President Trump renewed his call for border wall funding and accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of “rigid” opposition, in an interview airing two days before Trump’s State of the Union address.
The tone of the president’s remarks in an interview taped Friday with CBS calls into question whether Trump will actually use Tuesday’s primetime speech to appeal for compromise, as advertised.
“When you have drugs pouring in, and when you have people dying all over the country because of people like Nancy Pelosi who don’t want to give proper border security for political reasons, she’s doing a terrible disservice to our country,” Trump said, during the interview with Face the Nation.
The president suggested he might declare an emergency in order to secure border wall funding without congressional approval. He also left the door open to another government shutdown.
Pelosi’s spokesman responded, saying Trump’s earlier shutdown had undermined security by denying paychecks to border patrol agents and other frontline personnel.
“The president’s wild and predictable misrepresentations about Democrats’ commitment to border security do nothing to make our country safer,” spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement.
Trump also defended his plans to withdraw troops from Syria and reduce the U.S. deployment in Afghanistan, despite warnings last week from his intelligence experts that ISIS and al Qaida continue to pose a threat.
Senate Republicans also counseled the president to avoid a precipitous withdrawal. But Trump appeared unfazed, saying he was simply keeping his campaign promises not to act as the world’s policeman.
“I ran against 17 Republicans. This was a big part of what I was saying, and I won very easily,” Trump said. “I think people in our country agree. We’ve been fighting for 19 years.”
Trump added the he plans to maintain a troop presence in Iraq, where they can respond rapidly to events in the surrounding area, while also monitoring Iran.
“We have very fast airplanes, we have very good cargo planes. We can come back very quickly,” Trump said.
Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned last month after Trump announced his plan to pull troops out of Syria. The president insisted that Mattis did so at his urging.
“He resigned because I asked him to resign,” Trump said. “I gave him big budgets and he didn’t do well in Afghanistan.”
In the interview, parts of which will air during the Super Bowl pre-game show, Trump repeated his argument that pro football players should not kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. He suggested that new league rules against such demonstrations contributed to a rebound in the NFL’s TV ratings this season.
Trump said he loves watching football but worries about the danger of the game and would not encourage his youngest son, Barron to play.
“Would I steer him that way? No, I wouldn’t,” Trump said, noting that Barron prefers soccer.