President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up as he has Thanksgiving Day dinner at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up as he has Thanksgiving Day dinner at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Trump’s Thanksgiving menu includes turkey and grievances

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

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

Trump’s call, made Thursday from his opulent private Mar-a-Lago club, struck an unusually political tone as he spoke with members of all five branches of the military to wish them happy holidays.

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

Trump later threatened to close the U.S. 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,” he said — as club waiters worked to set Thanksgiving dinner tables on the outdoor terrace behind him. And it was yet another show of how Trump has dramatically transformed the presidency, erasing the traditional divisions between domestic policy and military matters and efforts to keep the troops clear of politics.

“You probably see over the news what’s happening on our southern border,” Trump 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, Trump asked a U.S. 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,” Trump told the commander, who sheepishly replied that, “We don’t see any issues in terms of trade right now.”

And throughout, 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.”

Indeed, asked what he was thankful for this Thanksgiving, Trump cited his “great family,” as well as himself.

“I made a tremendous difference in this country,” he said.

But Trump continued to warn about the situation on the southern border as he took questions from reporters, pointing to the caravans of Central American migrants that have been making their way toward the U.S. and warning that, “If we find that it gets to a level where we lose control or people are going to start getting hurt, we’re going to close entry into the country for a period of time until we get it under control.”

He said he had the authority to do so by executive order and claimed he’d already used it earlier this week. “Two days ago, we closed the border. We actually just closed it, said nobody’s coming in because it was just out of control.”

By no means did he seal the border with Mexico. Officials did shut down one port of entry, San Ysidro, in California, for several hours early Monday morning to bolster security because of concerns about a potential influx of migrant caravan members. They closed northbound lanes into the U.S. and reopened most of them before the morning rush.

Trump’s border threat came days after a federal judge put the administration’s attempts to overhaul asylum rules on hold. Courts have also blocked several versions of the president’s travel ban as well as his attempt to end a program that allows young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children to live and work in the country.

Trump probably could close the entire southern border by order, at least temporarily, invoking national security powers. But doing so could cause extraordinary damage to bilateral relations as well as to cross-border commerce between the U.S. and Mexico, its third largest trading partner. It would not necessarily stop migrants from coming either; Trump would have to contend with the same asylum laws already vexing his efforts to harden the border.

Read more: Republicans divided over Trump’s posture toward Saudi Arabia

Read more: Chretien says rise of Trump marks end of the American empire

Among other subjects the president touched on in his question-and-answer session with the press:

—Trump disputed reports the CIA has concluded that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince was responsible for journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing. “The CIA points it both ways,” said Trump. “Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.”

—Asked who should be held responsible for killing, Trump responded that, “Maybe the world should be held accountable ‘cause the world is a vicious place.”

—Trump said he’d be interviewing candidates for potential openings in his administration — but wouldn’t say for what positions.

“I’m very happy with my Cabinet and the people working for me and for us. … They’re absolute stars.” But, he said, “there’s always a lot of change. I’ll probably be changing a couple.”

—Trump would not discount the possibility of a partial government shutdown over lawmakers’ refusal to allocate billions of dollars for his promised border wall. “Could there be a shutdown? There certainly could, and it will be about border security, of which the wall is a part,” Trump said

—Trump said he’d spoken with his daughter Ivanka following news she’d sent hundreds of emails from a private address while serving as a senior White House adviser. Trump said she was “very innocent” and that situation was very different from the one he’s said his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton should be in jail for.

—He defended his acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, calling him “a highly respected person” whom the press had treated nastily.

—He complained about the military’s use of new electromagnetic catapult technology instead of steam in the new Navy aircraft carriers, telling a Navy officer that, “unfortunately, you have to be Albert Einstein to really work it properly.” The officer rebuffed him. “You sort of have to be Albert Einstein to run the nuclear power plants that we have here as well. But we’re doing that very well,” he said, advising the president to “go electromagnetic.”

Trump later travelled to a nearby Coast Guard station, where he delivered a lunch of plastic-wrapped sandwiches, fruit and chips before spending some 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.

___

Associated Press writer Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.

___

Jill Colvin, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Prince Rupert Tourism is benefitting from funding for new welcome and wayfinding signage from the COVID-19 Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program. McClymont Park on the gateway into Prince Rupert is one of the first things tourists see entering the city by road. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
$695,000 Community Economic Recovery funds to benefit local organizations

Prince Rupert Tourism and Gitga’at Development Corporation to receive COVID-19 recovery funds

Wainwright Marine Services Ltd.’s “Ingenika” tugboat went missing in the Garner Canal area south and east of Kitimat on Feb. 11, resulting in two deaths and the rescue of a third man. (Wainwright Marine Photo)
Tug union demands Transport Canada protect workers along B.C. coast and rivers

ILWU makes safety demands following the deaths of two men and the rescue of a third

High winds blow wet snow in Prince Rupert on Feb. 24. The region is expecting two to four cm of snow and winds up to 100 km per hour. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
High wind warnings for North Coast, up to 4 cm of snow expected

Wet snow makes driving conditions in Prince Rupert slippery

Pink shirt day was celebrated at Pineridge Elementary School by staff and students in a stand against bullying. Mr. Craig, a work-experience student from Charle Hays Secondary School is seen with students in front of the hearts for kindness board on Feb. 24. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Pineridge students stand against bullying

Prince Rupert students in the pink with kindness

A Prince Rupert neighbourhood on Feb. 23, showing various housing with an apartment building development in the background. Housing advocates in the city say affordable housing is scarce.(Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert Recruitment campaign creates housing availability debate

“There is a serious disconnect here, with the new recruitment campaign,” - Paul Lagace

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival kicks off March 5.
Women in Film Festival features two B.C. filmmakers

The 16th annual festival kicks off March 5, 2021

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

Most Read