The TAKE with Rick Klein
“This will solve the problem,” President Donald Trump declared, partially addressing a problem he created by signing an order he claimed he couldn’t sign, and by changing a policy his administration claimed wasn’t a policy at all.
The White House hasn’t addressed in detail how the 2,000-plus children now detained will be reunited with family members, or what facilities and conditions will be in place for the family-occupancy detention centers now required. The president pointedly didn’t end “zero tolerance” — criminal prosecutions for anyone apprehended trying to cross the border illegally.
He surely didn’t solve the broader issues of immigration, with the House poised to vote Thursday on competing proposals, neither of which is certain to pass. And he still made time for his own politics, appearing as scheduled Wednesday night in Minnesota to accuse Democrats of favoring “open borders.”
The president appears to be calculating that this will be the end of an ugly chapter. His hope is that his order and his claim to have fixed everything will be the final word — enough, even, to erase the disturbing images that led to this point.
Trump typically moves on as quickly as news cycles, and he’ll claim to have acted decisively and definitively.
But this episode proves a broader point: The White House was not able to create its own realities when confronted by a public outcry. Trump blinked because so much light was shining in his face.
The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks
One of the strangest aspects of the crisis at the border these last few weeks has been all the secrecy. Even members of Congress, let alone members of the press, were turned away for a time and denied access to government facilities.
“Where’s the transparency? Where’s the accountability?” Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto expressed in frustration to ABC News yesterday, describing the difficulty she faced getting any answers from the administration.
The president and most Republicans ran on the argument that federal agencies have serious flaws and need reform — that swamps need draining.
As such, it has been (and will be) hard to square skepticism of government with lines from administration officials telling the country to trust them as they detain minors.
Since 2014, state inspectors have reported a total of 246 “deficiencies” at 16 residential facilities in Texas owned by one company that houses immigrant children. That same company was paid nearly half a billion dollars by the Department of Health and Human Services so far this year.
As of Tuesday, there were 11,786 children in HHS care in total, including those separated from family members and those who crossed the border unaccompanied by an adult.
The president may want to dim the spotlight on the border as he ends the practice of separating families, but many questions remain about standards of care at detention centers, the lengths of stays, the private operation of these centers and the number of asylum cases accepted.
The TIP with Adam Kelsey
If some of the nation’s leading election-reform advocates have their way, Wednesday may be remembered as a turning point for the process by which Americans elect their leaders.
With much of the nation’s attention focused on the controversial separation of immigrant children from their parents at the southern border and on the efforts in Washington to partially remedy the situation, workers in Augusta, Maine, were quietly entering and certifying ballots for the first statewide utilization of ranked-choice voting in modern history.
After the leading vote-getters in Maine’s Democratic gubernatorial and 2nd Congressional District primaries each failed to receive a majority of the vote in last Tuesday’s election, the ranked-choice system went to work, winnowing the field by eliminating back-of-the-pack finishers and transferring votes to the second-choice candidate of those whose original selection trailed the field.
Maine Democrats ranked as many as seven candidates in the gubernatorial primary and four in the 2nd Congressional District race, allowing for the process to potentially continue for multiple rounds until one candidate is left with greater than 50 percent of the vote.
Ranked-choice voting has found a niche in several cities and local municipalities across the country, but after Maine elected nine of its previous 11 governors with less than a majority, the state voted via referendum in 2016 to institute the system. Ironically enough, while ranking candidates for the first time last Tuesday, the state voted a second time to approve the system’s continued use moving forward.
As for the results – as anticipated by several experts who noted that the candidate in the lead after the initial vote usually wins under the ranked-choice system as well – state attorney general Janet Mills eclipsed 50 percent after five other Democratic gubernatorial candidates’ votes were transferred over the course of three additional rounds, and state Rep. Jared Golden needed just one additional round and the elimination of two opponents to earn the additional 4 percent needed to reach a majority.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Indefinite family detention is not a solution to the problem. There is no way that we can in my mind indefinitely detain families as they go through their asylum process.” – Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., on Wednesday, following a meeting with senators about possible longer-term legislative solutions to address issues surrounding families separated on the U.S. border.
NEED TO READ
Trump says ‘We’re sending them the hell back’ as supporters repeat his false claims on immigration. Despite signing an executive order on Tuesday to end the practice of separating immigrant children from their parents, President Donald Trump doubled down on his hardline immigration rhetoric at a campaign rally in Minnesota. (Mariam Khan) https://abcn.ws/2llSHnl
Trump signs executive order he says will keep immigrant families together. Trump said he didn’t like the sight of families being separated, according to a pool report. He said the “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting everyone who tries to cross the border illegally would continue. (Jordyn Phelps and Meridith McGraw) https://abcn.ws/2JWvt5S
What’s next for children already separated from their families? Amid the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration, thousands of children were separated from their families, while parents were prosecuted under a “zero-tolerance” policy. (Geneva Sands) https://abcn.ws/2yuoBYf
Lawmakers struggle to agree on immigration fix ahead of House votes Thursday. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen met with House Republicans Wednesday to answer questions about the president’s new executive order ending immigrant family separation while also urging members to pass a legislative fix. (Ali Rogin, John Parkinson and Benjamin Siegel) https://abcn.ws/2ysXs7Y
Republicans aim to stop family separation with immigration votes Thursday. House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Wednesday that the House will vote Thursday on legislation to keep families together, trumpeting President Donald Trump’s pledged support for two measures that have yet to generate sufficient backing to pass. (John Parkinson) https://abcn.ws/2ysRTXe
Trump using kids as ‘bargaining chips’: Sen. Cortez Masto on Powerhouse Politics. The White House and Congress are pointing fingers, each calling on the other to fix the immigration crisis immigrant involving families at the southern border. One Democrat — Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto — blames the Trump administration for creating this crisis and exploiting detained children as “bargaining chips.” (Elizabeth Brown-Kaiser) https://abcn.ws/2JZn4yY
Some GOP Senate hopefuls betting on Trump’s immigration gamble. Republican candidates around the country have mostly steered clear of direct criticism of the Trump White House, and are making congressional gridlock the proverbial boogeyman at the center of the growing political and humanitarian crisis. (John Verhovek, Meghan Keneally and Christopher Donato) https://abcn.ws/2ytulBx
Russian trolls are meddling in US immigration controversy, a top GOP senator says. Russia trolls and bots are at it again, this time taking advantage of a roiling controversy around immigration and family separation at the U.S. border, a prominent Republican senator said. (Trish Turner) https://abcn.ws/2yvd7Us
For some Christian voters in Oklahoma, medical marijuana is a ‘moral issue’. As Oklahoma prepares to vote on medical marijuana legalization next Tuesday, some Christian voters in the deep-red state view the issue as a moral dilemma. (Meena Venkataramanan) https://abcn.ws/2lkWEZE
Michael Cohen resigns from RNC committee post, sources say. Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime confidant and former personal attorney, has resigned from his post as deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee’s Finance Committee, sources close to the RNC told ABC News. (Eliana Larramendia and Zunaira Zaki) https://abcn.ws/2JXNZew
The Associated Press reports that immigrant children – some as young as 14 – say they were beaten while handcuffed, locked up in solitary confinement and left nude in cells at a juvenile detention center in Virginia. The detention facility denies all allegations of physical abuse. https://bit.ly/2MaSzCK
The Atlantic describes a mass trial in a packed Texas courtroom where 85 immigrants were charged with illegal entry into the U.S. and sentenced together before one judge. https://theatln.tc/2K6rGlZ
The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.