2:22 P.M. EST
Q Mr. President, are you worried about Republican defections?
THE PRESIDENT: I would say that we have a very, very unified party. Mitch has been fantastic. Everybody in that room was fantastic. There was no reason for me even to be there. I knew that before we went.
But the Republicans want border security. They want national security. They want to have a steel barrier or a wall of concrete. They don’t care. But I’ll use any term they want.
We need a barrier to stop the human traffickers and the drug trade, and to stop all of the big problems that come, including gangs. They don’t come through your checkpoints; they come through areas where you have hundreds of miles without walls and without barriers, or without strong fences.
So the Republican Party, I can say — and I just left an hour meeting. We had a great time, actually. There was no discussion about anything other than solidarity. We want national security and border security for our country.
SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MCCONNELL: Yeah, let me just add before the President leaves. First of all, thanks for coming out. And I think the President accurately characterized the discussion (inaudible). We’re all behind the President. We think this border security issue is extremely important for the country. And we appreciate your leadership on it.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
Q If this is a security crisis, why not declare a national emergency? If this is a security crisis —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I may do that at some point. If Chuck and Nancy — who I’m meeting with, I believe in a little while — if they don’t agree to the fact that our country has really got problems with crime, with drugs, with a lot of other things that come through our southern border — so much of it comes through the southern border. If you look at heroin, 90 percent through the southern border. So much. So many problems.
And if they can’t get that through, or if they feel that, politically — I don’t know why it’s good politically. You know, I don’t care politically. I’m doing what’s right for the country. But I’ll tell you, it’s a very bad political issue for the Democrats. That I can tell you.
Q Did any Republicans today, in that meeting, tell you that they want you to pursue a different strategy; that they want you to reopen the government?
THE PRESIDENT: We talked about — a couple talked about stra- — you know, a couple talked about strategy. But they’re with us all the way. They’re with us all the way.
I mean, I just want — because, you know, the fake give the fake news. And I just want to tell you that the Republicans are totally unified. Now, if you would have asked the same question to the Democrats — you let me know, in some of those districts where I won or that are a little bit more towards sanity — you want them to run; say we don’t want border security? You got plenty of Democrats that do not want to be in this battle. You have a lot of Democrats.
The Republicans are unified. We want border security. We want safety for our country. And, you know, for 25 years they’ve been trying to do this. This has been passed. Chuck Schumer has raised his hand so many different times. I could give you 15 speeches that he made, but I don’t think you’d really enjoy them that much. But I could give you 15 speeches. He talked about border security, no different than me. Border security. That’s all he talked about is border security.
The only reason they’re against it is because I won the presidency, and they think they can try and hurt us going into the presidency. But that’s not going to happen. And we don’t give up, because we’re doing — we’re doing the right thing for our country. Okay?
Q Mr. President, if illegal immigration at the border has gone down, why is it a crisis now?
THE PRESIDENT: You know why it’s gone down? Because of good management. Because of me and my people. Because we’ve managed it well.
Q But then why is it a crisis?
THE PRESIDENT: But it is brutal. We have more people coming up. You have caravans. Nobody ever heard of a caravan. It’s gone down. And we have kept it down because we’re managing it well. But we can never do a great job unless we have a wall or a barrier. And I mean a real barrier, not a little barrier that doesn’t work.
And if you don’t have that, you can — but it’s only down because we do a great job and we work very hard at it. And I have incredible people — Border Patrol people, ICE. The military is helping. I called out the military. We needed help. And that’s why it’s gone down.
Thank you, everybody.
END 2:27 P.M. EST