President Donald Trump in March reportedly suggested that U.S. soldiers shoot migrants in the leg in order to prevent them from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a new book, an excerpt of which The New York Times published on Tuesday.
The Times article, based on interviews with more than a dozen White House administration officials involved in the events the week of the meeting, is adapted from a forthcoming book by reporters Mike Shear and Julie Hirschfield Davis, titled “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration.”
“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 newspaper reported.
“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,” writes Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis.
The authors continue: “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 Trump’s acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, recalling that week in March. “The president wanted it to be fixed quickly.”
The 30-minute meeting reportedly extended to more than two hours as Trump’s team “tried desperately to placate him.”
“You are making me look like an idiot!” Trump reportedly shouted, adding in a profanity, as multiple officials in the room described it. “I ran on this. It’s my issue.”
In the Oval Office that March afternoon were some of Trump’s top advisors: “Among those in the room were Kirstjen Nielsen, the Homeland Security secretary at the time; Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state; Kevin K. McAleenan, the Customs and Border Protection chief at the time; and Stephen Miller, the White House aide who, more than anyone, had orchestrated Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda. Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff was also there, along with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and other senior staff.”
Just weeks later, Trump laughed at the idea of shooting migrants after someone at his Panama City Beach, Fla., rally suggested they be shot.
Trump began by assuring his supporters that he would never “use weapons” to “stop these people,” referring to undocumented refugees, from crossing the border into the United States.
“When you have 15,000 people marching up and you have hundreds and hundreds of people, and you have two or three border security people that are brave and great,” Trump told the crowd. “And don’t forget, we don’t let them, and we can’t let them use weapons, we can’t! Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that.”
“But how do you stop these people?” Trump asked the crowd, adding, “You can’t.”
“Shoot them!” a rally attendee shouted.
Trump joined the crowd in laughter before adding: “That’s only in the panhandle you can get away with that stuff. Only in the panhandle.”
The crowd erupted in cheers and laughs.