President Trump stunned his conservative supporters on Thursday by asserting his willingness to strike a deal with Democrats to protect young immigrants living illegally in the U.S.
But the president and his team also sowed confusion by offering contradictory statements about potential stumbling blocks to the deal.
Speaking to reporters in Washington and Florida, Trump backed a broad outline of a plan Democratic leaders said they agreed to during a Wednesday dinner at the White House. The trade-off would include new border security measures.
“We’re working on a plan for DACA,” the president said at the White House, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program which shields certain young people from deportation and allows them to work.
Trump terminated the program last week. Benefits are set to begin expiring in March, setting off a scramble in Congress to find a solution for the thousands of immigrants who are enrolled.
He declared the two sides are “fairly close” to reaching a deal, saying the plan must include “massive border security” but that “the wall will come later.”
Earlier Thursday, the president appeared to contradict House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who issued a surprise Wednesday night announcement about an agreement on immigration.
“No deal was made last night on DACA,” Trump tweeted.
But Trump’s comments Thursday largely matched those coming from the Democratic leaders.
“We agreed to plan to work at an agreement to protect our nation’s Dreamers from deportation,” Pelosi said, referring to DACA recipients, at a news conference on Capitol Hill. “We [will] review border security measures that do not include building a wall as we go forward.”
Like Trump, Pelosi denied that a deal had been reached, saying, “we had an agreement to move forward.”
Republican leaders appeared to be blindsided by Trump’s pursuit of an immigration deal, despite Trump’s claim that “everybody is on board.”
“There is no agreement,” Ryan told reporters at his weekly news conference. “These were discussions, not negotiations. This isn’t an agreement.”
If Trump and Democrats were to eventually strike a deal, they would still need support from some Republicans, who control both chambers in Congress, for it to pass. McConnell stopped short of guaranteeing a DACA bill would be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.
“As Congress debates the best ways to address illegal immigration through strong border security and interior enforcement, DACA should be part of those discussions,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to receiving the Trump administration’s legislative proposal as we continue our work on these issues.”
Some vocal Trump supporters lashed out at the president for pursuing a deal on DACA, calling it a violation of his campaign promises to crack down on illegal immigration.
Breitbart News, the outlet run by former Trump chief strategist Stephen Bannon, slapped the headline “Amnesty Don” on a story slamming the president over the immigration talks.