President Donald Trump suggested to his advisers earlier this year that soldiers should shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down, and that the border wall should be electrified with spikes on top, and fortified with an alligator-infested moat, according to a new report.
The New York Times late Tuesday published an article adapted from an upcoming book by two of its reporters, Mike Shear and Julie Hirschfield Davis, titled “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration,” due to be published next week. The report details extreme proposals by Trump — including shutting down the entire U.S.-Mexico border within a matter of hours — at the height of the immigration crisis this spring.
“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. 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 report, which the Times said was based on interviews with more than a dozen Trump administration officials who had direct knowledge of the events, also detailed how then-Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen was pushed out of her position and how Trump’s senior adviser Stephen Miller maneuvered to clean house at Homeland Security, replacing officials who objected to Trump’s demands with more loyal hard-liners.
“Lou Dobbs hates you, Ann Coulter hates you, you’re making me look bad,” Trump reportedly told Nielsen last spring.
“The happiest he had been with Ms. Nielsen was a few months earlier, when American border agents had fired tear gas into Mexico to try to stop migrants from crossing into the United States. Human rights organizations condemned the move, but Mr. Trump loved it. More often, though, she drew the president’s scorn,” the report said.
When told in March of the impracticalities of suddenly closing the entire border, Trump reportedly suggested tariffs instead — or at least the threat of tariffs — to force Mexico to help stem immigration.
After months of Nielsen’s objections to Trump’s immigration demands, which frustrated the president, the last straw was reportedly when she told Trump in April it was impossible to build a cement wall along the entire border, as he had called for. Trump reportedly said it was time to make a change and that she should go, telling her he would wait a week to announce her resignation. He tweeted the news by that evening, the report said.
That opened the door to wholesale changes in Homeland Security’s leadership, with more Trump loyalists taking control. In a separate report Tuesday, the Washington Post reported acting Homeland Security chief Kevin McAleenan — who took over for Nielsen — has been isolated within the administration and said he’s been overshadowed by officials aiming to use the agency to enact a partisan immigration agenda.