LAREDO, TX – Donald Trump has arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border.
After he floated the idea Wednesday of running as a third-party candidate, his trip Thursday began with controversy: The union representing border patrol agents said they were backing out of the tour.
“After careful consideration of all of the factors involved in this event … it has been decided by Local 2455 to pull out of all events involving Donald Trump,” the union said in a statement. “Make no mistake, our border with Mexico is not secure and there’s no doubt that we need to have an honest discussion about that with the American people.”
Trump still plans on visiting the border, his spokeswoman said, going to World Trade Bridge in Laredo, Texas, over the Rio Grande, instead of going on a tour of border facilities with agents as originally planned. He’ll also meet with Laredo officials.
“Well they say it’s a great danger but I have to do it” because he loves this country, Trump said of trip, addressing reporters briefly at the Laredo airport before heading to the bridge and sporting a white hat that said “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”.
Trump’s campaign said in a statement that the union backed out because its leaders “were totally silenced directly from superiors in Washington who do not want people to know how bad it is on the border — every bit as bad as Mr. Trump has been saying.”
“They are being silenced, and are very unhappy about it, as told directly to Mr. Trump,” the campaign said. “It can only be assumed that there are things the politicians in Washington do not want Americans to see or discuss. It shows that we are not even safe in our own country.”
But now, Laredo’s Democratic mayor is trying to capitalize on the void — and Trump’s trip may end up being more educational than he anticipated.
Mayor Pete Saenz, who will greet Trump at the airport in this 95% Hispanic town, is hoping to give Trump another perspective — a border town that sees billions of dollars in trade between the U.S. and Mexico pass through its port.
Saenz spokeswoman Xochitl Mora Garcia said the mayor’s office is trying to coordinate a tour of the port with Trump as he will now have more time to spare in Laredo, to give Trump “a different perspective of life on the border.”
Trump will make his much-publicized visit while raising the specter of a third-party bid.
Trump also told The Hill newspaper Wednesday that the Republican National Committee has not been supportive of his candidacy as a Republican.
“The RNC has not been supportive. They were always supportive when I was a contributor. I was their fair-haired boy,” Trump said in the interview. “The RNC has been, I think, very foolish.”
“I’ll have to see how I’m being treated by the Republicans,” Trump said, when asked if he would make an independent run. “Absolutely, if they’re not fair, that would be a factor.”
The border visit marks the culmination of more than a month of controversy-filled campaigning, mostly centered around Trump’s comments about illegal immigration and border security.
And Trump is looking for vindication as he marches right to the bounds of Mexico, the country he accuses of marching its criminals into the United States.
“I’m the only one that speaks their language,” Trump said of the border patrol agents in an interview with CNN earlier this month.
But Trump’s visit also comes at a time when Trump desperately needs to shift the focus of his campaign away from roundly scorned comments he made Saturday questioning Republican Sen. John McCain’s heroism as a prisoner of war for more than five years.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said of McCain on Saturday at a presidential forum in Iowa, before quickly adding, “He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK? I hate to tell you. He is a war hero because he was captured. OK, you can have — I believe perhaps he is a war hero.”
While most of Trump’s 2016 contenders took their time in condemning his immigration comments, they all swiftly pounced on Trump’s McCain remarks, which were seen as an opportunity to isolate Trump on an issue no one in the GOP would support him on.
Trump hasn’t backed down — insisting once again that his remarks were being misinterpreted — but it’s become increasingly clear over the last few days that Trump is ready to move on.
But don’t expect a shift in tone from The Donald.
Despite the onslaught of attacks he’s faced from the Republican establishment and nearly every one of his primary opponents, Trump shows no signs of flinching even after he spent the week slamming opponents like Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Twitter and giving out Sen. Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number.
Trump did suggest in an interview Wednesday with CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he would one day prepared to tone it down: as President.