President Donald Trump has spoken out about “tremendous anger” over his impeachment as he travels to Texas to trumpet one of the pillars of his presidency: his campaign against illegal immigration.
The president spoke as he left for Texas to survey the border wall with Mexico. His remarks were his first to reporters since the Capitol attack. He took no questions.
Trump told reporters at the White House the prospect of impeachment is causing “tremendous anger” in the nation. But he said he wants “no violence.”
On impeachment, Trump said it’s “a really terrible thing that they’re doing.” But he said, “We want no violence. Never violence.”
Trump is taking no responsibility for his role in fomenting the violent insurrection at the US Capitol last week.
Trump says his remarks to supporters last week were “totally appropriate”.
Minutes before his supporters stormed the Capitol, Trump encouraged them to march on the seat of the nation’s government where lawmakers were tallying Electoral College votes affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Trump, for months, had also spread baseless claims that the November election was fraudulent, despite his own administration’s findings to the contrary.As rioters were still in the Capitol, Trump released a video seemingly excusing the events, saying of the rioters: “We love you. You’re very special.”
Trump is enroute to Alamo City, named after the San Antonio mission where a small group of Texan independence-fighters fended off Mexican forces during a 13-day siege. Most of them died but the mission became a symbol of resistance for Texans, who eventually defeated the Mexican army.
Trump’s visit — no doubt also a symbol of the president’s defiance — comes as he spends the final days of his presidency isolated, aggrieved and staring down the prospect of a second impeachment after his supporters stormed the US Capitol last week in an effort to halt the peaceful transition of power.
Trump faces a single charge — “incitement of insurrection” — in the impeachment resolution that the House will begin debating Wednesday, a week before Democrat Joe Biden is set to be inaugurated, January 20.
The unprecedented events, only the first US president to be twice impeached, are unfolding in a nation bracing for more unrest. The FBI has warned ominously of potential armed protests in Washington and many states by Trump loyalists ahead of Biden’s inauguration. In a dark foreshadowing, the Washington Monument was closed to the public and the inauguration ceremony on the west steps of the Capitol will be off limits to the public.
Aides have been urging the president to use the days he has left in office to highlight what they see as the chief accomplishments of his presidency: a massive tax cut, his efforts to roll back federal regulations and the transformation of federal courts with the appointment of conservative judges. But Trump has repeatedly resisted their efforts as he has remained ensconced in the White House, behind closed doors, consumed by baseless allegations of voter fraud and conspiracies.
Indeed, the trip will mark the first time Trump has been seen in public since the speech he delivered to his supporters Wednesday, egging them on to “fight” before the Capitol violence.
Trump is expected to deliver remarks highlighting his administration’s efforts to curb illegal immigration and the progress made on his signature 2016 campaign promise: building a “big, beautiful wall” across the length of the southern border — an imposing structure made of concrete and reinforced steel.
Over time, Trump demanded modifications that have been largely rejected: He wanted it painted black to burn the hands of those who touched it; he wanted it adorned with deadly spikes; he even wanted to surround it with an alligator-filled moat.
In the end, his administration has overseen the construction of roughly 724km (450 miles) of border wall construction — likely reaching 764km (475 miles) by Inauguration Day. The vast majority of that wall replaces smaller barriers that had already existed, though the new wall is considerably more difficult to bypass.
Over the last four years, Trump and his administration have taken extreme — and often unlawful — action to try to curb both illegal and legal immigration.
Their efforts were aided in his final year by the coronavirus pandemic, which ground international travel to a halt. But the number of people stopped trying to cross the southern border illegally has been creeping back up in recent months. Figures from December show nearly 74,000 encounters at the southwest border, up 3 per cent from November and up 81 per cent from a year earlier.
Mark Morgan, acting commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection, has warned the next administration that easing Trump administration policies, including a halt to wall construction, would lead to a surge of people seeking to cross the border, creating “an unmitigated crisis in the first few weeks”.
President-elect Joe Biden has said he’d halt construction of the border wall and take executive action where possible to reverse some of Trump’s restrictions on legal immigration and asylum seekers.
But Biden and his aides have acknowledged the possibility of a new crisis at the border if they act too quickly, and Biden has said it could take six months for his administration to secure funding and put in place the necessary infrastructure to loosen Trump-era restrictions.
Missing from the trip will be Chad Wolf, Trump’s acting Department of Homeland Security secretary. Heabruptly resigned Monday, days after he pledged to serve out Trump’s full term.
After the Capitol violence, groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center urged Trump to call off his visit.
“The violence Trump incited last week, and the violence his anti-immigrant policies cause stem from the alarming mainstreaming of white nationalist ideology that our country must reckon with and fight to uproot,” said Efrén Olivares, deputy legal director of the center’s Immigrant Justice Project.
“The president’s planned trip to the border will only further the harm and beget more violence.”
Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is calling on the FBI to add anyone identified breaching the Capitol during last week’s violent riot to the federal no-fly list.
Schumer sent a letter Tuesday to FBI Director Christopher Wray, saying the attack on the Capitol as Congress was voting to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s win was “domestic terrorism”.
He said those who stormed the Capitol should qualify as “insurrectionists for the No-Fly List”. Schumer told Wray that they must also be fully prosecuted to the full extent of federal law. – AP
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