Emboldened by Mueller Report, Trump Stages Border Drama

April 9, 2019

Trump hands even more aggressive border policy to Stephen Miller, and uses border controversy to bury more aggressive action against Iran

Trump hands even more aggressive border policy to Stephen Miller, and uses border controversy to bury more aggressive action against Iran


Emboldened by Mueller Report, Trump Stages Border Drama

Story Transcript

PAUL JAY: Trump wants to get tougher at the border, and heads are rolling in D.C. That’s next up on The Real News Network.

President Trump fired Kirstjen Nielsen, his Secretary of Homeland Security, on Sunday. He followed this up with the firing of the director of the Secret Service. Perhaps this is just the beginning of heads that are rolling. Now joining us to discuss all of this is Gerald Horne. Gerald holds the John J. And Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, and he’s a regular contributor at The Real News. Thanks for joining us, Gerald.

GERALD HORNE: Thank you for inviting me.

PAUL JAY: So what’s your initial take on this firing and this rhetoric about getting tougher? He’s made threats against Mexico. He first says he’s threatening to close the whole border, and then of course all of the American industry and retail, everybody went nuts. And now he’s saying he’s going to put a 25 percent tariff on cars coming from Mexico if the Mexican government doesn’t block people from coming across. What do you make of this latest round of bluster?

GERALD HORNE: Well, it’s multifaceted and has many angles. Number one, the immigration issue, a la Europe, resonates with the 63 million strong Trump base. Recall that when he glided down the escalator in June 2015 to announce his candidacy, Mexico and immigration from Mexico was front and center. Second of all, the purge at Homeland Security it seems to me is the beginning of a general purge. Recall that just recently the head of the Secret Service has been ousted. Expect further heads to roll in the FBI and in the CIA as well. This is Mr. Trump’s response to the fact that he considers himself to be exonerated from the charge and accusation of colluding with Moscow during the November 2016 victory that he helped to execute.

And also I think it’s further empowering of the Steve Bannon mini me. I’m speaking of Steven Miller, the 30-something aide to Mr. Trump who, as you know, is a hardliner on the question of immigration. I expect there to be further hardline moves taken on that front.

And finally, I would say Mexico should not be lost sight of. That is to say that Mexico is not playing ball with Mr. Trump with regard to getting rid of the Maduro regime in Venezuela. Mexico, as has been its historic stance, still has very good relations with Cuba. And I don’t think that the Trump team is altogether satisfied with having a left-wing president in Mexico City. And I think that this crackdown on the border is also part of the pressure that’s going to be placed on that left-wing regime in Mexico City.

PAUL JAY: Yeah, I think AMLO, the president of Mexico, is I think playing it pretty smart. What I hear from our people that cover Mexico and Mexico City is that he’s going to really try to avoid a direct confrontation with Trump while he consolidates the Mexican economy and makes some progressive reforms. But I think we’re in quite a unique political moment, here. Trump feels “vindicated” from the Mueller report, which no one has seen. And he’s got a window here between when the Mueller report goes public, and it sounds like there’s some damning stuff that will come out. The hearings that are taking place in the House are likely over the next few months to come out with some damning stuff.

But he’s got a window here where I think he can assert the full Trump. Not the full monty, the full Trump. And part of that–I think it’s interesting on the same day he makes such a fuss about the border is the day where they announced that they’re going to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, which is a big upping of the economic war against Iran and another real step towards a possible military intervention of some kind, but clearly dedicated to regime change in Iran one way or the other.

GERALD HORNE: Well I think that’s a fair point, but keep in mind that Teheran has responded by declaring that the arm of the U.S. military that’s operating in its neighborhood is also a terrorist entity. And I think that the two allegations, Tehran probably has the best of that argument. This will probably lead to attempts on both sides to detain the, on the one hand the leaders of the Revolutionary Guard who are traveling abroad, and on the other hand leaders of the U.S. military when they’re traveling abroad.

But I do think that Mr. Trump is getting himself into a bit of hot water as we speak. These trade talks with China seem to be bogged down. And as the interim chief of the Pentagon put it when asked what his top three priorities were, he said “China, China, China.” This contestation with Iran it seems to me is distracting Washington from China, China, China, and in any event leads to a further consolidation of the relationship between China and Iran, particularly trading Iranian oil to China or bartering that oil for various commodities. And that is something that Mr. Trump is going to have to confront sooner rather than later.

PAUL JAY: In this moment of the window Trump has before the heat’s back on him on the corruption side, and probably the obstruction of justice side, this declaration of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as terrorists, there’s a seven day window now that Congress could block it. What we’re hearing is the Democrats are not planning to do much of anything about it. And I think when one looks back in a few months from now, if there’s a real–if there is a war, all-out war against Iran, or such a destabilization that it leads to some kind of military confrontation one way or the other in the region, I think this vote’s going to be quite critical. And the Democrats are going to look like they did nothing.

GERALD HORNE: Well as you know better than most, the Democrats, generally speaking, have been trying to run to the right of Mr. Trump on the question of foreign policy. That’s the implication of their critique of his moves on the Korean peninsula and seeking to work out an entente with Chairman Kim and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. That’s the import of the recent AIPAC summit in Washington, the Israeli lobby, where Democratic Party leaders like Chuck Schumer and Steny Hoyer of the House basically signed on to the Netanyahu agenda. And that’s the import of the so-called Russiagate scandal, which has been pushed a fairly well by the Democrats, particularly their media arm, speaking of MSNBC. And so the fact that the Democrats may not want to call out Mr. Trump on Iran is quite consistent with their general foreign policy orientation, which is either agreeing with him, as in Venezuela, or running to his right, as in North Korea.

PAUL JAY: And it’s actually a break, though, with a lot of the foreign policy leaders of the past. Because this actually came up, the same resolution as a Senate resolution was the Kyl Lieberman amendment proposed declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard terrorist in 2007. And Obama was against it. Biden voted against it. Of course Hillary Clinton voted for it. So you could see who the real neocons in the Democratic Party were on that issue. Not to say Obama wasn’t for the empire and such. Of course he was. But the language at the time is that if you declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard terrorists, it’s part of the Iranian government. So you’re essentially preparing the conditions to declare war on Iran. And as I say, many leading Democrats voted no against that resolution, although it did pass. But as we’re hearing even among some of the progressives so far, at least up until this interview, are not planning to do anything about it.

GERALD HORNE: Will, you also need to see this conflict not only in Democrat versus Republican terms, but also with regard to the internecine conflict that’s now wracking the Democratic Party itself. You probably saw the article in the New York Times just this morning which suggested that Democratic Party centrists are quite upset with the democratic socialist faction within the Democratic Party, that they would like to see a purge, if you like, of this democratic socialist faction. And given the fact that many constituencies within the Democratic Party are not necessarily up to speed on the question of foreign policy, which gives even more momentum and strength to, for example, the Israeli lobby and to the neocons, I daresay that the centrists feel that they can use these foreign policy issues not only as a club against the Republicans but also as a club against those to their left.

PAUL JAY: Now, back to the border. Trump’s clearly–his math, they look at how these issues play out. And putting Steven Miller more in charge of these policies. I’ve interviewed Miller before. We’re going to run that interview again sometime soon. Hard right on immigration. Bizarro hard right, actually. He sees this as the way to rally the base, I think, to help prepare for a much more aggressive next year of Trump. And again, trying to bury what might come out of the hearings, the request for tax returns, and such like that. Do you think he’s right? Does the math really play out that way? Or is he making a miscalculation here.

GERALD HORNE: Well, on the one hand I think that Mr. Trump feels that his base is rock solid, 40 percent of the electorate, and voter suppression will take care of the rest. I also feel that we have to keep a close eye on Steven Miller, who is an experienced [knife] fighter even though he’s only in his 30s. He hails from Santa Monica, California, a liberal bastion. He also attended Duke University, where he gained notoriety by his attacks on the left and attacks on people of color there. And keep in mind as well that he’s come under critique and criticism from members of his own family. That is to say, members of his own family are, like himself, of Jewish ethnoreligious background, and they say that their family, their ancestors, benefited from liberalized immigration policies, and that Mr. Miller is not being true to his family heritage by seeking to crack down on the kinds of policies that benefited his family. I think they have a fair point. But it does not seem to be stopping Mr. Miller at all.

PAUL JAY: Now, when I interviewed Miller I said to him if you really want to stop this migration from Central America, why don’t you pour money into Central America and make, you know, help make living conditions livable? He actually didn’t really have a counter to that. Except now what Trump’s done is actually pulled back on aid to Central America, which one would think makes it worse. Which maybe is what they want. They want more drama at the border.

GERALD HORNE: I think that’s a fair assessment. I think that they feel that it resonates with the 63 million-strong trump base. Let’s hope that they’re incorrect. But in any case I think what’s going to happen with curtailing of aid to the Northern Triangle countries, including Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, is that this will cause much more of a flow of migrants through southern Mexico up to the border with the United States of America, which means thatMr. Trump’s policy ultimately is self-defeating.

PAUL JAY: All right. Thanks for joining us, Gerald.

GERALD HORNE: Thank you.

PAUL JAY: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.