01:00 - Source: CNN
Trump 'fairly close' to a DACA deal with Dems

Story highlights

President Donald Trump spoke with Democratic leader about immigration Wednesday

Democrats suggested an agreement had been met though no deal was finalized

WH meeting "was a discussion, not an agreement or a negotiation"

Washington CNN  — 

Republican leaders in Congress were cautious Thursday morning to avoid admonishing their President for negotiating with Democrats, maintaining there’s not yet a deal on immigration – a sensitive political issue that has divided the GOP for decades.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Trump’s meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday night “was a discussion, not an agreement or a negotiation.”

“First off, there’s no agreement,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “The President and the chief of staff called me from Air Force One today, to discuss what was discussed – and it was a discussion, not an agreement or a negotiation.”

Ryan said he’s going to continue discussing with his fellow Republicans to find a proposal they can get behind.

“So what we’re going to do is get our consensus, and we’re having the conversations with our members right now,” Ryan said. “While we negotiate a compromise – which, there will be a compromise, we believe this will occur. And this compromise will include border security and enforcement so that we don’t wind up with another DACA problem 10 years down the road.”

Reports from the dinner revealed that Trump had spoken candidly with Democrats about the path forward to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipients, a program that Trump said would end after six months. Democrats said in a statement after the dinner that Trump had agreed to protect DACA recipients in exchange for border security. The border wall, however, would not be part of those negotiations. Trump’s team pushed back on the characterization arguing that no deal had been struck.

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The confusion put Republican leaders in a precarious position. After waiting eight years for a Republican to be elected to the White House, Trump was negotiating with Democrats without Republicans even in the room.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said Democrats misinterpreted what they got out of the meeting.

“As vigorous as the Democrats were, they were evidently wrong in their interpretation of the meeting, which obviously I’m happy for,” Grassley said.

Ryan said it’s “right and proper” for Trump to meet with Democrats, but that he had been speaking to the President about DACA for weeks.

“You cannot fix DACA without fixing the root cause of our problem,” Ryan said. “We do not have control of our borders. So we need border security and enforcement as part of any agreement. I think that’s something the Democrats are beginning to understand. I think that’s something that they are beginning to agree with.

In brief comments to reporters Thursday morning, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said that he would wait until he heard all that happened t the dinner meeting between Trump and Pelosi and Schumer.

“He’s President,” McCarthy said. “He can meet with anybody.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a vague statement Thursday morning promising to continue to work on the issue of DACA and border security.

“As Congress debates the best ways to address illegal immigration through strong border security and interior enforcement, DACA should be part of those discussions,” McConnell said. “We look forward to receiving the Trump administration’s legislative proposal as we continue to work on these issues.”

Sen. John Cornyn, the Republican whip in the chamber, told reporters that what he’s heard so far sounds like a “deal to make a deal.”

“There is no deal currently made. And, of course, there are 535 members of Congress who will take part – part of this conversation, and I know people have a lot of interest in discussing it. But, for myself, I believe that there is a solution, but it has to start with border security and enforcing our immigration laws.

CNN’s David Wright, Phil Mattingly and Laurie Ure contributed to this report.