White House officials: Trump’s pledge to shut southern border ‘certainly isn’t a bluff’

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Out of apparent frustration at the lack of cooperation received from Democrats in Congress — not to mention Mexico and several Central American nations — President Donald Trump threatened repeatedly last week to temporarily close the southern border so that security officials could manage the dramatically increased flow of illegal immigrants coming across in recent weeks and months.

Many Democrats and media figures swiftly dismissed Trump’s vow to close the border as little more than an empty threat, but two prominent White House advisers, including Kellyanne Conway, made it clear on Sunday that the president is not bluffing at all when it comes to the border and will follow through with action if necessary.

“Take the president seriously”

White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway confirmed as much during an appearance on Fox News Sunday with host Chris Wallace.

Asked if the president was serious about closing the border, Conway replied: “It certainly isn’t a bluff. You can take the president seriously, and here’s why. You’re giving those metrics. What he’s looking at is that 4,000 migrants apprehended in one day recently. We’re on track this month for close to 100,000.”

Conway went on to discuss the recent surge in arrivals at the border of family units and unaccompanied minors from Central American nations including El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — nations for which Trump has just halted U.S. monetary aid. She also touched on the fact that many of those arrivals are exploiting loopholes in the asylum process.

It would be easy for Congress to make legislative fixes that would address these problems at the border, Conway said — if only Democrats would cooperate in doing so.

Lack of cooperation

Separately, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed that the president is not bluffing about the border during an appearance Sunday on ABC‘s This Week. Mulvaney said President Trump “will do everything he can” to secure the southern border and called out Democrats for refusing to help deal with the worsening situation.

“Why are we talking about closing the border? Because, not for spite and not to — not to try and — and undo what’s happening, but to simply say, look, we need the people from the ports of entry to go out and patrol in the desert where we don’t have any wall,” Mulvaney said. “We need border security, and we’re going to do the best we can with what we have.”

He went on: “The Democrats will not give any additional money to do this. They won’t give us any additional people, and, importantly, they will not change the law that is acting as this giant magnet for these people from South and Central America to come into this country. Faced with those limitations, the president will do everything he can. If closing the ports of entry means that, that’s exactly what he intends to do.”

Asked for a response to pushback from Mexico and the Central American nations to the threat of a closed border and cut off foreign aid, Mulvaney said: “The same response we give to all of our — of our friends to the south, which is, we need your help. We need more action. Mexico could be doing more. El Salvador could be doing more. Honduras could be doing more. We do give these countries hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and we need them to do more.”

Whatever is necessary

The president has stated repeatedly — via social media, in speeches and to reporters — that he will do whatever is deemed necessary to secure the border and protect the nation, even going so far as to temporarily shut down legal ports of entry on the border until the crisis plaguing them can be better managed, if not stopped entirely.

If Conway and Mulvaney are to be believed, the president is not bluffing in that regard one bit, so it will be interesting to see if the inaction of Democrats and key foreign leaders will force the president’s hand to proceed with a border shutdown or will instead come to the table to discuss solutions.

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