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Politics & Government

Week In Politics: Trump, Democrats And DACA


In politics, this was a week in which President Trump had Chinese food at the White House with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. If they had fortune cookies, they might have said, you may reach a deal on how to treat the DREAMers. Molly Ball covers U.S. politics for The Atlantic and joins us in our studios.

Molly, thanks for being with us.

MOLLY BALL: Great to be here, Scott.

SIMON: Let's start with DACA. Is there an agreement to work out a deal? What's your understanding?

BALL: I think that's actually quite a good characterization. There's an agreement to work out a deal. There's not a deal. There's nothing on paper. There's nothing agreed to. There is, however - and the president himself tweeted that there was no deal. And then at the same time, he tweeted the contours of the same agreement that the Democrats coming out of that meeting had outlined. And that's a really big deal. It's quite a statement from the president to explicitly make the argument, the same argument the Democrats have been making, that these young adults are here through no fault of their own...

SIMON: He keeps saying that, yeah.

BALL: ...And ought to be protected and ought to be allowed to stay, potentially even to become citizens, but to become permanent residents of the United States. That is a very big step for him to take and directly contradicts the argument made by his own attorney general in ending the program.

SIMON: We've asked this so many times - but could this be some kind of turning point?

BALL: No. I think it is - with Donald Trump, you have to always assume that it is a steady state of chaos that could go in any direction at any time. There is no permanent new Trump. Right? And he reminded us of that when, you know, within days of tweeting about this DACA deal and seeming to go with the Democrats, he's back to his old rhetoric on Charlottesville, for example, continuing to blame both sides for the violence at the white supremacist rally.

So it's the same Trump with the same sort of gut attitudes. But he wants to win. He got a win last time he dealt with the Democrats. He got the win by giving them everything they wanted. But nonetheless (laughter), you hear from people in the White House that he is very happy. And he hasn't been happy in a while. And the president's mood is like a weather system that governs everything inside the White House. So he likes the way that this has worked out so far.

SIMON: Does he risk alienating Republicans, not just on this issue but Republicans who he might want to defend him down the line in one investigation or another?

BALL: Well, he risks alienating immigration hard-liners. But that's not necessarily the same category as Republicans. Immigration restrictionists have been some of Donald Trump's strongest supporters, whether you're talking about or Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham.

But some in that same sort of populist conservative media base - some Fox News figures, Rush Limbaugh - have actually been supportive. And many Republicans in Congress support this policy. Immigration is a very tricky issue. There's a reason that the last two presidents, Republican and Democrat, have tried very hard to reform the immigration system and failed.

However, you know, the irony is you have the House speaker, Paul Ryan, for example, coming out and saying, well, this isn't up to the president. This is up to Congress. And they're sort of irked that they've been left out, the congressional Republican leadership. But the irony is this is a thing they want to do. They do want to protect the DREAMers. And they do want to, even the Republicans, many of them - want to pass some kind of immigration reform.

SIMON: I want to ask you a quick question. Before we move on, Hillary Clinton is on book tour. I like what I've read of the book. It's not a on-the-one-hand-this, on-the-one-hand-that kind of memoir. Are there political repercussions from anything that she said?

BALL: You know, it is amazing how much vitriol she continues to inspire, not just from the president who can't resist attacking her anytime she sort of pops up because he doesn't have, I think, enough enemies where he is already - but within the Democratic Party, you really see that these old wounds have not healed. And the Bernie faction and the Hillary faction - there's still no love lost there. You could say that Hillary started it. She has some pretty cutting words for Bernie and his campaign in her book. She does take responsibility for what happened in the election. But she also attributes a number of other causes, including the Bernie Sanders campaign, which she contends was not a fair fight or a clean fight.

And what you saw, whether it's on social media or in just discussions between members of the Democratic Party, is that these are still very heated discussions. The party still not at all healed, and there's a lot of anger there.

SIMON: Molly Ball of The Atlantic, thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.