President Donald Trump walks to an interview on the North Lawn of the White House, Friday, June 15, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Latest: White House says Trump backs immigration bills

June 15, 2018 - 5:31 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on immigration (all times local):

5:30 p.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump does indeed support an immigration bill crafted by House leadership that he said he wouldn't sign in a morning interview.

Trump had said in the interview with "Fox & Friends" Friday that he was looking at two House immigration bills, but that he: "certainly wouldn't sign the more moderate one."

The comment prompted widespread confusion on the Hill as top congressional Republicans struggled to understand why the president would oppose a bill that would achieve his top objectives on immigration and that his team had helped craft.

But White House spokesman Raj Shah clarified Friday evening that the president had been commenting on the separate — and now abandoned — effort by moderate Republicans to push votes on other legislation.

He says would sign a more conservative version "or the leadership bills."

2:50 p.m.

Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson is criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions for citing the Bible to justify the government separating immigrant children from their parents.

Jackson says that in the past "the government tolerated lynching just like they tolerated slavery." The Chicago-based Jackson is a former Democratic presidential candidate and was speaking from the annual Rainbow PUSH Coalition convention.

Sessions cited a verse in the Book of Romans during a speech to law enforcement on Thursday. He said "I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order."

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Sessions' use of the Bible saying "it is biblical to enforce the law."


1:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump was confused when he said he wouldn't support a "moderate" immigration bill that aligns with his administration's own stated goals.

That's according to a senior White House official speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the president's thinking.

Trump ignited eleventh-hour confusion Friday when he said on Fox News that he was looking at two immigration bills expected to be voted on by the House next week, but that he "certainly wouldn't sign the more moderate one."

The official said the president believed the interviewer, Steve Doocy, was referring to a separate push by Republican moderates to force a floor vote on a number of immigration bills — not the comprise bill negotiated by the party's conservative and moderate wings, with the White House's input.

Associated Press writer Jill Colvin


11:20 a.m.

A leading House Republican says the chamber won't tackle immigration legislation unless President Donald Trump supports it.

Rep. Patrick McHenry is the House GOP's second-ranking vote counter. He made the comment Friday after Trump told reporters that he won't sign a "moderate" bill.

The remarks have ignited confusion. Republicans planned votes next week on a hard-right immigration measure and a middle-ground package negotiated between the party's moderate and conservative wings.

Many have viewed Trump's support as crucial if the compromise measure is to pass. The conservative alternative is considered to have no chance of passage.

McHenry tells reporters Republicans won't "take on immigration without the support and endorsement of President Trump." He says leaders are seeking "clarity" from the White House.


10:25 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he won't sign a "moderate" immigration bill written by House Republicans. His comment deals an apparent damaging blow to GOP lawmakers hoping to push legislation through the House next week.

Republicans have produced a hard-right immigration measure and a separate package negotiated by the party's battling moderates and conservatives.

Both bills have stringent border security provisions. Only the compromise measure offers a chance at citizenship for young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children.

Trump tells reporters that he's looking at both plans. But, he says, "I certainly wouldn't sign the more moderate one."

He also says he needs money to build a wall with Mexico. Both bills have that.

Trump's words are causing confusion among GOP leaders, who have said Trump backs the compromise.


12:25 a.m.

Congressional Republicans have distanced themselves from the Trump administration's policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border even as the White House cited the Bible in defending its "zero tolerance" approach to illegal border crossings.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said "it is very biblical to enforce the law." Attorney General Jeff Sessions had earlier cited the Bible in his defense of the border policy that has resulted in hundreds of children being separated from their parents.

The comments came as House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans said they were not comfortable with family separations.

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