President Trump’s carousel of preoccupations has once again spun back around to the border wall. This time, he’s going global. On Tuesday, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell claimed that Trump suggested building a wall across the 3,000-mile-long Sahara Desert to prevent African migrants from making their way into Europe. “You need to build a wall around the Sahara,” Trump said recently, according to Borrell. When Borrell asked Trump if he understood just how big the Sahara is, Trump argued that “it can’t be bigger than our border with Mexico.” Borrell then informed Trump that the Sahara is far bigger than the U.S. border with Mexico. “In any case, it wouldn’t be very useful to do that,” Borrell told the president.
If Trump feels a border wall could be thrown up across the world’s largest desert, it’s understandable that he’s frustrated his own administration can’t get one up along America’s comparatively measly border with Mexico. He tweeted his concern Thursday morning, directing his ire at lawmakers for failing to include funding for the wall in a spending bill that passed earlier this week.
I want to know, where is the money for Border Security and the WALL in this ridiculous Spending Bill, and where will it come from after the Midterms? Dems are obstructing Law Enforcement and Border Security. REPUBLICANS MUST FINALLY GET TOUGH!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 20, 2018
The tweet followed a pair of posts quoting Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who went on Fox & Friends Thursday morning to complain about how “we can’t properly secure the border because of the Democrats’ historic level of obstruction.” Perdue was one of only seven senators to vote against the bill, ostensibly because of its lack of funding for the wall. The goal of the bill, however, is to keep the government running past the midterms, as funding for a number of programs is set to expire on September 30th. Trump threatened to shut down the government over the border wall earlier this summer, and his recent outbursts have left some worried that the president could still consider this an option despite the fast-approaching midterms. As evinced by the bill’s 93-7 approval vote, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers are willing to push the funding battle over the wall — which Trump still maintains will somehow be ultimately paid for by Mexico — until after the election. Meanwhile, the GOP is fearing that a shutdown could spell disaster for their chances in November, and Trump doesn’t appear to be very sympathetic to his own party’s concerns.
“When will Republican leadership learn that they are being played like a fiddle by the Democrats on Border Security and Building the Wall?” he tweeted on Saturday, three days before the bill was approved. “Without Borders, we don’t have a country. With Open Borders, which the Democrats want, we have nothing but crime! Finish the Wall!”
When will Republican leadership learn that they are being played like a fiddle by the Democrats on Border Security and Building the Wall? Without Borders, we don’t have a country. With Open Borders, which the Democrats want, we have nothing but crime! Finish the Wall!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2018
The House of Representatives will take up the bill next week, and then it will be up to the president to sign it. Though GOP lawmakers feel the shutdown of a government they have total control of would be disastrous, Trump remained intrigued by the idea. “I would do it, because I think it’s a great political issue,” he told reporters earlier this month.
Though Trump has zeroed in on the spending bill, his thirst for a border wall appears to have been reinvigorated last week, on the anniversary of 9/11, when he was visiting the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. “They built this gorgeous wall where the plane went down in Pennsylvania. Shanksville. And I was there. I made the speech. And it’s sort of beautiful, what they did is incredible,” Trump told The Hill on Tuesday. “They have a series of walls, I’m saying, ‘It’s like perfect.’ So, so, we are pushing very hard [to get the border wall built].”
During the same interview, Trump continued his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “I don’t have an attorney general,” Trump said. “It’s very sad. I’m not happy at the border, I’m not happy with numerous things.” Trump’s frustration with Sessions has largely centered around his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. On the issue of border security, however, Sessions has been particularly harsh. He is the one who in May instituted the “zero tolerance” policy that led to the family separation crisis, and he has since continued to crack down on all forms of immigration. On Tuesday, Sessions both limited the ability of judges to show leniency to undocumented immigrants while also signaling that he may force asylum applicants who have passed credible fear interviews to be detained indefinitely.
Another ominous #immigration move from AG Sessions, telegraphing that he’s likely to overrule an earlier decision allowing bond hearings for asylum applicants who _pass_ a credible fear interview—such that now, they could remain in detention indefinitely:https://t.co/f9QioSrUvH pic.twitter.com/0POcgivSfd
— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) September 19, 2018
Even without a border wall, then, the administration is installing as many legal blockades to immigration as it possibly can. Also this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced plans to cap the number of refugees who can resettle in the United States next year at 30,000, an all-time low. “Some will characterize the refugee ceiling as the full barometer of America’s commitment to vulnerable people around the world,” Pompeo said in defending the decision. “This would be wrong.”