Friday 20 September 2019

Trump: I’ve made a tremendous difference for America

The president used a Thanksgiving Day call to praise himself.

Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

By Jill Colvin, Associated Press

Donald Trump used a Thanksgiving Day call to troops deployed overseas to pat himself on the back as well as air grievances about the courts, trade and migrants heading to the US-Mexico border.

The president’s call, made from his opulent private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, struck an unusually political tone as he spoke with members of all five branches of the military to wish them happy holidays, but he also took time to say what a “tremendous difference” he had personally made to the US.

“It’s a disgrace,” he said of judges who have blocked his attempts to overhaul US immigration law, as he linked his efforts to secure the border with military missions overseas.

He later threatened to close the US border with Mexico for an undisclosed period of time if his administration determines Mexico has lost “control” on its side.

The call was a uniquely Trump blend of boasting, peppered questions and off-the-cuff observations as his comments veered from venting about slights to praising troops — “You really are our heroes” — as club waiters worked to set Thanksgiving dinner tables on the outdoor terrace behind him.

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Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have Thanksgiving Day dinner at their Mar-a-Lago estate (Susan Walsh/AP)

It was another show of how Mr Trump has dramatically transformed the presidency, erasing the traditional divisions between domestic policy and military matters and efforts to keep troops clear of politics.

“You probably see over the news what’s happening on our southern border,” he told one Air Force brigadier general stationed at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, adding: “I don’t have to even ask you. I know what you want to do, you want to make sure that you know who we’re letting in.”

Later, he asked a US Coast Guard commander about trade, which he noted was “a very big subject” for him personally.

“We’ve been taken advantage of for many, many years by bad trade deals,” Mr Trump told the commander, who sheepishly replied: “We don’t see any issues in terms of trade right now.”

Throughout, Mr Trump was sure to congratulate himself, telling the officers that the country is doing exceptionally well on his watch.

“I hope that you’ll take solace in knowing that all of the American families you hold so close to your heart are all doing well,” he said.

“The nation’s doing well economically, better than anybody in the world.”

He later told reporters: “Nobody’s done more for the military than me.”

Asked what he was thankful for this Thanksgiving, he cited his “great family” as well as himself. “I made a tremendous difference in this country,” he said.

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Donald Trump meets members of the US Coast Guard (Susan Walsh/AP)

Mr Trump later travelled to a nearby Coast Guard station, where he delivered a lunch of plastic-wrapped sandwiches, fruit and crisps before spending time at one of his golf courses.

He and his family capped the day with several hundred dues-paying members and their guests at a Thanksgiving feast in Mar-a-Lago’s opulent ballroom that included the usual fixings, along with chilled seafood, Chilean sea bass and braised short ribs.

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