Trump makes Christmas calls to US troops

President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates MORE spent Christmas morning calling U.S. service members deployed around the world.

In the video conference, which he attended from the Oval Office, Trump thanked the troops for their service and sacrifice, according to pool reports.

"I want you to know that every American family is eternally grateful to you," Trump told troops from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard stationed in Guam, Bahrain, Qatar and Alaska.

He also used the occasion to highlight his push to get other countries to pay more for their defense.

"Right now, we are the policeman of the world and we're paying for it. And we can be the policeman of the world, but other countries have to help us," Trump said.

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Afterward, he took questions from the media and dug in on his demands for a border wall as a partial government shutdown stretched into a fourth day.

Trump has had a rocky history with his outreach to U.S. troops during his presidency.

His Thanksgiving call to military commanders deployed overseas was criticized for being political. During the call, Trump railed against supposed dangers from a caravan of Central American migrants seeking asylum in the United States.

“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,” Trump said during the Thanksgiving call. “We're not letting in anybody essentially because we want to be very, very careful.”

Trump has also come under criticism for not visiting U.S. troops in a war zone. In November, he said he would soon do so.

“I'm going to a war zone," Trump said before he left the White House to celebrate Thanksgiving in Florida.

Earlier this month, Trump visited Arlington National Cemetery while volunteers placed wreaths on headstones as part of Wreaths Across America. That visit came after Trump expressed regret for not going to the cemetery on Veterans Day. 

Last week, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThis week: House Dems voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt A brief timeline of Trump's clashes with intelligence director Dan Coats Chuck Todd on administration vacancies: 'Is this any way to run a government?' MORE, a retired general who enjoys widespread support in the military, resigned, saying his views did not “align” with the president’s.

On Sunday, Trump, angry at Mattis' resignation letter, said Mattis would leave two months earlier than the secretary had planned.

Updated at 2:24 p.m.