President Trump and a bipartisan group of lawmakers held a remarkable meeting in the White House Cabinet Room Tuesday afternoon — remarkable both because of the content of the negotiations and because almost all of the discussion, which lasted nearly an hour, happened in front of television cameras and reporters.
It’s not clear though whether the audience was getting a rare glimpse at legislative sausage-making or whether the president in particular was cooking up a batch of red herrings, raising ideas that could temporarily roil the waters but have little chance of gaining traction in Congress as lawmakers try to reach a spending deal and prevent the government from shutting down after January 19.
Trump repeated his demand that funding for his border wall with Mexico and changes to legal immigration policy be part of any deal to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program’s protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
Trump also voiced support for a two-phase approach to immigration issues that would first address border security and DACA before moving on to a more comprehensive reform that would create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But he appeared to say that he’d be willing to sign whatever legislation Congress sent him.
The bottom line: After the public discussion, the parameters of negotiations over the next 10 days got set behind closed doors. The White House and lawmakers said they agreed to focus their negotiations on four issues: DACA; border security; the practice of Americans sponsoring family members for green cards, which the president calls “chain migration”; and the diversity visa lottery. But we might not be much closer to a spending deal. Democrats will still see many of Trump’s current demands — especially money for the wall — as nonstarters, while many in Trump’s own party will object to his proposed two-step approach and a path to citizenship as part of immigration reform.
A small win? One hour-long meeting won’t dispel all the questions about Trump’s mental state and fitness for office, but while Trump seemed to contradict himself at some points and not know what some terms meant, the basic optics of the meeting helped him, at least for a moment, look more presidential and “stable.”