Oct 2, 2019

Trump suggested shooting southern border migrants, NYT book excerpt claims

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

An adaptation published Tuesday of the upcoming book "Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration," details President Trump's plans to secure the southern border with snake-filled trenches and shooting migrants in the legs to slow them down.

The big picture: The book by New York Times reporters Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis is based on interviews with more than a dozen anonymous White House and administration officials involved in Trump's attempts to implement immigration policy and fulfill his campaign promises on the issue.

What they're saying:

"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. 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 excerpt details specific clashes with staff over Trump's attempts to close the border, particularly with former Homeland Security Advisor Kirstjen Nielsen.

  • The NYT passage claims Trump would tell Nielsen, “Lou Dobbs hates you, Ann Coulter hates you, you’re making me look bad," and that he believed she didn't appear tough enough.
  • But the story noted the "happiest [Trump] had been" with Nielsen was when American border agents fired tear gas to deter migrants from crossing the southern border.

The passage also chronicles how Nielsen, Jared Kushner and others tried to explain why closing the border was a poor idea, but struggled to get through to the president.

  • Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan reportedly shut down Trump's plan to stop letting migrants cross the border, despite the president offering a pardon should McAleenan face trouble.
    • "After the president left the room, Mr. McAleenan told the agents to ignore the president. You absolutely do not have the authority to stop processing migrants altogether, he warned."

It later describes Nielsen's downfall after frequent spats with Trump.

  • "Unbeknown to her, Ms. Nielsen's staff started work on her letter of resignation," the Times notes. Her ousting was in part due to efforts of Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller, who sought a complete overhaul of the Department of Homeland Security.
  • The article goes on to explain the president said he'd wait a week to announce Nielsen's eventual resignation, but tweeted about it the same day.

What to watch: The book will be available Oct. 8.

Go deeper: Every high-profile Trump administration departure

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Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,410,228 — Total deaths: 345,105 — Total recoveries — 2,169,005Map.
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  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
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Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The CDC is warning of potentially "aggressive rodent behavior" amid a rise in reports of rat activity in several areas, as the animals search further for food while Americans stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers: More than 97,700 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 366,700 Americans have recovered and more than 14.1 million tests have been conducted.

World coronavirus updates

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Japan's economy minister outlined plans on Monday to end the nationwide state of emergency as the number of new novel coronavirus cases continues to decline to fewer than 50 a day, per Bloomberg. Japan has reported 16,550 cases and 820 deaths.

By the numbers: Over 5.4 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.1 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 13.7 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,800 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.