President Trump touted the early stages of construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, promising to “get that sucker built” in a campaign-style speech Thursday in Richfield, Ohio.
The speech, which lasted over an hour, was slated to help roll out his $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, but he also hit a wide range of agenda items, including his paramount campaign promise: the border wall.
“We started our wall—what a thing of beauty,” Trump said, noting critics suggested he would “give up.” “Has he given up? No I never give up.”
Trump added: “We’re getting that sucker built!”
The president’s camments come after he floated the idea of reprogramming military-designated funding to finance construction of the wall. Congressional sources told Fox News this week the move would be “impossible” without congressional approval at some point in the “reprogramming process,” as the money would need to be moved from one agency to another.
The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package that was passed last week designated only $1.6 billion toward construction of the wall. The president repeatedly has called the $1.6 billion a “down payment” for the wall.
“The wall looks good. It’s properly designed. That what I do. I build,” Trump said. “I was always very good at building, I think better than being president. I was very good at building. But I think I’ll be better as president... that will be good.”
Trump discussed the different prototypes reviewed for construction of the wall, and said that “we have something special happening” in the early stages of building.
On Wednesday, the president tweeted photos of the “start of our Southern Border WALL!” which were taken earlier in California. The Department of Homeland Security said the photos were of an area of border wall replacement, which would be an approximately 2.25-mile section replaced with a 30-foot high bollard-style wall.
Trump went on to compare the United States border to the Koreas – noting that the U.S. has spent “billions of dollars” to maintain other countries’ borders.
“Look at Korea. We have a border at Korea. We have a wall of soldiers who don’t get paid very much for this. You look at that, and nobody comes through,” Trump said Thursday. “But our own border—we don’t take care of it.”
He added: “We spend billions of dollars in other countries maintaining their borders, but we can’t maintain the border of our own country.”
The president later shifted to the trade deal approved between the United States and South Korea earlier this week, noting that he may delay the agreement until a deal is struck with North Korea, suggesting that would be “a very strong card.”
The Trump administration re-negotiated the six-year-old U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), to address the massive trade deficit and increase U.S. car sales in Seoul. The deal reached also would exempt South Korea from the Trump administration’s new 25-percent steel tariff, but not from the new 10-percent tariff on aluminum imports.
“I may hold it up — do you know why? Because it’s a very strong card. And I want to make sure everyone is treated fairly,” Trump said. “We’re moving along very nicely with North Korea. We’ll see what happens. Certainly the rhetoric has calmed down a little.”
Trump referenced the upcoming unscheduled meeting with the rogue regime’s dictator Kim Jong Un.
“If it’s no good, we’re walking. And if it is good, we’ll embrace it,” Trump said. “It’s going to be very interesting. We’ll hold the South Korea deal up for a little while — see how it all plays out.”
Speaking to the crowd south of Cleveland, the president also hit on other key issues – including the economy, the “3 million new jobs since election day,” and vocational schools. Trump said he would direct Congress to approve student financial aid for those schools, to create classes of successful workers in skilled trades and construction.
The infrastructure plan, which the president tweeted about minutes after he finished his speech, also would include a $50 billion “commitment” to building in rural communities, which he said were “too often left behind.”
“We will transform our roads and bridges from a source of endless frustration into a source of incredible pride,” Trump said, noting that 40 percent of bridges in the U.S. were “built before the first moon landing.”
The $1.5 trillion plan is slated to “invest” in the American worker, “transform” the permit program by further slashing regulations, and invest in the rural communities — all through a partnership between federal, state and local governments, and aid from the private sector, officials have said.
The president also said Thursday that Congress directed $2 billion to improve veterans’ medical facilities, as part of the omnibus spending package. Trump discussed accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs, just one day after he fired VA Secretary David Shulkin and named Dr. Ronny Jackson to replace him. The president, though, did not mention Shulkin in his remarks Thursday.
Trump also went on to discuss the fight against the Islamic State terror network.
“By the way, we’re knocking the hell out of ISIS,” Trump said. “We’ll be coming out of Syria like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it.”