Trump Admits Contents of Secret NY Times Immigration Tape: Amnesty Is ‘Negotiable’
Millions of Americans have voted or may be planning to vote for Donald Trump in no small measure because he has promised to shatter the dysfunctional status quo on immigration through bold, decisive action that flouts political correctness. But will Trump really do so? Is he even really planning to do so?
Conservative critics of Donald Trump have long warned that Trump’s position on the issue is slippery, muddled and vague despite his blunt talk of building a wall and deporting millions. The Stream reported this week on the latest development: the secret, off-the-record portion of Trump’s behind-closed-doors meeting with the editorial board of the pro-amnesty New York Times, as first reported by Buzzfeed.
Reportedly, Trump used the off-record portion to say something about his immigration views that he isn’t sharing with voters.
Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney called on Trump to come clean about what he said in secret, and give the Times permission to release the transcript. Trump, so far, is refusing to grant that permission.
Trump must know that unless he addresses this question forcefully, it could undermine part of his core appeal — the perception that he will rebuff the self-righteous demands of immigrant activists who insist that illegal aliens receive full U.S. citizenship, with access to government benefits and affirmative action preferences. With Ted Cruz still in the race, Trump’s march to the nomination might be derailed if voters come to believe that Trump’s position is well-disguised amnesty. If that’s the case, why exactly should they vote for a political novice with much higher negative ratings, whose poll numbers against Hillary Clinton are worse than either Cruz’s or Rubio’s?
To try to squelch this narrative before it catches fire, Trump appeared last night on Fox News with Sean Hannity. Legal Insurrection posted the key portion of the Fox transcript, with commentary:
“We had a board meeting [at the New York Times], it was off-the-record, suddenly they leak it, it’s all over the place,” Trump said.
“They said it’s negotiable on the wall,” Hannity said in reference to Trump’s stance on Mexican immigration and his oft-stated promise to build a border wall.
“By the way it is negotiable. Things are negotiable,” Trump said. “I’ll make the wall 2 feet shorter or something.”
Trump was quick to add that the negotiation does not include nixing the idea altogether.
“Building it? Not negotiable.”
“Would it be negotiable about the 11 million?” Hannity pressed. “Maybe let some people stay if they register in a period of time?”
“I would say this,” Trump added, “we will work out some system that’s fair, but we either have a country or we don’t. We need a border. We need a wall.”
This should be causing Trump supporters cognitive dissonance. After all, he shot to prominence early in the race by taking the most aggressive possible stance on immigration. Now he is backpedaling.
Here’s Rubio at the CNN debate last week:
Well, first of all, and before we do anything, I’ve been abundantly clear on this. When I’m president of the United States, before we do anything on immigration, we are going to secure the border. And, that’s not just the physical border with Mexico, it’s Visa overstays. That’s 45 percent of the problem right there.
It also has to do — that’s why we need e-verify, and entry-exit tracking system, and so-forth. And, until that happens, we’re not doing anything else. And then we’ll see what the American people are willing to support.
Those are highly similar positions: Secure the border/build a wall, then figure out what to do with the people already here. There is precious little daylight between the Rubio and Trump positions on immigration. So before you run out to plump for Trump because Rubio betrayed you on immigration, remember, 1) they’re kissing cousins on the issue, but 2) Trump is apparently lying to you about it.
Is Trump kicking himself for admitting all this in public? No doubt Ted Cruz, who has taken a more consistently tough position on illegal immigration than Trump, will be joined by his well-funded SuperPACs in hammering home for the rest of the campaign the message that Trump and Rubio hold the same position on amnesty — which Cruz fought, successfully, in the Senate. With that message, Cruz may peel off some of Trump’s less committed supporters. And the prospect of doing that may be enough to convince Cruz to stay in the race, and try to fight all the way to the convention — even in the wake of a Super Tuesday performance that underperforms his once great expectations of carrying the South.
On the other hand, Trump is skilled as no other in worming his way off the hook of his own words. He is quite capable of neutralizing this issue with many of his voters by relapsing to his version of “tell it like it is.” Trump could very well say something like, “Yeah, I said that to the liberals at the New York Times. It was sales talk. I told them what they want to hear, because otherwise they’re going to lie about me, like they lie to ordinary Americans all the time. Fact is, we’re deporting them all. A few of the fantastic ones, we’ll let back in after they pay the piper. Maybe Ted Cruz trusts the liberal media. I don’t. I’ll tell those people what I have to, so they get out of the way and we can make America great again. Who’s with me?”
And in 2016, that just might work.