President Trump hardened his conditions for approving legal status for young immigrants brought to this country illegally, insisting on Wednesday that Democrats would have to back funding for a border wall and other security measures before he would approve new protections for them.
After a mid-September meeting with congressional Democratic leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, Trump had said he favored a targeted, bipartisan solution for the so-called Dreamers, until recently protected by an Obama administration directive called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that Trump began phasing out this month. "The wall will come later," he said then.
Earlier this week, his administration put forth a series of hard-line conditions Democrats strongly oppose, prompting Pelosi and Schumer to issue a joint statement suggesting he'd reneged on his tentative deal with them. Trump reiterated Wednesday that the wall — detested by Democrats, and some border Republicans — remained a priority before any DACA deal could be reached.
"If we're going to do something, we need to get something in return," he said during an interview with Fox's Sean Hannity that was conducted before a rally at the Harrisburg, Pa., airport, and broadcast on Fox later in the evening. Trump expressed some sympathy for the young immigrants, noting that many "don't speak the language of their country" since they came to the United States so young.
Still, he added, "if we're going to solve that, we want a wall and we want greater border security."
During the lengthy and fawning interview, Hannity repeatedly praised the president and Trump returned the favor, twice telling an audience gathered behind him about Hannity's ratings. "I'm so proud of you," the president said.
Hannity did not correct multiple falsehoods Trump uttered during the interview.
At one point, Trump repeated his claim that stock market growth since his election had significantly offset the national debt. Both at the rally and to Hannity he asserted that $5.2 trillion in increased stock evaluations negated part of the nation's $20-trillion debt.
The debt increased by more than $10 trillion during the Obama administration, he said, and the rising valuations "possibly picked up the whole thing." But those valuations do not serve to reduce the debt, a point neither Hannity nor Trump clarified. Also, much of the debt accrued under Obama owed to the recession he inherited, which slashed tax collections and increased automatic spending for programs like jobless aid, and to growing spending for Medicare and Social Security as the population ages.
Trump also repeated a regularly uttered falsehood about the ranking of the nation's taxes compared to other countries. "Right now, Sean, we are the highest-taxed nation in the world," he said.
Actually, the nation's corporate rate is among the highest in the world, but tax breaks significantly lower it for many companies. Also, the United States is 31st of 35 developed nations in the annual ranking of overall tax burden by the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
He also defended his tax plan using faulty math.
One of the elements of Trump's plan would void the current deductions for state income taxes, which would affect Democratic states like California and New York in particular.
Trump said that it was "unfair" for states that were "well-run" to subsidize states that were not.
"Those states" — he said, referring to Democratic bastions — "really are being subsidized by states like Indiana and Iowa. They're so well run and they're being penalized and it's not fair.
"It's finally time to say, 'Hey, make sure that your politicians do a good job of running your state, otherwise you're not going to benefit.'"
Yet the states Trump said were being penalized actually are subsidized by the Democratic states.
In a WalletHub list of states most dependent on federal dollars, California ranked 46th and New York, another donor state, ranked 34th. Such states have long given the federal government more in taxes than they have received back in services. Republican states, particularly those in the South, take more in services and subsidies than they pay in taxes.
Trump used the Hannity interview to renew vague threats against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — blaming, as he has before, his Democratic and Republican predecessors for failing to permanently curb the country's nuclear development.
Hannity asked whether Trump was thinking of North Korea when he commented last week, as he was surrounded at the White House by ranking military officers in their dress uniforms, that the gathering represented the "calm before the storm."
Trump essentially confirmed that he was sending a message about North Korea, although he was not specific about what that message was.
"We can't let this go on, we just can't," he said repeatedly. He asserted that "I'm really building up the military like nobody's ever seen," though he cited the purchasing of fighter jets that was in the works before he became president.
Although he had been the one to raise the topic to reporters during his meeting with the military officers, Trump declined to offer details Wednesday.
"I don't want to talk about it," he said. "I'm not saying I'm doing anything, but I'm not saying I'm not."
Trump also returned to a sore topic, healthcare. As he has since the failure of the Senate healthcare bill, he said that he was surprised at Arizona Sen. John McCain's no vote — a move that had been widely telegraphed by the Republican senator. He also continued to insist that Republicans have the votes to pass the measure, when even many Republicans say otherwise.
"We have the numbers now," he said. "We're going to get that."