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White House Press Briefing; Trump Ends DACA. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired September 5, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: An overall immigration reform that's responsible and, frankly, that's lawful. And that's what the president wants to see Congress do.
(WHITE HOUSE PRESS BRIEFING)
[14:20:23] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, that's a wrap. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you've been watching the White House briefing. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me.
Happening, of course, just on the heels of the administration striking a devastating blow to some 800,000 young people in this country known as dreamers. They now know that DACA is coming to an end. That's the Obama-era program that allowed legal working status for undocumented immigrants who came into this country, parents who brought their children into this country illegally. It was the face of this announcement wasn't the president, as was asked of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, why it was the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who announced the move late this morning.
So I've got a whole panel standing by.
David Chalian, let me just begin with you. And I jotted down this line. I kept hearing Sarah come back to this. You know, she's saying the president took the responsible step. This could have, you know, ended suddenly and now we're going to phase it out over two years unless Congress acts. We have confidence that Congress is going to step up and do their jobs. I heard that a few times. And if you can't get it done, meaning members of Congress, get out of the way so that someone can get it done. You say she's right, it is Congress's job.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: Well, it is Congress's job to write the laws that deal with immigration in the country. There's no doubt about that. This was one of the big critiques from President Obama's opponents and critics at the time that he announced this was that he -- forget where you are on the policy, and there are, you know, reasonable people can disagree on where they are on the policy -- but there was a lot of criticism of Obama at the time from conservatives that said he's just going outside the bounds of the law here and using his own words when he said he couldn't solve immigration on his own with his pen.
And now what you have here is you have President Trump, who is clearly -- the White House is portraying this as a decision he wrestled with -- he clearly wants his cake and eat it too here in terms of being seen as understanding that there's sort of a compassionate component to this and that he's concerned about that, while there's also the rule of law here and he wants to make sure that it's all within the bounds of law. So, here, take that hot potato, Congress, it's over to you. I'd like this on your plate, not mine. That's basically what President Trump is doing here.
And they added another big priority now for Congress among a slew of priorities, tax reform and infrastructure that the White House has put forward, never mind funding the government, raising the debt ceiling, getting aid to Harvey victims and the like. Now immigration reform.
And pay attention, Brooke, what was said there. She doesn't want -- the White House clearly doesn't want just a DACA fix on the president's desk to sign. What Sarah Sanders made clear there is that they want, in the next six months, something that is going to deal with the immigration conundrum overall, comprehensively.
Well, adding a kind of comprehensive immigration reform to the mix of things that this White House would like to see done after eight months of not really being able to get any major legislative accomplishment done seems like a tall order to me.
BALDWIN: OK. Let me come back to that because I think a lot of people would agree with you.
But I want to walk back a couple steps. Julie Hirschfeld Davis, you and Glen and Maggie wrote this huge piece in "The New York Times" talking a little bit about this decision that the president had to wrestle with. The line was, Mr. Trump, exasperated, asked his aides for a, quote, way out of the dilemma that he created, right? He promised to roll back DACA as candidate Trump. So, you know, you heard Sarah say he made this decision, ultimately, over the weekend.
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean he's been wrestling with this for months. Actually when he first came into office, if you recall, we talked about, was he going to issue an executive order approximate for months. When he first came into office, we talked about, was he going to issue an executive order to just simply rescind DACA immediately, which is what a lot of his supporters wanted to see done. That's how they took his campaign rhetoric about wanting to terminate this, what he called an illegal program immediately.
He decided not to do that. He spent months going back and forth about this. The attorneys general, who you heard Sarah Sanders refer to repeatedly in that briefing, did create this deadline, but really it was up to the president how he wanted to act on this. He knew that this was his decision alone and it was his decision to go forward and actually rescind the program and to do what David just described, which is essentially to kick it over to Congress.
But it was very telling when he put out his statement today and we heard from Jeff Sessions, some very tough talk on immigration and calling this an illegal amnesty program and talking about how it had victimized native-born Americans. But the president did not actually call in his statement for Congress to pass the Dream Act or any legislation at all that would normalize the status of these 800,000 young undocumented people.
So he's saying fix this, but what we didn't even hear from Sarah Sanders in that briefing was any sort of pathway to how Congress could fix it in a way that would be acceptable to the president. He essentially said, we're going to end this now and it's up to Congress to figure out how to clean up the mess.
[14:25:02] BALDWIN: But you said that this was ultimately the president's decision, although we saw the face of this on TV today was the attorney general, was Jeff Sessions. And so, Ken Cuccinelli, my thought to you -- and this was asked, you know, why was it the AG instead of the president. And this was the question from Jim Acosta. And she wrote, a large part of this was a legal process. That this had been deemed illegal. So it's up to DOJ to make this legal recommendation. You know, ergo (ph) it was Jeff Sessions on the face. Do you care either way? How are you feeling about this?
KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: Ultimately, it's the substance that counts, but it makes sense that you'd be hearing from the attorney general. It was nine, not ten, Tennessee's AG backed out. But nine attorneys general made it clear they were ready to proceed legally in what is a slam dunk case.
No one seriously debates that DACA is unconstitutional. The president -- the former president, President Obama, made statement after statement making it clear that it wasn't within the law, he just did it. And so now what we're hearing --
BALDWIN: A stopgap measure.
CUCCINELLI: Yes. And what we're hearing from a hostile press corps is, oh, this is so mean. It's so heartless. Hey, who's on the side of the Constitution? And on this occasion, despite the objections of people like Chris Kobach, that you heard from John Gizzy (ph) and many Trump- based supporters who wanted to see it end on day one it's a -- is this phase out. Now the phase out --
BALDWIN: But hang on a second. I think -- can I, if I may --
CUCCINELLI: Yes, go ahead.
BALDWIN: Just interject, speaking on behalf of my journalist friends who are sitting in that room, I don't think it was a hostile press corps, I think they were just turning the president's words around. I mean it was the president himself on Friday who said, you know, I love the dreamers and it was the president who said months ago, I'm going to approach this dreamer issue by heart. So it's a bit of a conundrum, you know, if you think about how empathetic, sympathetic the president had been and now we see the result. (INAUDIBLE).
CUCCINELLI: So, yes, so let's talk about that. So under the Constitution, what should have happened, in acknowledgment that this is illegal and unconstitutional, is it should have just been ended immediately, period. That's the strict rule of law position.
So accommodating the kind of feelings that the president has expressed results in this sort of two-year phase-out. It's actually almost I guess a two-and-a-half year phase out because in the next six months some of these folks can reapply to extend two more years under the White House's proposed phase out.
And that does put this squarely in the hands of Congress. And as was noted, I think by David, that this White House has made it clear that a DACA-only solution isn't going to cut it. You need to go beyond just this one problem.
And let's be really clear about this problem. President Trump didn't create a problem today. Barack Obama, when he was president, created a problem when he violated -- knowingly violated the Constitution with this program. But because it's young people, it tugs at our heart strings. And I understand that. It certainly does.
Maybe that will get Congress to act. But it's going to be an interesting six months.
CUCCINELLI: And I, by the way, have no sympathy for the additional work for Congress. Maybe the Senate should work more than two days a week for the rest of 2017.
BALDWIN: So, you can take that up with members of Congress and I don't know if they'd agree with you or not, but I think they only have so many more legislative days to go.
BALDWIN: So, Ken, I wanted to hear from you.
And then, Andre Segura, to you. I -- with a much different perspective to this whole thing. How do you feel?
ANDRE SEGURA, LEGAL DIRECTOR, ACLU OF TEXAS: So I want to be very clear about what you just heard. Everything you heard about DACA being illegal is wrong. DACA -- this --
CUCCINELLI: No, it's blatantly illegal.
SEGURA: This decision by President Trump was a political position -- a political decision and it's a morally bankrupt one. President after president for over four decades have used what's called prosecutorial discretion to determine who is a priority for removal and who is not. And that is exactly what the DACA program is.
So you hear a lot of words from this other commentator about rule of law, the Constitution, this is exactly what presidents have done under their authority to enforce immigration law, under their authority to take care of the laws, under the Constitution. So your other commentator is flat out wrong.
I want to be very clear that this is a political decision. DACA has never been declared illegal. Yes, Texas, the attorney general here in Texas, where I am, has led the charge against DACA, but no court has ever said that DACA is unconstitutional. In fact, this is exactly what presidents do. This is what George Bush has done, one and two, Reagan, all the way back almost 50 years. So just to say words like, this is unconstitutional are meaningless.
BALDWIN: Ken, you want to respond?
CUCCINELLI: Brooke -- yes, quickly.
[14:30:00] Look, I appreciate how you feel like you'd like the law to be, but this was --
SEGURA: Oh, no, I don't -- I'm not talking about how I feel, sir, I'm talking about how the law --
CUCCINELLI: This was a -- hey, I sat quietly while you spoke, now you please don't interrupt me.
SEGURA: Well, I don't want your -- you -- you are -- you're missing my (INAUDIBLE). I'm not talking about how I feel.