John Kelly: Immigration 'hardass'

The escalating immigration drama...

Posted: Jan 18, 2018 10:08 AM
Updated: Jan 18, 2018 10:08 AM

The escalating immigration drama is crystallizing for some lawmakers and presidential advisers their long-held views of John Kelly, President Donald Trump's chief of staff: He's a fierce advocate for hardline policies that drastically limit the number of people entering the US. And he'll remain so, even as the government barrels toward a potential shutdown over the issue.

"Kelly is a hardass," said one Republican lawmaker, who requested anonymity to discuss Kelly's approach to immigration. "Some people might think he's softer; he's a hardass, also. And a straight, straight shooter. He doesn't sugar coat things."

Kelly has been seen as a stabilizing force on an erratic presidency

But his immigration tactics have disappointed some lawmakers and administration aides

Kelly has been seen as a stabilizing force on an erratic presidency, taming an unorganized White House. He appealed to Democrats Wednesday by calling Trump "uninformed" on some immigration issues, according to a source familiar with the comments.

But such moves don't change the fact that the administration, with Kelly's full support, will continue to aggressively enforce immigration laws, according to a senior government official. And Kelly is the person who helped sink a bipartisan immigration deal that emerged last week.

The White house chief of staff warned Trump the agreement would incite anger among his base, who expect him to deliver on his promises to build a border wall and deport undocumented immigrants, according to two White House officials and a congressional source familiar with the situation. And he sent word to Capitol Hill, where like-minded Republican lawmakers were summoned with minutes to spare to attend a White House sit-down with the crafters of the deal, who later claimed they were blindsided by the move.

Kelly's tactics, which culminated in a heated, profanity-laced Oval Office meeting, disappointed some lawmakers and administration aides, who have privately expressed fears that his hardline views are obscuring chances for an immigration deal. And it opened him to criticism from some lawmakers, who began publicly saying this week that Trump isn't well served by his staff.

Full scope of voices

Kelly's supporters say he is merely ensuring the President is hearing from a full scope of voices as he weighs various proposals on an issue that was central to his rollicking presidential campaign. And the White House has publicly downplayed Kelly's role in orchestrating last Thursday's meeting, which devolved into Trump deriding some countries as "shitholes" or "shithouses," depending on the telling.

Instead, the White House has insisted that it was Trump's decision to invite Republicans to the session in the hopes of hearing their views on the emerging plan.

Speaking Wednesday, Kelly said the bipartisan agreement offered by Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin didn't meet Trump's criteria.

"That deal that came over was supposed to be two things: bipartisan and both sides of the Hill," Kelly told reporters on Capitol Hill in between meetings. "There were a number of other senators that had been involved in this from the beginning ... that were not consulted."

"The President has said from the beginning, it's got to be bipartisan and unless it involves the House as well as the Senate, it's going to go down again as a bill that does not pass into law," he said.

Kelly met for an hour Wednesday with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and listened to concerns about how the administration has approached immigration. The meeting was "cordial" and "positive," participants said, but didn't produce any new path toward an agreement. While lawmakers made a point to say they appreciated the session, they expressed disappointment that Kelly had not come armed with any proposals to negotiate and that he didn't seem well-versed in the bipartisan proposals under development in Congress.

Among the concerns aired in the meeting were the administration's use of the term "chain migration" to describe the process of citizens and green card holders bringing their extended family to the US.

"Please don't use that term," Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-California, told Kelly, explaining the phrase is considered loaded and offensive. Kelly didn't apologize, but acknowledged the term is disputed, according to a source in the room.

Spearheading immigration talks

As the immigration debate has heated up, Trump tasked Kelly with spearheading talks on the issue in the hopes of striking a deal that would adhere to his campaign promises. He's taken more of a personal role in meetings with aides and lawmakers, where his deeply held views have been apparent, according to people who have participated in them. That has led to some grumbling from other administration officials, who believe Kelly's hardline stance on immigration has obfuscated opposing views.

As secretary of Homeland Security, Kelly gained the President's approval by channeling the unwavering immigration stance that Trump espoused on the campaign trail, despite offering what appeared to be a more moderate stance during his confirmation hearing a year ago -- including downplaying the importance of a border wall.

His ardent approach -- paired with a no-nonsense Boston accent and a Marine's rigor -- is what led Trump to name him chief of staff, people familiar with Trump's thinking say.

His mandate entering the West Wing was to instill order among warring factions of aides and streamline the flow of information to the President. Outsiders also viewed him as a potentially moderating force on a President whose brash outbursts and appeals to nationalist sentiments had alienated some voters and establishment politicians.

But Kelly has sought to manage expectations, and has bolstered Trump during some of his most controversial moments, including backing up his views on Confederate monuments and appearing in the White House briefing room to defend Trump's phone call with the grieving widow of a slain US serviceman.

Toughest job

Kelly has told friends his role as Trump's top aide has been the toughest job of his career, which has included deployments in Iraq and as commander of US Southern Command. But he's also described the chief of staff role as immensely rewarding.

On immigration, Kelly has been supported inside the West Wing by Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser whose hardline views on immigration are well known. Miller has been a staunch and outspoken proponent of limiting immigration to the US, and is viewed as the White House's guiding voice on the matter -- to the chagrin of Democrats working to strike an agreement.

"It's hard to find any effort to kill immigration legislation that doesn't have Steve Miller's fingerprints on it," Durbin said on Tuesday. "He's been an outspoken foe of immigration reform and opponent to DACA and the Dreamers from the start."

Kelly is "more of an adult," one person familiar with the situation said, and Trump believes that with him in charge, there's a better chance of getting something done. Another person said Kelly respects Miller but is the clear person in charge.

While Kelly may foster more goodwill on Capitol Hill than Miller -- who gained notoriety as an outspoken and rabble-rousing congressional aide -- the chief of staff's actions over the past week have prompted some lawmakers to air their misgivings publicly.

"I don't think the President was well served by his staff," Graham said on Tuesday, adding later: "I think someone on his staff gave him really bad advice between 10 and 12 on Thursday."

Asked whether he pinned the blame on Kelly, who as chief of staff has demanded rigorous order in the West Wing, Graham demurred: "I think General Kelly is a fine man but he's also part of the staff."

On Wednesday, Kelly darted between meetings on Capitol Hill meant to restart immigration talks after last Thursday's profanity-laden meeting. Aside from the Hispanic lawmakers, he met with four moderate Republicans, followed by two leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and then went to meet with the bipartisan congressional leaders who are attempting to negotiate a deal.

Asked as he departed whether he would take into account the diverse set of views he'd heard, Kelly answered affirmatively.

"Yeah, sure," he said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314710

Reported Deaths: 7254
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21646260
Hinds20369416
Harrison17949309
Rankin13643278
Jackson13450246
Madison10113217
Lee9986174
Jones8384163
Forrest7689152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6403148
Lamar623686
Lafayette6203119
Washington5341134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462998
Panola4596107
Pearl River4519146
Marshall4450103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420872
Monroe4115133
Union411176
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3969110
Hancock379586
Leflore3498125
Sunflower336290
Tate334784
Pike3327105
Scott316274
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311770
Itawamba300577
Copiah297465
Coahoma295579
Simpson295388
Tippah288768
Adams286982
Prentiss280060
Marion269380
Leake268473
Wayne262841
Grenada261587
Covington259881
George248148
Newton246862
Winston227581
Tishomingo227067
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208057
Holmes189174
Clay185554
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178941
Clarke178080
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164638
Smith162534
Walthall134245
Greene130633
Lawrence128724
Montgomery127142
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton100025
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67531
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 537813

Reported Deaths: 11024
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson791691529
Mobile41177808
Madison35002507
Tuscaloosa25871454
Shelby25076249
Montgomery24549591
Baldwin21290309
Lee15946171
Calhoun14556319
Morgan14364280
Etowah13890353
Marshall12262223
Houston10602282
Elmore10115206
Limestone10031151
St. Clair9890245
Cullman9730194
Lauderdale9449243
DeKalb8853188
Talladega8325176
Walker7259277
Autauga6971108
Jackson6830112
Blount6750139
Colbert6317134
Coffee5546119
Dale4869113
Russell444338
Chilton4343113
Franklin426282
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4040152
Escambia394577
Chambers3581123
Dallas3564153
Clarke351361
Marion3137101
Pike311977
Lawrence302298
Winston275673
Bibb263064
Geneva252577
Marengo249664
Pickens234862
Barbour231956
Hale223677
Butler217869
Fayette212462
Henry189644
Cherokee184345
Randolph182042
Monroe178140
Washington167639
Macon160750
Clay156957
Crenshaw153357
Cleburne149241
Lamar143035
Lowndes139653
Wilcox127430
Bullock123041
Conecuh110629
Coosa108928
Perry107826
Sumter104932
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
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