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Trump Affirms Tough Immigration Stance After Visiting Mexican President


Here's the question posed by Donald Trump's very unusual day yesterday. What's going on inside the Trump campaign? After hinting at a softening of his immigration policy last week then backing off that hint then meeting with the Mexican president, last night Donald Trump went to Phoenix, and in his speech there, the Republican presidential candidate affirmed the tough anti-illegal immigrant stance he's taken all year.


DONALD TRUMP: Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country. Otherwise we don't have a country.

SIEGEL: So if Donald Trump's take on immigration is unchanged in tone and substance, what were those contrary signals all about? Sean Sullivan as a politics reporter for The Washington Post. He's been following the Trump campaign and joins us. Hello, Sean.

SEAN SULLIVAN: Hi. How are you?

SIEGEL: First, am I missing something? Is there some substantive change in what Trump has to say about immigration?

SULLIVAN: There really isn't. I mean he returned to the tone and even in policy to what he was talking about during the primary. What he said in this speech was he basically wants to deport as many illegal immigrants as he can.

He's taking a really hardline stance to - on criminal illegal immigrants, so any suggestion that there was going to be a softening or that he was going to moderate his views at all I think proved to be wrong yesterday.

SIEGEL: Well, then what happened last week? I mean is this a carefully constructed triangulated strategy? Is it a conflict among his top aides, or is Trump just wandering off message for a few hours?

SULLIVAN: Well, I think there are allies and aides within the Trump orbit that want to see him moderate his views, that want to see him moderate his tone. They're looking at the same polling data that all of us are looking at. He's losing among moderates. He's losing among women. He's losing among minorities. So I think he is getting some advice that says, you need to change the way that you talk about these issues.

But at the same time, look at the people he's surrounded by when he's on the campaign trail - Senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama - hard-liner on immigration, staunch conservative on that issue. So he's hearing different advice from different people, and I think you're seeing that reflected in what he's saying.

SIEGEL: So it was last week the week of Kellyanne Conway, his new campaign manager?

SULLIVAN: I think you saw a lot more of her influence on this campaign last week and really in the last couple of weeks. She's somebody who comes from a polling background, so she can, you know, present polling data to Donald Trump and show him exactly where his weaknesses are in this electorate.

SULLIVAN: Just by announcing he was going to Mexico and then having a speech last night, he completely dominated cable news for all of yesterday.

SULLIVAN: It was remarkable to see the level of coverage. Even before he got to Mexico, for hours at a time, you had networks looking for any images of a plane landing even so. If his goal was to be covered, if his goal was to have attention heaped on him, he certainly accomplished that goal because as you said, this is all anybody was talking about yesterday. Hillary Clinton could barely get any attention, and the attention she got was when she reacted to Trump in a speech she gave in Ohio.

SIEGEL: Sean, thank you.

SULLIVAN: Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: That's Sean Sullivan, politics reporter for The Washington Post. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.