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GOP base is with Trump on border kids; Will that hold?

Children are held by U.S. Border Patrol agents

Children are held by U.S. Border Patrol agents in a facility in McAllen, Texas, on May 23. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / U.S. Customs and Border Protection

His line in the Rio Grande

Two-thirds of Americans in two new polls oppose separating children from migrant parents at the border, but Donald Trump hasn’t been deterred by numbers like those before, so long as his base stands with him.

So far, they are. Among Republicans, 58% approve and 34% disapprove, according to a new CNN poll. Quinnipiac’s findings were similar: 55% of Republicans in favor, 35% against.

Trump’s not likely to be moved by criticism from old-school Republicans like former first lady Laura Bush or Jeb Bush — he detests the Bushes, and the feeling is mutual. But some prominent Trump fans and friends are also denouncing the policy in strong terms.

“The government should know how bad this looks and how innocent children are actually suffering,” tweeted former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.

Anthony Scaramucci, the short-tenured Trump communications director, called the policy “atrocious and inhumane” and called out administration double-talk on Twitter.

“You can’t simultaneously argue that family separation isn’t happening, that it’s being used as a deterrent, that the Bible justifies it and that it’s @TheDemocrats fault. @POTUS is not being served well by his advisors on this issue.”

Franklin Graham, a top evangelical supporter, said, “It’s disgraceful, and it’s terrible to see families ripped apart.”

Long Island House Republicans Peter King and Lee Zeldin — both immigration hawks — supported stopping separations, reports Newsday’s Rick Brand. “The administration must find a better way,” King said.

To be sure, Trump’s friends on Fox and Breitbart are with him, as is far-right immigration hard-liner Ann Coulter, who said kids seen “weeping and crying” on TV are “child actors.”

Cagey beyond belief

Some officials and defenders of the policy dispute that the enclosures where children are held are “cages” — they prefer to say the walls are made out of chain-link fencing.

Border Patrol officials told “CBS This Morning” host Gayle King that yes, they are cages, but they are “very uncomfortable” with the word because it makes it sound as if the kids are being treated like animals. (See images here.)

The news site ProPublica said it obtained an audio of crying Central American child detainees just separated from their parents, screaming “Mami” and “Papá” while a Border Patrol agent jokes: “Well, we have an orchestra here.” (Listen to it here.)

Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen said minors separated from parents at the border are “well taken care of” according to “some of the highest standards in the country.”

See a Q&A on the policy — its origins, its implementation, the fallout — from Newsday’s Emily Ngo.

Unhappy camper

Undaunted and unapologetic, Trump tweeted that “children are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country.”

Speaking at a White House event, he vowed, “The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility. Not on my watch.”

He added, “I say it’s very strongly the Democrats’ fault.” He didn’t stop there, but attacked allied democratic governments, too. “The people of Germany are turning against their leadership” over migration, Trump tweeted. “Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!” said another.

Janison: End game without end?

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): “President Trump could stop this policy with a phone call.” Trump could stop the family separations on his own if he wanted do, but he keeps pointing the finger at Congress — Democrats in particular.

In practical terms, that really adds up to an appeal to Republicans to reach an immigration deal that ends the bad optics and helps him save face. But given the monthslong deadlock on all things immigration, the odds that will happen don’t look good. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.

Trump kept the ante as high as his elusive wall. “We want to fix the whole thing, we don’t want to tinker with just part of it,” said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Space cowboy

Donald Trump announced Monday he is directing the Pentagon to create a new “Space Force” as an independent military service branch to ensure “American dominance” in space.

“We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal,” he said.

However, Trump can’t make it happen on his own. Authority and funding to create a new joint military command is largely up to Congress.

Wray: FBI’s broom not witchy

FBI Director Christopher Wray pledged to fix the “errors of judgment, violations of or disregard for policy and decisions” that were found in an inspector general’s review of how the bureau and its former director James Comey conducted the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

But he rejected Republican assertions during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the Russia investigation is tainted.

“I do not believe special counsel [Robert] Mueller is on a witch hunt,” Wray said.

Trump, as usual, tweeted to differ: “Mueller is Comey’s best friend. Witch Hunt!”

What else is happening

  • After Laura Bush took the lead, all the other living former first ladies — Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Rosalynn Carter — called for an end to the family separation policy. “Sometimes truth transcends party,” Obama said.
  • To protest the policy, three governors said they won’t send National Guard members and equipment to help with border enforcement. “The federal government’s current actions are resulting in the inhumane treatment of children,” said a spokeswoman for Massachusetts Republican Charlie Baker.
  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross promised to divest from almost all his holdings upon taking the Cabinet job, but he didn’t, Forbes Magazine reports. Among the stakes he kept for most of 2017 were companies co-owned by the Chinese government and a shipping firm tied to Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, the report said.
  • The Senate voted 85-10 Monday to reimpose the U.S. ban on Chinese telecom giant ZTE. Trump has been trying to lift the ban as a favor to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
  • Overall, trade tensions with China remain on the rise. Trump threatened a 10% tariff on $200 billion of Chinese goods in retaliation for China’s decision to raise tariffs on $50 billion in U.S. goods.
  • Since Trump’s Singapore summit, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is more popular with Republican voters (19%) than House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, according to an Ipsos survey for the Daily Beast.

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