Democratic leaders in Congress announced a major agreement with President Trump on Wednesday night. “We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said of the program to protect the children of those who are here illegally from deportation, “and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”
That wall part, understandably, set off alarm bells among Trump's hard-line immigration base, and Trump and the White House responded Thursday morning that there was, in fact, “no deal.” But it turns out there, well, basically is.
Here's what Trump tweeted:
First off: Well, of course it's “subject to vote.” Every deal is. And Schumer and Pelosi didn't claim that the details on border security had been worked out. I read their comments more like “A deal has been reached in principle.”
As for the principles of that deal — and specifically the border wall — this is really a non-denial denial from Trump. He says the wall will “continue to be built,” but he doesn't say that it must be part of the deal. Democrats didn't claim the wall renovation would be halted in the deal or anything like that; they simply said the new deal would not include more funding for the wall, which Trump has promised. This, again, seems to be Trump stating the obvious.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was a little more definitive in a statement. “While DACA and border security were both discussed, excluding the wall was certainly not agreed to,” she said shortly after Trump's tweets went out.
Okay, but if the wall part was “certainly not agreed to,” that seems to suggest the rest of it … was? And it's nearly impossible to believe that Democrats would have agreed to anything that further funds that wall. That's a red line for them, period. Excluding it would have to be part of any deal.
Update: And as he often has, Trump completely contradicted his spokesman on this in a matter of hours. “The wall will come later,” he said after emerging from his White House residence. He added that they are “fairly close” to a deal along the lines of what Pelosi and Schumer said.
Pelosi and Schumer, meanwhile, agree that Trump's comments don't change anything. “President Trump's tweets are not inconsistent with the agreement reached last night,” they said in a just-released statement. “As we said last night, there was no final deal. …”
Back to Trump's tweets:
And here we have the president basically defending a deal that he says hasn't been reached.
So this is basically an argument over the word “deal.” (The Post, notably, is calling it an agreement “to work on [a] deal,” which seems the best way to phrase it.) Democrats say they have reached an agreement with Trump; Trump and the White House were suggesting there is an agreement, but emphasizing that there is no “deal” since it hasn't been finalized. Nobody really disagrees.
The White House's responses Thursday morning seem to be more an effort to cover their own hides with the base than anything else. Maybe the agreement will eventually fall apart when the particulars of the deal begin to be worked out, and Democrats balk at the amount of border security? Maybe the White House has gotten cold feet after the likes of Breitbart and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) have utterly denounced the deal? (The former is calling him “AMNESTY DON.” The latter says such a deal would mean the “Trump base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair.")
But the indications we're getting from both sides are actually pretty similar.