Late Wednesday night, Trump’s new best friends Chuck and Nancy released a surprise statement claiming that they had made a deal with the president to prevent the so-called Dreamers from being deported in exchange for increased border security, but no wall.
It was a surprising announcement, to say the least. But the following morning, Trump basically confirmed it—while denying it.
Despite saying there is “no deal,” Trump basically laid out the framework that Schumer and Pelosi announced on Wednesday evening. In exchange for increased border security, Congress will codify protections for Dreamers, who “have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own” and who are “good, educated, and accomplished young people.” The particulars—which will include the troubling trend of militarizing the borders—have yet to be worked out, but Trump is basically acknowledging that whatever those particulars may be, they will not involve the wall. (Leaving the White House on Thursday morning, Trump told reporters, “The wall will come later.”)
This resembles the deal that Trump made with Chuck and Nancy on the debt ceiling. As in that case, Trump knew that he was holding a rotten hand—letting DACA expire, like letting the debt ceiling expire, would come at enormous expense for him and his party (to say nothing of the country). Schumer and Pelosi had telegraphed that they were willing to add additional border security in exchange for protecting Dreamers and Trump took the best deal he was going to get—as with the debt ceiling, Democrats would only gain leverage as the deadline loomed.
So, in a big picture sense, the politics here are pretty straightforward. But the one significant wild card here is Trump’s base, which he has consistently deferred to over the past eight months, most notably after Charlottesville. Unsurprisingly, the alt-right hates this deal. Last night, Breitbart unveiled a “Crooked Hillary”-style moniker for Trump:
If he sticks with this plan, Trump will have abandoned his base twice in September. No doubt, pundits will proclaim once again that the Trump Pivot™ is finally here. That’s a big leap though: In both cases, Trump was boxed into a corner (in the case of DACA, by his own bizarre decision to repeal it), and in both cases, he took the most obvious and straightforward path out.
Trump could still back out of any deal on DACA. Just as troublingly, he could look elsewhere for a prize for his jilted base.