- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 19, 2018

President Trump said Tuesday that he’s compelled to ‘take the children away’ from parents at the border in order to follow through on prosecuting illegal border jumpers, and blamed reporters for being complicit with human smugglers carrying the children to the border.

A defiant president, speaking to a small business group, unloaded on his critics in both parties who have said they are looking to stop separation of parents from their children at the border under Mr. Trump’s zero tolerance policy.

He also said he’s going to make changes to the House GOP immigration bill that leaders had hoped to put on the floor later this week.

And he defended the zero tolerance policy, saying he doesn’t feel there’s any choice.

“You have to take the children away,” he said.

The president portrayed the situation on the border as a choice between catch-and-release, where parents arrive with children and get released into the interior, or between his get-tough enforcement policy, which involves using the criminal law to charge people who jump the border.

“We don’t have to prosecute them, but then you’re not prosecuting them for coming in illegally. That’s not right,” he said.

Mr. Trump said the answer is for Congress to give him a third option: the ability to hold families in detention as a unit. That way they could be kept under custody for their deportation hearings, but they wouldn’t have to be separated while a parent went to jail.

The president has been taking incoming fire from all corners as congressional Democrats and Republicans are demanding he halt separations, potential 2020 opponents have blasted him for his approach, and the press has mangled its reporting of the situation.

Mr. Trump took particular aim at reporters Tuesday, saying their coverage has enabled human smugglers who are bringing the children on the treacherous journey to the U.S.

It’s not yet clear how Mr. Trump’s comments will play on Capitol Hill, but in the near term he may have complicated GOP leaders’ hopes of passing an immigration bill through the House this week.

Those leaders had overseen crafting of a compromise bill that would combine an amnesty for perhaps 1.8 million illegal immigrants with tougher border security and limits on avenues for future legal immigration.

Mr. Trump will visit with House Republicans later Tuesday, where he said he’ll get briefed on the bill and then will demand alterations.

“I’m going to make changes,” he said. “We have one chance to get it right.”

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