The story began a few weeks ago, with reports that Donald Trump envisioned a scheme in which federal officials would detain immigrants and release them onto the streets of "sanctuary cities" to retaliate against his political enemies. The White House quickly responded to the reports by insisting the idea had been discarded.
Over the weekend in Green Bay, Trump went a little further, suggesting he's already begun implementing the scheme:
"Last month alone, 100,000 illegal immigrants arrived in our borders, placing a massive strain on communities and schools and hospitals and public resources, like nobody's ever seen before. Now we're sending many of them to sanctuary cities. Thank you very much.... I'm proud to tell you that was my sick idea."
As a rule, American presidents don't generally brag about coming up with "sick" proposals, but Donald Trump is quite unique.
But it raises a fairly obvious question: was the president telling the truth on Saturday night? Has the administration begun implementing this "sick" idea?
According to the Associated Press, the president was apparently just peddling nonsense and counting on his supporters not to know the difference.
There's no evidence that the Trump administration has begun to send the migrants to sanctuary cities en masse . He proposed the idea in part to punish Democratic congressional foes for inaction on the border, but Homeland Security officials rejected the plan as unworkable. [...]There were no indications federal officials were taking any steps to move forward with the idea or considered the president's words anything more than bluster. His words to the Wisconsin crowd, suggesting his "sick idea" was in motion, appeared to be no more than that.
It's worth emphasizing that even if Trump were serious about this -- a big "if," to be sure -- the scheme almost certainly wouldn't last. ICE officials have deemed it unworkable, and NBC News spoke to a former Department of Homeland Security official who described the plan as "so illegal."
But nearly as interesting to me is how this offers a peek into how the president's mind works. We've seen the process more than once:
Trump publicly floats an idea.
Then he endorses it.
Then he says he might implement it.
Than he says he's already implemented it.
In the Republican's mind, each of these steps are effectively the same thing. They're not, of course, but Trump doesn't seem to care.
The president would like to repeal the estate tax, so he tells people the estate tax has already been repealed, even though it hasn't. He'd like to scrap the Johnson Amendment prohibiting church politicking, so he boasts about its repeal, despite the fact that the law remains fully intact.
For Trump, the line between coming up with an idea and actually implementing the idea is often quite blurry. For those concerned with his mental acuity, this isn't reassuring.