A grand immigration deal may be his only way to end the crisis and deliver to his base.
If President Trump hoped that shutting down the government would rally public support for a wall along the southern border, he must be disappointed. The Washington Post found that Americans continue to oppose the wall, 54% to 42%. Quinnipiac found a similar result, 55% to 43%, virtually unchanged from the pre-shutdown figure.
By a 2-to-1 margin, Quinnipiac reports, Americans reject the tactic of closing the government to force Congress to approve funding for the wall. This is bad news for the president, because Americans overwhelmingly hold him, rather than congressional Democrats, responsible for the shutdown.
The White House’s ultimate weapon—a formal presidential address from the Oval Office—did nothing to shift public sentiment about the wall. Forty-nine percent said Mr. Trump’s speech was “mostly misleading,” compared with 32% who thought it was “mostly accurate.” Only 2% said the speech had changed their minds.
.. Forty-one percent believed a wall would be “consistent with Americans values,” versus 52% who believed it would be inconsistent with them. And strikingly, most Americans reject outright Mr. Trump’s effort to link immigrants who enter the U.S. illegally with a surge in criminal activity: 29% said that these immigrants were more likely to commit crimes than American citizens, compared with 63% who did not. This helps explain why, despite the heated rhetoric of the past decade, 73% of Americans continue to believe that immigration is good for the country.
If I were a Republican senator looking for a way out of this impasse, I would pay careful attention to the public’s views. By 65% to 32%, voters said they would disapprove if the president invoked emergency powers to build a wall. Not even Mr. Trump’s base—whites without college degrees—could stomach that move. Conversely, 61% of voters, including 36% of Republicans and 51% of whites without college degrees, would support a bill that funded additional border-security measures but not a wall.
The fate of Mr. Trump’s gamble on the wall is a microcosm of a larger strategic failure of his presidency—his inability to expand his support beyond the base that brought him victory in 2016 with only 46% of the popular vote. By themselves, Republicans are not close to a majority of the electorate, and neither are conservatives. But opposition to the wall goes well beyond the president’s liberal and Democratic adversaries: 55% of independents disapprove of it, as do 59% of moderates.
Surely the White House is aware of these findings. President Trump seems to have put the emergency-powers option on hold. But he appears to be constrained by the fear that his most fervent supporters will regard a compromise on border security as a betrayal of his most significant campaign promise. A year ago, egged on by Fox News commentators and talk-radio hosts, immigration hard-liners torpedoed Mr. Trump’s tentative support for a package including both wall funding and the Democrats’ priority, legal status for beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
So what happens now? There are three options.
Mr. Trump could stand his ground, gambling that strong support for the wall among Republicans will continue to deter most Republican elected officials from breaking ranks. The downside: If he lost his bet and enough Republicans coalesced with Democrats around a border-security funding bill without the wall, he might cave in or see his veto overridden—ending up as a loser, in his vernacular.
Alternately, ignoring widespread opposition among his opponents and qualms among conservatives, Mr. Trump could choose to invoke emergency powers as the best way of keeping faith with his core supporters. Though litigation would tie up this move immediately, the president would be seen as fighting to keep his promise.
Finally, as Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and others have suggested, Congress and the White House could return to the project of broader, “comprehensive” immigration reform. Within a framework along the lines of the 2013 bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 68 to 32, President Trump could get substantial funding for his wall in exchange for a DACA settlement.
The art of the deal isn’t bludgeoning everyone else into submission; it’s providing them incentives to give you what you value most.
Now the White House is targeting a group of moderate Democrats who, the president’s aides believe, have expressed some openness toward a border wall.
Officials said they have been tracking statements made by rank-and-file Democrats about the wall, particularly by freshmen members serving in districts that Mr. Trump won in 2016.
As the week began, they were considering inviting some of these Democratic lawmakers in for a meeting to negotiate a possible deal, in what would be a test of Democratic unity and the leadership’s grip on the caucus.
.. One senior White House official said: “Increasingly, rank-and-file Democrats…are speaking positively about a physical barrier on the southern border as part of a package of reforms” that would include new technology and additional immigration judges. The official didn’t identify which Democrats the White House might attempt to pick off.
Prying Democrats away from the party’s leadership won’t be easy, lawmakers and aides from both sides said.
“They’re stuck. This is probably the fifth attempt to dig themselves out of a hole,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii) said of the White House effort’s to negotiate with rank-and-file Democrats.
Mr. Schatz said he suspected the administration was discovering what Democrats learned when they shut the government down last year in an effort to secure protections for young immigrants. “When you tag your cause to a shutdown, that cause becomes less popular,” he said.
Still, the strategy could put political pressure on House Democrats who represent conservative districts, by inviting them to the White House and putting them on the spot about the border wall, one Democratic aide said.
Two men, sons of immigrants, rising to be the head of their own empires, powerful forces in their ethnic communities. Both dapper and mustachioed with commanding personalities. And both wielding a potent influence on the children who learned at their knees and followed them into the family businesses.
But here’s the difference: Big Tommy D’Alesandro Jr. taught little Nancy how to count. Fred Trump taught Donald, from the time he was a baby, that he didn’t have to count — or be accountable; Daddy’s money made him and buoyed him.
Fred, a dictatorial builder in Brooklyn and Queens from German stock, and Big Tommy, a charming Maryland congressman and mayor of Baltimore from Italian stock, are long gone. But their roles in shaping Donald and Nancy remain vivid, bleeding into our punishing, pressing national debate over immigration, a government shutdown and that inescapable and vexing Wall.
At this fraught moment when the pain of the shutdown is kicking in, President Trump and Speaker Pelosi offer very different visions — shaped by their parents — of what it means to be an American.
When Trump gave his Oval Office address, the framed photo of his dad was peering over his shoulder. In her House speaker’s office in the Capitol, Pelosi prominently displays a photo of herself at 7, holding the Bible as her father is sworn in as Baltimore mayor in 1947.
D’Alesandro was a loyal New Deal Democrat, just as Pelosi — the first daughter to follow her father into Congress — is a resolute liberal. She grew up in a house with portraits of F.D.R. and Truman.
Donald Trump spent most of his life as a political opportunist, learning from his dad that real estate developers must lubricate both sides of the aisle. Trump was once friendly with Pelosi, sending her a note in 2007 when she won the speaker job the first time — with a boost from his $20,000 donation to the party — calling her “the best.” (Unlike with “Cryin’ Chuck,” Trump has not gone for the jugular with a nasty nickname for Pelosi.)
In her memoir, Pelosi recalled that her Catholic parents “raised me to be holy.” She told me, “My mother and my father instilled in us, public service is a noble calling” and “never measure a person by how much money they had.”
WASHINGTON — President Trump has stepped back from declaring a national emergency to pay for a border wall, under pressure from congressional Republicans, his own lawyers and advisers, who say using it as a way out of the government shutdown does not justify the precedent it would set and the legal questions it could raise.
“If today the national emergency is border security, tomorrow the national emergency might be climate change,” Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, one of the idea’s critics, said this week. Another Republican, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, told an interviewer that declaring a national emergency should be reserved for “the most extreme circumstances.”
.. “What we’re not looking to do right now is national emergency,” he told reporters gathered in the Cabinet Room as the shutdown approached its fourth week. Minutes later he contradicted himself, saying that he would declare a state of emergency if he had to.
.. Instead, Mr. Trump would use his authority to transfer funds to the wall that were appropriated by Congress for other purposes. Toward that end, the Army Corps of Engineers has been directed to study whether it can divert about $13.9 million in emergency aide set aside for Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and California. And with the money secured, the president could drop his opposition to the appropriations bills whose passage would end the shutdown.
.. Former White House aides, who noted that Mr. Trump did not focus on the wall during the first two years of his presidency, said the optics of fighting for the wall were more important to the president than erecting it.
.. But opposition has come from many Republican quarters. Some conservatives see it as an unacceptable extension of executive power. Kellyanne Conway, a White House aide, has said it would essentially give Congress a pass. Representative Mike Simpson, Republican of Idaho and a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said it was not clear to him that an emergency declaration would even lead to the prompt reopening of the government.