Associated Press

GOP Gets Little Direction From Trump

by Lisa Mascaro & Alan Fram

June 20, 2018 - 8:37 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump told House Republicans he is "1,000 percent" behind their rival immigration bills, providing little clear direction for party leaders searching for a way to defuse the escalating controversy over family separations at the southern border.

And it's uncertain if Trump's support will be enough to push any legislation through the divided GOP majority.

GOP lawmakers, increasingly fearful of a voter backlash in November, met with Trump for about an hour Tuesday at the Capitol to try to find a solution that both holds to Trump's hard-line immigration policy and ends the practice of taking migrant children from parents charged with entering the country illegally. Many lawmakers say Trump could simply reverse the administration's "zero tolerance" policy and keep families together.

While Trump held firm to his tough immigration stance in an earlier appearance Tuesday, he acknowledged during the closed-door meeting that the coverage of family separations is taking a toll. Trump said his daughter, Ivanka, had told him the situation with the families looks bad, one lawmaker said.

"He said, 'Politically, this is bad,'" said Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas. "It's not about the politics, this is the right thing to do."

But Trump touched on many topics during the meeting, including his historic meeting with the North Korean Kim Jong Un. He praised a few GOP lawmakers by name for defending him on TV, according to one Republican in the room. And he took a jab at Rep. Mark Sanford, congratulating the South Carolina Republican on his recent campaign, according to others granted anonymity to discuss the private meeting. Sanford, a frequent Trump critic, lost after his GOP primary opponent highlighted his criticism of the president.

As Trump walked out of the session in the Capitol basement, he was confronted by about a half-dozen House Democrats, who yelled, "Stop separating our families!"

Later in the day, protesters heckled Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen as she ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, chanting "Shame!" and "End family separation!"

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