Earnest to Karl: Things Have Changed Since Obama Said Executive Immigration Action Was Not An Option

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JON KARL, ABC NEWS: Coming back to the immigration executive order that is coming, does the president still stand by what he said last year when he said, quote, "I am not the Emperor of the United States, it is my job to execute laws that are passed," is that still operative?

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE: Absolutely.

JON KARL: Not a king either.

JOSH EARNEST: That's right.

JON KARL: He was asked very specifically about the idea of expanding the deferred action executive order for the "dreamers" to their parents. And he said September 17 of last year, on Telemundo, very clearly, if we start broadening that, then essentially I would ignoring the law in a way that would make it very difficult to defend legally, so that's not an option.

Is that still operative when the president said specifically that expanding the DACA executive order, is not an option because it would be ignoring the law? Does he still believe that?

JOSH EARNEST: Well, Jon, I don't want to get ahead of what any sort of announcements that the president may make before the end of the year about executive actions that he may take to fix our broken immigration system.

Since this interview aired, the president did direct the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security to conduct a review of the law to determine what, if any authority, he could use to try to use some of the problems that House Republicans have refused to address. So this is something that has been under consideration for some time by the Attorney General of the United States and by the Secretary of Homeland Security. And--

JON KARL: You're saying that this is no longer operative because we've had a review? So when the president said that expanding DACA to apply to the parents of the dreamers, for instance, would be broadening and essentially ignoring the law in a way that would be difficult to defend legally, that it's not an option, that that statement is no longer operative?

EARNEST: What I'm saying is we'll have an opportunity to evaluate the actions that the president has chosen to take after he's announced --

JON KARL: I'm not asking about the options. I'm just saying, does the president still stand by what he said in that interview in September of last year?

JOSH EARNEST: Obviously there are some things that have changed.

JON KARL: That would be a no?

JOSH EARNEST: It's not. Obviously there have been some things that have changed, right? We have been in a situation where the president has ordered a broader in-depth review of the existing law to determine what sort of executive authority does rest with the presidency to determine what kinds of steps he could take on his own. The other thing that we've seen is we've seen House Republicans refuse to act even on common-sense legislation that would fix so many of the problems of our broken immigration system in a way that would strengthen border security, reduce the deficit and be good for the economy.

JON KARL: They'd already refused to act at this point.

JOSH EARNEST: They've been refusing to act for quite some time. At that point it had only been a few months. Now it's been almost a year and a half.

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