The subject of the meeting was prison reform, but that didn't stop President Donald Trump from taking the opportunity — twice — to instead praise Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Thursday for a Texas-led lawsuit to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Trump — whose administration promised in September 2017 to end the Obama-era immigration measure but who has also expressed sympathy for “Dreamers” — made it clear he endorses the high-profile lawsuit, in which several members of his administration are named defendants.
“Ken just filed a very interesting lawsuit,” Trump noted while introducing his guests at a Thursday afternoon roundtable at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The 10-state challenge to DACA, Trump said, “is going to be very successful. I hope it’s going to be very successful.”
Paxton, one of two attorneys general at the meeting of about a dozen state and federal officials, smiled from the other end of the table.
At the end of the meeting, after Paxton gave a few comments about criminal justice reform efforts in Texas, Trump cut in again to inquire about the lawsuit’s status.
"We had a hearing yesterday, and I think it went quite well," Paxton told the president. "We'll see what the judge says, but we're right on the law and right on the Constitution. I'm confident that things are going to go the right way.""It's true," Trump replied.
Trump’s Department of Justice has declined to defend DACA from the Texas-led coalition asking a federal judge to declare it unconstitutional. But the president himself has vacillated somewhat on the issue, saying that the some 800,000 DACA recipients are in the country “through no fault of their own.”
Several federal judges have stymied the Trump administration’s efforts to phase out the program. Legal experts say that if U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen enjoins DACA, as Texas asked him to at a hearing in Houston on Wednesday, the case is likely to land quickly at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Paxton, along with U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, also attended a Trump roundtable in March. At that discussion, focused explicitly on immigration reform, Trump praised Texas for being “at the forefront” of immigration policy.
And the president has endorsed both Paxton and his wife, Angela Paxton, an educator who is running for a Dallas-area state senate seat.
“Attorney General Ken Paxton, tremendous guy,” Trump said at a Dallas National Rifle Association event in May. “And by the way, Ken, you have my full endorsement.”