Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters Friday the Pentagon stands ready to dispatch more troops to the border region if President Trump follows through with his pledge to increase the military presence along the U.S.-Mexico boundary.
Trump said after touring a section of recently upgraded border fencing in Calexico, Calif., last week, “We’re going to bring up some more military” to deal with what he said were more than 70,000 illegal migrants rushing the border.
Shanahan said the Pentagon has had conversations with the Department of Homeland Security but has yet to receive a formal request.
“It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’ll provide more support to the border,” he said in response to a reporter’s question as he prepared to meet with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. “Our support is very elastic, and given the deterioration there at the border, you would expect that we would provide more support.” Shanahan said he anticipates the support will be similar to what the military has already provided with several thousand troops, barrier construction, transport, and surveillance.
Shanahan will meet with a planning team at the Pentagon over the weekend to prepare for the potential request, he said.
“It will follow up with where are we on barrier construction, where do we stand on troops deployed, and then in the areas we anticipate, what type of preliminary plans should we be doing prior to receiving a request for assistance,” he said.
Democrats have been highly critical of the deployment of active-duty troops to the border, and many have cited a leaked internal memo the Marine Corps commandant sent to the Navy secretary warning that unexpected expenses, such as hurricane damage and border operations, could force him to cancel routine training and degrade combat readiness.
But in Senate testimony this week, Gen. Robert Neller insisted his memo was being misconstrued. “To say that going to the border was degrading our readiness is not an accurate statement,” Neller told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday.
Neller’s March 18 memo listed eight categories of unfunded and unexpected expenses. Hurricane recovery was at the top of the list, but a number of expenses were included, such as the raise for civilian employees, which was not in the budget.
“We have a shortfall of just under $300 million, of which the border mission is less than 2 percent,” Neller said. “So my intent was to just simply lay out for my boss what these were and ask for support in trying to figure out how we might fund them.”
Pressed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Neller conceded some Marines, who are not doing the jobs they would normally do, could see a small degradation in their unit readiness, but he said it depended on the unit.
“Some of the units have gone down there and they’ve done tasks that are more in line with their core mission. Like engineer units or MP units. Aviation units that were assigned to that early on have actually improved their readiness because they are able to fly certain profiles and things,” he testified.
Neller reports to his civilian boss, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, who requested the memo and jumped to Neller’s defense at the hearing.
“The main stress that we were dealing with at the time, senator, was the hurricane, which was imposing the greatest cost on the Marine Corps,” Spencer told Warren. “Five hundred men for a month at the southern border is $1.25 million. In my mind, is that affecting my readiness stress? No, it’s not.”
Neller said so far border operations have cost the Marine Corps $6.2 million.
A back-and-forth over Twitter about whether Rep. Ilhan Omar had downplayed the significance and horror of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks sparked debate on Capitol Hill this week.
On Friday, she suggested that President George W. Bush would have faced more scrutiny for his comments in the aftermath of the attacks if he were Muslim.
“Was Bush downplaying the terrorist attack?” Omar asked in a tweet sharing an article to the Washington Post. “What if he was a Muslim?”
The Post story included a fact check on Omar’s remarks and said they were reminiscent of President George W. Bush’s “bullhorn speech.”
“The people — and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” Omar said, quoting Bush’s speech.
A video surfaced over the weekend showing Omar referring to the 9/11 hijackers as “some people who did something.”
That speech was met with instant criticism from Republicans and conservative media.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, condemned Omar for trivializing the deadliest terror attack in American history.
“You described an act of terrorism on American soil that killed thousands of innocent lives as ‘some people did something,’” Crenshaw said of Omar in a tweet. “It’s still unbelievable, as is your response here.”
1. I never called you un-American.
2. I did not incite any violence against you.
3. You described an act of terrorism on American soil that killed thousands of innocent lives as “some people did something.”
It’s still unbelievable, as is your response here. https://t.co/SsfWYepOS1
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) April 10, 2019
The right-leaning New York Post published a dramatic front page Thursday with the screaming headline “ Here’s your something.”
Former FBI Investigator and now CNN Legal Analyst James Gagliano called Omar’s tweet a “false equivalence”
“President Bush made this statement days after World Trade Center was reduced to rubble, as he stood atop the smoking pile. I was there,” Gagliano said. “We, in FBI, were working to determine involvement in conspiracy, following evidence.”
Omar and other Democratic freshman lawmakers have said that criticizing her for speaking about her experiences as a Muslim American puts her in danger.
Authorities charged a New York man last week with threatening to assassinate Omar.
“I’m not going to quote the NY Post’s horrifying, hateful cover,” tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. “She‘s done more for 9/11 families than the GOP who won’t even support healthcare for 1st responders- yet are happy to weaponize her faith.”
Outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced Tuesday night her acting deputy secretary is resigning.
Claire Grady, who was next in line after it was announced by President Trump over the weekend that Nielsen was resigning, was reportedly pushed out of the position to make room for Trump’s pick, Kevin McAleenan, the chief of Customs and Border Protection.
The resignation is the latest in a massive shakeup at the department. Trump announced over Twitter on Sunday that Nielsen was leaving after a tense meeting on immigration and the border. Soon after, Nielsen shared her letter of resignation and said she would officially depart Wednesday after helping with the transition.
Randolph “Tex” Alles, director of the Secret Service, left the White House on Monday after reports that he was told he had 10 days to exit. Trump picked Secret Service assistant director of the Office of Protective Operations, James Murray, to take over May 1.
Two other immigration officials who are reportedly expected to leave the Trump administration soon are L. Francis Cissna, the head of Citizenship and Immigration Services, and John Mitnick, a senior member of Nielsen’s team.
Nielsen announced Grady’s resignation in a string of tweets.
“Acting Deputy Secretary Claire Grady has offered the President her resignation, effective tomorrow. For the last two years, Claire has served @DHSgov w excellence and distinction. She has been an invaluable asset to DHS – a steady force and a knowledgeable voice,” Nielsen said.
“Claire has led the men and women of DHS who support our operational staff. Her sound leadership and effective oversight have impacted every DHS office and employee and made us stronger as a Department. Clair has had a remarkable career in public service,” she added. “- 28 years at the Departments of Homeland Security & Defense – that is coming to a close. I am thankful for Claire’s expertise, dedication & friendship & am filled w gratitude for her exemplary service to DHS & to our country. I wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”
Acting Deputy Secretary Claire Grady has offered the President her resignation, effective tomorrow. For the last two years, Claire has served @DHSgov w excellence and distinction. She has been an invaluable asset to DHS – a steady force and a knowledgeable voice.
— Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen (@SecNielsen) April 9, 2019