Valerie Jarrett: Obama's Action "Well Within Scope" Of Authority, But "Great Limitations" To What He Wants To Do

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Senior Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett says what President Obama is preparing to do in regards to executive action on immigration is clearly "well within the scope" of his authority as president. However, she admitted the president "doesn't have legal authority" to do what he would really like to do.

MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell challenged Jarrett to explain why President Obama previously said he didn't have the legal authority to do what he is planning to do now.

"Why did he say he didn't have the legal authority to do exactly what he is planning to announce tonight?" Mitchell asked after playing a clip of President Obama last year saying he would be "ignoring the law."

"He was absolutely right then," Jarrett said "He doesn't have the legal authority to do everything that is in the Senate bill. The president believes that we should provide a path to citizenship for people who are prepared to pay back taxes, get right with the law, and learn English. That's what was in the Senate bill. He can't do that. There great limitations to what he might want to do that he can't do under his executive authority."

VALERIE JARRETT, OBAMA SENIOR ADVISOR: He is looking at everything that he can do within his authority and there are certainly limits to his authority to try to fix our broken immigration system. It's has been two years now since he was in Las Vegas and began advocating Congress to pass a bill, it's been a year and a half since the Senate passed a bill. And he has made it clear to everyone for months now that if Congress did not act by the end of the year, he would take executive actions just as every president since Eisenhower has done on immigration. So this is well within the scope and if tomorrow Congress passes a bill he can sign, he will look forward to signing it and these executive actions will go away.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC: Valerie, let me stipulate that as you have just said, the House did nothing on the Senate bill. The president has been proposing this for two years, more than two years, and every president back to the 1950s has taken some executive action on immigration.

But this is what President Obama said to Jose [Diaz-Balart] right here in 2013. This was President Obama acknowledging on Telemundo last September that he did not have the legal authority. Let's watch.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Young people who basically have grown up here are Americans that we should welcome. We're not going to have them operate under a cloud, under a shadow. But if we start broadening that, then essentially I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be difficult to defend legally. So that's not an option and I do get a little worried that advocates of immigration reform start losing heart and immediately think well, somehow there is an out here. If Congress doesn't act, we'll just have the president sign something and that will take care of it. We won't have to worry about it.

MITCHELL: Why did he say he didn't have the legal authority to do exactly what he is planning to announce tonight?

JARRETT: Well, no, he is not. That's not at all. He was absolutely right then. He doesn't have the legal authority to do everything that is in the Senate bill. The president believes that we should provide a path to citizenship for people who are prepared to pay back taxes, get right with the law, and learn English. That's what was in the Senate bill. He can't do that. There's great limitations to what he might want to do that he can't do under his executive authority.

After last year he went back to his Secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General and he said give me some recommendations about what I can do that is well within of scope of my authority and upon the advice of his council as well as a wide range of legal experts around the country, what he will announce tonight, he clearly has the authority to do.

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