DACA deal uncertain amid backlash over Trump's comments

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," January 15, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Honestly I don't think the Democrats want to make a deal. I think they talk about DACA but they don't want to help the DACA people.

SEN. DICK DURBIN, D-ILL.: If the president will keep his word as of last Tuesday if he will move forward and endorse this bipartisan agreement, we can get this done this week.

TRUMP: I think you have a lot of sticking points, but they're all Democrats sticking points. We are ready, willing, and able to make a deal, but they don't want it. They don't want security at the border. We have people pouring in. And they want to take money away from our military which we cannot do.

DURBIN: The president's position changes by the day. I'm going to seize any moment that looks positive.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: But does it look positive as we get closer to the end of the week? The president tweeting yesterday "DACA is probably dead because Democrats don't really want it. They just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our military. I as president want people coming into our country who are going to help us become strong and great again, people incoming through a system based on merit, no more lotteries. America first."

The today, tweeting directly at "Senator Dicky Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting. Deals can't get made when there is no trust! Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our Military."

With that let's bring in our panel: Steve Hayes, editor in chief of The Weekly Standard; Julie Pace, White House correspondent for the Associated Press, and Tom Bevan, Real Clear Politics cofounder and publisher. Julie, it does not seem like there's going to be this massive turn and suddenly they get a big deal by Friday.

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Definitely not by Friday. That's the deadline for the government to stay open. Democrats have been hoping to push the DACA issue into a big package that would involve the spending bill and resolving this issue. I think the truest thing that you played there was from Durbin when he said that the president's position changes by the day. He has really been all over the place.

And it's not just a concern for Democrats. It's concern for his own party. You have party leaders who want to know if they try to make a deal with Democrats on anything, but particularly on an immigration issue, that something the president will sign. And he changes his position so frequently on this but in public and in private that it has members of the party worried about what they could actually agree to.

BAIER: But the Tom Cottons, the Perdues, the other conservatives who have concerns about immigration issues don't really feel I don't think like Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake are the best negotiators on this bipartisan deal that has come forward.

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think that's true. That's a fair statement of their views about Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake on this. I think they are trying to drive the president as far to the right on immigration as they possibly can. And I think they are doing so in part because they believe in policy. They've made those arguments consistently. Tom Cotton certainly has.

But I do think the point that Julie makes has some merit. I think they are trying to get the president to commit to a more restrictionist view of the immigration, or to get him to, in their view, follow through on his campaign promises in a way that has a lot of support on the right. I think it would be potentially a problem for the president if he were to backtrack too much and not deliver what he has said.

There is a split, I think among Trump supporters in the Republican Party and on the right generally. People who support Donald Trump and would try to justify whatever deal he comes up with because Donald Trump came up with it, and people who are true believers in what they thought of as Trump-ism and believe in restricting trade and believe in restricting immigration, the kind of things Steve Bannon said of policy issues. Laura Ingraham is somebody who I think would fall into that category. The president I think is in a sense caught between those two polls.

BAIER: But that doesn't solve the funding issue. And as you get another continuing resolution, you get a lot of people concerned that on the fourth time government is just not operating well.

TOM BEVAN, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: It's been broken for years. The Senate hasn't been able to pass a budget for years and years. This is nothing new. And certainly in an election year it's not something -- they are going to have to eat kicking this down the road and in short-term waits until they can figure out how to move forward.

The only thing I would add on the immigration piece is what happened between the meeting last week and these comments over the weekend, it's really poisoning the well now because of all this talk of Trump is a racist. Now you have Democrats, the left wing of the Democratic base, they are not going to brook any sort of compromise among Dick Durbin or Democrats with Trump on chain migration or any of these issues. That is also a gap that has widened over the past few days. So it's going to be hard to see how a deal gets done.

BAIER: That was a lot of coverage over the weekend is what specifically was said or not said in that meeting. Take a listen to this montage:


DURBIN: That's what he used, these vile and vulgar comments.

SEN. DAVID PERDUE, R-GA.: I'm telling you he did not use that word, George. And I'm telling you it's a gross misrepresentation.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN, D-W.VA.: Senator Durbin and Senator Graham, I don't believe that any senator would walk in and make something up so atrocious as that and say this is what was said when it wasn't said.

TRUMP: Did you see what various senators in the room said about my comments? They weren't made.


BAIER: OK, Lindsey Graham who was in the meeting told The Post and Courier, quote, "My memory hasn't evolved. I know what was said and I know what I said in that meeting." Julie, apparently now the differences between s-hole countries and s-house countries, which is a difference without a distinction, he's talking about the countries and how they are not great places.

PACE: Right. And I think the actual word the president used, whichever one it may have been, has gotten a lot of the attention, but it's actually the policy implications behind what he said that I think are the most important for us to be discussing. And that actually is what sounds like got Lindsey Graham, a Republican who's made a lot of efforts over the last couple of months to be on Trump's side on a variety of issues really worked up, was that Trump was saying essentially we don't want people from these certain countries. We would rather have people from Norway. That's a pretty provocative position for a president of the United States to lay out. As Tom pointed out, it really muddies this whole debate because you have Democrats who are watching the left flank of their party who are highly energized right now, that left flank doesn't want them to make a deal on anything involving immigration. And if they didn't want them to make a deal before Trump said this, they certainly want the party leaders to hold the line right now.

BAIER: If he hadn't said it this way in this meeting and had said instead about merit-based immigration where we should be encouraging people that can help our businesses, that can help our country elevate?

HAYES: He would be in a better position than he is today, but I think those are actually two different arguments. I don't think they're the same argument. The problem for the president saying this, and I think you accurately summarized it at the beginning, it is either blank-house or blank-hole. We should take a moment to remind people that the president's team, when asked about this initially, didn't deny it, that FOX News confirmed that initial reporting that he had said this. People like Erick Erickson and Rich Lowry, conservatives who have confirmed one version or another of this, it's pretty clear the president said something like this.

And I think for people who love the Donald Trump is aggressive with his language and calls, says what he sees, this is the downside to that. And there is a downside to it.

BAIER: But let's not say that presidents haven't said bad words in that Oval Office. It seems like there's a disconnect. I understand that Donald Trump gets it, the criticism a lot more than others perhaps, and this was in the big picture the wrong thing to say, but where is the fallout here?

BEVAN: Different era, obviously different president. He, as you mentioned, takes a lot more heat. I also found it interesting that there's been reporting that Trump, actually this was premeditated on his part, that he had a focus grouped this with some of his buddies and he wanted to say this. I also found it interesting that it leaked as quickly as it did. And then you had Dick Durbin come out and verify that this actually happen. That suggests there are a lot of ulterior motives at play there, again, perhaps to create this divide were nothing is going to get done.

BAIER: So what happens at the end of the week, quickly?

BEVAN: Punt.

PACE: Punt.

HAYES: Another CR through the end of February.

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