From the mind that brought you Space Force comes several low-tech border-security solutions of medieval cruelty, according to a new book by New York Times reporters Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael D. Shear.
Frustrated by the lack of wall progress and the number of migrants applying for asylum, Trump has privately mused that the barrier between the U.S. and Mexico should include a moat stocked with snakes and/or alligators, and asked his aides how much that would cost to execute. He also asked if the wall could be electrified and wanted spikes at the top, painted “flat black,” that could tear into a person. (If Andrew Jackson is the amoral, historical villain that Trump hopes to channel, on the border it appears he’s looking back a little further and for someone a little “nastier.”)
In November 2018, Trump publicly backed off the idea that soldiers on the border should be able to shoot migrants if they begin throwing rocks, after claiming there’s “not much difference” between the two. But according to Davis and Scheer, he was still workshopping the thought in private: “Later in a meeting, aides recalled, he suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. That’s not allowed either, they told him.”
His staff has also reportedly shut down proposed methods on the border that are less totalitarian than they are brattish. One day in March, not long before cleaning house at the Department of Homeland Security, Trump had a simple solution for something he didn’t like: Shut the whole border down by noon the next day. As advisers tried to inform him of the economic repercussions of closing a 2,000-mile border, he yelled, “You’re making me look like an idiot!” When Jared Kushner tried to side with then-DHS head Kirstjen Nielsen against the idea, he told his son-in-law: “All you care about is your friends in Mexico.”
Later that week, Trump reportedly visited California with Customs and Border Protection chief Kevin McAleenan, and told a room of Border Patrol agents that they should stop processing migrants at the border. Thankfully, the Trump administration tradition of undermining the president was adhered to: After Trump left the room, McAllenan told the agents they absolutely did not have the authority to do that. Unfortunately, the president may still get what he wants — like a good authoritarian — via paperwork: Last week, the administration announced that for fiscal year 2020, it was cutting the number of refugees allowed into the country to the lowest number ever.
Trump denied the Times report Wednesday, tweeting that he did not want to stuff a “Moot” with alligators and snakes. He later deleted the tweet and replaced it with one the correctly spelled (but still incorrectly capitalized) “moat.”