Trump makes surprise press briefing appearance to push border wall

The president took the podium accompanied by Border Patrol agents to chastise those opposed to the wall

By Nicole Karlis

Senior Writer

Published January 3, 2019 9:08PM (EST)

A wall along the border between the United States and Mexico (Getty/Omar Martinez)
A wall along the border between the United States and Mexico (Getty/Omar Martinez)

On the 13th day of the government shutdown, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced a surprise press briefing with a "very special guest": President Donald Trump.

"Hello, everybody, beautiful place, I haven't seen it," Trump said, addressing the press pool and wishing them a happy new year as he walked onto the stage.

As CNN pointed out, his visit was such a "surprise" that the podium didn't even have the customary presidential seal.

He went on to congratulate newly elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling her new position a "tremendous achievement."

Brandon Judd, the president of the National Border Patrol Council, quickly took the mic, after being introduced by Trump, to double down on Trump's message: that Trump has a lot of "support" for the wall he wants to build on the U.S.-Mexico border.

"I can personally tell you from the work that I have done on the Southwest border that physical barriers, that walls, actually work," he said. "You hear a lot of talk from experts that say walls don't work, I promise you that if you interview Border Patrol agents they will tell you that walls work."

Trump stood behind him, nodding along.

Judd claimed that federal employees would prefer a wall being built to the government shutdown. To press this point, he introduced Art Del Cueto, a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

"I want everyone to take the time to understand what is going on, we are all affected by the shutdown, we all have skin in the game," Del Cueto said. "We are extremely grateful to President Donald Trump and fully support what he is doing."

Del Cueto said it had "nothing to do with political parties," adding that everyone must ask themselves this question: "If I come to your home, do you want me to knock on your front door, or do you want me to climb through your window? We fully support the president and all of his efforts to secure the nation's borders."

Team Trump presented Del Cueto's positions as embodying most federal employees, though his rhetoric does not align with what other federal employees have said.

Finally, Trump took the mic again. He said they had been sitting in the Oval Office for a previously scheduled meeting before he supposedly decided to "see the press" to explain "the importance of the wall."

"So this meeting was set up a long time ago," Trump said. "It just came at a very opportune time ... So, I just appreciate them being here. I said let's go out and see the press you can tell them the importance of the wall. They basically said — and I think I can take the word basically out — without a wall you cannot have border security. Without a very strong form of barrier — call it what you will. You cannot have border security. It won't work."

Trump did not take any questions in the briefing room once he concluded his remarks.

While there was no official announcement during the briefing, NPR is reporting that "military sources" say more troops are expected to be deployed to the border.

By Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a senior writer at Salon, specializing in health and science. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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