ABC led its Good Morning America coverage on day three of the government shutdown by sympathizing with Democrats over their plan to hold the government hostage until Republicans pass a spending bill with protections for DACA. Touting Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) blaming President Trump for not “negotiating” on the legislation, anchor George Stephanopoulos snapped at Sarah Sanders for suggesting that Schumer was playing political games over the spending bill.
“Do you really want to be questioning Senator Schumer's knowledge of this legislation?” he scoffed at the White House Press Secretary.
Before this, ABC laid the groundwork for the message they were trying to drive home, that President Trump was being an unreliable negotiator in giving Democrats what they wanted to reopen the government, and hundreds of thousands of “DREAMers'” safety was at stake, with their opening report from Mary Bruce.
GMA's Capitol Hill correspondent frantically worried that the temporary plan to reopen the government was “on track to fail,” all the while playing footage of illegal immigrant protesters in favor of the legislation. ABC then played an ad put out by Trump’s re-election campaign, that blamed Democrats for not wanting border security. One line in particular drew the ire of Stephanopoulos and White House correspondent Cecilia Vega.
“[T]he President keeping the pressure on the Democrats with a pretty startling ad,” Stephanopoulos gushed, before playing the commercial.
Amidst talk of how Trump would secure the border, the ad's narrator read: “Democrats who stand in our way, will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants."
Stephanopoulos immediately brought on Sarah Sanders and grilled her on this line, asking: “Is it appropriate for the president to say the Democrats could be complicit in murder?”
Sanders emphasized how national security was the President’s “number one job as Commander-In-Chief” and that border security in particular was the key issue that Trump ran on. Stephanopoulos quickly moved on to DACA, asking Sanders if Trump would “guarantee” giving Democrats what they want in order to reopen the government.
“Might make it more difficult to get negotiations with the Democrats going. Does the President support a guaranteed vote on DACA in the Senate, in the House in return for this extension of government funding?” he demanded.
“It’s outrageous that Democrats are holding are national security hostage [on DACA],” Sanders bristled. She added that Trump has been “clear” that he wants to make a deal on DACA so this is all a political show put on by Democrats.
“The fact that Democrats are trying to pretend as if that is something that we haven't already put on the table is just disingenuous and frankly a bit ridiculous,” she added.
Stephanopoulos then listed complaints from Schumer, Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell saying they were unable to “figure out what the president wants.”
“[M]aybe sometimes they're not paying attention,” Sanders shot back. Repeating again what President Trump wants in the spending bill, she added, “I don't know what’s confusing about that.”
The press secretary added a dig at Schumer, snarking, “I know that sometimes members like Senator Schumer need a little help and guidance getting through big policy negotiations like that... If they need help understanding it, we’d be happy sending some people over there to explain it to him.”
That set off Stephanopoulos who scoffed, “Do you really want to be questioning Senator Schumer's knowledge of this legislation?”
Sanders chuckled and admitted that she thinks this is more about Democrats “playing games” then not understanding what the President wants:
He wants to make it like this is the President's fault. And that the President has not been anything but clear. But he has. We've laid out multiple documents explaining and outlining exactly what we're asking for. Right now, first and foremost, we want to reopen the government. As soon as we do that, we're more than happy to start negotiations on responsible immigration reform and the Republicans are the only ones that have laid that out and laid it out in principle from the White House and in legislation by House Republicans.
But Stephanopoulos wasn’t done aiding Democrats in blaming Trump for the shutdown. He questioned whether Trump really did want to re-open the government:
If the President's top priority is getting the government reopened, why not call everybody down to the White House today? Democrats, Republicans together in the Oval Office? Back when President Obama was in office, that's exactly what Donald Trump was calling on him to do?
Sanders defended Trump as being “very engaged” in private meetings within the White House, making phone calls and trying to negotiate this deal “for several weeks:”
The President has had multiple meetings over the course of that time, bringing in Republicans, Democrats, laying out what we want. The thing I find so baffling is that Democrats support everything in this piece of legislation. The fact that they won't simply vote for it to reopen our government, fund our military, protect the most vulnerable children is mind-boggling, I think, to everyone across the country.
Stephanopoulos wrapped up the interview by asking Sanders if she thought the government would reopen today, to which Sanders replied, “I hope so.”