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White House pushed retribution scheme targeting 'sanctuary cities'

The White House's attempt at political retribution "raised alarm" within ICE, and for good reason.
Image: 58th U.S. Presidential Inauguration
WASHINGTON, USA - JANUARY 20: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) President-elect Donald Trump greets House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Congressional...

Many Americans have grown accustomed to many of the White House's worst instincts. For more than two years, Donald Trump and his team have pushed a seemingly endless stream of gimmicks, immature stunts, taunts, and antics befitting intemperate children.

But occasionally, someone helps peel back the curtain, and we learn that conditions are worse at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue than even cynics suspect. The Washington Post published this report overnight:

White House officials have tried to pressure U.S. immigration authorities to release detainees onto the streets of "sanctuary cities" to retaliate against President Trump's political adversaries, according to Department of Homeland Security officials and email messages reviewed by The Washington Post.Trump administration officials have proposed transporting detained immigrants to sanctuary cities at least twice in the past six months -- once in November, as a migrant caravan approached the U.S. southern border, and again in February, amid a standoff with Democrats over funding for Trump's border wall.

NBC News has confirmed the Post's reporting.

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.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) balked. In fact, the Post added, "The attempt at political retribution raised alarm within ICE, with a top official responding that it was rife with budgetary and liability concerns, and noting that 'there are PR risks as well.'"

Ya don't say.

Taking a step back, I think there are two broad angles to this that are worth keeping in mind, aside from the bewildering immaturity of the president's team.

The first is the administrative dynamic, which at first blush, is somewhat reassuring. Team Trump came up with a schoolyard-style idea, and pushed the stunt more than once, but officials at the Department of Homeland Security promptly shot down the nonsense.

The trouble is, Donald Trump is in the process of overhauling the leadership of ICE and DHS. Whether the new leaders of the departments will want to -- or feel empowered to -- say no to the White House's worst instincts is unclear.

The second angle of note is that the Washington Post learned of this in the first place. I can't speak to the newspaper's sourcing in any detail, but the article appears to have been based on multiple sources, who provided, among other things, email messages sent from the White House.

Do you suppose it's  possible that some administration officials have grown tired of Team Trump's nonsense, forcing them to reach out to reporters in order to push back against the White House?