President Donald Trump has been taking a hard stance against migrant caravans slowly walking north for hundreds of miles through Mexico.
On Nov. 1, he said that U.S. troops he plans to deploy along the Mexican border should treat rocks thrown by the migrants as firearms attacks.
“Consider it a rifle,” he said. “When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexico military police, consider it a rifle.”
On Nov. 2, Trump tried to walk back those comments, telling reporters that if agents or soldiers “are going to be hit in the face with rocks, we’re going to arrest those people. That doesn’t mean shoot them.”
On Oct. 31, he was talking about sending as many as 15,000 American military troops to the border.
At that time, the number of troops already deployed for duty at the border was 5,239, the head of Northern Command, Gen. Terence O’Shaughnessy, said on Nov. 6. He said that number would likely grow even larger. A contingent of 2,092 National Guard members are now stationed at the border.
That total is roughly equal to the number of U.S. troops remaining in Iraq and Syria.
The president’s announcement came as midterm elections loomed large in the America’s political picture on Nov. 6.
Trump had concentrated his campaign speeches on his anti-immigration policies.
On Oct. 29, he was talking about deploying 5,000 troops. On Oct. 30, he was considering changing the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by executive order, which would deny citizenship to people born on U.S. soil. On Oct. 31, he was repeating his threat to cut off foreign assistance to Central American countries whose people have joined the caravans of migrants moving north, toward the U.S.
Earlier, Defense Secretary James Mattis, speaking at the Pentagon, was asked whether the troop deployment was a political stunt as some critics allege.
“The support that we provide to the secretary for Homeland Security is practical support based on the request from the commissioner of Customs and Border (Protection), so we don’t do stunts in this department,” he said.
On the weekend before the election, there was speculation that many government leaders and workers may be leaving their positions sooner, rather than later.
Marcia Lee Kelly, one of Trump’s top aides in the White House, is leaving the West Wing and is expected to become chief executive of the 2020 Republican Party convention.
Ms. Kelly’s departure in the coming days may signal a broader shake up of Trump’s White House, as he reconfigures his team to prepare for his re-election bid.
Louis DeJoy, a Trump fundraiser, is likely to be named finance chairman of the convention, which will be held in his home state of North Carolina.
Don McGahn, the White House general counsel, left last month and his replacement, Pat Cipollone, will take his place in the coming weeks.
Deputy press secretary Raj Shah is also likely to depart.
Bill Stepien, the president’s top political aide, and Justin Clark, head of the White House’s public liaison office, are expected to join the Trump campaign.
The midterm election marks a major turning point for the political operatives not only in Washington D.C., but all across the nation with many changes in governors and state legislators.