President Donald Trump kicked off the 2020 campaign season Monday in the border city of El Paso, Texas, just as negotiators on Capitol Hill appeared to have reached a deal to keep the government fully open past Friday’s deadline
Trump told the crowd in El Paso that before he came onstage, he was told that progress had been made on the Hill.
“They say that progress is being made. Just so you know. Just now, just now,” he said. “I said, ‘Wait a minute, I gotta take care of my people from Texas, I got to go. I don’t even want to hear about it. I don’t want to hear about it.’ ”
Trump said he had a choice between staying backstage to hear more about the deal or coming out to speak.
“I chose you,” Trump told the crowd.
He added, “So we probably have some good news, but who knows?”
Sources told CNN Monday evening that a deal, in principle, had been reached on the Hill. It would include $1.375 billion for barrier funding, which will cover roughly 55 miles of new barrier.
The President, in his speech, also previewed some of his messaging for his 2020 campaign stops, leaning heavily into Democrats’ policies and zeroing in on a specific potential 2020 contender: Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman from Texas.
“Democrats have got to stop being so angry and they’ve got to start being partners,” Trump said, adding, “It all has to do with 2020 and the election. But I really don’t like their policies of taking away your car, taking away your airplane flights, of ‘let’s hop a train to California,’ or ‘you’re not allowed to own cows anymore!'”
He said congressional Democrats’ proposed Green New Deal “sounds like a high school term paper that got a low mark.”
Trump called O’Rourke, who was attending a counter-rally in El Paso at the same time as the presidential speech, “a young man who has got very little going for himself except he’s got a great first name.”
“So we have, let’s say, 35,000 people tonight and he has 200 people, 300 people — not too good. In fact, what I would do is say that may be the end of his presidential bid. But he did challenge it,” Trump said.
Trump attended a campaign fundraiser ahead of his rally, according to the source familiar with the plans. For $15,000, supporters will be able to participate in a photo opportunity.
The border town campaign rally came amid recently derailed negotiations between Republicans and Democrats ahead of a Friday shutdown deadline. Over the weekend, Democrats proposed a cap on the number of Immigration Customs and Enforcement detention beds for detained undocumented immigrants. Republicans oppose such a cap.
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, a Democrat who is helping negotiate a border security funding deal, said the cap would “force the Trump administration to prioritize deportation for criminals and people who pose real security threats, not law-abiding immigrants who are contributing to our country.”
At his El Paso rally, Trump referred to the cap, saying he would “never sign a bill that forces the mass release of violent criminals into our country. And I will never abolish or in any way mistreat our great heroes from ICE and Border Patrol and law enforcement.”
Asked whether there would be another government shutdown at the end of this week, Trump said: “That’s up to the Democrats.”
Even if the two sides settle the detention bed disagreement, they still remain at odds over funding for new border wall construction.
Trump also pressed his case for the wall by using El Paso as an example of how it has lowered crime rates, though the facts do not support his claim.
The President, during last week’s State of the Union, claimed “the border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.”
But according to an analysis of FBI crimes data and city law enforcement data analyzed by the El Paso Times, violent crime in El Paso peaked in 1993. Border fence construction didn’t begin until 2008, and was completed in 2009. But violent crime fell long before the wall was built in El Paso, with violent crime falling 34% between 1993 and 2006 in the city.
And according to the El Paso Times, from 2006 to 2011, violent crime in El Paso actually increased by 17%.
The city did, however, see a decline in violent crimes around the start of Operation Hold the Line, which stationed hundreds of Border Patrol agents alongside the border surrounding El Paso.
During the rally, the President also appeared to address comments on CNN by the Republican mayor of El Paso Dee Margo’s recent comments on CNN disputing Trump’s claim about El Paso’s safety record.
“And I don’t care whether a mayor’s a Republican or a Democrat. They’re full of crap, when they say it hasn’t made a big difference,” Trump said.