WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Republican lawmakers and President Donald Trump searched anxiously Tuesday evening for a way to end the administration’s policy of separating families after illegal border crossings, with their focus shifting to a new plan to keep children in detention longer than now permitted — but with their parents.
GOP House leaders, increasingly fearful of voter reaction in November, met with Trump for about an hour at the Capitol to try to work out some resolution.
“We had a great meeting,” he called out as he left, but he gave no other information on possible progress.
The meeting came as lawmakers in both parties complain about the administration’s “zero tolerance” approach to illegal border crossings, in particular the separation of families at the southern border.
Audio published by the investigative nonprofit Pro Publica was allegedly taken along the United States’ southern border. Civil rights attorney Jennifer Harbury says she received the audio from a whistleblower who says it was recorded last week.
CBS News hasn’t been able to independently confirm the authenticity of the recording.
“It’s where children have been brought after they were separated from their parents,” Harbury said.
Newly released numbers from the Department of Homeland Security show over 2,300 children were separated from their parents at the border from May 5 to June 9.
Democrats have said that the administration do something to keep migrant families together. Republicans are increasingly joining Democrats in that call.
“All of us are horrified by the images we’re seeing,” Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said. He’s introducing a Senate bill that would reunite separated families. authorize new temporary shelters to house them, and double the number of federal immigration judges to work through a backlog of asylum requests.
“The president alone can fix this with the flick of a pen,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “If you don’t want to change this cruel policy, at least admit that it’s your decision.”
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said the Trump administration’s policy is “an affront to the decency of the American people” and contrary to principles and values upon which the nation was founded.
McCain tweeted Monday night that the administration has the power to rescind this policy and “should do so now.”
Speaking before a group of independent business owners where he at one point embraced the American flag, the president touched on the subject.
“When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally, which should happen, you have to take the children away,” Trump said. “Now, we don’t have to prosecute them, but then we’re not prosecuting them for coming in illegally. That’s not good.”
The president says there are also a large number of adults fraudulently posing as family members of children at the border to get in, and it must be addressed.
“Smugglers learned the loopholes in this horrible, rotten system that the Democrats have to help us fix,” Trump said.
The president said it was up to Congress, not him, to stop the family separation crisis.
Tuesday’s meeting comes amid more fallout from the investigation into how the FBI handled the Hillary Clinton email case. FBI Agent Peter Strzok was escorted from the FBI building as he awaits possible disciplinary action over anti-Trump text messages which, for a second day, Republicans hammered away at.
The department’s internal watchdog released a report last week criticizing the FBI’s probe into Clinton’s emails but said political bias did not affect the outcome of the investigation which cleared her.
Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page worked on the probe and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. they were then assigned to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, but were removed when the texts were discovered.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)