Feb 15, 2018

Trump threatens to veto bipartisan immigration bill

Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

The White House released a statement Thursday coming out in full force against the bipartisan immigration bill drafted by Sens. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Angus King (I-ME) stating that the amendment would "drastically change our national immigration policy for the worse by weakening border security and undercutting existing immigration law."

Our thought bubble, from Axios' Jonathan Swan: This is a big deal. Veto threats are rare at this stage of the legislative process. As I said in Sunday’s Sneak Peek, you should keep an eye on Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue. This is Trump emphasizing the extent to which the they represent his thinking on immigration, which is far more than Senate leadership or other more moderate senators. Trump is laying down a marker on immigration— and it’s a tough one. 

Bottom line: It’s hard to imagine a universe in which the bill Trump, Cotton and Perdue want gets 60 votes in the Senate. And it’s equally hard to imagine the Senate passing an immigration bill that will satisfy Trump or the more conservative Republicans in the House. 

Later, Trump also tweeted his criticism of the bipartisan bill:

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As recently as Saturday night, senior administration officials told me that the designation of a violent cohort of far-left activists, antifa, as a terrorist organization was not being seriously discussed at the White House. But that was Saturday.

Behind the scenes: The situation changed dramatically a few hours later, after prominent conservative allies of the president, such as his friend media commentator Dan Bongino, publicly urged a tough response against people associated with antifa (short for "anti-fascist").

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What's happening: Protestors in D.C. broke one police barricade outside the White House on Sunday evening after reportedly demonstrating for several hours. The atmosphere was still largely peaceful as of 6pm ET.

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Over the past couple of days, numerous advisers both inside and outside the White House have urged the president to tone down his violent rhetoric, which many worry could escalate racial tensions and hurt him politically.

Behind the scenes: The biggest source of internal concern was Trump's escalatory tweet, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." Some advisers said it could damage him severely with independent voters and suburban women.