As it happenedended1553903795

Trump threatens to close US border with Mexico on heels of raucous post-Mueller rally

The president feels newly emboldened

Chris Riotta
New York
,Joe Sommerlad,Andrew Buncombe
Saturday 30 March 2019 00:55 EDT
Trump claims to 'know a lot about wind' in bizarre rant about Hillary Clinton at rally

Donald Trump has claimed he may close the border with Mexico next week - the latest threat from an a newly emboldened president following the completion of the Mueller report.

Speaking to reporters at his estate in Florida, the president said he would take the step - potentially disrupting millions of legal border crossings and billions of dollars in trade - if Mexico did not stop immigrants reaching the United States. His words were an indication his mind is fixed firmly on the re-election battle he will soon be embroiled in, and the need to energise his base ahead of what will be a bitter fight.

“There’s a very good likelihood that I’ll be closing the border next week, and that will be just fine with me,” he said.

Reuters pointed out the president has repeatedly said he would close the US border with Mexico during his two years in office, and has not followed through. However, his latest threat comes as the government says it is struggling to deal with a surge of asylum seekers from countries in Central America who travel through Mexico.

Department of Homeland Security officials warned that traffic with Mexico could slow as the agency shifts 750 border personnel from ports of entry to help process asylum seekers who are turning up between official crossing points, the news agency said.

Some of those delays were already being felt on both sides of the international border. Reports said that on Friday afternoon, the wait was longer than usual on the Mexican side of the crossing between Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, Texas, with long lines of freight trucks carrying goods from Mexican factories into the United States.

Mr Trump’s threat was just the latest indication he is feeling newly empowered since the completion of the Mueller report. The report found his campaign did not collude with Russia, and while Mr Mueller pointedly did not reach a conclusion as to whether or not he obstructed justice, attorney general William Barr said he and his deputy, had decided there was insufficient evidence of a crime.

“Robert Mueller was a Hero to the Radical Left Democrats, until he ruled that there was No Collusion with Russia (so ridiculous to even say!). After more than two years since the “insurance policy” statement was made by a dirty cop, I got the answers I wanted, the Truth,” Mr Trump tweeted on Friday evening.

On Thursday evening, Mr Trump delivered a wild address to supporters in Grand Rapids, Michigan, branding the Mueller investigation “the single greatest political hoax in the history of our country” and accusing House Democrats of “defrauding the public with ridiculous bulls***”.

The president also thanked his friends at Fox News for their support, attacked renewable energy and asylum seekers and, bizarrely, applauded the nearby Great Lakes for their “record deepness”.

His son, Donald Trump Jr, smirked as the crowd chanted “AOC sucks!”, in reference to Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, on the same day that details of the president’s dodging an interview with the FBI special counsel during the 22-month probe began to emerge.

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.

Joe Sommerlad29 March 2019 09:13

Well where else to start but with Donald Trump's address in Grand Rapids last night?

In his first campaign event since the release of attorney-general William Barr's four-page letter to Congress summarising the 300-page Robert Mueller report on Russian election hacking - in which the FBI special counsel concluded there was no evidence the Trump camp had colluded with the Kremlin to win the 2016 presidential election - the president was in triumphant mood.

"After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is dead," Trump told his supporters during a rollicking 82-minute speech. "This was nothing more than a sinister effort to undermine our historic election victory and to sabotage the will of the American people." 

"They spied on me. They spied on my campaign. Who would think that is possible? The single greatest political hoax in the history of our country. And guess what? We won," he told the crowd in Michigan.

"The Democrats now have decide whether they will continue defrauding the public with ridiculous bulls***."

And that wasn't the half of it.

Here's Andrew Buncombe with his account of an extraordinary evening.

Joe Sommerlad29 March 2019 09:24

This was perhaps Mr T's weirdest remark of the evening, attacking the Democrats' emphasis on the need for action on climate change.

There was this on elitism.

This was arguably his most offensive take.

This was a personal favourite, in which the president descended into self-parody and contradicted his own budget proposal in one breath.

Joe Sommerlad29 March 2019 09:34

The president also wasted no time in attacking his opponents in the media and thanking his friends at Fox News for their support during the 22-month ordeal of the Russia investigation.

Trump watches Fox and Friends every morning, regularly retweets Fox clips and is said to speak to anchor Sean Hannity by phone every evening. We got a sense of what it might be like to listen in when Hannity ran a 45-minute soft soap interview with Trump on Tuesday night.

The channel's broadcasters wasted no time in gushing over the Grand Rapids speech and things quickly got weird.

What in the name of all things holy is a "mug of meat"? Bovril? Does Tucker Carlson drink Bovril?

And how can you have "half your brain tied behind your back"?

Joe Sommerlad29 March 2019 09:42

Trump's hype man last night was his son Don Jr, who took on the cult of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the young Democratic congresswoman who has spearheaded the Green New Deal proposal and has made huge waves online since taking the oath of office on 3 January, inspiring many with her idealism and conviction.

The crowd responded with chants of "AOC sucks!" prompting Don Jr to quip: “You guys, you’re not very nice. And neither is what that policy would do to this country."

Don Jr also joked about the arrest of Stormy Daniels' lawyer on extortion charges: "For this week only, MAGA stands for Michael Avenatti Got Arrested."

He later hinted he was himself considering a future presidential run in an interview with Hannity. Shudder...

Joe Sommerlad29 March 2019 09:50

Trump repeated his attack on House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, calling him: "Little pencil neck Adam Schiff. He has the smallest, thinnest neck I have ever seen. He is not a long-ball hitter."

Again, remember this the next time the first lady's anti-bullying campaign is raised.

This after Schiff gave one of the most stirring addresses seen in Congress for some time yesterday, after Republicans had called for his resignation in the wake of the Barr letter.

Joe Sommerlad29 March 2019 09:58
Joe Sommerlad29 March 2019 10:10

One of the biggest questions surrounding the Mueller report is why the FBI special counsel never sat down with the president to interview the man himself about his alleged ties to Russia.

The Washington Post is reporting that Robert Mueller pushed hard for it - and was still doing so as recently as December - and warned he could face a subpoena if he did not agree to a meeting voluntarily.

The newspaper suggests Trump's legal team fought hard to stop that happening, fearing the president would perjure himself, White House lawyer Emmet Flood writing a memo laying out the legal arguments for protecting the president's executive privilege. 

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said that some of what Trump's legal advisers were hearing from Mueller "raised our suspicion that this is a trap, rather than a search for more information."

Joe Sommerlad29 March 2019 10:25

On Twitter last night, the president was again obsessed with crowd sizes. The inauguration was two years ago Donald! Let it go!

Joe Sommerlad29 March 2019 10:40
Joe Sommerlad29 March 2019 10:50

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