White House says Trump supports GOP immigration bills, hours after he says he 'wouldn't sign' compromise

The White House clarified Trump's comments after he said he opposed one bill.

June 15, 2018, 5:59 PM

The White House said President Trump supports House Republican immigration legislation addressing border security and the status of young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers, roughly nine hours after the president rejected one of the measures in an impromptu interview with Fox News at the White House.

“The President fully supports both the Goodlatte bill and the House leadership bill. In this morning's interview, he was commenting on the discharge petition in the House, and not the new package. He would sign either the Goodlatte or the leadership bills,” Raj Shah, White House principal deputy press secretary, said in a statement.

Trump's comments dismissing the compromise brokered by GOP leaders ,a bill that includes a provision meant to stop family separation at the U.S. border rocked Capitol Hill, scuttled Republican leaders' plans to gauge support for the proposal Friday and potentially tanking its chances on the House floor in a vote tentatively planned for next week.

"Would you sign either one of those?" "Fox and Friends" anchor Steve Doocy asked the president regarding the immigration bills.

"I'm looking at both of them. I have wouldn't sign the moderate bill. I need a bill that gives this country tremendous border security. I have to have that," Trump replied.

A White House official later said Trump "misunderstood the question on Fox News this morning," before Shah, the White House deputy press secretary, issued a statement on the president's view of the proposals.

Following the president's comments, which confused lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Republican leaders canceled plans to measure support for the bill during Friday morning votes, as members struggled to decipher Trump's message about the bill.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Republicans were working "hand-in-glove" with the White House on the proposal, and White House adviser Stephen Miller expressed support for the bill in a private meeting with Republicans.

"Clearly he didn’t read the bill," Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., a moderate who had tried to force a vote on a bipartisan immigration reform bill, told reporters. "I think he was responding to the word 'moderate.' Everything he said about his concerns are all in that bill. So I’m very disappointed."

"For those who are already on the line or questioning it that might give them additional pause," Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., the chair of the Republican Study Committee, a large group of conservative House Republicans, told ABC News.

The compromise, crafted in closed-door discussions between GOP conservatives and moderates organized by leadership and in consultation with the White House, would provide $25 billion in border wall funding, eliminate several visa programs while restructuring others, and provide a pathway for six-year "indefinitely renewable" legal status for Dreamers who could later apply for citizenship.

The proposal, which was negotiated after moderates and Democrats fell short of the necessary signatures on a discharge petition to force a vote on bipartisan immigration reform legislation around GOP leaders, also includes a provision to prevent the government from separating young children from parents and guardians while in government custody, an attempt to address concerns about the uptick in family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration's new "zero-tolerance" policy.

Republicans attempted to craft the bill in line with President Trump's immigration "pillars" issued by the White House earlier this year - including border wall funding, the elimination of the visa lottery, a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and changes to family sponsorship - and planned to hold a vote on the bill along with a more conservative proposal from Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, that would provide a pathway to legal status for Dreamers while limiting legal immigration levels.

House Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., the House Republicans' No. 2 vote-counter, said Friday that Republicans would be "seeking clarity" from the White House on Trump's position before proceeding to votes.

"Once we have clarity on that, then we’ll see what next steps we can take in the House," he said.

Trump tweeted out an immigration message Friday afternoon that appeared to signal support for the compromise measure, while attempting to blame Democrats for his administration's change in policy that has led to an increased number of family separations at the border.

It's unclear if either bill can pass the House given Democrats' opposition to both proposals, and Republicans' deep disagreements on immigration policy.

ABC's Alex Mallin contributed to this report.

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