Frustrated by his administration’s attempts to deal with a surge of migrant families at the border, President Donald Trump tossed out several extreme suggestions for containing the influx — including stationing U.S. military forces along the border, equipped with bayonets.
Those suggestions were not taken seriously by White House aides, according to The Washington Post, but they illustrate the degree to which the president felt desperate to stop migrants from seeking asylum in the United States.
Other ideas put forward by Trump included “the excavation of a border trench, or moat, that could be stocked with dangerous reptiles,” current and former administration officials told The Post, as well as shooting migrants in the legs to wound but not kill them as they tried to enter the country.
The New York Times first reported these details on Tuesday, and Trump responded with accusations that the “press has gone Crazy”; however, The Post “independently confirmed that the president did, in fact, say those things during border security meetings, including at moments when he demanded the wholesale closure of the Mexico border and appeared prepared to enforce the decree with violence.”
An official told The Post that Trump’s bayonet suggestion came around the same time he started sending U.S. soldiers to the border, and then-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis had made clear he did not want the military directly engaging migrants. Further, Mattis preferred the soldiers not be armed.
One former official said that “Trump would be throwing extremes at the wall when he was frustrated,” but aides did not take his suggestions as orders on which to follow through.
When it was explained to the president that the U.S. was legally required to process asylum claims once migrants reach the country, Trump became determined to keep migrants away at all costs, a senior administration official said.
“The goal was to prevent them from ever setting foot on U.S. soil,” the official said. “There was definitely a belief that you could put a line of people across the entry line and say ‘you could not enter.’ ”