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President Trump Meets With GOP Lawmakers To Discuss Immigration


Tonight President Trump went to Capitol Hill to meet with House Republicans about immigration. The strategy session comes as lawmakers are feeling increased pressure over Trump's policy of separating families who cross the U.S. border illegally. House Republicans are trying to pass a broad immigration bill this week. And on the Senate side, GOP lawmakers are working to pass a separate, more narrow bill that just ends Trump's family separation policies.

NPR's congressional correspondent Scott Detrow has been following all this. He joins us now from the Capitol. Scott, so this meeting just got out, right? What have you learned so far?

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: It's apparently a pretty broad conversation according to what we're hearing. President Trump talked about the need for border security. He said he supports House Republican leaders on this broad bill. He said he was with them 1,000 percent. But, you know, he's doubled back many times over the last few months when it comes to what he actually wants in an immigration bill. And tonight, Trump apparently did not get into the details of what he specifically wanted to see. He talked about several other issues as well. He even took the time to take a jab at Mark Sanford, a House Republican who lost a primary last week mostly because he criticized the president.

Just a reminder - House Republicans are looking to - at a couple of different bills. But what they're mainly trying to do is pass a broad immigration measure that does a lot of what the president has said before he wants to see on immigration, including a permanent path for people in DACA and also a lot of money for border security.

CORNISH: So that's all on the House side. How has this issue of family separation been playing in the Senate? Is this something that could be addressed there?

DETROW: Yeah. Many Republicans in the Senate were very concerned about this both in terms of their own personal reaction and also political concerns about how voters are viewing this issue. You know, as the president keeps insisting he's being forced to enact this policy because of Congress, many of his close allies in the Senate are saying that's just not true.

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch - very close with the president - sent a letter to Jeff Sessions tonight, the attorney general, calling for a policy that is, as he wrote, consistent with our values and ordinary human decency and putting the blame for the crisis directly with the administration. Twelve other Republican senators signed onto that letter. They're pushing for a quick vote on this, and they want to do it pretty quickly and just focusing on this one issue.

CORNISH: Now, would that be a standalone bill or part of this more comprehensive immigration legislation that the House is talking about?

DETROW: Yeah, the - one interesting thing is that Senate Republicans seem to have no confidence at all that the House would even be able to pass this bill, so they don't want to wait for that and amend it. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said today they want to do this very narrowly.


MITCH MCCONNELL: My assumption is in order to fix this problem, you can't fix all the problems because obviously we've wrestled with this issue for a decade. As you know, I went to it in February wide open for amendment. We couldn't reach agreement. This requires a solution.

DETROW: But earlier today, President Trump seemed to oppose these narrow efforts. He criticized it, saying that we need to have a real border, not more judges, referring to the fact that some of these bills would add more resources to process these claims quickly. If he does want a broader bill, that leads to questions about whether Trump is trying to use this crisis for political leverage or whether he just thinks this harsh crackdown is simply good politics as far as he's concerned.

CORNISH: And before I let you go - Democrats?

DETROW: Democrats are rejecting the idea that Congress needs to act at all. They're saying President Trump has the power to fix it. Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, referenced President Trump's famous statement in 2016 that he alone can fix it, saying, in this case, you can fix it yourself. They're saying President Trump can reverse himself in the span of 20 minutes or so and end this today.

CORNISH: NPR's Scott Detrow - Scott, thank you.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.