Shock: ABC Grills Obama on Executive Order Flip-Flop

In a surprising twist, ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday grilled Barack Obama for flip-flopping on whether he has the legal authority to issue an executive order on immigration. Before playing a clip of Jon Karl pressing White House press secretary Josh Earnest, George Stephanopoulos pointed out: "...The President has suggested in the past that he doesn't have the kind of power to do this on his own."

Karl agreed, noting that Obama "has repeatedly said in some very colorful ways that he doesn't have power to do it." The report then featured a February 2013 clip of the President admitting, "I'm the President of the United States. I'm not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed." 

In Tuesday's press briefing, Karl demanded: 

KARL: Does the President still stand by what he said last year, when he said, quote, "I am not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed." Is that still operative?  
 
JOSH EARNEST: Absolutely. 

KARL: Not a king either?

EARNEST: That's right. 

Although GMA only had time for the above exchange, Karl got even more specific. According to the WhiteHouse.gov transcript page, he pushed: 

KARL: Because he was asked very specifically about the idea of expanding the deferred action executive order for the DREAMers to their parents.  And he said, September 17th of last year, to Telemundo, very clearly, "if we start broadening that, then essentially I would be ignoring the law in a way that would make it very difficult to defend legally, so that is not an option."  Is that still operative, when the President said specifically that expanding the DACA executive order is not an option because it would be ignoring the law.  Does he still believe that?

In addition to the February 2013 example, there are at least three other examples. On January 31, 2013, he talked to Univision and said, "I’m not a king. I am the head of the executive branch of government. I’m required to follow the law."

So far, only ABC and Fox News are focusing on this executive order flip-flop. (ABC's This Week on Sunday also played a clip of the President's older comments.)

Karl often asks tough questions of the White House, but, unlike on Wednesday, they usually are ignored by his network. In August, he demanded to know if Obama was an "imperial president." ABC banished the query to a show on 4am, keeping it away from World News, Good Morning America and Nightline. 

On September 29, Karl grilled Earnest over the claim that al Qaeda has been "decimated." ABC ignored it and it was only Fox News that played footage of the reporter's tense exchange. 

A transcript of the November 19 segment is below: 

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to move now to the battle over immigration. President Obama poised to issue an executive order any day now. A move that could provide new protections for millions of undocumented immigrants and one that his critics are calling a power grab that’s going to poison the well for any cooperation between the White House and Congress. ABC's Jon Karl is tracking all the latest from the White House. Good morning, Jon. 

JONATHAN KARL: Good morning George. I am told the President could issue this executive order as early as tomorrow. This would be a far-reaching action that could grant legal status to up to five million people that are here in the United States now illegally. The biggest group, George, to be affected would be undocumented immigrants who have children who are American citizens or who otherwise have legal status. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now Jon, the President has suggested in the past that he doesn't have the kind of power to do this on his own. 

KARL: Immigrant groups have been pushing him to do this for years. And he has repeatedly said in some very colorful ways that he doesn't have power to do it. 

BARACK OBAMA: You know, I'm the President of the United States. I'm not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed. 

KARL: Does the President still stand by what he said last year, when he said, quote, “I am not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.” Is that still operative?  
 
JOSH EARNEST: Absolutely. 

KARL: Not a king either?

EARNEST: That’s right. 

KARL: But what the President says – theWhite House says has changed is the President’s view on what he can do legally when it comes to immigration. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: And they say they do have the legal basis for it. We’ll see what happens in the next couple of days. Jon Karl, thanks very much. 

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