At 11 a.m. (ET) yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration had rescinded the DACA policy that extended protections to nearly 1 million Dreamers. As of 10 a.m. (ET) yesterday, according to a New York Times report, administration officials “privately expressed concern that Mr. Trump might not fully grasp the details of the steps he was about to take, and when he discovered their full impact, would change his mind.”
That’s an extraordinary sentence in its own right. The president is so ignorant that officials in his administration are left to wonder if Trump might abandon his own plans after learning what they are and what they’ll do.
This isn’t how the executive branch of a global superpower is supposed to operate. But in an unexpected twist, as of last night, those fears from administration officials appeared well grounded.
Trump started the day by telling members of Congress that when it came to the DACA policy, they should “get ready to do [their] job.” Soon after, the White House effectively challenged lawmakers to address immigration policy within six months – or else. Trump’s Department of Homeland Security, meanwhile, began moving forward with plans predicated on the assumption that Congress would fail, putting in writing that DACA recipients should “prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States.”
But by the end of the day, the president was expressing a very different sentiment via Twitter:
“Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!”
Oh. So, just hours after the president demanded that Congress tackle immigration, this master negotiators announced publicly that if Congress fails, he’s prepared to “revisit” his needlessly cruel policy? Effectively negating the point of the threat?
Asked this morning what Trump’s message meant, a Justice Department spokesperson told CNN, “You’ll have to ask the president exactly what he meant.”
In other words, the Trump administration has no idea what Trump is talking about – again. It’s entirely possible the president himself isn’t sure, either. Indeed, a note of caution is probably in order: there’s no reason to assume the things Trump says or writes will relate in any way to what his administration will actually do. Between his dishonesty and his general confusion about current events, the president is simply not a reliable source of information on this or any subject.
That said, Trump’s vow to “revisit” the DACA policy in the event of congressional inaction at least raises the question of whether the president is serious about yesterday’s announcement.
Keep in mind, Trump is not indifferent to negative press. A month ago, for example, the president announced plans to form a “Cyber Security unit” with Russia, and when news reports made clear that this was insane, he quickly announced that the unit wouldn’t exist after all. A month earlier, after praising the House Republican health care bill, Trump changed his mind and called the bill “mean” in response to media coverage.
It seems quite plausible to me that Trump was watching television last night, saw that his attack on Dreamers made him look like a monster, and grabbed his phone so that he could tweet that he isn’t fully committed to his own policy.
Those administration officials who feared the president would change his mind had reason to be concerned. This isn’t to say Trump will change his mind – it’s difficult to discern his perspective on major issues from one hour to the next – but last night’s message introduced an element of doubt where none existed.
Postscript: Yesterday morning I wrote about how bad Trump is at bluffing. Little did I know he’d help bolster the point later in the day.