President Trump departed the White House for Texas on Thursday morning, to address what he has called the “humanitarian crisis” at the Mexico border. But during an impromptu briefing en route to his plane, Trump got an early start on his border-related rhetoric, doling out insults to reporters and lawmakers alike that weren’t particularly “humanitarian.”
Here are the six standout moments before his run for the border.
I ‘Didn’t Know Anything’ About Manafort Sharing Polling Data
Although the vast majority of his comments were devoted to illegal immigration and slamming congressional Democrats, Trump took a moment to address the recent allegation that his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had shared polling data with his Russian protégé Konstantin Kilimnik.
The allegation that Manafort shared data with Kilimnik, who Special Counsel Robert Mueller has said is allegedly tied to Russia’s intelligence services, surfaced Tuesday via an improperly redacted court filing submitted by Manafort’s lawyers. Although the classified portions of the document appear blacked out in the original version, simply copying and pasting the text into a word processor removed the attempted redaction.
In the redacted text, Manafort’s lawyers contest the government’s assertion that “Mr. Manafort lied about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign.”
Trump tried to distance himself from the allegation Thursday, simply stating that “I didn’t know anything about it. Nothing about it.”
‘I’m a Professional at Technology’
Trump used the vast majority of his time to reassert the need for either a steel barrier or a wall at the southern U.S. border, the sticking point in his tumultuous shutdown fight with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“You can have all the technology in the world. I’m a professional at technology,” Trump stated. “But if you don’t have a steel barrier or a wall of some kind—strong, powerful—you’re gonna have human trafficking, you’re gonna have drugs pouring across the border, you’re gonna have MS-13 and the gangs coming in. And we’ve done record apprehensions. We’re doing a great job. But we need help.”
Trump’s comments fly in the face of the available evidence, which shows that undocumented immigrants are less likely than native-born Americans to commit violent crimes, and that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents only stopped six immigrants at the Mexico border in the first half of fiscal year 2018 who were on the government’s list of known or suspected terrorists.
Just before Trump’s impromptu comments, NBC News poked another hole in Trump’s rhetoric: a prototype for Trump’s steel-slat wall could be cut through with a saw.
When asked about the NBC News report, Trump tried to shift blame to previous administrations.
“That’s a wall that was designed by previous administrations,” he said. “There’s nothing that can’t be penetrated, but you fix it. It’s a very difficult thing to do. But that’s the wall. And we have many walls under consideration. Even concrete. There’s acid that can go through concrete. But what you do is you fix it.”
‘I Never Said Mexico Would Pay for the Wall’
Trump also attempted to backtrack on his notorious repeated claim that Mexico would be responsible for footing the bill for his border wall.
“During the campaign, I would say ‘Mexico’s going to pay for it,’” he said. “Obviously, I never said this and I never meant they’re gonna write out a check. I said ‘They’re gonna pay for it.’ They are, with the incredible deal we made called the United States, Mexico and Canada USMCA deal.”
That claim, however, isn’t true. On a page of Trump’s 2016 campaign website titled “Pay for the Wall,” captured by the Wayback Machine, Trump proposed that Mexico “make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion to ensure that $24 billion continues to flow into their country year after year.”
China Is ‘More Honorable’ Than Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer
Trump then turned back to attack frequent sparring partners Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, seen as his main obstacles in securing funding for the wall.
“We’re negotiating and having tremendous success with China,” Trump said. “And frankly, I find China in many ways to be far more honorable than Cryin’ Chuck and Nancy.”
It’s not a kind comparison: Among its numerous documented human-rights violations and ruthless crackdowns on domestic critics, China is accused of holding 1 million ethnic Muslim Uighurs in a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy,” and President Xi Jinping has been compared to infamous Chinese dictator Mao Zedong for his recent attempts to consolidate power and repress his opponents.
“I think that China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party,” Trump concluded.
‘I Don’t Have Temper Tantrums. I Really Don’t’
To attempt to drive home his point that it’s the Democrats who are being unreasonable, Trump disputed Wednesday’s reports that he threw a temper tantrum and yelled during a meeting with Schumer and Pelosi.
“I didn’t pound on tables, I didn’t raise my voice, that was a lie. What you should do is give them Pinocchios,” he said, referencing The Washington Post’s rating for the accuracy of political statements. “If you ask Mike Pence, and you ask Kevin McCarthy, if you ask anybody in the room, they will say—because I know if I do that, you guys are gonna report it. But you reported it anyway, because you’re fake news.”
Trump clarified that he allegedly “very calmly said, if you’re not gonna give us strong borders, bye-bye.” He added that “I didn’t rant, I didn’t rave, like you reported,” and “I don’t have temper tantrums, I really don’t.”
If I Don’t Get the Wall, I’ll Almost Definitely Call a National Emergency
Trump also addressed growing rumors that he will declare a national emergency if he can’t come to an agreement with Schumer and Pelosi on border-wall funding.
“I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency, the lawyers have so advised me. I’m not prepared to do that yet, but if I have to, I will. I have no doubt about it, I will,” Trump said. He attempted to put the onus on Schumer and Pelosi, adding that “if this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it, I would almost say definitely.”
In a likely attempt to punt blame for the government shutdown, which has prompted furor and protest from federal workers across the country, Trump also emphasized that making a deal was his priority and “compromise is in my vocabulary very strongly.”
“It would be nice if we could make a deal, but dealing with these people is ridiculous,” he said. “I don’t know if they know how to make a deal.”