MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Twists and turns over immigration and the now-revoked family separation policy have defined this week from start to finish.
(SOUNDBITE OF MEDIA MONTAGE)
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN: It’s not a policy. Our policy…
JEFF SESSIONS: But we do have a policy of prosecuting adults who flout our…
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Prosecute the parents for coming in illegally, which should happen. You have to take the children away.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Let’s listen to this audio.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHILDREN CRYING)
TRUMP: Today I signed an executive order. We’re going to keep families together. But the border is going to be just as tough as it’s been.
KELLY: It’s been quite a week, so let’s review the week in politics with E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and the Brookings Institution and Eliana Johnson, national political reporter for Politico. Hey there to you both.
E J DIONNE, BYLINE: Good to be with you.
ELIANA JOHNSON: Hi.
KELLY: So we started the week with zero tolerance and with families being separated at the border. Here we sit on Friday. The president says zero tolerance stays, but he’s reversing himself on family separation. E.J., let me start with you. What should we make of a president not known for backing down backing down this time?
DIONNE: You know, what’s funny about Trump is he often quietly backs down on a lot of things when necessary.
KELLY: This was not quiet.
DIONNE: But this is kind of humiliating for him. He – just a few days earlier, he said he couldn’t end this policy by executive order, and he ends it by executive order. This is what happens when the American people rise up. Two-thirds of Americans, according to lots of polls, thought this was a horrible, egregious policy. However, Trump still kept Republicans with him, which is important for the future. A majority of Republicans said they supported this policy. But Republicans in Congress knew this couldn’t stand, and Trump himself apparently hated the television pictures.
But we face enormous problems now. One is finding the kids. It’s not clear that they had any good policy for keeping track of the kids. And Trump wants to have it both ways to say, well, I’m ending family separation, but I’m going to be as tough as ever. I think the best summary of this is from the blogger for The Washington Post Paul Waldman, who said it’s a crisis born of malevolence made worse by incompetence. And I think the two are part of this.
KELLY: Eliana, what is your read on this about-face by the administration this week?
JOHNSON: You know, this really seemed to me to be – regardless of what you think of the zero tolerance policy, to be a crisis in large part of the administration’s own making. There really was no policy process followed, so you had administration officials contradicting each other. Congressional leaders were not briefed on the policy before it was announced, and many White House aides were taken aback by not only the policy when it was announced but then the executive order when that was announced.
And the result was that this created resistance not only from the news media which was broadcasting heart-rending images and sounds but from Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including typically staunch supporters of the president, and from the president’s family members that I think ultimately made this policy unsustainable for him.
DIONNE: And I – could I say…
DIONNE: I just think that’s a really important point, and it speaks to a problem we’ve seen already in the Trump administration but…