Sens. Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin, who presented a compromise immigration plan to Trump, called out the President’s staff, saying they are blocking a deal.
“This has turned into an s-show and we need to get back to being a great country,” Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
At one point, Graham even spoke directly to Trump, as if he was watching, to appeal to him to reconsider his rejection of their bipartisan proposal on immigration and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Talks have seemingly broken down since the blowup and fight over Trump’s use of the word “shitholes” to describe some African countries.
“Close this deal,” Graham said.
It marked a sudden change in fortune for Graham and Trump, who in recent months had been increasingly close and frequent golf partners.
The two senators may have been trying to talk past the President’s advisers, including chief of staff John Kelly and senior adviser Stephen Miller, a hard-liner on immigration.
Graham said there is still a way to reconstruct an agreement but said “somebody on his staff gave him really bad advice.”
Trump was “not well served by his staff,” Graham told reporters. Asked about Kelly specifically, he called him a good man but noted that he is a member of the staff, and added that some at the White House have “an irrational view.”
Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, told reporters that he believed Miller had played a role in convincing Trump to blast the bipartisan deal.
“It’s hard to find any effort to kill immigration legislation that doesn’t have Steve Miller’s fingerprints on it. He’s been an outspoken foe of immigration reform and opponent to DACA and the Dreamers from the start,” Durbin said.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders maintained Trump is in charge of the talks.
“To be very clear, the President’s running the show here at the White House and look, I was part of this process, and part of the conversations that went on,” Sanders said. “The president simply, as he looked at the deal, he wants a good deal and he wants to right deal.”
‘What happened between 10 and 12’
Graham, at the hearing, spoke about his and Durbin’s side of the meeting, saying that last Thursday morning around 10 a.m., Durbin, his longtime negotiating partner in immigration reform, called him to say he had the best phone conversation with the President he’d ever had and was exceedingly optimistic about reaching a deal. Graham said he set up a White House meeting.
But by the time they arrived, Graham said, the winds had changed, hardline conservative lawmakers had been invited, and the President made the now-infamous “shithole” countries remark.
“What happened between 10 and 12?” Graham asked. “(At a previous meeting) Tuesday, we had a president that I was proud to golf with, call my friend, who understood immigration had to be bipartisan, you had to have border security as essential, you have border security with a wall, but he also understood the idea that we had to do it with compassion. I don’t know where that guy went. I want him back.”
Durbin told CNN that Trump had appeared more open to the kind of bipartisan compromise on immigration his group was working on, but Miller was in the back of the room.
“At the Tuesday meeting, he was at the back, writing notes and passing them to Tom Cotton who is his man in the Senate. We know his role. We know both of their roles,” Durbin said.
Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/16/politics/lindsey-graham-immigration-meeting/index.html