Trump, O’Rourke hold duel­ing ral­lies in El Paso

Events serve as pre­view of 2020 elec­tion cam­paign

Albuquerque Journal - - FRONT PAGE - BY JILL COLVIN AND WILL WEISSERT AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

EL PASO — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump charged ahead with his pledge to build a wall at the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der, skim­ming over the de­tails of law­mak­ers’ ten­ta­tive deal that would give him far less than he’s been de­mand­ing and declar­ing he’s “set­ting the stage” to de­liver on his sig­na­ture cam­paign prom­ise.

In the first duel­ing ral­lies of the 2020 cam­paign sea­son, Trump’s “Fin­ish the Wall” rally in El Paso went head-to­head Mon­day night against coun­ter­pro­gram­ming by Beto O’Rourke, a for­mer Demo­cratic con­gress­man and po­ten­tial Trump ri­val in 2020, who ar­gued that walls cause more prob­lems than they solve.

The ral­lies across the street from each other served as a pre­view of the heated years­long fight over the di­rec­tion of the coun­try. And they made clear that Trump’s long-promised bor­der wall is sure to play an out­sized role in the pres­i­den­tial race, as both sides use it to try to rally their sup­port­ers and high­light their con­trast­ing ap­proaches.

Stand­ing in a packed sta­dium un­der a giant Amer­i­can flag and ban­ners say­ing “FIN­ISH THE WALL,” Trump in­sisted that large por­tions of the project are al­ready un­der con­struc­tion and vowed to ful­fill his 2016 cam­paign prom­ise re­gard­less of what hap­pens in Con­gress.

“Walls work,” said Trump, whose rally was re­peat­edly

in­ter­rupted by pro­test­ers. “Walls save lives.”

O’Rourke, mean­while, held a coun­ter­march with dozens of lo­cal civic, hu­man rights and His­panic groups in his home­town, fol­lowed by a protest rally at­tended by thou­sands on a base­ball field within shout­ing dis­tance from the arena where Trump spoke.

“With the eyes of the coun­try upon us, all of us to­gether are go­ing to make our stand here in one of the safest cities in Amer­ica,” O’Rourke said. “Safe not be­cause of walls but in spite of walls.”

More than a half-hour in his rally, Trump had scarcely men­tioned im­mi­gra­tion, of­fer­ing just a pass­ing sug­ges­tion that those chant­ing “Build the Wall” switch to “Fin­ish the Wall.” In­stead, he mocked O’Rourke, in­sist­ing the Texan has “very lit­tle go­ing for him­self ex­cept he’s got a great first name” and de­rid­ing his crowd size, even though both men drew thou­sands.

“That may be the end of his pres­i­den­tial bid,” Trump quipped, adding: “You’re sup­posed to win in order to run.”

The ral­lies be­gan mo­ments af­ter ne­go­tia­tors on Capi­tol Hill an­nounced that law­mak­ers had reached an agree­ment in prin­ci­ple to fund the gov­ern­ment ahead of a mid­night Fri­day dead­line to avoid an­other shut­down.

Repub­li­cans ten­ta­tively agreed to far less money for Trump’s bor­der wall than the White House’s $5.7 bil­lion wish list, set­tling for a fig­ure of nearly $1.4 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to con­gres­sional aides.

But Trump ap­peared obliv­i­ous to the deal, say­ing that he’d been in­formed by aides that ne­go­tia­tors had made some progress but that he had de­clined to be fully briefed be­cause he wanted to go on stage.

“I had a choice. I could’ve stayed out there and lis­tened, or I could have come out to the peo­ple of El-Paso, and Texas, I chose you,” Trump said. “So we prob­a­bly have some good news. But who knows?”

Trump, who has been threat­en­ing to de­clare a na­tional emer­gency to by­pass Con­gress, added, “Just so you know, we’re build­ing the wall any­way.”

The coun­ter­march be­gan at a high school about a mile from the base­ball field in the shadow of Trump’s rally, its par­tic­i­pants stream­ing past part of the bor­der and the tow­er­ing metal slats lin­ing it. Marchers waved hand­made signs read­ing “Fire the Liar,” “Hate Is Not What Makes Amer­ica Great” and “Make Tacos, Not Walls.” They changed “No wall!” and “Beto! Beto! Beto!”

Many marchers, and those in the crowd at the ball­park, car­ried flags read­ing “Beto for Pres­i­dent 2020” or black-and-white “Beto for Se­nate” yard signs from his closer-than-ex­pected Novem­ber race against Repub­li­can Sen. Ted Cruz that had been mod­i­fied slightly to read “Beto for Pres­i­dent.” The Demo­crat said the event wasn’t only about him — or Trump — but meant to tell the true story of life in El Paso.

“It is go­ing to be the peo­ple of the bor­der,” O’Rourke told the crowd be­fore be­gin­ning the march, “who will write the next chap­ter in the his­tory of this great coun­try. En­sur­ing that our laws and our lan­guage and our lead­ers match our val­ues.”

Trump has in­sisted that large por­tions of the bor­der wall are al­ready un­der­way. But the work fo­cuses al­most en­tirely on re­plac­ing ex­ist­ing bar­ri­ers. Work on the first ex­ten­sion — 14 miles in Texas’ Rio Grande Val­ley — starts this month. The other 83 miles that his ad­min­is­tra­tion has awarded con­tracts for are re­place­ment projects.

Trump has re­peat­edly pointed to El Paso to make his case that a bor­der wall is nec­es­sary, claim­ing that bar­ri­ers turned the city from one of the na­tion’s most dan­ger­ous to one of its safest.

“You know where it made a dif­fer­ence is right here in El Paso,” he said Mon­day, adding: “They’re full of crap when they claim it hasn’t made a big dif­fer­ence.”

But that’s not true.

El Paso had a mur­der rate of less than half the na­tional av­er­age in 2005, a year be­fore the most re­cent ex­pan­sion of its bor­der fence. That’s de­spite be­ing just across the bor­der from Ci­u­dad Juárez, Mex­ico, a city plagued by drug vi­o­lence.

The FBI’s Uni­form Crime Re­port shows that El Paso’s an­nual num­ber of re­ported vi­o­lent crimes dropped from nearly 5,000 in 1995 to around 2,700 in 2016. But that cor­re­sponded with sim­i­lar de­clines in vi­o­lent crime na­tion­wide and in­cluded pe­ri­ods when the city’s crime rates in­creased year over year, de­spite new fenc­ing and walls.

The Trump cam­paign re­leased a video show­ing El Paso res­i­dents say­ing the wall helped re­duce crime. But many in the city have bris­tled at the prospect of be­com­ing a bor­der wall poster child.

Trump ad­vis­ers have long in­sisted that, ful­filled or not, the wall is a win­ning is­sue for the pres­i­dent, who has al­ready sought to re­write the “Build the Wall” chants that were a sta­ple of his 2016 cam­paign to “Fin­ish the Wall.”

An AP-NORC poll con­ducted dur­ing last month’s shut­down found that more Amer­i­cans op­pose a wall than sup­port it. But nearly 8 in 10 Repub­li­cans are in fa­vor, with only about 1 in 10 op­posed.

Democrats, mean­while, are adamant that Trump’s in­sis­tence on a wall helps them and point to their 2018 midterm elec­tion gains in the House as proof that vot­ers want to block Trump’s agenda.

As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers Alan Fram, Zeke Miller and Kevin Frek­ing in Wash­ing­ton and El­liot Sp­a­gat in San Diego con­trib­uted to this re­port.

WALLS WORK. WALLS SAVE LIVES.

DON­ALD TRUMP U.S. PRES­I­DENT

WITH THE EYES OF THE COUN­TRY UPON US, ALL OF US TO­GETHER ARE GO­ING TO MAKE OUR STAND HERE IN ONE OF THE SAFEST CITIES IN AMER­ICA. SAFE NOT BE­CAUSE OF WALLS BUT IN SPITE OF WALLS.

BETO O’ROURKE

FOR­MER CON­GRESS­MAN

SU­SAN WALSH/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ar­rives to speak at a rally in El Paso on Mon­day.

Beto O’Rourke

RUDY GUTIER­REZ/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Peo­ple at­tend an out­door rally for for­mer U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke out­side the El Paso County Coli­seum where Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was hold­ing a rally in El Paso on Mon­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.