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Trump chides courts, trade moves in Thanksgiving call with troops

President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Memo: The Obamas unbound, on race Iran says onus is on US to rejoin nuclear deal on third anniversary of withdrawal Assaults on Roe v Wade increasing MORE held a wide-ranging and unconventional Thanksgiving Day teleconference Thursday with leaders of the five branches of the military, airing political grievances and praising the country’s might.

The president discussed immigration at length as he continues to warn about the supposed danger posed by a group of thousands of Central American migrants making their way to the southern border seeking asylum. 

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“Large numbers of people, in many cases, we have no idea who they are, in many cases, they aren't good people, they are bad people,” he riffed to overseas commanders. “We're not letting in anybody essentially because we want to be very, very careful.” 

“We have the military at the border for the first time. I don't know if it's ever, or certainly there has never been a presence like this. We have a very powerful border now,” the president added, citing his decision to send thousands of troops to the border. 

He told reporters after the call that he had authorized the troops to use lethal force “if they have to.”

Trump also addressed his feud with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after it blocked an administration policy barring migrants who entered the country illegally from requesting asylum. 

“We get a lot of bad court decisions from the 9th Circuit, which has become a big thorn in our side. We always lose, then you lose again and again and then you hopefully win at the Supreme Court, which we've done,” he said. 

“It's a terrible thing when judges take over your protective services, when they tell you how to protect the border. It's a disgrace.”

The president then pivoted to a different subject, asking a U.S. Coast Guard commander in Bahrain about trade in the region before saying the U.S. doesn't "have any good trade deals” and that the country was getting “ripped off.”

Trump has made trade a centerpiece of his foreign policy, vowing to revise existing trade deals with countries from Japan to Germany to Canada and Mexico to China.

This is not the first time the president has inserted politics while addressing a body that prides itself on its independence from any particular ideological leaning.

Trump faced bipartisan criticism for a speech he gave last year at the Boy Scouts of America's National Jamboree in which he touted his policies and ripped rivals such as 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMcConnell: Taliban could take over Afghanistan by 'the end of the year' Hillary Clinton: There must be a 'global reckoning' with disinformation Pelosi's archbishop calls for Communion to be withheld from public figures supporting abortion rights MORE and former President Obama.

He also spent extensive time during the teleconference praising the armed services but covering a lot of ground as to not focus on any one military venture for a long period of time.

He said the Coast Guard saved "over 12,000 people in Texas" after a hurricane earlier this year and raved about how its brand was soaring. "You can call it branding, you can call it whatever you want," he said. 

“There is no brand that has gone up like the Coast Guard,” Trump said, adding that attending its officer’s school “is like going to the Wharton School of Finance if you happen to be doing what do what you do.”

Pivoting to overseas military operations, Trump praised the armed services in Afghanistan, asking an Army colonel, “But you're enjoying what you're doing, is that right?”

“The budget is now at $716 billion. We're getting rid of some of that old equipment, you see what's going in, the best in the world,” he added. “An awfully big difference of what we had before. We'll be stronger than ever before.”

The president then engaged with a Navy commander about the electromagnetic catapults aboard the Gerald Ford, which the commander said bring a lot of “great benefits.” 

"So when you do the new carriers, as we do and we're thinking about doing, would you go with steam or would you go with electromagnetic? Because steam is very reliable, and the electromagnetic, unfortunately, you have to be Albert Einstein to really work it properly," Trump said. 

“You have to be Albert Einstein to run the nuclear power plants that we have here as well. But we're doing that very well,” the commander responded, which Trump said was “a very good answer.”

At a meeting with members of the Coast Guard later, he offered to take some to his resort at Mar-a-Lago and pay each $100 if they broke par.