President Donald Trump believed that ripping apart immigrant families and jailing babies would be a winning political issue for him, but instead the horrific policy blew up in his face.
Jonathan Lemire, the White House correspondent for the Associated Press, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that Trump enacted the policy -- which he later blamed on Democrats -- to intentionally ignite another political firestorm.
"In our reporting, he was telling people around him that he thought this would be a good cultural war, kind of victory here, akin to the NFL players kneeling for the national anthem," Lemire said.
The president and attorney general Jeff Sessions admitted they hoped the detained children would force Democrats to agree to fund a border wall, along with other Trump immigration priorities, but instead he signed an executive order to end the separations.
"We had days of the president saying this couldn't be done this way, that he would say, incorrectly, that it couldn't be done by executive order, that it had to by Congress," Lemire said. "It seemed like the White House was trying to pressure Capitol Hill so they would come up with some sort of solution so the president was not seen as having to reverse himself on this."
"Eventually he did cave to public pressure, and as much as the White House is trying to spin this as, this is sort of a benevolent act that Trump is ending what Obama started, and of course that's incorrect," he added. "This is something they changed."
Trump continued stoking anti-immigrant fervor during a campaign rally hours after signing the order, which he basically ignored.
"I think it's very striking last night at that rally in Minnesota how he makes barely a mention of this executive order which reverses the policy," Lemire said, "and instead spends so much of that rally really hammering home his very tough, hardline immigration stances, as if he sort of proving that his bona fides on that issue, the issue that he thinks got him the White House, the issue why he was willing to have this fight in the first place."