He swatted Sessions not once, not twice, but three times in the span of five minutes this morning on “This Week” for having steered Trump into a dead end on immigration. And he did it during a roundtable, when the conversation tends to drift organically. Clearly this guy came armed with a talking point about the Attorney General and was not going to be deterred from getting it on the air — repeatedly. I wonder why.
The child separation drama has become an orgy of score settling on the right. Christie’s using the mess to target a guy whose job he wants. Anthony Scaramucci’s using it to target the guy who fired him from the White House. And virtually everyone to the left of Ann Coulter is using it to target Stephen Miller.
“He led the president down a path that again ended in disaster,” said one Republican congressional staffer. “The Muslim ban and the immigration executive order are things that have activated both sides of the aisle and caused widespread pushback and disgust. I just think the president should think twice before following in his lead in the future on these issues.”…
“It is amazing that Miller is getting a free ride. He urged the president to pull out of DACA, and now he’s done this immigration policy,” said one former administration official. “Miller managed [to] blame the travel ban on the White House lawyers for not executing it right. Now he is blaming Congress for the immigration policy. Miller is very much like the president — just deny, deny, deny.”
Miller himself reportedly sees Trump’s climbdown from child separation this week as a sort of death knell for his influence over immigration policy:
Inside the White House, the executive order was viewed as a serious blow to senior presidential adviser Stephen Miller, including by Miller himself. The White House’s most vocal immigration hawk has told allies that it will be impossible for the administration to maintain its so-called “zero tolerance” policy while keeping parents and children together, and that a return to the “catch and release” policy of previous administrations, where undocumented immigrants are freed inside the U.S. and told to show up for court hearings, is the most likely outcome.
Another former administration official said the mess over separations would also imperil Miller’s other policy moves on immigration, including several draft executive orders and proposed agency rules that he had hoped to roll out before the mid-term to appeal to the president’s conservative base.
Christie’s knock on Sessions in the clip below is that he should have been frank with Trump about the DOJ’s inability to execute a “zero tolerance” policy efficiently. If there aren’t enough judges and prosecutors — and detention facilities — to get it done, then the AG has to make that clear to the president. Don’t let the boss institute a policy that’ll quickly prove unworkable. The point Jon Karl’s trying to make before Christie pipes up, though, is that other people *have* tried to tell Trump that, including Kirstjen Nielsen. Her reward was getting blasted at length by POTUS in front of the entire cabinet last month for not being “tough” enough. Here’s another example from just this morning:
We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order. Most children come without parents…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2018
How many different aides have tried explaining to him that the courts aren’t going to declare that due process doesn’t apply at the border? Trump doesn’t care. Even when Republicans volunteer to throw money at the problem, as Ted Cruz did last week by proposing that we double the number of immigration judges, Trump scoffs that we don’t need more legal bureaucracy, we need less. His team’s hands are tied by certain constitutional rights and funding limitations and no doubt they’ve communicated that, but Trump seems to see every failure as a failure of will. So, it seems, they decided to prove to him that they have the will, come what may. They implemented the policy, it was a mess, most of the public freaked out, and Trump himself ran away from it after a few days of terrible coverage. Ultimately his own will failed.
You’re never going to get to be AG telling the president that, though, so Christie chose to blame Trump’s least favorite appointee instead. For 18 months I’ve thought he was a nonstarter as a replacement for Sessions because of Bridgegate and a hundred other things he’s done to rub people in the party the wrong way over the past nine years. He couldn’t get confirmed, surely. But is that still true? If he stands any chance at getting 50 votes in the Senate, now might be the most opportune time for Trump to give him his shot. Senate Republicans will think twice about embarrassing the president by rejecting a nominee so soon before the midterms, knowing that grumpy Trump fans might punish them by staying home. And red-state Democrats will never again be as willing to hold their nose and support Trump on a tough vote than they are right now, knowing that grumpy Trump fans in their own backyards might punish them if they don’t.
At least one close Trump advisor loves the idea, and Christie shifted enough on immigration in the 2016 primaries that even populists would probably be okay with his appointment. The X factor is Russiagate: It’d be one thing for a Joe Manchin or Claire McCaskill to vote for Christie if his only baggage was Bridgegate. Their party might forgive them for that. It’s another thing to vote for him knowing that he’s likely to do Trump’s bidding in reining in Mueller or even shutting down the probe. They won’t be forgiven in that case. Christie might not get to 50.
Here he is this morning. His first shot at Sessions comes at 2:00; watch for four minutes or so to see him ding Sessions for citing the Bible in support of a policy like child separation. By the way, ABC reports that the GOP’s compromise immigration bill in the House would now lift the current court-imposed rule limiting children detained at the border to 20 days in detention. Under the Republican plan, they’d be kept together with their parents but could remain in extended detention. You’ve got about as much chance of getting that past a Senate filibuster as Trump has of getting the courts to declare that suspected illegals aren’t entitled to due process.