A White House that swept to power with hardline immigration rhetoric and kind words for Russia, on Wednesday expressed a willingness to work with lawmakers on an immigration overhaul, and said some existing sanctions on Russia should remain in place.
President Donald Trump has issued executive actions aimed at jump-starting a massive wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, stripping federal funding for so-called sanctuary cities, and banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
But his press secretary, Sean Spicer, indicated Wednesday the new president knows a soup-to-nuts overhaul of immigration policy requires him to sign legislation after both chambers pass it.
“I don’t think that anybody doubts the president’s concern or priority that is placed on immigration. He’s talked about … building a wall,” Spicer said.
“He’s talked about walking through the process and addressing DACA … in time,” referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program former President Barack Obama instituted to protect from deportation undocumented individuals brought to the United States as children.
Spicer, Trump’s top spokesman, said the president is “walking through this already both in terms of executive action, and then will continue to work through Congress,” he said.
Asked if the real estate mogul-turned-president intends to be involved in the border wall’s design, Spicer smiled wide and replied, “The president’s a builder.”
Trump plans to remain in “close touch” with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, whose agency will oversee construction and enforcement. The president intends to “make sure it meets his specs,” Spicer said.
On Russia, a country with which Trump wants warmer relations despite howls from congressional Republicans, Spicer said sanctions put in place on Russia over its annexation of Crimea should remain in place until Moscow gives up that part of Ukraine.
Another issue on which Trump might clash with his own party: historically black colleges and universities.
Trump intends to propose ramping up federal funding for historically black colleges and universities in his first budget request, Spicer said — though the White House has yet to say when it might send its spending blueprint to Congress. Trump believes those institutions have been “woefully” underfunded and ignored in recent years, he added.