Trump makes impromptu remark without consulting Pentagon

Developments on Day 438 of the Trump Administration:

Trump’s “Big Step”

In his latest thought bubble about immigration and The Wall, Donald Trump says that the US military will guard the border with Mexico.

Frustrated that Congress has only authorized $1.6 billion of the money needed for The Wall — conservatively estimated to cost $25 billion — Trump spent the weekend at his Florida resort putting out Twitter blasts against Mexico, the Democrats, and immigrants. He threatened to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, and renewed the prospect of deportation of almost 800,000 “Dreamers”, covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that Trump wants to terminate.

Back in Washington on Tuesday, Trump declared, during a luncheon with leaders of the Baltic States:

I told Mexico, and I respect what they did, I said, look, your laws are very powerful, your laws are very strong. We have very bad laws for our border and we are going to be doing some things.

I spoke with [Defense Secretary James] Mattis, we’re going to do some things militarily. Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military. That’s a big step.

We cannot have people flowing into our country illegally, disappearing, and by the way never showing up for court.

Trump backed up the statement with another Twitter burst:

The statements caught the Pentagon by surprise. “Multiple Defense Department and military officials” said they knew of Trump’s desire to step up border security, but were not sure what he meant by this.

Trump’s declaration comes amid uncertainty whether he will ever get the funds for The Wall. His initial proclamation, made during the 2016 campaign and after he took office, that Mexico will pay is a non-starter. In recent weeks, following the Congressional spending bill with only $1.6 billion, Trump has said the US military could pay. However, Congress is unlikely to authorize diversion of funds from military services, equipment, and personnel.

Trump pressed yesterday, “If it reaches our border, our laws are so weak and so pathetic — you [the Baltic leaders] would not understand this ’cause I know your laws are strong at the border — it’s like we have no border.”

He continued to misrepresent an imminent “threat” to the US border, saying he had told Mexico “very strongly” that “you’re going to have to do something about these caravans”.

In fact, the “caravans” are a single convoy of about 1,500 activists and immigrants, moving from Central America through Mexico to the US border to highlight American restrictions on immigration, refugees, and asylum.

The US military has been deployed to the border in more limited operations. George W. Bush sent more than 6,000 National Guard troops in 2006, in the two-year Operation Jump Start, to repair a secondary border fence, construct almost 1,000 metal barriers, and fly border protection agents by helicopter to intercept immigrants.

In 2010, the Obama Administration put almost 1,200 National Guard troops in place for a year, assisting Customs and Border Protection with surveillance and intelligence gathering while CBP hired additional staff.

Trump’s Infrastructure Head Quits

D.J. Gribbin, the head of Donald Trump’s high-profile infrastructure initiative, has quit.

A White House official said Gribbin is “moving on to new opportunities”.

After months of delay, The Trump Administration set out a plan in February for $200 billion in Government expenditure to raise $1 trillion in private funds for bridges, roads, tunnels, and other infrastructure. But the proposal plan was met with harsh criticism from legislators over the funding mechanism.

Gribbin tried to hold the line, “We still support a strong federal government role in funding infrastructure. But it’s important to note that every dollar invested in infrastructure comes out of the pockets of taxpayers.”

However, the state of the plan was shown up last week when Donald Trump, scheduled to promote the initiative in an Ohio speech, rambled on other topics and only briefly mentioned infrastructure near the end of the address.

Trump Tells Baltic Leaders Not to Take Questions from US Journalists

At his conference with leaders of Baltic states, Donald Trump tells the Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis to call on Baltic reporters rather than US journalists, “Real news, not fake news”:

Trump: NATO Countries Made Billions of Dollars Because Hillary Is Not President

In a televised statement from a Cabinet meeting, Donald Trump says NATO countries have taken in “many billions of dollars more than they would have had if you had Crooked Hillary Clinton as President”.

Trump has often claimed, falsely, that NATO members “owe” the US billions of dollars.

As he made the statement yesterday, Defense Secretary James Mattis looked down at the floor.