Seven days after CNN offered a meltdown for the ages following President Trump’s Salute to America, The Situation Room was indignant on Thursday after Trump announced the Commerce Department would find another way to determine who in this country is here legally versus who isn’t. The panel on-hand blasted it as “nonsense” promoting “white identity” that will go over well at Fox News.
Senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson went first, observing that his belief that knowing who’s in America legally was political and thus “an echo of his campaign announcement speech” plus “long-held [beliefs] in conservative and right-wing sectors that illegal immigrants were here…doing bad things, and they meant harm to ordinary Americans, they vote illegally, they are getting benefits, and Democrats are shielding them.”
No word on whether Nia-Malika knows what sanctuary cities are and if she watched last month’s Democratic debates in which candidates expressed support for providing illegal aliens with health care.
Chief political analyst Gloria Borger admitted she was bothered by how Attorney General Bill Barr’s remarks were very “Dear Leader”-like in praising the President during what was “such a political speech from the Rose Garden” in which the President made clear that his “two enemies” are “the Democrats and the illegal immigrants.”
But the ante was upped by CNN legal and national security analyst Susan Hennessey. The former Obama official laid into the event as “absolutely nonsense” spinning not just lies but “a fantasy view” of the citizenship debate (click “expand”):
Borger replied with annoyance at the President’s “sarcastic” beginning about asking someone whether they’re a citizen and his remarks about the Pledge of Allegiance controversy in Minnesota.
Before host Wolf Blitzer concluded by ruling that the President has probably already cast doubt in the minds of some about the census, Henderson chalked up this long-standing practice of determining who’s a citizen (versus who’s not) to being “based on identity, white identity, race and gender and all sorts of things” that “will be perfect for his base” and Fox News.
Eye roll. Was Brian Stelter in the control room telling Henderson to work in that petty dig?
To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s The Situation Room on July 11, click “expand.”
CNN’s The Situation Room
July 11, 2019
5:50 p.m. Eastern
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: It is really an echo of his campaign announcement speech in 2015 — in June of 2015 when he seized on the idea — well, also, of the long-held in conservative and right-wing sectors that illegal immigrants were here and they were doing bad things, and they meant harm to ordinary Americans, they vote illegally, they are getting benefits, and Democrats are shielding them, and he essentially said that in this speech, and in many ways, this is sort of, I know that he gave his campaign launch speech, but in many ways, I think we will see what the campaign in 2020 is going to be about, and all of this idea is that American identity, and that people are sort of being advantage of, and — and you know, by these illegal immigrants, and their lives are made lesser by the illegal immigrants and this was him essentially — I mean, he was sort of hinting of a government registry almost of illegal immigrants and all of these problems, you know, that they’re voting illegally. The fact that there’s registry could combat it. So I thought it is a masterful speech in some ways that really, I think, tied together all of the negative ideas that exist about illegal immigrants, at least for —
WOLF BLITZER: And — and Gloria, the Attorney General Bill Barr explained in specific legal terms why the administration, why the president had no reason but to back down.
GLORIA BORGER: Well, he effectively said, if we had challenged this, we would have won. Of course, we would have won, because the Supreme Court didn’t say that we couldn’t challenge it, but there just wasn’t enough time. As a result, and there was a little bit of the dear leader in — in what the attorney general was saying, and the way he said “congratulation, Mr. President, for doing the right thing.” This is — you know, this — this is what the Commerce Department suggested in January of 2018. So they’ve gone through all of this chaos to get back to what was suggested to them well over a year ago and I — I think that this is such a political speech from the Rose Garden. It was, you know, the President saying that the Democrats are determined to conceal the number of illegal aliens in the midst, we will leave no stone unturned and over and over again talking about the Democrats, so he has two enemies: he has the Democrats and the illegal immigrants.
BLITZER: And, you heard, you know, Susan, then the attorney general blamed the Commerce Department for the whole problem because they did not do a good job of explaining the rationale before the Supreme Court.
BASH: With Wilbur Ross standing right there.
BLITZER: With the commerce secretary, who didn’t utter a word, but he was standing right next to the President as we saw.
SUSAN HENNESSEY: Well, look, this was — this was absolute nonsense from the moment that Trump started speaking to moment that Bill Barr started speaking, right? This was the United States government essentially standing up to admitting that their litigating positions, the representation they had made to the Supreme Court that they could not get the data elsewhere, they needed to put it on the citizenship question, and one phrase that we didn’t hear in that entire speech, including from the attorney general? The voting rights act. The government has claimed that they were invoking this because they cared about enforcing the Voting Rights Act, and so this really was sort of a, you know, utter capitulation and really trying to — to move the goalpost of the entire framing by suggesting that somehow whether the question here was whether or not they were entitled to count the citizens. No one ever said that the United States government wasn’t allowed to the count the number of citizens. The question is whether or not you could use the census to ask this and so once again this is trump sort of standing up and essentially lying, right? Giving a fantasy view of what is happening saying this is the real fight, and then declaring a victory. It’s — it was pretty astonishing to see.
BORGER: And the way it started with this sort of sarcastic, “are you a citizen? Oh, gee, I can’t answer — you can’t answer that question. They’re trying to erase the existence of the word citizenship.”
HENDERSON: They’re trying to erase you really is what he is saying.
BORGER: Yeah, that’s right and they’re coming after the pledge of allegiance in Minnesota and there — you know, you see the campaign refrain here.
BORGER: And it’s — it’s coming right from the — from the Rose Garden.
HENDERSON: Yeah. You know, it’s the culture war, right?
HENDERSON: And we — I mean, it’s based on identity, white identity, race and gender and all sorts of things. So, yeah, I think this will be perfect for his base. It’ll be perfect for Fox News.
BASH: And it has not stopped since 2015.
HENDERSON: Right. I think that’s right. This is what he’s been doping.
BASH: I mean, he has been saying this has been going on for four years.
BLITZER: And he may have gotten, though, part of what he wanted, cause a lot of people out who may be reluctant to answer the questions —
BLITZER: — when the individuals from the government census come forward and ask these kinds of questions.