Political News

Donald Trump's 'don't blame me' strategy extends to splitting immigrant families

Posted June 5, 2018 11:14 a.m. EDT

— The tough new "zero tolerance" immigration policy enacted by President Donald Trump has led to a general outcry about how the US treats undocumented children, separating them from their parents at the border.

Democrats in particular have been raising alarms about the policy, which Trump Cabinet officials say is just enforcing the law and should serve as a deterrent to illegal immigration.

But Trump doesn't want you to blame him for enacting the policy that literally divides families and places children in the custody of the government, potentially for extended period of time while their parents are prosecuted.

CNN documented the case of Maria Villatoro, a Guatemalan mother who said she fled deadly violence in Guatemala only to land in detention in Texas and has four children in detention, ranging in age from 2-20 and spread between California and New York. Read this story.

But it's not Trump's fault, he tweeted Tuesday, even though he enacted the policy. Blame the Democrats, who are saying it's inhumane, according to the President's logic: "Separating families at the Border is the fault of bad legislation passed by the Democrats," he wrote on Twitter. "Border Security laws should be changed but the Dems can't get their act together! Started the Wall."

Rep. Adam Schiff of California was having none of Trump's argument, tweeting in response, "Separating children from their parents as a 'deterrent' is a deliberate cruelty. Pretending the law requires it is cowardly nonsense. You own this horrific policy."

It's worth noting that this isn't the first time Trump has enacted a policy that caused a national (or international) outcry, and then tried to foist blame elsewhere.


The President unilaterally decided to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program put in place by former President Barack Obama to give children of undocumented immigrants long in the US a temporary protected status. Trump had routinely criticized the program in the past and started the process of ending it before Republican governors could sue to end it in courts. Republicans who control Congress could not fix the program within an arbitrary six-month deadline he set, although courts have since intervened and said he couldn't just end it the way he did.

But don't blame Trump! At least not according to Trump.

Back in Feburary, as his self-imposed deadline approached, Trump said to blame Democrats if there wasn't a deal in place to protect DACA recipients.

"The Democrats just aren't calling about DACA. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have to get moving fast, or they'll disappoint you again. We have a great chance to make a deal or, blame the Dems! March 5th is coming up."

March 5 came and went. It was actually Trump who scuttled a few bipartisan attempts to find accord. Remember the "sh**hole countries" episode?

Later, in April, he tried to blame Democrats again for not saving the program he canceled: "DACA is dead because the Democrats didn't care or act, and now everyone wants to get onto the DACA bandwagon... No longer works. Must build Wall and secure our borders with proper Border legislation. Democrats want No Borders, hence drugs and crime!"

The program is not entirely dead, by the way. Whether Trump can just end it like he did is still playing out in the courts even as a bipartisan effort to force a vote in the House on protected status, over the objections of conservatives and Republican leaders, is just a few signatures shy of what it needs.


Republicans promised for years that they'd repeal Obamacare. Trump said he'd replace it with something better. But they couldn't peel off any Democrats and they didn't have enough Republicans. It was a major failure for Trump and he has lashed out in turns at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. John McCain and Democrats after several attempts failed.

He blamed McCain for the failure in September 2017.

"You can call it what you want, but that's the only reason we don't have it, because of John McCain," he said on the Rick & Bubba radio show.

Trump also took the step of cutting off key payments to insurance companies, something expected to drive up costs and hurt stability in the market. Who is to blame for this action by Trump? Democrats, he said both after Republicans failed to repeal the law and then after he made the decision to cut off the insurance payments.

"Any increase in ObamaCare premiums is the fault of the Democrats for giving us a 'product' that never had a chance of working," he tweeted.

A few weeks later, Trump blamed Congress and McConnell for not getting the job done on Obamacare, and said he could understand why people like his former strategist Steve Bannon were trying to oust Republicans in primaries.

"But we're not getting the job done. And I'm not going to blame myself. I'll be honest, they are not getting the job done," he said during a Cabinet meeting.

Trump seems to have come around a bit on McConnell after the passage of his tax reform bill and after Bannon's efforts to target McConnell-preferred candidates cost Republicans a Senate seat in Alabama.

Travel ban

When a judge put a nationwide hold on his plan to halt immigration from certain majority-Muslim countries, Trump cast blame for anything bad that might happen in that period personally on the judge who made the order.

"Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!" he tweeted.

Trade agreements and trade deficits

Blame features prominently in a lot of Trump's foreign policy, too. He's repeatedly blamed past presidents -- from Reagan to Obama -- for negotiating what he says are bad trade deals and for failing to stand up for the US. This was before he started announcing a raft of new tariffs on goods coming into the US from Canada, Mexico, Europe and China.

Speaking in China, for instance, Trump said he didn't blame China for taking advantage of the US.

"I don't blame China," Trump said during remarks to business leaders inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. "After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for benefit of their citizens? I give China great credit."

Instead he blamed past US administrations "for allowing this trade deficit to take place and to grow."

He levied blame on his predecessors regarding the trade deficit with China again in April of this year at a Cabinet meeting.

And he blamed previous administrations for not doing a better job controlling Iran's nuclear ambitions as he pulled out of the international agreement the Obama administration put in place with the international community to control Iran's nuclear ambitions.

He had to pull out of it, see?