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White House: Separation of migrant families at border is product of bad laws

Marc Short, White House Director Of Legislative Affairs, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss President Trump’s agenda, including a potential deal with the huge Chinese tech firm ZTE, the financial effects of the GOP tax cut, reports that migrant children are being separated from their parents and abused, and GOP divisions in the House of Representatives.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported earlier, the Trump administration has reportedly told members of Congress that it has reached a deal with the huge Chinese tech firm ZTE.

    For more on that, and the rest of the Trump agenda, I'm joined now by the White House director of legislative affairs, Marc Short.

    Marc Short, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

  • Marc Short:

    Thanks, Judy. Thanks for having me.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, on the ZTE story, we're hearing there's been a deal. But, as you know, when the president first announced there might be accommodation, a lot of pushback from members of Congress, especially Republicans, saying this is the wrong thing to do.

    We hear Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, saying this is a company that ignores U.S. laws, crushes U.S. companies with no mercy, spies and steals.

  • Marc Short:

    I think that there's no president who's going to be tougher on China than this president. This is president is going to make sure that they're no longer stealing intellectual property.

    And I think what you're going to see forthcoming from the Commerce Department are very significant penalties against ZTE, both financial, as well as governance and restructuring.

    But Secretary Ross will be making that announcement in the coming days. It's important to recall there's two different tracks here. One is the Commerce Department on the civil side. One is the DOJ investigation on the criminal side.

    There's a lot more to happen on ZTE, but rest assured this administration is going to make sure they're held accountable for their actions and making sure that there's no longer intellectual property theft.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, while we're talking about trade, let's turn to economy and to taxes.

    You, I think others, briefed some reporters today on plans for a potential tax cut proposal later this year. It's all about, as I understand it, making a middle-class tax cut permanent.

    But what I want to ask you, Marc Short, is, Bloomberg News is reporting today — and this is information that has been collected — the corporate tax cut that was passed last December has led to something like companies in the S&P 500 saving $30 billion in the first three-quarters of this year, is the projection, almost 50 percent of the total growth in these companies, in other words, an enormous growth in the profit margins of these companies.

    At the same time, individuals haven't seen a lot of change.

  • Marc Short:

    Well, actually, we're very comfortable with the growth that we're seeing. We think it's benefiting a lot of Americans.

    When you have unemployment at 3.9 percent, the lowest point in 18 years, the lowest historic number for African-American unemployment, the lowest ever for Hispanic unemployment, I think that the lowest unemployment claims in 44 years, a lot of it is driven by the growth of the tax plan.

    And over five million Americans have either received a bonus or wage increase since the tax plan was passed into law just six months ago. So we're confident the American voters and the Americans who are beneficiaries of this tax plan know that this is benefiting the economy and helping the economy grow.

    And, lastly, in April, we had the largest surplus on record in American history. That is a result of the growth and the revenues coming into the federal government because of the tax plan.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Are you — was it the administration's intention that companies get such a huge boost out of that tax cut? And are you concerned about Republicans saying they're worried about what all this does to the deficit?

  • Marc Short:

    Keep in mind that the reason for the corporate tax relief is that countries across the globe were reducing their corporate rates significantly below the American state — the United States.

    Therefore, jobs were leaving. Companies were relocating overseas. We are now basically in the median average. We're not that much lower than most countries. In many cases, the countries we're competing with, the most industrialized, are actually lower than the corporate rate of 21 percent we now have in the United States.

    So, absolutely, this was — it was absolutely part of our plan, and we think it's producing the growth that we wanted.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's turn to immigration.

    A couple of measures have been moving through Congress, keep running into stumbling blocks. The House of Representatives failed to move ahead on a farm bill that included some immigration proposals, a little complicated to explain.

    But has the White House taken a position on one of the immigration proposals that Republicans are looking at?

  • Marc Short:

    Judy, we have taken pretty vocal positions about what we want to see on the immigration front.

    And the president's been clear. He wants to find a permanent solution for the DACA population. He believes that they're working. Obviously, getting a DACA permit, they have to be abiding by the law in this country and they're productive.

    And we should provide a permanent solution for them. At the same time, we're trying to get security for our border. And that's basically the marriage that we need to make sure that there's a plan. And we are continuing to work with the House of Representatives. We tried a plan in the United States Senate.

    I think immigration is an incredibly political issue, and, unfortunately, it's often not driven by what's in the best interest of the country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You mentioned DACA, which of course the children of undocumented immigrants.

    But in connection with that, right now, there is stepped-up enforcement and prosecution of people coming across the border. There have been some stories about this in the last few days, families coming across, children separated from their parents, reporting that some of these children are being treated very badly, abused.

    Is the administration comfortable with what the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice are doing in how they address, how they treat these families?

  • Marc Short:

    We believe that Secretary Nielsen and the attorney general are doing a great job on helping us secure the border with the limitations they have on them.

    In many cases, the separation of the child and the parents is something that's produced because our laws are so bad, they tie the hands of the secretary of homeland security. When you have things like catch and release that force you, when someone comes inside our country and is apprehended, you are forced to release them with an assumption they're going to show up for a court date at a later time.

    These laws are ridiculous. And you have heard the president make his case for them. There's also laws about other than Mexicans, so that if you're Mexican, there's one set of rules. And if you're coming from Guatemala or El Salvador, there's a totally different set of rules that allows them to establish asylum.

    It's ridiculous. We need to fix it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But are you comfortable, because some of these stories are just — I think people are saying, this is just unconscionable, the way these kids, children are being treated.

  • Marc Short:

    In many cases, these stories are investigated, and I think that what Secretary Nielsen and also HHS has a role here in making sure they're provided with the right protection, particularly for the children.

    We're taking every step we can to make sure that it's done as humanely as possible.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I want to come back quickly to the Trump agenda in the Congress. As I mentioned, the House of Representatives having a lot of difficulty passing that farm bill a few days ago under the leadership of Paul Ryan, who has announced he's ending — he's retiring later this year.

    He's a lame duck, essentially. Are you concerned the president's agenda, that you can get anything through in these divided times among Republicans in the Congress?

  • Marc Short:

    Judy, we have actually had a quite historic record over 17 months.

    It's not just the tax relief you talked about. It's also repealing the individual mandate. It's confirming more circuit court judges at this point than any administration before. It's providing the largest military increase in the history of our country.

    It's also providing additional funding for border security, the first new funding for a wall in 10 years. It's providing a 10 percent increase in ICE.

    There's been quite a bit of significant legislative accomplishment that's been achieved. Unfortunately, the media is too often covering the ups and downs inside the White House and the palace intrigue, and not focused on actually what we're accomplishing for the American people.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you think you will have a better shot at getting what you want, at Republicans getting their agenda if, once Paul Ryan leaves, say, a Freedom Caucus member is elected speaker of the House, assuming the Republicans keep control?

  • Marc Short:

    I think the president enjoys great relationships with Jim Jordan, with Mark Meadows, members of the Freedom Caucus. He has a terrific relationship with Kevin McCarthy and also a good relationship with Speaker Ryan.

    We will make sure that we're able to continue to produce for the American people either way.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Marc Short, White House legislative director, so much to ask you about. We will have you back again.

  • Marc Short:

    Thanks, Judy. Thanks for having me on.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thank you.

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