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Trump struggles through White House event with NATO secretary

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During an Oval Office event with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump either lied or got confused about where his father was born, admitted that closing the border with Mexico will be economically harmful to the US (but threatened to do it anyway), pushed a baseless conspiracy theory, and repeatedly struggled to say the word “origins.”

Oh, and he urged Congress to “get rid of judges” who are making it harder for his administration to summarily deport migrants — a position in tension with the idea that the United States is a nation of checks and balances that respects the rule of law.

Even by Trump’s standards, it was a troubling performance.

Trump began by threatening to close the border with Mexico as soon as this weekend, but urged Congress to “meet quickly and make a deal” before he has to do it.

“What we have to do is Congress has to meet quickly and make a deal. I could do it in 45 minutes,” he said. “We need to get rid of chain migration, we need to get rid of catch and release, and visa lottery, and we have to do something about asylum, and to be honest with you, we have to get rid of judges.”

Closing the border is a threat Trump has made on and off for months, and one he started making with renewed vigor last week out of frustration that Mexico isn’t able to stop every Central American migrant from reaching the US’s southern border. But in the wake of last November’s midterm election, Trump’s demand that Congress do his bidding ignores an inconvenient truth: Democrats now control the House and have no interest pursuing the draconian immigration policies he prefers.

Asked moments later if he has concerns that closing the border could be harmful to the US economy, Trump admitted that “sure, it will have a negative effect on the economy,” but added, “we’re going to have security in this country. That’s more important than trade.”

Trump’s comments were a complete reversal from last Friday, when he mistakenly argued that closing the border “will be a profit-making operation” because of the US’s trade deficit with Mexico. In fact, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admits, closing the border would be economically disastrous. Not only that, but Trump’s position ignores the reality that immigrants — both documented and otherwise — commit crimes at lesser rates than native-born Americans.

Trump went on to baselessly accuse the governments of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala of conspiring to send migrant caravans toward America’s southern border.

“They don’t put their best people in these caravans,” Trump said. “We’re not going to have them in the United States.”

The rest of the press event didn’t get much better

When a reporter got around to asking Trump about NATO, the president launched into his usual talking points about how Germany doesn’t spend enough on defense. But in a ridiculous twist, Trump suggested he has warm feelings for the country because his father, Fred Trump, was born there.

“My father is German, was German,” Trump said. “Born in a very wonderful place in Germany.”

Trump was either lying or confused. Fred Trump was born in New York City.

Trump also promoted his new, as-of-yet-unspecified health care plan at the event: “We’re going to have a phenomenal health care. … We will be showing you at the appropriate time. It’s much better than Obamacare,” he said. He then concluded by deflecting a question about whether he’ll support the release of the Mueller report by accusing Obama-era intelligence officials of “treasonous” behavior.

But in the process, Trump repeatedly mangled the word “origins,” on three separate instances saying “oranges” instead.

Eventually, Trump was able to say that “people did things that were very, very bad for our country, and very, very illegal. And you could even say treasonous.” Reporters were then ushered out of the room.


The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.





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