Julián Castro hits Trump in campaign launch: 'A crisis of leadership'

Julián Castro hits Trump in campaign launch: 'A crisis of leadership'
© Screenshot/NBC

Former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro took aim at 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 while announcing his Democratic presidential bid on Saturday, saying the U.S. is facing a leadership "crisis."

Speaking to supporters in Texas, the former San Antonio mayor and Obama Cabinet official accused Trump of failing to uphold America's values with his policies on immigration and calls for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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"There is a crisis today — it’s a crisis of leadership. Donald Trump has failed to uphold the values of our great nation," Castro told hundreds of supporters in San Antonio.

"Yeah, we have to have border security," Castro added. "But there's a smart, and a humane way to do it. And there is no way in hell that caging children is keeping us safe."

Castro also rebuked the president's attacks on the press during his speech, thanking members of the media who attended the rally and calling the press "the friend of the truth" in America.

"There was a time when Joaquin and I thought we were going to go into journalism, so I know that the press work hard and that they are the friend of the truth in this country," he said, referring to his twin brother, Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroCastro tweaks brother's beard: 'If I knew it'd look like that I wouldn't have suggested it' Live coverage: House holds third day of public impeachment hearings Live coverage: Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies in public impeachment hearing MORE (D-Texas). "Thank you very much for being here."

Julián Castro used his speech Saturday announcing a White House bid to cast himself as a progressive on issues like health care and climate change, while also focusing on the topics of inequality and racial justice.

He addressed the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police in recent years, drawing contrast to the treatment of Charleston, S.C., church shooter Dylann Roof.

"If police in Charleston can arrest Dylann Roof after he murdered nine people worshiping at Bible study without hurting him, then don’t tell me that Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, and Aiyana Jones, and Eric Garner, and Jason Pero, and Stephon Clark, and Sandra Bland shouldn’t still be alive today," Castro said to cheers from the crowd.

Later in the speech he went on to outline his first action as president: An executive order returning the U.S. to the Paris climate accord, signed under the Obama administration during Castro's time at HUD.

"The biggest threat to our prosperity in the 21st century is climate change," he told the crowd. "As president, my first executive order will recommit the United States to the Paris climate accord."

He also pledged support for other progressive positions, including a "Medicare for all" single-payer health care system as well as universal prekindergarten in the U.S.

"As president, we’ll make PreK4USA happen — universal prekindergarten for all children whose parents want it, so that all of our nation’s students can get a strong start," Castro said.

Castro joins what is expected to be a crowded Democratic presidential field in 2020. 

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi Gabbard2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Sanders reclaims second place in new 2020 poll New poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa MORE (D-Hawaii) announced Friday night that she has decided to launch a bid, telling CNN's Van Jones she would make a formal announcement in the coming days.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann Warren2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Sanders doubles down on Bolivia 'coup,' few follow suit Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul MORE (D-Mass) also announced an exploratory bid for president at the beginning of the year, while other Democrats are expected to jump into the race soon.