Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) believed they secured a meeting with President Trump on Thursday to go over their bipartisan immigration plan with the four other senators negotiating the deal, two Democrats and two Republicans. But when they arrived, immigration hardliners like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) were in the Oval Office, because White House adviser Stephen Miller "was concerned there could be a deal proposed that was too liberal and made sure conservative lawmakers were present," The Washington Post reports.
"Trump had seemed amenable to a deal earlier in the day during phone calls with lawmakers," the Post says, citing aides, but he "shifted his position in the meeting and did not seem interested in the bipartisan compromise." Most infamously, Trump rejected the idea of protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and several African countries, calling them "shithole countries" and specifically nixing Haiti. "Why do we need more Haitians?" Trump reportedly said. "Take them out." The meeting got "salty" on all sides, a White House official told the Post. "It did not go well."
One of the main pillars of the bipartisan plan, and its impetus, was a replacement for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The plan offers a 12-year path to citizenship for DREAMers, young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children. Protecting DREAMers is really popular — 86 percent of U.S. voters, including 76 percent of Republicans, want the DREAMers to stay in the U.S., according to a new Quinnipiac poll.
Other parts of the bipartisan plan are more contentions, with liberals opposed to the $1.6 billion for planning and building Trump's border wall and conservatives opposed to any path to citizenship. It "has been viewed as the legislation that has the best chance of success on Capitol Hill," Politico reports, though another bipartisan group of four top lawmakers is focusing more narrowly on the DREAMers issue. Peter Weber
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on Fox News Sunday chastised President Trump's personal attorney, John Dowd, for saying Saturday it is time for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation to end.
"If you look at the jurisdiction for Robert Mueller, first and foremost [it is] what did Russia do to this country in 2016. That is supremely important, and it has nothing to do with collusion," Gowdy said. "So to suggest that Mueller should shut down and that all he's looking at is collusion — if you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it."
The GOP representative also offered a warning to Trump himself. "When you are innocent ... act like it," Gowdy said to the president. "If you've done nothing wrong, you should want the investigation to be as fulsome and thorough as possible." Watch a clip of Gowdy's comments below. Bonnie Kristian
Trey Gowdy on Trump lawyer John Dowd calling for shutting down the Mueller probe: “When you are innocent… act like it.” (via Fox) pic.twitter.com/qIdueVe0FD
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) March 18, 2018
Lindsey Graham warns Trump that firing Mueller 'would be the beginning of the end of his presidency'
Sen. Lindsey Graham on CNN's State of the Union Sunday sought to distinguish between Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe and the circumstances surrounding the firing of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, the latter including the allegation, as President Trump once put it, that the FBI became "a tool of anti-Trump political actors" in 2016.
McCabe's actions have "absolutely nothing to do with the Mueller investigation," Graham said, arguing that a new special counsel should be appointed to investigate the FBI.
He warned Trump against firing Mueller, suggesting that to do so "would be the beginning of the end of his presidency." Graham added that he believes Mueller is "doing a good job," pledging "to make sure that Mr. Mueller can continue to do his job without any interference — and there are many Republicans who share my view."
Watch an excerpt of Graham's interview below. Bonnie Kristian
If President Trump fired Robert Mueller, “that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we are a rule of law nation,” says GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham #CNNSOTU https://t.co/Vgrqe3mIMf https://t.co/snm875uCzI
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) March 18, 2018
Turkish troops and their Free Syrian Army allies on Sunday declared victory over Kurdish YPG militia fighters in the northern Syrian city of Afrin.
"Most of the terrorists have already fled with tails between their legs," said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, though enclaves of Kurdish fighters remain outside the city center. Activist groups in Afrin say about 280 civilians were killed in the fight to control the city, but Erdogan's government denies their report.
Turkey's war on the Kurds creates tension with Washington, which is allied with both sides. The YPG joined the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State, but Ankara, a NATO ally, considers the Kurds terrorists because of their links to Kurdish rebels in Turkey. Bonnie Kristian
North Korean diplomat Choe Kang Il traveled to Finland Sunday for negotiations with American and South Korean representatives, notably including former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens. The talks are seen as a preliminary step toward the direct meeting President Trump has said he will have with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this spring.
The South Korean foreign ministry compared the Finland negotiations to the indirect and secretive "Track 2" dialogue Pyongyang maintains with Washington. Choe declined to comment on his agenda. Bonnie Kristian
Russian President Vladimir Putin faces seven challengers as voters go to the polls Sunday, but he is expected to easily win a fourth term for another six years in office. Advance polling suggests Putin boasts about 70 percent support, though critics say Russian elections are a pseudo-democratic exercise with a predetermined outcome.
"I voted for Putin," said Ust-Djeguta resident Lyubov Kachan, a teacher, in an interview with Reuters. "If anything is not going our way right now, that's thanks to the world which treats us so negatively, while he is trying to stand up to that."
Apathetic voters are under increased pressure to turn out this year, with some employers asking workers to provide proof that they voted. The mayor of the city of Yekaterinburg told The Associated Press officials "received orders 'from higher up' to make sure the presidential vote turnout is over 60 percent." Bonnie Kristian
SNL's Rex Tillerson is definitely still processing being fired by 'a man who used to sell steaks in the mail'
On the set with Anderson Cooper (Alex Moffat), Hader's former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci and Goodman's fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson commiserated about the chaos in the Trump administration. "It's just crazy how one day you're the CEO of Exxon, a 50-billion dollar company," Tillerson muses, "and the next you get fired by a man who used to sell steaks in the mail."
Kate McKinnon also showed up as Attorney General Jeff Sessions reflecting on the Friday firing of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. "I'm just a simple man who wanted to make things bad for immigrants," Sessions says, "and now here I am taking away the pension of a Christian white. It ain't right!" Watch the full sketch below. Bonnie Kristian
Trump campaign data firm reportedly harvested 50 million American Facebook profiles to 'target their inner demons'
Cambridge Analytica, the data firm suspended by Facebook Friday over violations of the network's privacy policies, was in contact with Lukoil, a Russian oil company, in 2014 and 2015, The New York Times reported Saturday. When questioned last month, the head of the firm's British parent company denied knowledge of any business ties to Russia. A Lukoil executive told the Times the meetings "involved a promotional campaign with local soccer teams," denying any "contracts were signed."
Also Saturday, The Observer of London reported the company harvested 50 million American Facebook profiles for electioneering, a major data breach. "We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people's profiles and built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons," said former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie. "That was the basis the entire company was built on." Wylie attended the meeting with Lukoil and said the oil company repeatedly asked about "political targeting in America."
Cambridge Analytica was a Trump campaign contractor in 2016, though Facebook did not mention President Trump in its suspension announcement. Bonnie Kristian