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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump offered harsh criticism of California officials and likened people who climb existing border barriers to get into the United States to "professional mountain climbers" on Tuesday as he visited prototypes of his long-promised border wall during his first Golden State visit since taking office.
While touring a variety of wall options with aides and local law enforcement officials, Trump explained that he wanted a wall with "some see-through" capabilities, as well as tops that deter people from climbing over. "Getting over the top is easy," Trump complained, likening people who climb over border barriers to "professional mountain climbers."
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Some on social media drew parallels between Trump's comment Tuesday and a controversial 2013 comment from immigration hardliner Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who said that Dreamers had "calves the size of cantaloupes" from "hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert."
Hours after a surprise announcement that he would fire his secretary of state, Trump toured early efforts to build a wall along America's southern border — promising to make good on his campaign promise to construct the barrier and reasoning that without any kind of wall system "it would be bedlam."
Taking on unnamed critics who have balked at his commitment to a wall, Trump asserted, "If you didn't have walls over here, you wouldn't even have a country."
Trump used his first presidential trip to California to rip both the state and its top politicians, saying Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown was doing "a very poor job running" the state.
"The place is totally out of control," the president said as he toured wall prototypes. "You have sanctuary cities where you have criminals living in the sanctuary cities. And then the mayor of Oakland goes out and notifies when ICE is going in to pick them up."
"California's sanctuary policies put the entire nation at risk," said Trump. "They're the best friend of the criminal. That's what exactly is happening. The criminals take refuge in these sanctuary cities."
The Trump administration has asked the House to cut grants to so-called sanctuary cities, and made targeting those areas a policy priority.
Tough talk on immigration took a back seat less than an hour later during a wide-ranging address to troops at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, outside San Diego, where the president touched on topics from North Korea to ISIS to space exploration.
"Very soon we're going to Mars," Trump told the crowd, before adding a jab at his foregone 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton: "We wouldn't be going to Mars if my opponent won."
He also called for new security efforts in outer space. “We should have a new force called the 'Space Force,'" Trump said during comments about the arrival of more modern machinery and equipment for the U.S. military. "It’s like the Army and the Navy, but for space, because we’re spending a lot of money on space.”
An idea along those lines isn't actually a new one — and it's not a concept Trump's administration has previously favored. A proposal for a "Space Corps" that would be housed under the Air Force was written into a House-passed defense spending bill last summer, but was opposed by both the White House and the Pentagon.
Trump also heaped praise on Marines, including those in his administration, such as chief of staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
"Our administration is stacked with Marines because Marines are the kind of people you want at your side," Trump said to cheers. "And trust me, you don’t ever want to be on the other side of a fighting Marine. It’s tough. It’s painful.”
Speaking to a friendly crowd of uniformed service members from all branches of the military, Trump pointed to the back of the room where reporters were watching his speech, slamming "that fake news" to cheers from the uniformed crowd roughly an hour after thanking the media for joining him on his tour of border wall prototypes.