As the partial government shutdown enters its 20th day, President Donald Trump is traveling on Thursday to the southern border for a trip that amounts to a photo op even he admits is pointless. Before taking off, he held a question-and-answer session with reporters that was remarkably vitriolic, even by his standards.
Over the course of roughly 15 minutes, Trump poured scorn on several groups of people — including Democrats, the media, and undocumented immigrants. For the second-straight day, he also undercut the case he’s trying to make that the situation at the border warrants a national emergency declaration.
“I find China ... to be far more honorable than Crying Chuck and Nancy”
A day after his failed meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Trump unfavorably compared the Democratic leaders to the leaders of the Chinese government — a remarkable thing for the head of the American government to do.
“I find China, frankly, in many ways, to be far more honorable than Crying Chuck and Nancy,” Trump said, using his preferred insult for Schumer. “I think that China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party.”
Later, Trump accused the Democrats of not caring about crime, and used grisly descriptions of violence in an effort to make his point.
“The Democrats, which I’ve been saying all along, they don’t give a damn about crime,” the president said. “They don’t care about gang members coming in and stabbing people and cutting people up.”
Trump also accused the Democrats of being “crazy.”
“They’ve been taken over by a group of young people, who frankly, in some cases, I’ve been watching, I actually think they’re crazy,” he said. “They have been taken over by a group of people that don’t care about gangs, they don’t care about human trafficking and drugs — they don’t care about anything.”
“80 percent of you are possibly in cooperation with the opposition party”
Trump also unloaded on the assembled media, and accused White House reporters of “coordinating” with Democrats.
Asked by a reporter to specify at which point in history he thinks a crisis on the southern border began, Trump instead went on the attack against the press.
“Look, you can all play cute, and I’d say 80 percent of you are possibly in cooperation with the opposition party,” Trump said. “I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous.”
Trump singled out NBC. At one point, seemingly out of nowhere, he described the network as “maybe the most dishonest reporters of all time.”
While it’s unclear why Trump is attacked NBC, the network this week published a report that undercuts claims the administration has been pushing about how the lack of a border wall on the southern border makes the country vulnerable to terrorist infiltration.
“You know has more human pain? The parents of people who had children killed by an illegal immigrant”
At one point, a reporter asked Trump about the “human pain” being felt by federal government workers who are now missing paychecks because of the government shutdown. Trump used the question as an opportunity to suggest that undocumented immigrants are murderous criminals.
You know has more human pain? The parents of people who had children killed by an illegal immigrant that should have never been in the country. You know who has more human pain? The husband that lost a wife or the wife that lost a husband to an illegal immigrant that came in five or six times, that shouldn’t be here. That’s the human pain. And the people that will be paid, but maybe a little bit later, those people, many of them are on my side. They want to see border security.”
Trump’s fear-mongering is based on a false premise — undocumented immigrants in fact are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans. Trump’s message, however, is that people should be very afraid of them.
Trump isn’t doing himself any favors
When he wasn’t heaping scorn on various groups, Trump was busy inadvertently undermining his case that there’s an emergency at the southern border warranting a national emergency declaration.
Trump made clear that his decision-making process about the national emergency he’s thinking about declaring is all about politics, not conditions at the border. Asked why he hasn’t yet declared one, he said, “Because I would like to do the deal through Congress and because it makes sense to do it through Congress. But the easy route is for me to call a national emergency and do it.”
Later, he said that unless he gets a “win,” he’ll “100 percent” declare a national emergency.
“We have to get a win or I’ll have to go national security,” Trump said. “We could compromise, or I will declare a national emergency.”
If Trump does declare a national emergency, he’s sure to face legal challenges. His frank admission that the whole thing is about politics won’t help his argument that he’s responding to a real emergency.
Trump — who during his presidential campaign declared “I alone can fix it” — also dodged responsibility for a government shutdown that began after he refused to support a bipartisan funding bill that didn’t include funding for his border wall.
”The buck stops with everybody,” Trump said, in response to a reporter’s question about whether the buck stops with him.