epaselect epa05747103 US President Donald Trump (F), with White House chief of staff Reince Pribus (L), counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway (2L),...
SHAWN THEW

Trump's 'military operation' apparently isn't a military operation

Just this week, it seemed Donald Trump's administration was relying a little too often on the "Never-Mind-What-Trump-Said" approach to public policy, and today, it happened again.

At a White House event this morning, the president declared that, thanks to his policies, "we're getting really bad dudes out of this country." Trump added, "And they're the bad ones, and it's a military operation because that has been allowed to come into our country."

It was a striking quote for a variety of reasons -- including plenty of reports about immigrants facing deportation who are not "really bad dudes" -- but it was that reference to a "military operation" that seemed especially problematic. There are all kinds of legal constraints on what the U.S. military can do on domestic soil, and if Trump is implementing his deportation policy while utilizing American troops, a controversial policy is about to get a whole lot more problematic.

Which is why it was important that Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, talking to reporters during an official visit to Mexico, clarified matters.

"Listen to this: no -- repeat, no -- use of military forces in immigration operations. None.... So again, I repeat, no use of military forces in immigration.

"At least half of you get that right, because it continually comes up in the reporting."

Look, I don't blame Kelly for pushing reporters to get the details right, but under the circumstances, journalists aren't the ones causing confusion. It was, after all, his boss -- the president of the United States -- who referred to the deportations as a "military operation" about three hours before the DHS secretary was saying the exact opposite.

Soon after, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that when the president used the "military operation" phrase, Trump was "using that as an adjective."

The "Never-Mind-What-Trump-Said" approach isn't going away anytime soon.