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Trump as president-elect supported H-1B visas, says new book

Donald Trump had made the alleged abuse and fraud in H-1B visa system a major election issue during his election campaign.

world Updated: Jan 04, 2018 22:48 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,H-1B Visa,Indians in US
President Donald Trump turns to talk to the gathered media during a Christmas Eve video teleconference with members of the military at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP File Photo)

President Donald Trump and many of his senior officials and advisers are bitter critics of the H-1B visa programme that they complain is being abused to hand over American jobs to foreigners. Convinced of their case, they have proceeded to strangle it with restrictive rules.

But there was a time Trump believed American companies needed these visas. And he said so to media mogul Robert Murdoch – someone Trump admires and whose approval he has constantly sought – after a key meeting with tech industry titans at Trump Tower in December 2016.

Following the meeting, Trump called Murdoch, according to the upcoming book Fire And Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Asked how the meeting went, Trump said, “Oh, great, just great…These guys really need my help. Obama was not very favorable to them, too much regulation. This is really an opportunity for me to help them.”

“Donald,” said Murdoch, “for eight years these guys had Obama in their pocket. They practically ran the administration. They don’t need your help.”

“Take this H-1B visa issue,” the president-elect said, according to the book. “They really need these H-1B visas.”

When Murdoch suggested helping them on H-1B could go against his position on immigration and his base, an unconcerned Trump replied, “We’ll figure it out.”

After hanging up, Murdoch reportedly shrugged and swore about the president being a “f…… idiot”.

Trump went in a completely different direction later on H-1B issues. He ordered a review of the programme to prevent abuse and his administration has changed rules, or plans to, making it tougher to qualify for the visas and for holders to retain them.

A new plan, still being discussed, would deny extensions to holders awaiting their Green Cards (permanent residency), and could potentially lead to the deportation of an estimated 500,000 to 750,000 Indians.

Trump has said as a businessman, he used H-1B visas and during the Republican president debates, he acknowledged the need to keep talented foreigners studying in top schools and colleges in the US. But his position evolved to become what it is now.

The book, due out next week, portrays a picture of Trump as someone who was simply not prepared for the job. He was prepared to lose the race that he won. It contends that for him, losing would have been winning. When the verdict came, Trump and those around him were anything but overjoyed.

Soon after trends started showing Trump could win on election night, “Don Jr (the president’s eldest, Donald Trump Jr) told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears — and not of joy.”

Author Michael Wolff writes “a befuddled Trump” morphed into “a disbelieving Trump and then into a horrified Trump. But still to come was the final transformation: Suddenly, Donald Trump became a man who believed that he deserved to be, and was wholly capable of being, the president of the United States.”

Something he tends to remind everyone from time to time even now, tweeting about his victory, and how he won despite all odds, including “crooked” Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival whom he has continued to attack.

The White House of the initial months of the Trump presidency comes through the excerpts as thoroughly dysfunctional, torn apart by competing power centres led by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, erstwhile chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon.

There among the chaos was Trump’s daughter and, from all accounts, the favorite child, Ivanka Trump, who is said to have struck a deal with her husband — should the opportunity come by, she will run for president and become the first woman to hold the position.

First Published: Jan 04, 2018 16:21 IST