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Trump gives up the game he’s playing with Congress during Fox News interview

Trump admits he’s relying on the courts — not Congress — to change policy.

During an interview on Steve Hilton’s Fox News show on Sunday, President Donald Trump bragged about how rapidly his administration is getting stuff done. But he revealed a profound misunderstanding of how federal lawmaking is supposed to work in the process.

“We’re changing laws as rapidly as we can get them through the courts,” Trump said.

Congress, of course, is supposed to be in the business of “changing laws.” Courts, on the other hand, interpret them.

The trend of the executive branch cutting Congress out of the picture to make policy didn’t begin with Trump. Faced with gridlock in Congress, President Obama, for instance, used executive action to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012. But Trump has gone even further to circumvent lawmakers.

His latest Fox News interview was a typical affair in many ways. Hilton didn’t confront the president with tough questions, but instead let him riff in response to comments like “You still want that big infrastructure bill” and “Tax reform, tax cuts — we all agree it’s been an amazing boost to the economy.” Hilton didn’t push back on Trump when he said his new immigration plan has “tremendous details” without specifying a single one of them, nor did he note that Trump’s rejection of universal health care is directly at odds with the position he espoused during the 2016 campaign.

The president’s favorite network portrayed him in the best possible light. But the interview still revealed what Trump really thinks about working with Congress.

Trump has given up on dealing with Congress on legislation

Trump’s comment about “changing laws as rapidly as we can get them through the courts” came in the context of him touting the vague immigration plan he unveiled at the White House last week. While details of the plan remain unclear, as my colleague Dara Lind explained, the core of the proposal is restricting legal immigration “by cutting family-based immigration and focusing instead on the ‘merit-based’ immigrants Trump does hypothetically want to allow to settle in the US.” The proposal would also make immigration whiter by requiring prospective immigrants to have some level of English proficiency.

During the interview with Hilton, Trump expressed hope that “we can get enough Democrats to pull it together.” But it’s highly unlikely that any Democrats will support Trump’s new immigration plan. As Lind noted, White House officials have framed it as a “proposal we can unite Republicans around,” not something they expect to receive bipartisan support.

Instead of negotiating with Democrats to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, Trump has resorted to emergency declarations and executive orders — blowing up potential deals again and again. The emergency declaration he made earlier this year in hopes of using it to build his border wall faced its first legal challenge in a California courtroom last Friday, but Trump has already leveraged it to reallocate about $4.6 billion for the wall.

During another portion of the interview, Hilton brought up the possibility of doing an infrastructure bill. Trump said he still wants to do one but in the next breath indicated he’s unwilling to compromise.

“I also think we’re being played by the Democrats a little bit,” Trump said. “I think what they want me to do is say, ‘Well, we’ll raise taxes, or we’ll do this or this or this’ — and then they’ll have a news conference, ‘See, Trump wants to raise taxes.’ So it’s a little bit of a game.”

But if he isn’t willing to pay for an infrastructure bill, then there’s no chance of it getting done. And he doesn’t appear willing to pay for it.

Beyond immigration and the ever-elusive prospect of doing something on infrastructure, Trump doesn’t really have a legislative agenda to speak of right now. So in a sense, he isn’t lying when he says that he’s changing laws as quickly as courts will let him.

Trump won’t even let Congress conduct oversight

Not only has Trump seemingly given up on negotiating with Democrats, but these days he’s not even letting Congress conduct oversight of his administration.

The White House isn’t complying with subpoenas from House Democrats, nor is Trump letting some of his former aides testify. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) characterized the situation as a “constitutional crisis” because “the president is disobeying the law, is refusing all information to Congress.” As my colleague Ella Nilsen explained last week, Democrats are starting to consider new and untested options in hopes of forcing the White House to submit to lawmakers’ efforts to conduct basic, lawful oversight.

Trump doesn’t have a legislative agenda to speak of. He’s not allowing Congress to exercise its lawful oversight functions. So while he may have already made more than 10,000 false or misleading claims since taking office, his remark to Hilton about how he’s relying on the courts to make policies wasn’t one of them.

The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.

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