President Donald Trump said the one thing he’s taken away from the family separation crisis on the southern border is that the detention facilities where undocumented immigrants are being held are nicer now than they were under President Barack Obama.
Trump, speaking in South Carolina on Monday night, contrasted the images released by his administration with 2014 photos that have spread in recent weeks. He said the images show him the detention facilities have improved.
“What I learned was one thing: Our facilities are cleaner, better kept and better run, that’s the one thing I learned,” he said.
Trump said he sees the national uproar over immigration policy as politically advantageous for Republicans.
“I said, ‘Hey, this is fine for us,’ ” Trump said of the controversy. “The Democrats want open borders. They want anybody they want, including MS-13, pouring into the country. And the Democrats don’t like ICE – these are great, brave, tough people. … They don’t like Border Patrol, they don’t like your police, they don’t like anybody.”
Trump was visiting “famously hot” Columbia, South Carolina, to campaign for Gov. Henry McMaster, who faces Republican challenger John Warren on Tuesday. Trump publicly backed McMaster after he was forced into a runoff election when he failed to clear 50% in a primary earlier this month.
Trump also touted his administration’s efforts to renegotiate trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, and to reverse a trade deficit with China. He railed about German auto tariffs, even as German automaker BMW makes SUVs in South Carolina. The automaker’s largest plant is in Greer, South Carolina, about two hours’ drive from where Trump spoke Monday.
The President pointed to his top trade adviser, who was in the audience, saying: “I tell you what, Peter Navarro does like tariffs. He likes them probably more than I do.”
In stark contrast to Trump’s use of titles for other world leaders, including “Chairman Kim” for North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, he prodded Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by using his first name.
“What’s your problem, Justin?” Trump said.
During the 45-minute speech, the President also went on a long riff about late-night television hosts.
“This guy on CBS has no talent,” he said of Stephen Colbert, who he also called a “lowlife.”
He cast ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel as a suck-up, saying Kimmel “would stand outside of the sidewalk waiting for me” and thank Trump for appearing on his show.
The President called NBC’s Jimmy Fallon “a nice guy” but said Fallon shouldn’t have apologized later for tousling Trump’s hair during an election season appearance rather than asking him tough questions.
“When you apologize because you got somebody else that didn’t go on the other shows?” Trump said. “Jimmy, be a man. Just relax. Just relax.”
He also said Fallon “looks like a lost soul.”
Trump had more to say about hair.
He asked the audience if anyone was wearing a hairpiece, and said that, contrary to a popular point of curiosity during the 2016 campaign, his is real.
“They never say that anymore because I’ve been caught in rainstorms. I’ve been caught in winds that were like 60 miles an hour,” he said. “If it’s not your hair, don’t run for office, folks. Don’t run for office, because the gig would be up.”
Trump also declared his own audience America’s “super-elites.”
“You’re smarter, you’re better, you’re more loyal. We have the greatest base in the history of politics. We do,” he said.
Of the Iraq War, Trump said, “I believe it was the worst decision in the history of our country.”
Trump spent about five minutes talking about McMaster, both at the beginning and the end of his speech. He told the crowd the “fake news” would love the “humiliating” storyline of a Trump-endorsed governor losing.
“So please get your asses out tomorrow and vote,” he said.
After being forced into a runoff, McMaster called the President, asking for his support, according to a source familiar with the call. Trump handily won the 2016 Republican presidential primary here.
One White House official described the “easy” decision to travel to the state for McMaster, saying, “He was an early and fervent supporter of President Trump’s.” This official previewed an upcoming schedule for the President that would include “more endorsements and events” now that many of the primaries have occurred.
McMaster was one of the first elected officials to endorse then-candidate Trump in 2016. McMaster was at the White House in late May, where he joined a few other Republican governors for dinner to discuss protecting the US border with Mexico. McMaster has pledged South Carolina National Guard troops to help with that effort.
Perhaps the only issue on which McMaster has publicly split from the Trump administration is offshore drilling on the coast of South Carolina. A spokesman for the governor told CNN earlier this year that McMaster had appealed to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke about the issue.
McMaster said in a statement earlier this week, “President Trump and Vice President Pence are changing the world,” and that their willingness to campaign for him showed “a testament to the success of our great state.”
“They’ve stood by each other in the presidential race. They’re very like-minded individuals and they have a lot of the same priorities. I think that’s part of the reason why they have such a close relationship,” said campaign press secretary Carolina Anderegg. She said the two men speak “often” either personally or between their staffs. Trump called McMaster twice last week while he was on the stump.