President Donald Trump appeared before reporters for the very first time since a mob stormed the Capitol building on Wednesday with an important message for supporters.
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“I want no violence.”
His Tuesday remarks came shortly before a trip to Alamo, Texas, a city in the Rio Grande Valley near the U.S.-Mexican border — the site of the 450th mile of the border wall his administration is building.
Trump’s visit comes as he spends the final days of his presidency isolated, aggrieved, and staring down the prospect of a second impeachment.
And before he left he also sounded off on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s second attempt to drive him out of office.
“This impeachment is causing tremendous anger and they’re doing it, and it’s really a terrible thing that they’re doing,” Trump said.
Trump is expected to deliver remarks highlighting his administration’s efforts to curb illegal immigration and the progress made on his signature 2016 campaign promise: building a “big, beautiful wall” across the length of the southern border — an imposing structure made of concrete and reinforced steel. Over time, Trump demanded modifications that have been largely rejected: He wanted it painted black to burn the hands of those who touched it; he wanted it adorned with deadly spikes; he even wanted to surround it with an alligator-filled moat.
In the end, his administration has overseen the construction of roughly 450 miles of border wall construction — likely reaching 475 miles by Inauguration Day. The vast majority of that wall replaces smaller barriers that had already existed, though the new wall is considerably more difficult to bypass.
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A few dozen Trump supporters rallied hours before his visit to the Rio Grande Valley near the Harlingen, Texas, airport, where he was scheduled to land. They planned to stage a caravan of vehicles flying flags that support the president and far-right causes like the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Four people interviewed Tuesday morning all said they believed Antifa and Black Lives Matter activists staged the Capitol riot, though federal authorities have uniformly identified far-right activists as responsible. Two people said they still believed Trump would be inaugurated for a second term next week, even after Congress certified Biden’s victory and courts at every level have dismissed Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.
“If he is able to see us, we hope that it would encourage him and lift up his spirits,” said Sharon Katie Taylor, a retiree from Iowa. “The people voted him in, and that will be proven.”
Over the last four years, Trump and his administration have taken extreme action to try to curb both illegal and legal immigration. Their efforts were aided in his final year by the coronavirus pandemic, which ground international travel to a halt. But the number of people stopped trying to cross the southern border illegally has been creeping back up in recent months. Figures from December show nearly 74,000 encounters at the southwest border, up 3% from November and up 81% from a year earlier.
Joe Biden has said he’d halt construction of the border wall and take executive action where possible to reverse some of Trump’s restrictions on legal immigration and asylum seekers. But Biden and his aides have acknowledged the possibility of a new crisis at the border if they act too quickly, and Biden has said it could take six months for his administration to secure funding and put in place the necessary infrastructure to loosen Trump-era restrictions.
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After the Capitol violence, groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center urged Trump to call off his visit.
“The violence Trump incited last week, and the violence his anti-immigrant policies cause stem from the alarming mainstreaming of white nationalist ideology that our country must reckon with and fight to uproot,” said Efrén Olivares, deputy legal director of the center’s Immigrant Justice Project. “The president’s planned trip to the border will only further the harm and beget more violence.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article