Trump Says Hard Work on Border Wall Shouldn’t Be Undone by Biden
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump celebrated the completion of sections of his border wall on Tuesday, an effort to burnish his legacy in his first public appearance since his supporters rioted at the U.S. Capitol last week.
Standing next to a finished section of new wall in Alamo, Texas, Trump told a small audience of mostly Border Patrol officers that Joe Biden’s administration shouldn’t be allowed to tear it down, and warned of new waves of illegal immigration into the U.S.
The speech was a bid to deflect attention from intense criticism of his behavior before and after the riot, as well as highlight what he believes to be one of his signature accomplishments.
“We worked long and hard to get this done,” Trump said. “They said it couldn’t be done.”
Trump added: “We can’t let the next administration even think about taking it down.”
Biden has pledged to stop construction of the wall but not to remove sections already built.
The trip is unlikely to overshadow fallout from last Wednesday’s riot, which left five dead, including a Capitol Police officer, spurring calls for Trump’s resignation or ouster, leading to his ban from social media and setting in motion U.S. House plans to impeach him again.
Trump said in Texas he’s at “zero risk” under the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which lays out a process for the vice president and president’s cabinet to remove him.
Trump has refused to step down, and Vice President Mike Pence signaled Monday he’ll spurn demands to immediately oust Trump, as the two met and agreed to work together for the remainder of the term, according to a senior administration official. It was the first time Trump and Pence had spoken since the president’s supporters stormed the Capitol while Pence was presiding over formal affirmation of their re-election defeat, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Speaking on Tuesday, Trump warned about undoing his immigration crackdown. If border measures are reversed “it would trigger a tidal wave of illegal immigration,” the president said.
“At this very moment, smugglers and coyotes are preparing to surge the border,” he said, without citing evidence. He said of migrants that his administration deported: “They may be murderers, they may be cartel heads, they may be some really vicious people. The countries didn’t want them back.”
Trump’s event had some trappings of his signature campaign rallies, including a playlist of disco standards before he spoke. But while his audience of border agents occasionally applauded, there was no throng of cheering supporters.
Trump made the Texas trip without one of the officials who has been leading the push to build more sections of the barrier in Trump’s final weeks in office. Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, resigned Monday, citing “recent events” including an ongoing court battle over his eligibility for the position. He did not specify whether the riot was a factor, and his statement lauded “strengthened border security” without mentioning the wall specifically.
Trump campaigned in 2016 with a promise to construct a wall along the southern border of the U.S., and that he’d make Mexico pay for it. That didn’t happen. The administration has built about 452 miles, though much of that has included replacing existing barriers. Trump financed the project in part by redirecting military spending without congressional authority, drawing a legal challenge.
Trump’s supporters may see symbolism in the president’s destination in Texas, though the White House said there’s no hidden message.
The city of Alamo shares a name with the historic site 200 miles north where some 200 revolutionaries held off a much larger force led by the Mexican leader Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna for 13 days in February and March 1836. The battle ended with the garrison annihilated but it helped inspire the Texans to defeat the Mexican Army about a month later.
Trump has repeatedly urged his supporters to “fight” the results of the election, telling them on Wednesday before the attack on the Capitol that “we fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Alamo’s city manager, Bobby Salinas, said in an e-mail that the town is named after cottonwood trees, “or ‘arbol de Alamo’ translated in Spanish,” that used to grow in the area but were lost to agricultural and residential development.
Salinas said in a statement that the town wasn’t officially notified about Trump’s trip. He urged protesters and supporters of the president to be peaceful.
Representative Vicente Gonzalez, a Texas Democrat, called on elected officials to boycott Trump’s visit. “This is a time for good ol’ South Texas-American pride to beam into our communities and to not allow ourselves to be used like an old rag by a modern day traitor,” Gonzalez said in a statement.
The Southern Poverty Law Center called on Trump to scrap the trip, saying people living along the border have been subject to violence inspired by Trump’s rhetoric.
“Rather than addressing his own culpability in the insurrection at our nation’s Capitol last week, Trump is seeking to divert attention by heading to the symbolic seat of his racist immigration agenda,” Efrén Olivares, deputy legal director of the center’s Immigrant Justice Project, said in a statement.
La Union del Pueblo Entero or LUPE, a community union founded by labor leaders Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta that represents low-income people in the Rio Grande Valley, called on local elected leaders to cancel Trump’s visit and said Monday it would organize a protest against what it called the president’s “reckless and dangerous political stunt.”
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