[guest post by Dana]
We all know that President Trump ran on immigration reform, and that central to his campaign was his promise of securing the border and building The Wall. Now, according to a report adapted from an upcoming book by two New York Times reporters, so focused on immigration was the President, and so frustrated by what he perceived as a lack of progress on the issue, his suggestions for solutions became more extreme. The report focuses primarily on a single week in March, 2019:
The Oval Office meeting this past March began, as so many had, with President Trump fuming about migrants. But this time he had a solution. As White House advisers listened astonished, he ordered them to shut down the entire 2,000-mile border with Mexico — by noon the next day.
The advisers feared the president’s edict would trap American tourists in Mexico, strand children at schools on both sides of the border and create an economic meltdown in two countries. Yet they also knew how much the president’s zeal to stop immigration had sent him lurching for solutions, one more extreme than the next.
Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. After publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they threw rocks, the president backed off when his staff told him that was illegal. But later in a meeting, aides recalled, he suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. That’s not allowed either, they told him.
“The president was frustrated and I think he took that moment to hit the reset button,” said Thomas D. Homan, who had served as Mr. Trump’s acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, recalling that week in March. “The president wanted it to be fixed quickly.”
Let’s just ponder this a moment: a sitting President of the United States allegedly suggested that the U.S. shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down while crossing the border…
According to the report, because of his inability to get co-signers on his outlandish, and in certain instances, illegal plans to secure the border, Trump did what he typically does whenever he’s told no: he turned on those who stood up to him, and replaced them with “yes men” and individuals whose views on the issue lined up more closely with his own:
Mr. Trump’s order to close the border was a decision point that touched off a frenzied week of presidential rages, around-the-clock staff panic and far more White House turmoil than was known at the time. By the end of the week, the seat-of-the-pants president had backed off his threat but had retaliated with the beginning of a purge of the aides who had tried to contain him.
Today, as Mr. Trump is surrounded by advisers less willing to stand up to him, his threat to seal off the country from a flood of immigrants remains active. “I have absolute power to shut down the border,” he said in an interview this summer with The New York Times.
A couple of things to note: The President mocked the report, calling it fake news:
Now the press is trying to sell the fact that I wanted a Moat stuffed with alligators and snakes, with an electrified fence and sharp spikes on top, at our Southern Border,” Trump wrote…I may be tough on Border Security, but not that tough. The press has gone Crazy. Fake News!
The White House responded to the report, in part:
“President Trump has clearly and publicly stated many times that he wants to make American communities safer by building a wall, closing dangerous loopholes that incentive child smugglers and drug cartels, and implement a merit based immigration system.”
Also, The Times has been compelled to defend their decision to hold back on reporting the information when it happened because it was being included in their reporters’ upcoming book, “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration,” which is being released next week. It’s a wee bit troubling when you consider that, if Trump’s suggestion to shoot migrants had been carried out and the public was clueless about his proposal – made seven prior:
The New York Times is under fire again for its handling of revelations in a book by its reporters.
The paper is defending its reporters Michael Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, who faced criticism on Twitter from fellow journalists and readers for appearing to wait months to report on President Donald Trump’s suggestion in a March meeting that migrants might be shot in the legs to slow them down at the southern border. The Times revealed the news this week in an excerpt to promote Shear and Davis’ book, “Border Wars,” which comes out next week.
The dispute highlighted the problem of reporters developing information for book projects that dovetail with their beats, and then saving those revelations to help promote the book.
Social media critics insisted the importance of the news should have prompted Shear and Davis to immediately reveal the outlandish nature of some of Trump’s private ideas, such as digging an alligator-filled moat alongside a border wall that would feature flesh-piercing spikes.
“Julie Davis and Mike Shear took a leave from The Times to report ‘Border Wars,’” the Times spokesperson wrote. “Their reporting for the book, like all reporting, was subject to conditions agreed to with their sources. When they could, they shared newsworthy and imminent information with The Times for its continuing coverage of immigration. This news was best suited for the book excerpt.”
[Ed. In spite of the spokesperson’s explanation, how something so obviously newsworthy is determined to be more suitable for a book excerpt, yet ends up appearing in the Politics section of the NYT daily publication seven months after the fact anyway, is still a bit of a mystery...]
Interestingly, “the authors brought detailed accounts of what they were reporting to the White House in advance of publication… pushback… from the deputy press secretary was “not a denial” of the facts.”
Two days ago, Fox News reported that they had received confirmation about the “shooting migrants in the legs” conversation:
A source who was in the room at the time confirmed the conversation about shooting migrants in the legs to Fox News late Tuesday.
The White House did not respond to Fox News for comment.
Also two days ago, ABC News reported that they had received confirmation about the President’s “shooting migrants in the legs” conversation:
The account, first reported in a book excerpt released by the The New York Times on Tuesday, was confirmed to ABC News by a senior administration official who was in the room at the time…
(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)