WASHINGTON – President Trump visited Arizona Tuesday and revisited a campaign staple: Immigration.
Trump began his day with a trip to Yuma, meeting with border patrol at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the acting director of ICE reiterated to reporters the importance of securing funding for the president’s border wall.
“The border wall is successful. Wherever that border wall has been built, the numbers have declined. Less drugs, less bad people, less illegal aliens coming in. I mean bad people, I mean anybody who wants to come into this country and do harm,” said acting ICE Director Todd Homan.
The ‘Dishonest Media’
However, a speech that was expected to be a rallying cry for the president’s border wall turned into a scorching reprimand of the mainstream media.
The president pushed back at the media for their coverage of his Charlottesville remarks saying the ‘dishonest media’ didn’t report his condemnation accurately.
“Did they report that I said racism is evil? You know why? Because they are the dishonest media,” said Trump.
He also lamented CNN’s decision to fire Jeffrey Lord.
“These are sick people,” Trump said of the media.
He also pointed to the media as the source of division within the country, except for one news outlet.
“Fox has treated me fairly. Someday they might not treat me fairly and I’ll let you know about it,” said Trump.
The president also praised the crowds inside and downplayed news reports of large crowds of protestors outside.
“All week they talked about the massive crowds that are going to be outside, where are they?” asked Trump.
Building the Wall
The president returned to the topic of immigration and went on to drive home the need for border funding.
“It is finally time to rebuild our country, take care of our people and find the jobs American workers deserve,” said Trump.
“MS-13, we’re throwing them out so fast,” said Trump referring to the notorious gang.
The crowd responded in kind with chants of "build that wall."
“I have a message for Congress tonight. Your job is to represent American people,” the president charged.
“If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” said Trump.
There was uncertainty going into Tuesday night’s rally.
City officials wondered whether racial intensity from around the nation would spill over into Phoenix.
The city was prepping for massive protests against the president.
In a column to the Washington Post, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton suggested Trump forego the rally.
“America is hurting. And it is hurting largely because Trump has doused racial tensions with gasoline. With his planned visit to Phoenix on Tuesday, I fear the president may be looking to light a match,” Stanton wrote.
There’s also the heated battle between the president and both Arizona senators.
GOP Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have had a contentious relationship with the president as well.
Senator Jeff Flake was critical of Trump in his book Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle.
In the book, Flake criticizes Trump’s rhetoric as well as his stance on trade and immigration.
“Nobody wants me to talk about your other senator who is weak on borders, weak on crimes…nobody knows who the h*** he is,” Trump told the crowd seemingly referring to Flake.
Trump recently addressed Flake via Twitter as well.
Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He's toxic!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
“Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake, Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He's toxic!”
Ward is Flake’s GOP challenger for the upcoming 2018 re-election bid.
A Pardon for Sheriff Joe?
There was also speculation Trump would pardon embattled Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Earlier in the day, Sanders said there would be no discussion of Sheriff Joe.
“I can tell you that there will be no discussion of that today at any point, and no action will be taken on that front at any point today,” she stated.
However, Trump hinted Sheriff Joe’s pardon may be on the way.
"Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?" asked Trump.
"I think he’s going to be just fine,” Trump told the crowds.
The former local sheriff was charged in contempt of court after he and his deputies were accused of ignoring an injunction demanding they stop profiling and detaining Hispanic drivers.
Sheriff Joe was an early Trump supporter.