WASHINGTON — A book excerpt published Tuesday describes a turbulent week inside the Trump administration in March as the president ordered staff to shut down the United States' 2,000-mile border with Mexico.
According to reporting from the New York Times, President Donald Trump had at times privately talked about “fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh.”
Additionally, after aides told him that his public suggestion of soldiers shooting migrants if they threw rocks was illegal, he backed down. But, he later suggested that they “shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down.”
"That’s not allowed either, (staff) told him," according to the excerpt.
The article published Tuesday was adapted from “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration,” a book to be published on Oct. 8 by Times reporters Michael Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis.
The article is based on interviews with more than a dozen White House administration officials who were granted anonymity, describing a "frenzied week of presidential rages" that included "around-the-clock staff panic and far more White House turmoil than was known at the time," according to the Times.
Adding profanity, Trump shouted, "You are making me look like an idiot! I ran on this. It's my issue,” during a meeting that included White House Aide Stephen Miller, former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, then-Customs and Border Protection chief Kevin McAleenan, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, as well as presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, according to the book excerpt.
The comments came around the same time the President publicly threatened to close the border, saying he would if “Mexico doesn’t get with it." Trump later backed off from that threat.
“The president was frustrated and I think he took that moment to hit the reset button,” Thomas D. Homan, who served as Trump’s acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told the Times. “The president wanted it to be fixed quickly.’’
The book excerpt includes details that Trump “routinely berated” Nielsen as “ineffective and, worse — at least in his mind — not tough-looking enough."
During a briefing over the necessity for new legal authority to bring down drones, Trump reportedly told Nielsen that she “didn’t hear me the first time, honey. Shoot ’em down. Sweetheart, just shoot ’em out of the sky, OK?”
“The happiest [Trump] had been with [DHS Secretary] Nielsen was a few months earlier, when American border agents had fired tear gas into Mexico to try to stop migrants from crossing into the United States," the Times reported.
Democrats were quick to express their outrage after the excerpt published.
Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez said that “cruelty has always been the point,” with the president. Rep. Eric Swalwell tweeted that Trump’s actions usually fall “into one of three buckets: cruel, childish, or corrupt.”