WASHINGTON — President Trump seems to be having a lot of trouble fixing the problems he campaigned on in 2016 and choosing the right people to can carry out his agenda.
He ran on a repeated promise to build a soaring wall along our entire border with Mexico and make them foot the bill. But in the third year of his presidency, there is no wall, nor anything resembling it.
Mexico, of course, would never pay for it, and told him that in his campaign, so he asked Congress to fork over the money from America’s taxpayers. They turned thumbs down on that idea, too.
Trump told voters he would sharply reduce the flow of migrants from south of the border. But in the third year of his presidency, the number of migrants seeking refugee status at the southern border rose by more than 100,000 in March alone, the highest monthly total in 12 years, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Then Trump decided to get a lot tougher, announcing that he would close the border, presumably by executive order — a proposal that unleashed a torrent of opposition from Congress, within his administration and across the nation’s business community.
“If Mexico doesn’t immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States through our Southern Border, I will be CLOSING ... the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week,” Trump tweeted on March 29.
Trump later told reporters that he had also ordered an end to $500 million in U.S. aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where many migrants in the latest surge originated.
Even his own handpicked leader of the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, who was in Europe meeting with U.S. allies on counterterrorism issues at the time, was opposed to closing the border. So were others in the administration. She had also opposed Trump’s plan to reinstate the family separation policy that he had ordered before a furious public backlash forced him to reverse course.
In the end, Trump backed off his border closing plan and forced Nielsen’s resignation, along with others on her team, then rescinded the nomination of a career official to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Trump named Kevin McAleenan to run the department in an acting capacity.
The president’s lurching from one not-well-thought-out policy action to another is not getting good reviews.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that sealing border ports would have a “potentially catastrophic economic impact.”
And Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, “whose state exported $97.7 billion in goods to Mexico in 2017, pleaded with Trump in a phone call to reconsider,” The Washington Post reported.
“I told him I’d be happy to work with him and his administration,” Cornyn said. “But sealing off the border is not a solution.”
But the president’s widening purge at the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t end there.
The White House also announced Monday that Trump was replacing U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph D. “Tex” Alles, in what appears to be a widening purge of administration officials as the president prepares for his 2020 re-election bid.
“They are decapitating the entire department,” said a Department of Homeland Security official, adding that the White House “had given no cause for Alles’ removal.”
William “Brock” Long, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, left in February, and L. Francis Cissna, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and DHS General Counsel John Mitnick “could be the next to go,” the Post reported Tuesday.
Insiders say that Trump has been “livid” ever since the DHS reported the sharp increase in migrant arrivals at the border, and that may be the reason behind the rash of firings.
The Post further reported that “Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior over the past 12 days — since he first threatened to seal the border in a series of tweets on March 29 — has alarmed top Republicans, business officials and foreign leaders who fear that his emotional response might exacerbate problems at the border, harm the U.S. economy and degrade national security.”