As much of the country was gripped Wednesday by horrific images from the mass shooting at a Florida high school, two dozen senior Trump administration officials worked frantically into the night to thwart what they considered a different national security threat.
The looming danger on the minds of the officials was a piece of legislation scheduled for a vote the next day in the Senate. It was designed to spare hundreds of thousands of young immigrants known as “dreamers” from deportation — but to the men and women huddled in a makeshift war room in a Department of Homeland Security facility, the measure would blow open U.S. borders to lawless intruders.
“We’re going to bury it,” one senior administration official told a reporter about 10:30 that evening.
The assault was relentless — a flurry of attacks on the bill from DHS officials and the Justice Department, and a veto threat from the White House — and hours later, the measure died on the Senate floor.
The Trump administration’s extraordinary 11th-hour strategy to sabotage the bill showed how, after weeks of intense bipartisan negotiations on Capitol Hill, it was the White House that emerged as a key obstacle preventing a deal to help the dreamers.
The episode reflected President Trump’s inability — or lack of desire — to cut a deal with his adversaries even when doing so could have yielded a signature domestic policy achievement and delivered the U.S.-Mexico border wall he repeatedly promised during the campaign.