In a dramatic reversal of one of his longest held political positions, former President Donald Trump told a Nevada campaign crowd over the weekend that he will gladly take the blame for instructing his Republican colleagues in Congress to vote against a bill that would close the Southern U.S. border to address illegal crossings.
“As the leader of our party, there is zero chance I will support this horrible open borders betrayal of America,” Trump said in Las Vegas on Saturday, according to the Washington Post.
“I’ll fight it all the way,” Trump continued. “A lot of the senators are trying to say, respectfully, they’re blaming it on me. I say, that’s okay. Please blame it on me. Please.”
Trump’s description of the deal as an “open borders betrayal” directly contradicts what the senators of his own party and the current president say the bill will do.
President Joe Biden said in a Friday statement that the bill “would give me, as President, a new emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed.”
With the deal dedicated to doing the opposite of what Trump indicated on Saturday, why does he reject it?
By his own admission, he wants to get a border deal himself if elected as president again in November.
“A Border Deal now would be another Gift to the Radical Left Democrats,” Trump said in a statement on Thursday. “They need it politically.”
Trump said he is now directing his party to vote against a bill that would do the very thing he has promised since the first speech of his political career in June 2015.
‘The Politics On This Have Changed’
Last week, a deal appeared imminent between Senate Republicans and Biden. This followed years of Republican attacks on Biden’s immigration and border policies, which had followed Trump’s term in office that had largely dedicated itself to building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, among other restrictive immigration policies.
Biden had dropped Democratic immigration policy demands—most notably a path to citizenship for the so-called DREAMers who were brought to the country as children—to give Republicans what they wanted on the topic, in exchange for GOP votes for military and financial aid to Ukraine in its war against Russia.
But by Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had told a closed-door meeting of Senate Republicans that Trump had effectively scuttled the deal.
“The politics on this have changed,” McConnell told his conference, per Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman on X, formerly Twitter.
“We don’t want to do anything to undermine” Trump’s presidential campaign, which he said Trump wants to base his campaign on the same immigration policies the Ukraine-border deal represents.
What The Bill Actually Does
The bill, as negotiated, would allow the president to take emergency steps to close the border whenever daily crossings exceed 5,000 people. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Control, “border encounters”—the official government term for people crossing the border illegally—have surged to hundreds of thousands of people every month the last two years.
This prompted Biden and Congressional Democrats to head to the negotiating table with Republicans, who have long been considered by Americans in polling to be the party better suited to handle immigration.
Reflecting the changing immigration politics in the Republican Party, Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson told the press that the bill is “dead on arrival” in his chamber, despite years of his party calling for exactly this policy in the face of unprecedented influx in border crossings in recent years.
GOP Senator Calls Out Trump’s Inconsistencies
GOP senators have said they will try to get Trump to take the deal that gives him what he has professed to want for a decade: closed borders.
“I think the border is a very important issue for Donald Trump,” Utah Sen. Mitt Romney told The Hill. “And the fact that he would communicate to Republican senators and congresspeople that he doesn’t want us to solve the border problem because he wants to blame Biden for it is really appalling.”
Despite the chaos of dramatically changing immigration policies after a decade, Indiana Sen. Mike Braun acknowledged that there is little hope for the bill’s passage now that Trump has weighed in.
“It’s probably done in the sense I don’t think the House is going to be for the end product, and I think it’s clear where the nominee of our party’s going to be,” he said.
Rob Samuelson is a writer who splits his time between Chicago and Asheville, North Carolina. He writes the Punk Rock Mister Rogers Substack blog.