The White House is insisting that President Donald Trump’s threat to close the border with Mexico isn’t a bluff — despite the ruinous impact the move would have on the U.S. economy.
Trump sparked the debate Friday when he complained to reporters about Mexico’s inability to prevent undocumented migrants from crossing the border. “If they don’t stop them, we are closing the border. We’ll close it. And we’ll keep it closed for a long time. I’m not playing games,” Trump said.
The president followed up with a tweet on Saturday that again threatened to close the border. He added the move would “help us with stopping the drug flow from Mexico.
By Sunday, the White House was doubling down on the president’s ultimatum. To start, senior adviser Kellyanne Conway told “Fox News Sunday” that Trump’s threat “certainly isn’t a bluff.”
“You can take the president seriously,” she added.
Over on ABC’s “This Week,” White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said that “something dramatic” would need to happen for his boss not to make good on his word this week. Mulvaney also pointed to a lack of support from Democrats, which has apparently tied the president’s hands.
“Faced with those limitations, the president will do everything he can,” Mulvaney said. “If closing the ports of entry means that, that’s exactly what he intends to do. We need border security, and we’re going to do the best we can with what we have.”
Mulvaney also appeared on CNN, where he said the White House was worried about the impact a border closure would have on the economy but stuck to the immigration message. “We’re also concerned about the effect on the American economy and the nation as a whole from having more than 100,000 people cross illegally this month,” he said.
But Trump has put the country on notice like this before — without any follow-through. In December, in the middle of the government shutdown, the president threatened to “close the southern border entirely” if “obstructionist Democrats” didn’t fund his border wall. The funding never came, but Trump never made good on his threat either.
After Trump’s initial threat, experts immediately warned of the catastrophic impact closing the border would have on the U.S. economy, including cutting off supply lines for U.S. automakers, raising prices for grocery shoppers, and forcing businesses to lay off staff.
The State Department also announced Saturday a plan to cut off aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador — three Central American countries Trump accuses of deliberately sending migrants to the U.S.
“What we need to do is focus on what’s happening in Central America, where three countries are disassembling before our eyes and people are desperately coming to the United States,” Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, from Illinois, told NBC's “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “The president’s cutting off aid to these countries will not solve that problem.”
Cover image: In this March 28, 2019 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)