Trump proposes sending illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 12, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: If we had the wall people wouldn't be coming up. We could fix that so fast if the Democrats would agree. But if they don't agree, we might as well do what they always say they want. We'll bring them to sanctuary city areas and let that particular area take care of it, whether it's a state or whatever it might be.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., HOUSE SPEAKER: It's just another notion that is unworthy of the presidency of the United States and disrespectful of the challenges that we face as a country come, as a people, to address who we are, a nation of immigrants.


BRETT BAIER, HOST: Republicans and Democrats now concede that it is a crisis on the border. The president saying it so much so you have to do something with the people there. And he's considering taking some illegal immigrants who can't be held past 20 days and bringing them to sanctuary cities around the country, many of them run by Democrats.

If you look at a map, there are now as of March, 178 sanctuary jurisdictions. This is cities, counties, even states. They include 27 states, in 27 states.

Let's start there with our panel, "Washington Post" columnist Marc Thiessen, Marie Harf, Fox News analyst and co-host of "Benson and Harf" on Fox News Radio, and Matthew Continetti, editor in chief of the "Washington Free Beacon." Marc, there was a lot of reaction to this today.


BAIER: The president, as you can imagine, on all sides.

MARC THIESSEN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Yes. This is probably never going to happen, but I think it's pure genius, to be perfectly honest with you. And I frankly can't understand why Democrats are upset about this. Two sets of facts. Number one, it is the position of the Democratic Party that illegal aliens held by ICE should be released into the country, into our communities. During the negotiations to end the government shutdown, Democrats, their official position, negotiating position, was that we should limit amount the of beds that ICE to 35,000, and they expressly said for the purpose of forcing the Trump administration to release noncriminal aliens into the community. So they're for releasing them into the communities.

Second, they created sanctuary cities. This is their policy, for the purpose of giving sanctuary to illegal aliens. You've got Mayor de Blasio wants to offer them free health care. You've got Stacey Abrams who wants them to vote in local elections. Governor Newsom wants to make the entire state a sanctuary. So how can you be upset about President Trump offering to do exactly what you say you want to do?

BAIER: Here's the president continuing that thought from today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: The people that are putting sanctuary cities where they are not even wanted, because as you know in California and other places, a lot of communities want to get out of sanctuary city, they don't want them. But they always seem to have open arms. So we thought rather than moving the illegal immigrants to other parts of the country, first of all, we are getting them and we're doing the best we can with very bad laws.


BAIER: Marie?

MARIE HARF, "BENSON AND HARF" CO-HOST: There are huge legal problems with this. We heard in the reporting about this story that DHS and the White House had not wanted this to go forward as a policy in part because of these legal issues. Then the president went out after they all denied it and said no, no, I'm actually thinking about this.

The bigger problem, though, is it's not a fixed crisis. It's Donald Trump trying to own the libs, which he is very good at, actually, sometimes. He knows how to do it. It doesn't fix the problem. I think --

BAIER: It has a lot of people upset, though.

HARF: Sure, but that's not his job. His job is to actually solve policy issues. The big question, Bret, is whether this Jared Kushner immigration plan that is supposedly being worked behind the scenes, if that will actually have a chance of getting anything close to bipartisan support, and whether Stephen Miller will allow something like that to go forward. All of this other stuff is political noise. This is not an actual attempt by the president to solve the crisis.

BAIER: Yes, but isn't Congress mandated to solve things too? Shouldn't Congress pass laws to deal with this, like the asylum laws that even a lot of Democrats acknowledge is part of the problem.

HARF: Absolutely, the ball is in Congress's court here first and foremost. Both sides have run to the extremes and can't focus on where they might actually agree on things, like asylum laws, on things like getting more judges, on things like fixing DACA. And so I think the White House is trying to fill that void by possibly coming up with a plan. But there is no hope, I think, in the United States Congress as we look at it today that they have any chance of getting something done, which is the real problem, Bret.

BAIER: It's kind of broken. Matthew?

HARF: Yes.

MATTHEW CONTINETTI, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "WASHINGTON FREE BEACON": I think there are two frustrations at work. One is the president's and the administration's frustration at Congress for not tackling these immigration loopholes that are driving a lot of the illegal migration and asylum seeking.

And the second frustration is more widespread. It's among Trump supporters and Republicans more generally who feel that progressives don't face up to the consequences of their own policy position, that they're all for sanctuary cities and for lax border security, but they don't have to feel the impacts that the communities on the border do.

BAIER: I mean, I can hear --

CONTINETTI: So Trump is combining those with this very grand gesture that's meant to exert leverage over the Congress.

BAIER: I can hear the voices in the middle of America at a diner or at a bar going, yes, OK, you want them, go ahead, take them. You are right, President Trump. Can't you?

HARF: But it's interesting every single district that borders Mexico now is governed, is led, that Congressional district, by a Democrat. They took some of those seats back except William Hurd who doesn't support the president on immigration. So when people say the border feels differently than Democrats, that's actually not necessarily true. They keep electing Democrats to those Congressional districts.

CONTINETTI: The impacts of illegal immigration aren't limited to those border districts. They go throughout the country. And that's why I do think it'd be --

BAIER: And most Democrats are not necessarily for sanctuary cities along the border.

HARF: These are some moderate Democrats in some of those places who have a more nuanced look at immigration because they are on the front lines, absolutely, but they're still Democrats.

CONTINETTI: I think we are all making a mistake if we're focusing so much on the border, right? The Trump administration is checked by Congress, but presidents have a lot of latitude in foreign policy. You might want to take a step back and in addition to this legislative package they might be working on, think about some military, diplomatic, and political and economic assistance to the countries where these migrants are coming from and are being driven away from their homes by these gangs and state failure. There, in foreign policy, Trump would have far more latitude.

BAIER: And the Secretary of State is actually in Latin America, I think, doing the opposite, trying to put leverage on some of those instead of doing it a different way.

"The New York Times," Marc, writes about this Homeland Security effort. "It was not clear what Mr. Trump meant by his request or additional comments to Mr. McAleenan that he would pardon him if he encountered any legal problems as a result of taking the action of denying migrants along the border." The DHS has responded to this piece, saying "At no time has the president indicated, asked, directed, or pressured the acting secretary to do anything illegal, nor would the acting secretary take actions that are not in accordance with our responsibility to enforce the law."

A lot of things we don't know the context, whether they're said or not said, or whether there's jokes or not jokes, but DHS responded to "The New York Times."

THIESSEN: I don't think that President Trump is actually serious about doing this. If he was and he could do it legally then that is fine, but I think he's trying to make a point, which is that the Democrats are becoming the party of the illegal immigration. It used to be if you go back and look at Chuck Schumer in 2009 where he gave a speech at Georgetown, said illegal immigration is wrong plain and simple. Democrats don't say that anymore. They've got de Blasio giving them health care. You've got Stacey Abrams talking about -- there was just a vote in the House, a symbolic vote, but a vote in the House. Only four Democrats voted against allowing illegal immigrants to vote in local elections. The party is becoming embracing illegal immigration, so he's basically saying, OK, you want them, you can have them.

BAIER: On the politics issue of it, as there's acknowledgment that there is a crisis, despite the early rhetoric, Marie, does it become a more difficult political issue for Democrats?

HARF: What would be helpful for the Democrats going into 2020 is having a House led by Democrats that actually puts forward a plan, even if it doesn't go anywhere, even if they vote on it and no Republicans do, and it never goes anywhere in the Senate. I do think that they were given control of one of the Houses in Congress and it would be good politics and actually good policy too to come up with what a Democratic immigration policy looks like, so we're not just called the party of illegal immigration or open borders, because I actually don't think Democrats mostly are. That would be good for Democrats to do, and I would look to Nancy Pelosi to lead that effort.

BAIER: Sort of like a GOP health care plan. Same kind of deal.


CONTINETTI: Both parties want this issue for 2020. Trump wants it for border security. The Democrats want it for family separations, the treatment of migrants. It all depends on how the public views it on Election Day next year.

BAIER: Next up, the Friday lightning round. We've got the Democratic infighting, North Korea, winners and losers. Keep it here.



PELOSI: It is nonpresidential. We have serious work to do. What is his purpose in tweeting I don't know, but our purpose is working together to get the job done for the American people, and, really, not to inflame, but to unify.


BAIER: Speaker Pelosi really had a problem with President Trump, what he tweeting out this week, yesterday tweeting out "House Democrats want to negotiate a $2 trillion spending increase but can't even pass their own plan. We can't afford it anyway, and it's not happening!" That's a result of the House Democrats canceling a vote on the budget plan about internal revolt, really, about that whole thing. We are back with the panel. Matthew?

CONTINETTI: What Pelosi just said, she should tell her freshman members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar, and say we are here to work and not to tweet, because what has happened in the 100 days of the Democratic House is that we have become -- the Democrats have become the party of those three freshman congressmen far left views from very, very blue, indigo districts.

But that is not how the Democrats won the House. They won in moderate districts with centrist candidates. And as long as the party of AOC and Ilhan Omar, their House majority is in jeopardy.

BAIER: And pulling the budget suggests they weren't herding the cats pretty well.

HARF: This is a hard set of cats to herd, let me put it that way. This is the challenge with having a diverse caucus, right. The Republicans had their challenges with the Freedom Caucus, we are seeing it now. But Matthew is right, the moderate Democrats are the ones who won this, who won the House. And the Democratic electorate writ large, as we saw from some data this week, is actually much more moderate than this progressive caucus.

Nancy Pelosi has done a pretty good job up to this point at pulling them all together, keeping them together. This probably isn't the end of the budget discussion, but it was definitely a setback. They're in a three-day retreat right now at the House Caucus. I'm sure there is some interesting conversations.

BAIER: See how that goes.

I want to turn to North Korea. The president with the South Korean president talking about a possible another summit.


TRUMP: I just do want to tell you that great progress has been made. I think North Korea has a tremendous potential. We will be discussing that and even potential meetings, further meetings with North Korea and Kim Jong-un. There are various smaller deals that maybe could happen.


BAIER: So Marc, what about the prospects? He said that right now the levels of sanctions are OK.

THIESSEN: I think the prospects of the deal has always been bad, but I think the president is handling this correctly. Look, he's being patient with Kim Jong-un, he's keeping the door open for a deal. He's treating him respectfully, even with a little bit of flattery, but he's not letting the pressure off of the Kim regime. Keep in mind, we've now had two summits, and in each of those summits Kim Jong-un was expecting what his father got when he tried to cut a deal with the U.S., is they blow up a few useless nuclear facilities and we lift the sanctions and give them billions of dollars. And Trump has not done that, he hasn't lifted sanctions, hasn't unfrozen North Korean assets, hasn't ended the Korean War, hasn't given them diplomatic recognition. So he's not playing the North Koreans' game.

BAIER: If there is a third summit, there would be high expectations after two.

CONTINETTI: There would, because we're in a standstill right now. And I think the way to break that open is to expand the playing field. The truth is Russia has been helping North Korea avoid these sanctions. And we are in a position to call them out on it. Something like that might jar the process and maybe make North Korea more likely to strike some type of bargain.

BAIER: All right, winners and losers. It's Friday, start with winner and then loser. Winner first, Marie.

HARF: My winner is my University of Virginia men's basketball team. They are literally the winner of the week, 2019 NCAA champions. The redemption tour after getting upset in round one by a 16 seed last year, had some tough games on the road to victory this last Monday, but it was sweet.

BAIER: Loser?

HARF: My loser was really all of DHS and that apparatus. They lost their secretary, their deputy secretary, their head of ICE, the head of the Secret Service. There are stories today about DHS staffers looking for jobs outside of the agency. You never want that. It's a really important place and they need a little bit of love after this week. It wasn't good.

BAIER: Winner and loser, Marc.

THIESSEN: My winner is the movie "Unplanned" which is the story of a Planned Parenthood clinic director who becomes a pro-life activist. The left did everything they could to stop you from seeing this movie. They gave it an R rating. No one would put ads for it on TV. They tried to tamp it down on social media. It's made $14 million and it's in the top for the last two weekends. It's still out there, go see it.

BAIER: OK, loser?

THIESSEN: Loser is Ilhan Omar who described the terrorists who killed 3,000 people on 9/11 as some people who did something. I was in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. I felt the building shake, I smelled the smoke. You came rushing up from Atlanta. And for a member of Congress to dismiss the 9/11 attacks in that way is simply appalling.

CONTINETTI: My winner is Joe Biden who has had a bad couple of weeks, and I've been tough on him. But this week he's been helped by polls showing him still in the lead, and also other polls that Marie referenced showing that the Democratic Party is more moderate than what you might find on Twitter.

My loser is James Comey, who told a conference this week that he never considered electronic surveillance to be spying. The man has a bestselling book. I think he should use some of the profits to buy a dictionary, and he'll find the definition of spying.

BAIER: There you go. We'll leave it there. Panel, thank you. When we come back, "Notable Quotables."


BAIER: It is Friday, and that means "Notable Quotables."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people want to make it a hate thing. We don't represent hate. We represent love.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to thank the president again for the tremendous opportunity to serve this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're changing the crew on the Titanic, but they're headed for a shipwreck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spying on a political campaign is a big deal. It's a big deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You asked me what keeps me up at night. It's cyber.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The leader of Iran are racketeers, not revolutionaries.

TRUMP: I'd like to congratulate Bibi Netanyahu.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm ready to solve these problems. I'm running for president of the United States.

REP. ILHAN OMAR, D-MINN.: CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized some people did something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was an attack on the American soil against the American people in which 3,000 American peoples died.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do not believe that we should be characterizing Hitler as a nationalist. He was a homicidal, psychopathic maniac.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad that the wheels of justice are finally turning when it comes to Mr. Assange.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He may be the only foreigner that this administration would welcome to the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I could wrestle an alligator, I can sure as hell wrestle Donald Trump, boy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're supposed to take the gravel and bang it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please do not instruct me as to how I am to conduct this committee.

TRUMP: There's only one person that's running it. You know who that is? It's me.


BAIER: One week in Washington, that was all in one week.

Monday, we will have a “Special Report” from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, followed by a town hall with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. It will be a lot of fun, a lot of substance. Look forward to seeing you there. It starts at 6:30 eastern, “Special Report” at 6:00.

Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight. That's it for “Special Report,” fair, balanced, and still unafraid.

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