News Brief: Trump Pushes For DACA Bill, Bannon Out At Breitbart, California Mudslides
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
A remarkable scene played out at the White House yesterday.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Yeah, President Trump gathered lawmakers from both parties, and they sat at a long table at the White House. You know, it's a photo opportunity, and then the cameras are supposed to leave.
INSKEEP: But instead, the cameras stayed as the president and lawmakers started exchanging views on immigration.
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KEVIN MCCARTHY: You have to have security, as the secretary would tell you.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: But I think that's what she's saying.
UNIDENTIFIED LEGISLATOR #1: No, she's not. She's saying (unintelligible) sustainable.
UNIDENTIFIED LEGISLATOR #2: Why do think I'm...
MCCARTHY: No, no, no - I think she is saying something different.
UNIDENTIFIED LEGISLATOR #3: Mr. President...
INSKEEP: Here's what they're talking about. Democrats are pushing to protect young immigrants, known as DREAMers, brought to the country illegally as children. Republicans want changes to legal immigration, and the president wants money for a border wall. The president said he'd sign whatever Congress comes up with but that it should be a, quote, "bill of love."
MARTIN: NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley is on the line now.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: All right, a bill of love - it comes with some urgency, though, because lawmakers are up against this deadline to get something done on DACA. Right?
HORSLEY: A couple of deadlines, actually - the first just over a week from now, when Congress needs to pass a spending bill to keep the government operating. Democrats are trying to use that must-pass legislation as a vehicle for an immigration fix. And then the second deadline was to be in early March, when some of the DREAMers were going to begin facing the threat of deportation if no fix is arrived at.
MARTIN: So something happened last night. A judge in California ordered that the Trump administration must start renewing DACA applications while lawsuits play out. So how's that going to affect this debate?
HORSLEY: Right. This ruling came in a challenge filed by the state of California along with several others who argued that the administration had acted illegally in setting up that second deadline. This gives the DREAMers at least another temporary reprieve. And it could act as a kind of release valve, taking some of the pressure off of Congress. You know, we've seen time and again that lawmakers only act when they are up against a deadline. This judge's ruling in San Francisco may have the effect of sort of pushing that deadline back.
Now, advocates for the DREAMers hope that is not what happens here. And they are pushing Democrats not to use this ruling - which could be appealed - as an excuse to stop pushing for a permanent DACA fix.
MARTIN: So we heard Senator Dianne Feinstein yesterday in this meeting turn to the president and say, let's just pass a clean DACA bill, which essentially means let's just parcel out the DACA issue, pass it and then address comprehensive immigration reform. And the president seemed to say - yeah, that's good. And then his Republican colleagues said no, that's not good. Where do we - where does the president stand on this?
HORSLEY: The president has said he will go along with whatever the lawmakers can agree to. So he's not going to be the stumbling block here. You know, the thing about this session at the White House yesterday - for all the sort of televised drama, it was not actually a negotiating session. There was no horse trading. It was just a chance for all sides to sort of state their positions. And those positions are still in conflict.
You know, there is widespread support for the DREAMers, at least among the public - that they are a sympathetic case. The question mark is what other pieces of the immigration puzzle get, you know, piled...
HORSLEY: ...Into the legislative knapsack that those DREAMers are expected to carry.
INSKEEP: You know, this is an issue of policy but also an issue of emotion. The president used that phrase a bill of love. A lot of his rhetoric has actually played on a different emotion, anger. And one of the biggest questions here is whether they can balance not only the policy interests but the emotions on this issue.
MARTIN: Right. NPR's Scott Horsley - thanks so much, Scott.
HORSLEY: You bet.
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MARTIN: All right, the man who built Breitbart News into the, quote, "platform for 'alt-right'" - his words - has now left that network.
INSKEEP: Steve Bannon has been under attack since his criticisms of President Trump and his family were published in Michael Wolff's book "Fire And Fury." Bannon, of course, helped to lead the Trump campaign at one point and then served as White House strategist before losing that job last summer. So what led him to give up this job?
MARTIN: Let's ask Paul Farhi of The Washington Post. He's been covering all this.
Good morning, Paul.
PAUL FARHI: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: All right, so Steve Bannon is out at Breitbart. What was his ultimate undoing?
FARHI: Well, his ultimate undoing was talking to Michael Wolff for that book that you just mentioned. He said that he found it treasonous that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, and Donald Trump Jr. would meet with Russian representatives at that infamous Trump Tower meeting during the 2016 campaign. That quote got lots of headlines last week, and the president certainly saw it and was not pleased with it.
MARTIN: So that makes sense as to why the rift with the president. But does that not necessarily mean the end of his career at Breitbart? I mean, it clearly does, but make the connection there.
FARHI: Yes. Well, the key figure here are Robert and Rebekah Mercer. They are the very wealthy political donors who are also the bankrollers of Breitbart, so they get a big vote in what happens at Breitbart. They happen to be big supporters of President Trump. They didn't like what Steve Bannon told Michael Wolff. And they exercised their options, shall we say, in forcing Steve Bannon out the door.
MARTIN: What was Bannon's legacy at Breitbart?
FARHI: Well, he really turned it into this "alt-right" platform. Now, "alt-right" can be a kind of phrase that people debate what it means. I think what they meant was a lot of what President Trump is all about - economic nationalism, America First. They're anti-immigrant, anti-globalist - meaning they didn't like any of these trade agreements - and very anti-establishment, anti-conventional Republican politics. There are certain...
MARTIN: So does that mean - sorry to interrupt you - does that mean now the Bannon's out, it is not going to be those things?
FARHI: I don't think so at all. In fact, that's their stock in trade. That's their brand. There's really no reason why they would abandon that. But they do abandon a very big personality. Steve Bannon was the personification of their website. And with him gone, you wonder who they build themselves around. They do have a big following, but they now lose kind of their living embodiment.
INSKEEP: There is an irony here as well because President Trump and people around him on the White House staff have periodically demanded that this or that media figure or this or that reporter be fired, be dismissed, be shoved aside for their reporting or for their various statements or for things that they tweeted.
INSKEEP: And finally we do have an occasion where the president seems to have been at least peripherally involved in getting a media figure fired, and it's somebody who professes, actually, to be a very strong supporter of the president
FARHI: That is a great irony.
MARTIN: The Washington Post's Paul Farhi - thanks so much for being with us this morning, Paul.
FARHI: Thank you.
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MARTIN: In Southern California, one natural disaster has led to yet another.
INSKEEP: We are talking about communities just recovering from California's biggest-ever wildfire. Those areas were then hit by a rainstorm, which is not good right after a wildfire in mountainous territory because the rain unleashed mudslides, sending boulders and debris tumbling down hillsides and into homes from areas that had been burned and lost their vegetation. At least 13 people have died. Here's Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown.
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BILL BROWN: It looked like a World War I battlefield. It was literally a carpet of mud and debris everywhere with huge boulders, rocks, downed trees, power lines.
MARTIN: So today a big search and rescue operation continues. And we are joined now by KCLU's Lance Orozco, who has been covering all this there.
Lance, thanks so much for being with us.
LANCE OROZCO, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: I understand you were out surveying the damage yesterday. What did you see?
OROZCO: Well, I got to tell you - it's overwhelming because the rocks and the boulders that you were just talking about a second ago, they're the size of small cars. And what really sticks with you - literally - is the mud. It looks like it's solid. And you step in it, and it feels like quicksand. You're in it up to your knees. And then you see the bulldozers trying to move it, and it looks like they're trying to move Jell-O. It just flows around the bulldozer blades - so very, very difficult for them to deal with this mud.
MARTIN: Officials there knew this was coming. They knew this was going to be serious, and they told residents to leave. But clearly, not everybody heeded that evacuation order.
OROZCO: They really tried. They had an event - even back on Friday, they had a news conference. I was there. A lot of other reporters were there. And they said, listen, we want to get the word out early. And then Monday, they issued a mandatory evacuation order for much of Montecito, Carpinteria and Summerland - three communities up against the foothills. And you know, they let people know. And then Monday, before the storm came, they even pre-positioned extra firefighters in the area because they knew there was the potential for flooding.
MARTIN: What did you hear from people you spoke with? I imagine - I mean, just one after another natural disasters is hard to take.
OROZCO: You know, people are really in a state of shock because many had to deal with two weeks of evacuations, and then this happened. And I think a lot of people were just overwhelmed. And I think part of the problem might be that after being evacuated for, you know, a week or two at a time, a lot of people maybe just said - you know, we can't do this again. We can't evacuate again.
MARTIN: What's likely to happen today in terms of cleaning up at this point?
OROZCO: Well, really the focus still - the focus overnight and the focus today is going to be more search and rescue efforts. You know, most of the people who live in the zone have been cleared out. They've asked people that are still there to shelter in place while they continue their search and rescue efforts. And the focus is just looking for people who are missing. And part of the problem is we don't know exactly how many people are missing at this point.
MARTIN: Oh, my. We'll keep following this. Lance Orozco of member station KCLU - he joined us on Skype. Lance, thanks so much.
OROZCO: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF JOEY FEHRENBACH'S "EDISON CYLINDER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.