Photo: William Moon

Press Secretary Sander addresses immigration, McCabe, the Nunes memo, and black unemployment in a press briefing on Jan 29.

During a White House briefing on Monday, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders addressed “the framework for responsible immigration reform” that the White House released over the weekend. In addition, she answered questions regarding the president’s upcoming State of the Union Address, the resignation of the Deputy Director of the FBI, the Nunes memo, and black unemployment.

Trump’s Immigration Proposal

The White House released a long-awaited immigration policy over the weekend that, according to Sanders, is a “framework for responsible immigration reform that will protect our people, put the interests of American workers first, and provide a permanent solution to DACA.”

The framework’s four pillars include border security, DACA legalization, ending extended family chain migration, and eliminating the visa lottery. The legislation includes a 10-12 year path not only for current dreamers, the roughly 700,000 people brought illegally to the US as children currently protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, but also other “DACA-eligible illegal immigrants.” An estimated 1.8 million people are expected to benefit from this change in policy, according to the White House.

Trump’s proposal also includes plans to build the border wall between the US and Mexico, though it clarifies that the wall will be a “combination of physical infrastructure, technology, personnel, [and] resources,” and not just a physical structure that stretches from coast-to-coast.

The current legal immigration system will also see a sweeping change is its policies, with priorities extending “to spouses and minor children only,” and an elimination of the visa lottery system which the proposal describes as “riddled with fraud and abuse.”

Sanders, claiming that the proposed legislation is “moving us toward a merit-based system of immigration,” said that the White House is looking forward to working with Congress to pass and sign the new policies.

Trump’s First State of the Union Address

President Trump will deliver his first State of the Union Address tomorrow, the theme of which will be “Building a safe, strong, and proud America.” According to Sanders, this is exactly what Trump has worked to do during his first year in office.

Guests sitting in the First Lady’s Box, a tradition of the State of the Union Address, will include first-time homeowners who have benefited from the Trump tax cuts, a police officer and his wife who have adopted a baby from parents who suffered from opioid addiction, a fire technician, and two parents whose children were murdered by gang members, among others.

“Some of these individuals’ stories are heroic,” Sanders said after reading off the long list of guests expected to sit in the First Lady’s Box, “some are patriotic, others are tragic. But all of them represent the unbreakable American spirit, and will inspire our nation to continue growing stronger, prouder, and more prosperous.”

The Abrupt Resignation of Andrew McCabe

Press Secretary Sanders then took questions from the press. The first one put forward inquired about Andrew McCabe, the Deputy Director of the FBI, who had resigned earlier that day, and the White House’s reaction to the news.

Sanders asked reporters to refer to the FBI for any specifics regarding the resignation and stated that “none of this decision was made by that of the White House,” and that “the President wasn’t part of this decision-making process.”

Mr McCabe, 49, was expected to step down from his post in March upon becoming eligible for his pension, but instead chose to step down ahead of his official retirement date. McCabe’s abrupt resignation has raised concern over whether there was pressure from the president and White House involved in the decision.

President Trump has reportedly asked McCabe after he become acting FBI director for a short time in 2017, who he voted for in the 2016 presidential election according to a report by the Washington Post. President Trump has denied the interaction, but current and former officials have confirmed its veracity. According to the Post, McCabe told the president he did not vote.

There has been a lot of tension speculated between Trump and McCabe, especially in light of the Trump-Russia investigation led by the FBI. Trump has also repeatedly turned to Twitter to insult McCabe, tweeting his indignation with McCabe’s charge of the Clinton probe when his wife, who had run for state office in Virginia in 2015, had received donations from an ally of Hillary and Bill Clinton.

“How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin’ James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $700,000 for wife’s campaign by Clinton Puppets during an investigation?”

Trump has also ridiculed McCabe’s decision to stay in his post until his official retirement date:

“FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go?!!!”

When asked about speculations that “multiple officials at multiple levels” were being pressured by the White House and by the President since Trump came into office, Sanders emphasized that “the White House has been fully cooperative, and is going to continue to be fully cooperative [with the Special Counsel investigation].”

“The White House has provided over 20 witnesses and tens of thousands of pages of documents to the Special Counsel,” Sanders continued. “We have done everything we can to be fully transparent, and we’re going to continue to do that throughout the process.”

The Nunes Memo

The Nunes memo is a classified Republican-written memo that examines how the FBI inspects suspects in national security investigations. According to Republicans, it shows the corruption of the FBI and the abuses in their surveillance. Democrats say the memo was created in order to undermine the legitimacy of the Special Counsel investigation and is a distorted attack on the Trump-Russia probe.

On Monday, the House Intelligence Committee voted to publicly release the four-page memo written by House Select Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes. President Trump has five days to decide whether to allow the public release.

No one at the White House has actually seen the memo, according to Secretary Sanders. “It would be hard for us to make a decision or to speak about it before that would take place. Right now, we’re letting the House process play out. And if and when it’s time for the White House to weigh in, we’ll do that through the proper protocol, making sure we follow legal process. But again, we’re not to that point in the process yet.”

Black Unemployment

President Trump has repeatedly pointed the decrease in black unemployment since he took office as proof against allegations of racism directed towards him.

Earlier this week, the president decided to tweet, “Somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, Black Unemployment has just been reported to be at the LOWEST RATE EVER RECORDED!” in response to Jay-Z’s comments regarding the president on the premiere of CNN’s “The Van Jones Show.”

On the show, Jay-Z stated that he didn’t believe Trump was listening to the voices of the black community, despite continuing the unemployment trends of the Obama administration before him.

“There was a bull market under Obama,” stated Jay-Z. “He [Trump] kept that going, maybe accelerated it. Unemployment was coming down. He kept that going. Great. But you’re not listening to the voices of the black community who say that’s not enough to make up for S-hole countries. That’s not enough to make up for insulting black football players, saying all of our communities are terrible.”

Secretary Sanders responded that the president took issue with Jay-Z and wrote the tweet in all caps because “they’re [employment rates] better than they have been. And we’re certainly making progress and we want to continue to do that.”

“Look, we want every day to be better than the day before,” Sanders continued. “And again, certainly for black Americans, for Hispanic Americans across the board, this is a President who wants life to be better for all Americans and he’s going to keep fighting and pushing for that.”

Yeji is covering the White House.

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