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Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In 2016, Donald Trump pledged to "build the wall." In 2020, he's promising to be the wall.

The big picture: The president's rhetorical imagery is shifting from big, physical barriers against illegal immigration to a show of force against threats to the suburbs.

  • In recent weeks, Trump has conjured images of Joe Biden inviting looters, rioters, radical leftists and unidentified thugs in dark uniforms to run wild.
  • Trump has suggested scenarios ranging from new public housing construction that lowers property values — to unbridled rape, or murder.

Why it matters: Trump's trying to say he is the wall between chaos and your community.

  • "The fact is that we've seen tremendous violence, and we will put it out very, very quickly, if given the chance," Trump said during his visit to Kenosha, Wisc., this week.
  • This imagery gives him an off-ramp to steer debate away from the coronavirus, which has taken more than 187,000 U.S. lives on Trump's watch, and make Biden sound dangerous — a tactic some Democrats worry could put Biden on the defensive.

Driving the news: The president painted multiple human-wall pictures in a speech this week in Latrobe, Pa.

On guns, he falsely asserted that he's holding back Democrats from taking away Americans' rights to keep guns.

  • "I am standing between them and your Second Amendment and that's it," Trump said. (Fact check: Biden has said repeatedly that he supports the Second Amendment.)
  • Trump visually underscored his message by making an up-and-down chopping motion with one hand, depicting a barrier between gun owners and Democrats.

On monuments, Trump figuratively deputized others who share his views to his human-wall cavalry.

  • Calling out to members of the Boilermakers Local 154 union in the crowd who had endorsed him, he asked: "How do you like the idea of taking down our statues to our great George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, all of them? I don't think the Boilermakers would — you'll do a ring around Washington, right?"
  • "They tried to take down Christopher Columbus statues in New York," Trump said. "You saw what happened, right? These Italians formed a little circle. They said, 'Come on!'" he said, raising a fist as if to fight. "The agitators decided to leave."

Between the lines: Immigration has slipped significantly from 2016 in terms of Americans' priorities heading into the election — and most Americans do not support the construction of a physical border wall or hard-line immigration policies, per an NPR-Ipsos poll from late July.

  • Immigration fell to 12th place in terms of most worrisome topics, the poll found. COVID-19 commanded a clear lead, followed by health care, political polarization, racial injustice and crime or gun violence.
  • Still, the generic idea of a barrier that can protect people from elements they fear can provide comfort to people, which could potentially be converted to loyalty and votes.

Go deeper

Nov 11, 2020 - World

Mixed reactions to Biden's victory across the Middle East

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The reactions across the Middle East to Joe Biden’s victory revealed the strategic calculations of leaders in the region heading into a post-Trump era.

Driving the news: Some leaders quickly congratulated Biden while others hesitated. Some were restrained in their statements, while others couldn’t hide their joy at President Trump’s defeat.

Trump campaign abandons Arizona lawsuit

President Trump at a campaign rally in Goodyear, Arizona in October. Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty

President Trump's campaign said in court Friday that a lawsuit contesting the presidential vote count in Maricopa County, Ariz., was moot, per The Wall Street Journal.

Why it matters: It's yet another tacit acknowledgment from the campaign that its attempt to flip states from President-elect Biden to Trump utilizing legal methods is unlikely to be effective.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
6 hours ago - Technology

TikTok gets more time (again)

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The White House is again giving TikTok's Chinese parent company more to satisfy national security concerns, rather than initiating legal action, a source familiar with the situation tells Axios.

The state of play: China's ByteDance had until Friday to resolve issues raised by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS), which is chaired by Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin. This was the company's third deadline, with CFIUS having provided two earlier extensions.