President Trump steam-rolled ahead with his promise to build a wall at the southern border. At his campaign-style rally in El Paso, TX, Trump didn’t focus on the details of a tentative deal that would give him far less than he’s been demanding. He declared that he’s “setting the stage” to deliver on his signature campaign promise.
It might have been the first of dueling rallies in the 2020 campaign season. Trump’s “Finish the Wall” rally in El Paso went toe to toe Monday night against counter-programming by Beto O’Rourke, a former Democratic congressman and potential Trump rival in 2020, who argued that walls cause more problems than they solve.
The rallies actually took place across the street from each other served as a preview of the heated fight over the direction of the country.
Standing in a filled stadium under a giant American flag and banners saying “FINISH THE WALL,” Trump maintained that large portions of the project are already under construction and vowed to fulfill his 2016 campaign promise regardless of what happens in Congress.
“Walls work,” said Trump, whose rally was repeatedly interrupted by protesters. “Walls save lives.”
O’Rourke held a countermarch with dozens of local civic, human rights and Hispanic groups in his hometown, followed by a protest rally attended by thousands on a baseball field within shouting distance from the arena where Trump spoke.
“With the eyes of the country upon us, all of us together are going to make our stand here in one of the safest cities in America,” O’Rourke said. “Safe not because of walls but in spite of walls.”
Trump mocked O’Rourke, insisting the Texan has “very little going for himself except he’s got a great first name” and deriding his crowd size, even though both men drew thousands.
“That may be the end of his presidential bid,” Trump quipped, adding: “You’re supposed to win in order to run.”
Three people familiar with Congress’ tentative border security deal have told The Associated Press that the agreement would provide $1.375 billion to build 55 miles (90 kilometers) of new border barriers. That is well below the $5.7 billion that Trump demanded to build over 200 miles (320 kilometers) of wall along the Mexican boundary. The money will be for vertical steel slats called bollards, not a solid wall.
Trump appeared oblivious to the deal, saying that he’d been informed by aides that negotiators had made some progress but that he had declined to be fully briefed because he wanted to go on stage.
“I had a choice. I could’ve stayed out there and listened, or I could have come out to the people of El Paso, and Texas, I chose you,” Trump said. “So we probably have some good news. But who knows?”
Trump, who has been threatening to declare a national emergency to bypass Congress, added, “Just so you know, we’re building the wall anyway.”