Trump suggested 'shooting immigrants in the legs' at the border
An article published by the New York Times describes the wild - and dangerous - options considered by the U.S. president to deter immigrants from crossing the southern border.
A meeting during March was enough for the White House advisory team to measure the scope of presidential ideas when dealing with immigrants.
After a dozen interviews, the New York Times recounts ideas varying from "fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators," to "publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down."
If you were pondering the reason behind Donald Trump's admiration for leaders such as Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines or Vladimir Putin in Russia, this recount of his violent tantrums for far-fetched measures against immigrants can give you an idea.
The Times article cites former officials who witnessed shouts and insults from a president "difficult to placate."
Faced with constant objections to his extravagant ideas, Trump once shouted: "You are making me look like an idiot! I ran on this. It's my issue!" Referring to the impossibility of closing the border.
Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of Homeland Security at the time, was the main focus of the presidential anger.
Despite working side by side with people like Mike Pompeo, Kevin K. McAleenan and Stephen Miller, Nielsen was frequently - and to the surprise of many - the voice of conscience in the discussion.
She often had to claim the illegality of measures such as seizing land to build the wall or the economic danger that would imply indefinitely closing the border with Mexico.
The result, as we well know, was her eventual dismissal.
The officials' account shows that the reasons went beyond Nielsen's performance, and had more to do with a president who does not know how to take "no" for an answer.
White House officials' strategy to calm Trump's wrath ended up being the imposition of tariffs on Mexico, to force some sort of military collaboration at the border.
But Stephen Miller, senior advisor to the White House and brain behind the Administration's immigration agenda, saw this as an opportunity.
"The president needed to completely overhaul the Homeland Security Department and get rid of senior officials who he believed were thwarting efforts to block the immigrants," the Times continues.
Miller managed to convince Trump that officials like Nielsen "had become part of the problem by constantly citing legal hurdles."
Hence, L. Francis Cissna, director of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and Ronald D. Vitiello, chief Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer, were dismissed and immediately replaced by people with a closer moral compass to the Trumpian ideology.
And for those who were still hesitating, the president had a solution.
On a trip to California, Trump demanded Kevin K. McAleenan, who replaced Nielsen as Secretary of Homeland Security, to "stop letting migrants cross the border at all."
"If you get into any trouble for it, I'll pardon you," he promised.
These new details about presidential behavior no longer have to do with his complete disconnection with an underlying sense of reality and humanity, but with the constant challenge to our ability to be surprised.