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Trump Supporters Despair Over Possible DACA Deal

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Did President Trump strike a deal with Democrats over what to do about DACA? Well, it depends who you ask - also depends on what your definition of a deal is. DACA is the program protecting immigrants whose parents brought them into the country illegally as children. And yesterday, the president appeared to support legislation to protect DACA immigrants. He also appeared to signal he would back away, at least for now, from his campaign promise to build a wall on the southern border. Here's Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic leader who met with President Trump Wednesday night.

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NANCY PELOSI: We agreed to a plan to work out an agreement to protect our nation's DREAMers from deportation. We insisted that we would review border security measures that do not include building a wall.

KELLY: Well, reaction from President Trump's supporters was swift. Representative Steve King of Iowa told CNN yesterday that if President Trump changes his mind on amnesty, his base will leave him.

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STEVE KING: I've worked for 30 years to restore the respect for the rule of law, especially with regard to immigration. And we were on the cusp of doing that until the Trump announcement the other day on DACA. And now it looks to me like things are going downhill pretty fast. And we'd better put it back together, or the Republicans will be done in 2018 and 2020.

KELLY: Let's bring in Chris Buskirk. He runs the website American Greatness. He's close to former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. And he is a supporter of President Trump. He's in Phoenix. He joins us via Skype. Good morning, Chris.

CHRIS BUSKIRK: Good morning. How are you?

KELLY: I am well. Thank you.

So start there - is Congressman Steve King right that President Trump is at risk here of alienating his base?

BUSKIRK: Yeah, no. He's very much right about that. He's very much at risk of alienating his base. There is no issue - look, people who support Trump and his detractors alike - I think everybody agrees there is no single issue that is more associated with President Trump than immigration. And to the extent that he is even perceived as backpedaling or reversing course on promises that he made during the campaign and since he's been president, then, yeah, that is the type of thing that alienates the base. It has the potential to be a read-my-lips-no-new-taxes moment, if we want to go back to the '92 campaign and George H.W. Bush.

KELLY: Well, can you put your finger on what Trump's base might be most worked up about? Is it that the president maybe cut a deal, that, if he cut a deal, he's cutting it with Democrats, that he's maybe walking away from a campaign promise? I mean, what specifically?

BUSKIRK: Yeah. That's interesting. I mean, it is not the fact that he is cutting a deal with Democrats. I can tell you that categorically. If we look back at just last week - if we look at the deal that he struck with Chuck Schumer on raising the debt ceiling, most of the people that I know and that I heard from by email or just in conversation supported that. The Trump supporters thought that was a good idea. It was a good runaround what they perceive rightly, I think, as a do-nothing Republican Congress. So it's not that. It is really that this is an issue that is very close to to the hearts of the Trump base.

It is something that accounts for a lot of what he does in his overall agenda, which is this high view of citizenship. And so to the extent that he is viewed as backpedaling on that and breaking a promise, then, you know, when you break faith with people, you know, even if it's a little thing, it's a big thing, that leaves a mark. And that is a huge danger, huge risk that the president's running right now - is that he breaks trust with his - with the people who voted for him.

KELLY: And to your point that immigration is specifically a huge issue for the base, I saw you wrote in a piece yesterday - and I'll quote you to yourself - "amnesty is where Republican careers go to die." Explain.

BUSKIRK: Well right. I mean, look, this is - it's a big issue for the base. It is very important. And the base always feels like they're getting - that they're getting bamboozled, that they're getting told one thing before the election and that the people that they vote for with certain promises go and do something different once they are in office. And the example I used in that piece was Marco Rubio. This is somebody who campaigned in 2010 as being in favor of the rule of law in favor of enforcing immigration laws. And no sooner did he get to Washington than Chuck Schumer got him on board with the Gang of Eight. And that is why, in my view, his 2016 presidential campaign was stillborn. I think that killed his presidential hopes permanently because there is a large element of the base for whom that is just simply unacceptable.

KELLY: All right. That's Chris Buskirk. Chris, thanks so much.

BUSKIRK: Thank you.

KELLY: Chris Buskirk, publisher and editor of the site American Greatness - also a conservative talk show host in Phoenix. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.