WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he will reinforce security along the U.S. border with Mexico by using American troops because "horrible, unsafe laws" have left the country vulnerable.
At a pair of White House events, Trump called on U.S. lawmakers to "get their act together" to enforce laws that prevent people from entering the country illegally and said he would turn to the Department of Defense for help.
"We are going to be guarding our border with our military," Trump said. "We cannot have people flowing into our country illegally, disappearing and, by the way, never showing up for court."
The president said he planned to speak with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in the coming days about the logistics of sending troops to the border, indicating that his plan is in its infancy and deployment is not imminent.
Presidents of both parties, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama, have previously sent National Guard units to help secure the border, though it was unclear when he spoke if Trump was referring to that practice or to active duty troops when he called the idea a "big step," adding that "we really haven’t done that before, certainly not very much before."
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Later Tuesday evening, the White House released a statement that the president had received a briefing earlier in the day on the administration's border security strategy, "which includes the mobilization of the National Guard."
Over the last several days, Trump has returned to his criticism of immigration and border security with a series of tweets and public comments, warning of dangerous "caravans" of immigrants headed for the U.S. border with Mexico. Early Tuesday, he took to Twitter, warning again of "the big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our 'Weak Laws' Border."
He later repeated the warning at the White House. "If it reaches our border our laws are so weak and so pathetic ... it's like we have no border," he told reporters.
There is no evidence of an increase in people crossing the U.S. border with Mexico illegally and the president has repeatedly boasted about the large drop in illegal border crossings since he took office.
The military was the broader topic du jour for the president Tuesday, from America’s commitment to supporting NATO allies against Russian aggression to the future of American troops in Syria.
The president said he was determined to withdraw the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, although he did not offer any specifics on timing or logistics.
"Our primary mission in terms of that is getting rid of ISIS," the president said. "It's very costly for our country and it helps other countries a hell of a lot more than it helps us."
Addressing the concerns of the three Baltic leaders visiting the White House on Tuesday, Trump also declared his support for NATO allies and praised Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia for meeting the minimum 2 percent GDP threshold for military spending.
Trump raised his former rival and his derogatory nickname for her when he said at a meeting of his Cabinet that the NATO alliance had collected "many billions of dollars more than they would've had if you had crooked Hillary Clinton as president."
Trump touted his administration's own track record with Russia — though he has not spoken critically about Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"I think I could have a very good relationship with President Putin. I think," he said. "Possibly, I won't."