Haberman: Trump Did Not Actually Want To Rescind DACA, Stephen Miller Pushed Him To


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN: Let's bring in our CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. Great to have you. Tell us a little bit about the president's mindset from your reporting. Why does the White House appear to be so conflicted about this issue?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, because why should this issue be different than any other issue, No. 1?

But No. 2, I think there's two things going on, to your point about mindset. The president does not actually want to do this. He does not, by all my reporting, is extremely torn about it. He meant what he said when he said earlier this year this is not an enforcement priority, that he did worry about criminals and not people who are brought here on their own.

The problem is the president campaigned on ending DACA. And so if you don't want to end DACA, you probably should not promise people that you are going to during an election season. And that is where they find themselves. Look, it's absolutely true there was no easy fix here. That is very true. It is absolutely true that there was this deadline, although many people argue it was an artificial, created deadline by the states, threatening to sue. And that was why they said, you know, "We're ending it." Their argument is they said they were ending it so that it didn't just end, essentially, if there was a legal challenge and it did not get upheld.

However, the way they rolled this out was so chaotic, I don't even think it was a rollout. It was a leak-out, where they completely lost control of the process, from the very first story broken by Eliana Johnson at Politico, which made clear how uncertain a lot of the details surrounding this was going to go were, that it just allowed people to fill the void with fear, concern, rhetoric, all kinds of things. And these are people's lives.

And so while it's, you know -- it is certainly true, by all my the reporting, that the president is having a hard time with this, I think the kids who are facing deportation or adults who are facing deportation who were brought here as kids, but are now active members of their communities, are probably facing a harder time.

CUOMO: The president is on record saying, "I don't know how you send people back after they've been here 20 years." He's on record as saying it.

He's also on record for decades never yielding to pressure of a lawsuit. He usually applies the pressure. He didn't want this to come to a legal conclusion here, which would have probably given him very clear space.

So it goes to your point about why is he doing it now and what does the word "revisit" mean? That's what he said at his tweet, if you want to put it up there for people, that he might revisit this if Congress doesn't get it done which is, just to remind people, exactly how we got DACA. They've been asking for it since the early 2000s. Congress failed, several different iterations of putting it in different bills, House and Senate, and then Obama felt compelled to revisit it.

HABERMAN: That's right. Look, I mean, there is a legitimate point to -- to make, which is that this was done around Congress, but it was not done around Congress to be sort of flighty and -- and deciding what parts of the law you want to enforce. There was a very real situation that Congress was not dealing with. To your point, over, I think it was, 16 years. So that was why Obama did what he did. There was a clear option, and he took it.

The president -- the current president has taken what could have been a clear option, and he has appeared to take everything. And so he ends up -- and look, we have seen him do this for years. He likes to act like a dealmaker. He treats everything as if it is an ongoing sliding scale where you can negotiate up until the last minute. You don't have that option here. This is something entirely different. And so you have seen the administration send such unbelievably conflicting signals.

I think -- look, what I was hearing on Saturday and on Sunday before, you know, it became clear that they were still negotiating up until the last second on Monday about what this was going to look like and how many people are going to be impacted in that six-month window and how they would implement this winddown, the president was telling people, he knew he had gotten himself into a politically untenable situation, he didn't -- or let me rephrase that. He was in a politically untenable situation. I'm not sure how much he felt he had done it himself. He didn't want to be in that position, and he did want to revisit this in six months if Congress doesn't act.

The problem with that is people in his own White House are saying to him, there is no real way to do that, because the A.G. has said this is unconstitutional. So how, in six months, if Congress doesn't act. I mean, look, you can never say never, but let's be clear. It doesn't seem like the likeliest bet, if you're a betting person, and after that it's not really clear what your options are.

CAMEROTA: So now there's all sorts of backlash from even Republicans, from even right-leaning media. Here's the "Wall Street Journal" yesterday: "As America's problems go, these young adults shouldn't even be on the list." And it shows the Republican Party is at its worst. Is deporting these people really how Republicans want to define themselves?"

Is this catching the White House and the president off-guard? Are they surprised by this backlash?

HABERMAN: Well, no, it's not catching most people in the White House who understand this issue off-guard. It is delighting Stephen Miller, the president's top national policy adviser, who has pushed this along with his former boss, Jeff Sessions. Stephen Miller, who was a congressional spokesman -- Senate spokesman for a long time, now finds himself in this pretty significant position of policy making.

CAMEROTA: But hold on one second. He's delighted, because this is a play to the base, right? So he has the base's interests at heart. But if Republicans are speaking out against it and Congress and the "Wall Street Journal," why does that make him happy?

HABERMAN: He's delighted because he believes it. It's not just that it's a play to the base. This is actually what he believes. This is what -- this is what most Republicans have, in almost all polling, have been against by a majority, even in some cases a very slim majority.

But there is a segment of Republicans that favor this. That is the segment of Republicans to whom this president plays over and over. The president, by the way, look, we have seen repeatedly, in his mind, he will have a plan and he will feel like he knows what he's doing. He very rarely completely understands the impact of that. He was pretty briefed on this. It was made pretty clear to him what was likely to happen. He went ahead and did it anyway.

And one of the things that has been so add about how this has played out, is that, you know look, he outsourced the announcement to Sessions which he saw, because he didn't, by all accounts from everyone I spoke to, he didn't want to be the one saying, "I'm ending this." He didn't want that video. And so you heard his statement about love, and we're going to have something that works out very well, which appeared just completely at odds with what was being discussed in every other direction.

But he has had moments throughout this of both acting like the president and acting like a spectator, and you don't really get to choose.

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