WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump sought Thursday to tamp down concerns among conservatives that he was abandoning his effort to build a border wall and pursuing amnesty for young immigrants who were brought into the United States illegally.
“The wall will come later,” Trump said.
On the immigration issue he said, “We’re not looking at citizenship. We’re not looking at amnesty. We’re looking at allowing people to stay here.”
Trump addressed reporters repeatedly Thursday amid fallout from a dinner the previous night with Senate and House minority leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
Trump, Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested they would tether legislation replacing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, to legislation to enhance border security, and that Trump had shelved his requests for wall funding.
Conservatives, including Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and political commentator Ann Coulter, have criticized Trump for appearing to renege on campaign promises on those issues. Far-right news outlets have dubbed him “Amnesty Don.”
However, Trump, during his trip to Florida to visit with Hurricane Irma victims, stressed that the wall remains a priority.
“Very important is the wall,” he said.
Earlier, Trump had tweeted, “No deal was made last night on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote.”
Schumer and Pelosi then issued a joint statement: “President Trump’s tweets are not inconsistent with the agreement reached last night. As we said last night, there was no final deal.”
They said they reached agreement for Trump to encourage Congress to codify DACA protections.
“What remains to be negotiated are the details of border security, with a mutual goal of finalizing all details as soon as possible,” Schumer and Pelosi said. “While both sides agreed that the wall would not be any part of this agreement, the president made clear he intends to pursue it at a later time, and we made clear we would continue to oppose it.”
Trump has expressed sympathy for the 800,000 young immigrants left in limbo by his rescinding of DACA.
“Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!” he tweeted. “They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own — brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) downplayed the result of Trump’s talks with Schumer and Pelosi.
“There’s no agreement,” Ryan said. “The president and the chief of staff called me from Air Force One today to discuss what was discussed, and it was a discussion, not an agreement or a negotiation.”
Also Thursday, Trump spoke about his conversation a day earlier with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) concerning Trump’s past remarks about the racially charged violence on Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Scott, the Senate GOP’s only black member, had challenged Trump’s “moral authority” and on Thursday again condemned the president for equating white supremacists with counterprotesters. “There is no realistic comparison. Period,” Scott said.
But Trump on Thursday returned to the sentiment for which he was widely criticized after the Charlottesville incident.
“You have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also,” Trump said, referring to Antifa protesters who clashed with white supremacists.