Joined by members of the National Border Patrol Council on Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump spoke briefly at the Press Briefing Room in the White House on his belief that there’s a strong need for a wall at the nation’s southern border.
During his remarks on border security, Trump claimed his proposal for a border wall — which he sometimes called a “barrier” — was a popular one that Americans wanted. Members of the NBPC also defended Trump’s use of the government shutdown to force lawmakers in Congress to support funding for the border wall, according to reporting from PBS NewsHour, which broadcast the president’s remarks live on Periscope.
“We need protection in our country. We’re going to make it good, the people of our country want it,” Trump said.
Trump further claimed that Americans had been calling and writing him to express their support, more for this issue than on any other topic, he said.
“I have never had so much support as I have in the last week over my stance for border security, for border control, and for frankly the wall or the barrier. I have never had anything like it, in terms of calls coming in, in terms of people writing in and tweeting, and doing whatever they have to do.”
Trump stated in his remarks that “17,000 criminals [have tried] to get across the border.”
President Trump is making a formal briefing from the White House press briefing room for the first time in his presidency. pic.twitter.com/CFzkFRPpS1— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 3, 2019
Polling on the issue of the border wall, however, demonstrates that Trump’s remarks claiming it has large support are inaccurate. Trump may very well have received a lot of correspondence from individuals who support the wall’s construction, but anecdotal evidence from the president doesn’t mean that it’s a popular policy.
Data from a Reuters/Ipsos poll suggest that a majority of Americans don’t want the border wall constructed at all. On whether a shutdown should be used as leverage to get the wall, only 25 percent of Americans support Trump’s methods to do so.
This was Trump’s first-ever appearance in the Press Briefing Room, a point he mentioned himself during part of his remarks. Yet as the briefing wound to a close, he did not take questions from reporters, to the befuddlement of journalists in the room. One reporter shouted out, “the point of the briefing room is to take questions” after the president had left.
As the administration has tried to control its messaging since the start of Trump’s tenure, the president has had very few press conferences compared to other presidents, according to the American Presidency Project. In his first year as president, for instance, Trump had just one press conference in total, and he held a relatively small number of them in 2018 as well, very atypical for a commander-in-chief in the first two years in office.
Some may not even qualify this appearance by Trump as a press conference. Usually such events allow members of the media to ask questions directly to the president, but since Trump refused to answer any questions at all, his presence in the Press Briefing Room likely won’t count toward his total number of press conferences.
Press briefings by the White House, including those held by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, have all but disappeared in the past few months, reporting from The Guardian has pointed out. Press briefings, at one point a daily ritual, are now more of a monthly routine instead.