President Trump reportedly suggested during a March meeting with top White House advisers that soldiers should shoot migrants in their legs in order to slow them down and prevent them from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a new book, an excerpt of which The New York Times published on Tuesday.
The article, based on interviews with more than a dozen White House administration officials, is adapted from a forthcoming book by reporters Mike D. Shear and Julie Hirschfield Davis, titled “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration.”
“The Oval Office meeting this past March began, as so many had, with President Trump fuming about migrants. But this time he had a solution. As White House advisers listened astonished, he ordered them to shut down the entire 2,000-mile border with Mexico — by noon the next day,” writes Shear and Davis. “Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate.”
The authors continue: “He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. After publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they threw rocks, the president backed off when his staff told him that was illegal. But 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.”
“The president was frustrated and I think he took that moment to hit the reset button,” said Thomas D. Homan, who had served as Trump’s acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), recalling that week in March. “The president wanted it to be fixed quickly.”
The 30-minute meeting reportedly extended to more than two hours as Trump’s team “tried desperately to placate him.”
“You are making me look like an idiot!” Trump reportedly shouted, adding in a profanity. “I ran on this. It’s my issue.”
Officials in the room included then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Customs and Border Protection Chief Kevin McAleenan, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Steven Miller, according to the Times.
A few months later, Trump laughed at the idea of shooting migrants after someone at his Florida rally suggested they be shot.
“When you have 15,000 people marching up and you have hundreds and hundreds of people, and you have two or three border security people that are brave and great,” Trump told the crowd. “And don’t forget, we don’t let them, and we can’t let them use weapons, we can’t! Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that.”
“But how do you stop these people?” Trump asked the crowd, adding, “You can’t.”
“Shoot them!” a rally attendee shouted.
Trump joined the crowd in laughter before adding: “That’s only in the panhandle you can get away with that stuff. Only in the panhandle.”
The crowd erupted in more cheers and laughs.