Trump names Robert O'Brien as next national security adviser
Right explodes in anger over Trump's immigration push
President Trump's supporters are apoplectic and lashing out at "Amnesty Don" for pursuing a deal with Democratic leaders to protect young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Only a week ago, Trump thrilled his base by rescinding an Obama-era order on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows about 800,000 young people brought into the country illegally to live and work without fear of deportation.
But the president quickly backtracked, reaching an agreement late Wednesday over dinner with Democratic leaders Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.)and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) that would extend protection to the so-called Dreamers in exchange for promises to enhance border security.
The trade-off does not appear to secure funding for Trump's promise to build a border wall, which was the cornerstone of his insurgent campaign and a primary reason why grassroots conservatives trusted him over the establishment Republicans in the first place.
The reaction from the right has been swift and merciless. Trump has backtracked on his campaign pledges before, but conservative immigration hawks like Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) warned that this deal with Democrats would do lasting damage.
Breitbart News, the pro-Trump outlet helmed by Trump's former chief strategist Stephen Bannon, ran a string of scathing headlines about the deal.
"Dems declare victory as Trump caves on DACA," said one. "Amensty Don trends #1 in D.C.," said another, referring to a nickname the right has given Trump on Twitter.
As Trump boarded Air Force One for a trip to hurricane-ravaged Florida on Thursday morning, a reporter shouted at him to ask if he supports "amnesty."
"The word is DACA," Trump responded.
He later pushed back on the criticism from conservatives.
"We're not looking at amnesty," Trump said. "We're looking at allowing people to stay here. ... We're talking about taking care of people."
But conservatives like Laura Ingraham, who has been considered for White House posts and will take over a primetime Fox News Channel slot soon, were at a loss to explain why Trump, who has fashioned himself as an expert dealmaker, would give away one of his most valuable bargaining chips without securing any meaningful concessions.
To many on the right, Trump is prioritizing DACA recipients, a prize constituency for Democrats, over his campaign promise to put American workers first.
"We tried this trade in 1986, and the result was the 12 million illegal aliens currently in the United States," said Rosemary Jenks, the director of government relations for NumbersUSA. "It didn't work then and it won't work now."
Trump has long struggled with what to do about DACA recipients, frequently conceding that there is a human element involved in deciding the fates of young people brought into the country illegally who know no other home.
On Thursday, Trump said he couldn't justify moving to "throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military."
But defending Dreamers as good people is an emotional hook often used by Democrats advocating for amnesty - something that was not lost on the right.
"Very odd," said Mark Krikorian, the executive director for the Center for Immigration Studies.
"Instead of shifting the debate to what trade-offs there should be to contain the harmful fallout from such an amnesty, he's simply echoing Chuck and Nancy's - and probably Jared [Kushner's] - talking points. My expectations for Trump were fairly low ... but he hasn't met even that low bar."
Trump on Thursday also pushed back against criticism he had gone soft on building a border wall, saying that a barrier is already being constructed.
Breitbart shot back with the headline: "POTUS says 'wall' is actually just renovation of old fences."
As the morning unfolded, the warning shots at Trump rolled in from his most loyal and vocal backers, like Fox News anchor Sean Hannity.
Jordan Fabian contributed