Trump visits border wall construction in California to cap three-day trip

OTAY MESA, Calif. — President TrumpDonald John TrumpDem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens 2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' MORE on Wednesday visited a portion of wall being constructed here along the U.S.-Mexico border, where he bragged of the barrier's effectiveness while also arguing the flow of migrants and drugs must be cut further.
 
“This is certainly a tremendous national emergency,” Trump told reporters as he stood in front of a 30-foot tall barrier.
 
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He was joined by acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan and other border officials, who echoed the president in describing the importance of the barrier.
 
Trump gave reporters an up-close look at the materials being used to construct the wall, describing that it consists of concrete and rebar, making it difficult to cut through or topple.
 
He boasted that the federal government had 20 skilled mountain climbers try to scale the structure but that they were unsuccessful.
 
“You can fry an egg on that wall,” he added, noting that the barrier is designed to absorb heat to deter climbers.
 
Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan, who also joined Trump at the southern border, told reporters that it was “false” to call the wall a “vanity project” for Trump.

“There’s a false narrative out there that this wall is the president’s vanity wall,” Morgan said, stressing that Trump reached out to border agents and officials and solicited their input.

“Thank you. You listened to the agents and gave them exactly what they asked for,” Morgan told Trump.

As Trump flew aboard Marine One toward the border, he tweeted an image that featured his face in front of a barrier with the caption “No más. No más falso asylo. No más ‘detener y soltar.’ No más entrada ilegal en Estados Unidos.”
 
The message, translated in English, means "No more. No more false asylum. No more 'catch and release.' No more illegal entry to the United States."
 
The visit to the border was Trump's final final stop on a three-day trip out West.
 
Trump is under growing pressure to make progress on the border wall ahead of the 2020 election. Building the wall was Trump's signature promise during the 2016 campaign, when he also said that Mexico would pay for the barrier.
 
Trump demurred Wednesday when asked if he felt he has kept his promise to have Mexico fund the wall, saying the country is paying for troops to stem the flow of migrants.
 
Trump said he could charge a 5 percent tariff on goods from Mexico to pay for the wall in six months, which he said would be on the table if Mexico stopped sending soldiers to the border.

“Mexico is doing this because they don’t want to be tariffed,” Trump told reporters. 

“If Mexico stopped helping us, it would immediately be on the table,” he said. “But we don’t want to do that now because they have been fantastic.”

Trump also said he had deferred to officials on his wish to have the wall painted black, saying it would be left a “natural rust” to save costs so that more barrier can be built.

“We can paint it at another time,” the president said.

The administration has shifted its focus to reallocating billions of dollars in military funding for wall construction, and Trump has faced criticism over the slow pace of progress. Multiple reports have found that while the administration has replaced or repaired several miles of existing barriers, new construction remains scarce.
 
Trump has bristled at those reports, simultaneously assuring supporters that the wall is being built while seeking out new funding sources to finance construction.
 
“We think we can get it close to 500 miles by the end of next year,” Trump said Wednesday.

One worker told Trump it is tradition for visitors to sign the wall, and the president did so shortly before departing for a long trip back to Washington.

The wall still represents a strong symbol for Trump's base.
 
"Build that wall" chants ring out at most of the president's rallies, and Trump sought to appeal to Hispanic voters at a rally Monday night in Albuquerque, N.M. He asserted that Hispanics are hurt worse than any other group by those who unlawfully cross the border.
 
"The Hispanic Americans, they understand. They don't want criminals coming across the border," Trump told supporters on Monday. "They don't want people taking their jobs. They want to have that security, and they want the wall."
 
Updated at 7:33 p.m.