doesn’t get everything he wants, and Republicans are describing this as the middle-ground position.

It is true that Democrats won’t give Trump everything he wants. As Dylan Scott and Tara Golshan lay out, numerous proposals legalizing the dreamers will likely be voted on this week. One is close to what Trump wants and would cut legal immigration by huge amounts. Another wouldn’t cut legal immigration but would give Trump the border security money he wants. Still another would shift some visas toward the skills-based system he wants but probably without cutting overall legal immigration flows. Many people following the debate also expect a proposal to emerge that gives Trump money for the wall in exchange for protecting the dreamers. Yes, Democrats will vote against plans that deeply cut legal immigration. But they will likely support bills that make at least some of these other concessions, and perhaps more. (Time will tell.)

By contrast, Trump and most Republicans will very likely oppose the bills that give both sides some of what they want and continue to insist on basically giving Trump all of what he wants. This is not a balanced situation, particularly since Trump wants to be associated with protecting the dreamers anyway. It is true that many congressional Republicans don’t actually want to protect the dreamers and view doing this as a concession. But they are nonetheless going along with Trump in demanding far more in concessions than Democrats are. The Republicans’ position is that they won’t protect the dreamers unless Democrats give Trump all the border-security money and deep cuts to legal immigration he wants — while calling that a compromise.

If Trump and Republicans are going to stick to this position, Democrats really have no choice but to say no. This way of doing business must be flatly repudiated. If Trump and Republicans don’t want to protect the dreamers, then so be it. And by the way, if Dems do walk away, they will have the support of many of the dreamers themselves.

“If they’re going to demand the Stephen Miller wish list, Democrats should say no,” Greisa Martinez Rosas, the director of advocacy and policy for United We Dream, told me this morning. “There’s a line for how much we will allow Trump and Miller to extract for our protection.”

In other words, because it would put pit the dreamers against many current undocumented immigrants (including their own parents) and against future immigrants, many dreamers themselves do not want Democrats to pay this price, even if it upends their own lives. If that doesn’t drive home the fundamental imbalance of this situation, then nothing will. But regardless, it really may come to that.

* DEMS WIN ANOTHER BIG UPSET: Democrat Margaret Good last night snatched a House seat in Florida, winning by more than seven percentage points. Marc Caputo explains why flipping this district is such a big deal:

It had been held by a Republican in Sarasota County, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by 12,000, or about 10 percentage points. … Trump had carried the district by 4.6 percentage points in a state that he won by just 1.2 points … Good’s win was the 36th Republican legislative seat in the nation that a Democrat has won since 2016.

Amid all the chatter about the tightening generic ballot and Trump’s slightly rising approval, we keep getting good signs like this one.

* REPUBLICANS FRET ABOUT DEM WINS: Dave Weigel puts the big Florida upset in context, pointing out that even Republicans will be worried about what it portends. Here’s Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski:

“They’re winning elections in places where they shouldn’t be. We’ve seen them win statehouse seats in Wisconsin. We’ve seen them win big mayor’s races in New Hampshire. Fifty seats have already changed hands, from Republicans to Democrats, since President Trump took office. Make no mistake: The Democrats are unified.”

And Trump is very likely to keep on giving.

* FBI REVEALED CHARGES AGAINST PORTER LAST JULY: FBI chief Christopher Wray has testified that as part of its background check, it notified the administration three times of the domestic abuse charges against Rob Porter. The New York Times reports:

Mr. Wray did not disclose the information that was given to the White House at those times, but according to two people briefed on the matter, the F.B.I. first provided the White House in July with a rundown of the spousal abuse allegations the bureau had uncovered against Mr. Porter. In November, the F.B.I. provided the White House with additional information about the allegations.

The White House claims this info was given to the personnel office in a building next door and that it only learned of the charges from media reports. But top officials knew of them for months.

* TRUMP WORRIES ABOUT HOW PORTER MESS AFFECTS HIM: The Post reports this remarkable tidbit:

The president has said little publicly about the Porter issue other than to praise the former aide for doing “a very good job.” But he has privately expressed frustration with the week-long fallout, peppering advisers and confidants with questions about the media coverage and how the controversy is playing for him personally.

See? Who says Trump isn’t concerned about domestic abuse?

* DEMS BLAST TRUMP’S HANDLING OF PORTER: Related to the above, Schumer argues that there’s an obvious deficiency in Trump’s treatment of the Porter scandal:

“I haven’t heard the president say something directly about how bad domestic abuse is. You know, to have a spokesperson get out and say something is not good enough.”

One wonders if Trump might see doing this as capitulation to the forces of “political correctness.”

* DEMS PUSH TO RELEASE SCHIFF MEMO: Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.) is working with intel officials to get his rebuttal to the Nunes memo (which Trump blocked) redacted to their satisfaction. Then the Intel Committee will vote to release it again. Politico notes:

The House leaves town on Thursday morning for a recess that stretches until Feb. 26. If the committee requires another vote and a redacted memo isn’t ready in time, it could push the debate over releasing the Democrat document to the end of the month. At that point, another five-day review period by the White House could extend into March.

Trump may succeed in delaying the Schiff rebuttal from coming out, but it is likely to come out eventually.

* AND TRUMP LAWYER PAID PORN STAR: Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer at the time, has given a new statement to Maggie Haberman admitting he paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels, who had claimed an affair with Trump:

“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly … The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”

Oddly, Cohen is refusing to answer follow questions about whether Trump knew about the payment or why he made it. This Cohen is a very generous fellow!