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Trump Threatens To Shut Down U.S. Border With Mexico


President Trump is threatening to shut down the entire U.S. border with Mexico. The threat comes after an incident in Tijuana, Mexico, this weekend when a group of migrants tried to evade Mexican police and rush toward the U.S. border, prompting the U.S. Border Control to use tear gas and shut down that border crossing for several hours. NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe joins me now. Hi, Ayesha.


KELLY: Hi. What is President Trump saying today about what's going on in the border?

RASCOE: Well, he was asked about the use of this tear gas by U.S. agents over the weekend. And there were women and children in this group that were hit with the gas. He defended the use of tear gas. He said that these agents had to do it because they were defending themselves as the gate was being rushed by some, quote, "tough people." And here's some more of what he had to say.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Here's the bottom line. Nobody is coming into our country unless they come in legally.

RASCOE: And we should say it's not illegal to seek asylum in the U.S.


RASCOE: What the administration is trying to do is trying to limit people to come in only through certain ports of entry. And - but even at these ports of entry, you only have - you have cases where there are only like 100 asylum petitions being processed a day. But you have thousands of people waiting. So that's how you end up with these kind of large groups who are protesting and upset about the conditions where they're waiting in Mexico trying to get into the U.S. to apply for asylum.

KELLY: All right. Well, stay with those people who are waiting on the Mexican side of the border because there's been reporting that the White House has worked out - or is trying to work out a deal with the incoming administration in Mexico to keep asylum-seekers on the Mexican side of the border while their claims are being processed. That would be a change. Is the White House confirming it?

RASCOE: They aren't confirming it. They're not really providing much clarity other than saying that Trump has developed a good relationship with the incoming administration in Mexico and that he looks forward to working with them on a variety of issues. Now, Mexico has denied that a deal has been reached. But they didn't deny that they're talking with the U.S. about a potential agreement. Trump basically tweeted that it would be in Mexico's interest to stop the flow of migrants coming into the U.S. And in another tweet, he told Mexico to deport migrants trying to get to the U.S. and said that he would shut down the border if they didn't.

KELLY: How serious a threat is that, in your sense?

RASCOE: It's something that Trump is throwing around publicly, but doing so would be drastic. It would have huge economic implications - not only for Mexico but for the U.S. The State Department says there's about $1.7 billion of two-way trade and hundreds of thousands of legal border crossings each day with Mexico. So keeping this threat, it is a way to try to get Mexico to do more to control the flow of migrants. And maybe it's useful politically, but there would be huge blowback if he actually did it.

KELLY: And real quick, Ayesha, let me ask you about something totally unrelated - climate change. Over the weekend, as you know, on Thanksgiving Friday, the administration released this big report on the impact of climate change. What is President Trump saying about that report?

RASCOE: He's saying that he does not believe the dire economic consequences that were laid out in the report. He doesn't contradict it. He didn't provide any evidence. But he just said he doesn't believe that it's true. And he said that countries like China and Japan - that they need to take action. And if they don't, it doesn't matter what the U.S. does.

KELLY: NPR's Ayesha Rascoe reporting. Thanks, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.