WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump sought to reassure his camp of his conservative bona fides on Friday (Sep 15) after embracing a deal with opposition Democrats that would allow hundreds of thousands of young immigrants illegally brought to the United States as children to stay.
After being pilloried by Republicans furious at his seeming retreat from a pledge to curb illegal immigration, the president weighed in on a host of red-meat issues - political correctness, terrorism and racial tensions - aimed at assuring his base that he was not going soft.
No final deal has been reached, but Trump's agreement to work with Democrats to find a way for the 700,000 immigrants known as "Dreamers" to remain in the country legally has roiled his political base.
Last month he earned praise from conservatives for rescinding an amnesty decreed by his predecessor Barack Obama, which shielded the young immigrants from deportation.
But in setting a six-month deadline for the full repeal of the scheme known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, he also urged Congress to use the time to craft a permanent solution for the Dreamers.
Two days after huddling with top Democrats at the White House, Trump reminded Americans Friday of his intention to tighten the country's borders, warning lawmakers not to give a US foothold to future immigrants intent on entering based on family connections, rather than skills.
"CHAIN MIGRATION cannot be allowed to be part of any legislation on Immigration!" Trump boomed in a tweet.
Analysts have reportedly told Congress that granting citizenship to the Dreamers may open the door to as many as 1.5 million other immigrants, such as their relatives abroad or the parents who illegally brought them to the United States.
Congressman Mark Meadows, who chairs the far-right House Freedom Caucus, told USA Today that "we're coming up with legislative proposals that we believe would get a lot of conservative support."
Democrats are seeking legislation that would enshrine the DACA protections, and lead to citizenship.
Perhaps aware of conservative opposition, Trump pushed back. "We're not looking at citizenship, we're not looking at amnesty," he said.
Trump also seized upon Friday's train attack in London to renew calls for his controversial travel ban on travelers from several predominantly Muslim countries, which is the subject of fierce legal battles and is currently before the Supreme Court.
"The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific - but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!" he tweeted.
'PROACTIVE AND NASTY'
Returning to the fiery national security rhetoric that helped fuel his campaign, Trump blasted "loser terrorists" for the London attack, and signalled he wanted harsher penalties.
"Perhaps we're not nearly tough enough" on terrorists, he told reporters.
He also sought to portray his administration as more successful in tackling Islamic State extremists than his predecessor.
"We have made more progress in the last nine months against ISIS than the Obama Administration has made in 8 years," he tweeted. "Must be proactive & nasty!"
Friday's tweet storm also saw the president return to a favorite punching bag: the US media, namely the sports network ESPN, whose anchor Jemele Hill labeled Trump a "white supremacist" over his equivocal reaction to racially-charged violence in Charlottesville last month.
The White House has slammed her comments as a "fireable offense."
"ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming)," Trump tweeted. "Apologize for untruth!"
Most Americans disapprove of Trump's failure to clearly hold white supremacist groups accountable for the violence in Virginia that ended with the death of a counter-protester.
But while Gallup's latest poll putting his disapproval rating at 56 per cent, the president has maintained relatively solid support among white males - a key part of his political base.