Either President Trump has no idea what his actual stance is on an immigration bill, or he's being evasive.
On Tuesday, Trump repeatedly told a bipartisan meeting of lawmakers that he would sign whatever bill they sent him to codify protections for “dreamers.” But then he later clarified in a tweet that the bill had to have a border wall.
As I made very clear today, our country needs the security of the Wall on the Southern Border, which must be part of any DACA approval.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2018
Given Trump didn't exactly make his position “very clear” on Tuesday, he was asked about it again Wednesday — one final chance to set the record straight. So what did Trump do? He gave conflicting answers yet again, and about five seconds apart, no less.
After a reporter paraphrased his Tuesday quote about signing anything, Trump affirmed that was still his stance. “That's right,” he said. But then he was asked if he would refuse to sign any bill that didn't include the border wall. Trump responded that was his stance too.
Here's the exchange:
REPORTER: Yesterday, in a meeting with lawmakers, you said you would be open to signing just about any immigration deal that bipartisan group of lawmakers sent to you.
TRUMP: That's right.
REPORTER: Would you be willing to sign an immigration deal that ultimately does not include funding for the border wall, or would that be a red line for you?
TRUMP: No. No. No. It's got to include the wall.
So to sum up: Trump will sign whatever bill Congress sends him. But also, he won't sign whatever bill Congress sends him (because it has to have a border wall).
It's the second day Trump didn't seem to grasp the fault lines on the dreamer bill — also known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — which protects young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children. At that meeting with congressional lawmakers Tuesday, Trump signaled his support for a “clean” DACA bill. The problem was he didn't seem to know that a “clean” bill, by definition, means it doesn't have multiple elements. Trump appeared to assume a “clean” bill would include enhanced border security, and he had to be saved by an intervention from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
To Trump supporters, this will look like nitpicking. That's fine. But Trump is being entirely unclear about what he expects from this bill, suggesting that he doesn't understand this debate. Even pro-Trump voices such as Fox News's Tucker Carlson are confused about his stance, with Carlson devoting part of his show Tuesday night to denouncing Trump's professed willingness to sign anything.
It also makes the job of lawmakers who are trying to iron out a DACA compromise immensely difficult. That's because this isn't a minor detail. The border wall is a non-starter for Democrats and is broadly unpopular with the American people. Including it in a bill would make reaching a compromise extremely difficult, if not impossible. Whether Trump expects to see it in there — or would sign something without it — is vitally important, if not determinative.
This isn't just some esoteric quibble but rather one of real consequence for hundreds of thousands of dreamers.