President Donald Trump reportedly wanted a moat dug along the southern border, stocked with alligators or snakes to scare away migrants. And an electrified border wall topped with spikes capable of piercing human flesh. And bayonets for border patrol troops. And authority to shoot civilian migrants in the legs.
The impeachment process now underway is justified, but arguably inadequate to the immediate danger this president poses in office, of which these new revelations are only the latest example. If Vice President Mike Pence and Cabinet officials had any respect for their duties, they’d have invoked the 25th Amendment by now to temporarily suspend Trump’s powers on grounds of mental unfitness, while Congress decided whether to remove him from office.
Trump’s proposed moat and the rest are revealed in a New York Times piece this week, based on interviews and corroboration from top administration sources. It recounts behind-the-scenes events earlier this year, when Trump was raging about continued crossings at the southern border. It describes a president who lacks both a realistic understanding of what is legally and physically possible on border policy, and a basic sense of human decency.
According to the report, “the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh … [and] he suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down.”
The Washington Post independently confirmed those details from the Times’ piece, and added another: Trump last year told aides he wanted U.S. forces on the border to be equipped with bayonets.
Trump on Wednesday angrily denied the reports. “Never said it. Never thought of it,” Trump said of the flesh-piercing-spike idea. Perhaps he forgot having said publicly during a visit to San Diego two weeks ago that he wanted spikes along the border. On the reptile-filled moat and the other ideas as well, the media reports are depressingly believable. Given Trump’s record of demonstrable lies on issues big and small, presidential denials today mean close to nothing.
Bayonets. Moats. Alligators. Shooting civilians in the legs. These are what pass as immigration policy thinking from America’s president.
This newspaper and others have previously called on Trump administration officials to invoke the 25th Amendment, which allows temporary emergency removal of the president’s authority by his Cabinet, pending congressional review, based on inability to carry out his duties.
Pence and others who have thus far enabled Trump’s madness give no indication they’d be willing to pry this president’s fingers from the levers of power — levers that include the unilateral authority to launch nuclear weapons. But it needs to be stated for the record, again, that invoking the 25th Amendment would be the responsible course.