It is no longer shocking to read a Breitbart News headline that is critical of President Trump. Such coverage remains rare, but the far-right website has a few pet issues — immigration being No. 1 — on which it can't ignore broken promises.
So when Breitbart called Trump “Amnesty Don” in a headline Wednesday evening, it was not the first time the site has knocked the president's willingness to let some undocumented immigrants remain in the United States — or even the first time Breitbart has used that nickname.
What makes this time significant is that Breitbart — two weeks removed from ousting Stephen K. Bannon as chairman — did not do what it usually does, which is shift blame for Trump's action onto someone else. It actually held Trump responsible for his own words.
Making an unannounced appearance before a group of reporters Wednesday, Trump endorsed a path to U.S. citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, whose status is the subject of intense political debate.
“We’re going to morph into it,” Trump said. “It’s going to happen — over a period of 10 to 12 years. If somebody's done a great job and worked hard, it keeps the incentive to do a great job. . . . I think it's a nice thing to have the incentive, after a period of years, of being able to become a citizen.”
Citizenship is a red line for some conservatives who are open to granting a lesser form of legal status to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
“Granting a pathway to U.S. citizenship to DACA illegal aliens would break Trump’s long-held campaign promise that no amnesty for illegal aliens would be granted until illegal immigration to the U.S. was fully ended,” Breitbart reported.
The Trump administration said in September that it would end the Obama-era DACA program in March, but the president signaled his desire for Congress to work out a way for those who have been shielded from deportation to stay. Trump did not, however, indicate support for a path to citizenship.
Breitbart slapped the “Amnesty Don” tag on Trump on Sept. 13, after multiple news outlets reported that during a meeting with Democratic leaders he agreed in principle to grant long-term legal status to DACA recipients without securing funding for a Southern border wall in return.
For critics of the DACA program, including Breitbart, the consolation in Trump's willingness to cut a deal had been the hope that he could use DACA as a bargaining chip to extract money for the wall. The idea that he would agree to make DACA permanent without getting the wall lit a fire — quite literally. Breitbart reported on Trump supporters who were burning their “Make America Great Again” hats.
Yet even as Breitbart raged, it cast blame on others. It cited a New York Times report that White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner favored the preservation of DACA. It ripped House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) for declining, at a news conference, to rule out a path to citizenship. It pointed a finger most directly at White House legislative affairs director Marc Short:
Trump’s cave to DACA amnesty comes just a day after the White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short said the administration would look at exchanging amnesty for tax cuts. Short, as Breitbart News reported, is a former executive with the pro-mass immigration billionaires, the Koch brothers.
Additionally, Short led an effort in 2016 inside the Koch organization to derail Trump, opposing him for his “America First” agenda.
Breitbart's signal to readers in September was that Trump's otherwise-good judgment may have been clouded by people in his orbit. After Trump said he could support a path to citizenship on Wednesday, however, Breitbart did not cover for him in the same way.
It is too early in the post-Bannon era to know whether this is a one-off or a sign of slightly tougher coverage to come, but Breitbart's posture toward Trump, on immigration, bears watching.