WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump made a surprise visit to the White House briefing room Thursday, and used the occasion to make another pitch for his border wall.
The event started some 20 minutes after the White House sent out a surprise notice that Press Secretary Sarah Sanders would hold a briefing in five minutes.
Sanders entered the room with a large group of White House staff and border security officials and announced “a very special guest for an appearance here at the briefing room, our very great President Donald J. Trump.”
Trump congratulated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for “a tremendous, tremendous achievement” before he turned toward the subject of his visit, his battle to get money for a wall at the Southwest border, which led to a standoff with Democratic leaders that produced the current shutdown.
“I have never had so much support as I have in the last week over my stance for border security, for border control, and for frankly the wall or the barrier,” Trump told reporters. He was flanked by Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, and others who discussed border security on the 13th day of the partial government shutdown.
Judd told the reporters, “I can personally tell you from the work that I have done on the southwest border that physical barriers, that walls, actually work.”
Some Democrats called Trump’s appearance in the briefing room a political stunt.
“These are the Border Patrol political guys who endorsed Trump. This was a political distraction not a press briefing,” tweeted Ellen Tauscher, a former Democratic representative from California.
“Bringing active federal law enforcement agents to the WH podium like this for a political press conference is a gross abuse of power and does immeasurable harm to the agencies they represent,” tweeted Matt Miller, a Department of Justice spokesman under President Barack Obama.
Neither Trump nor Sanders took questions.
Statement from National Border Patrol Council
“And I want everybody to take the time to understand what’s going on. We are all affected by this shutdown. We have skin in the game. However, it comes down to border security. And we are extremely grateful to President Trump, and we fully support what he is doing to take care of our nation’s borders, to take care of the future of this United States. It has nothing to do with political parties. You all got to ask yourself this question: If I come to your home, do you want me to knock on the front door, or do you want me to climb through that window?”
— Art del Cueto, National Border Patrol Council vice president