TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump leaves after speaking during the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in the...
SAUL LOEB

Contradicting his own team, Trump confirms retribution scheme

Updated

Even some who expect the worst from the Trump administration were surprised by reports from the Washington Post and NBC News this morning about the White House pressuring U.S. immigration authorities to “release detainees onto the streets of ‘sanctuary cities’ to retaliate against President Trump’s political adversaries.”

As we discussed earlier, according to the purported plan, the White House envisioned a system in which officials would detain immigrants and then transport them to targeted “Democratic strongholds,” including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco.

By all appearances, the ridiculous gambit has already been rejected by administration officials. An official statement from the White House said, “This was just a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion.” NBC News spoke to a former Department of Homeland Security official who added that the plan was ultimately scrapped when it was determined to be “so illegal.”

When Donald Trump himself decided to weigh in via Twitter, I assumed he’d type a few words about “fake news” and move on. Instead, he went in the opposite direction.

“Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only.

“The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy – so this should make them very happy!”

Putting aside the “open borders” nonsense – I can only hope this president doesn’t actually believe his own talking points – Trump has now admitted that the ridiculous plan the White House said is dead is actually under “strong consideration.”

It’s a reminder that there’s no real point in believing anything this White House says, even in writing, because Trump has no qualms about declaring the opposite, on a whim, even if it means blindsiding his own team.

What’s more, note that the premise of the president’s position is bizarre. In reality, Democrats are not “unwilling” to change the nation’s immigration laws. On the contrary, Democratic lawmakers have offered the White House a series of possible compromises. Trump, at least so far, has rejected each of them.

As for the larger context, if the president were to actually try to implement his retribution scheme, the litigation would likely be brutal – and the administration would almost certainly lose.

But it’s hard not to notice just how manic Trump has become on this issue in recent weeks. He’s threatened to close the border altogether; he’s threatened tariffs against Mexico that he cannot impose; he’s talked up the idea of using military force against asylum seekers; he’s insisted the United States should “get rid of” immigration judges; he’s fired many of his own top Homeland Security officials; he’s reportedly told border officials that following the law is optional; he’s touted a counterproductive plan to end aid to Central America’s “Northern Triangle,” and now he’s prepared to dump immigrants in his opponents’ districts as part of a legally-dubious political retribution scheme.

This is also the week in which Trump, after losing a court case over his asylum policies, called a federal judge “out of control.” That phrase certainly applies to someone, and I think it’s the guy the president sees in the mirror.

Update: Trump, this afternoon, reiterated his interest in pursuing this idea. A Department of Homeland Security official said DHS is not drawing up plans to implement the proposal.