January 4, 2019

I think the best explanation for President Trump's surprise appearance in the White House briefing room today is this:

But the president also had a message, and he brought along guests to deliver it:

President Donald Trump made a quick, unannounced stop in the White House briefing room Thursday to reiterate his hard-line border wall stance amid an ongoing partial government shutdown.

The surprise appearance, which lasted just a few minutes, marked the president's first time speaking from the briefing room podium. He answered no questions from reporters....

After greeting the press, Trump quickly turned the podium over to Brandon Judd, who is reportedly the president of the National Border Patrol Council. He defended Trump's requirement that any deal to end the government shutdown must include border wall funding.

Two more agents, Art Del Cueto and Hector Garza, followed.

Why these agents? Well, Fox News frequently hosts Judd, Del Cueto, and Garza -- go to the links to read Fox stories and see Fox clips.

A New York Times story from last April says that Trump didn't initially connect with Brandon Judd via Fox:

In an interview on Monday, Mr. Judd said he and the union came to Mr. Trump’s attention during the 2016 presidential campaign. After seeing Mr. Judd quoted in a news story, Mr. Trump reached out.

“Senator Ted Cruz quoted me from either a congressional hearing or a TV interview,” Mr. Judd said, “and immediately after, the Trump campaign reached out and strongly requested our endorsement.”

... Mr. Trump [later] appointed Mr. Judd to his transition team.

But, like so many Fox guests, Judd has a special TV rapport with the president:

Mr. Judd is the president of the National Border Patrol Council, a frequent guest on Fox News and a reliably vocal supporter of the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration agenda. On Sunday, he was interviewed on “Fox & Friends,” one of the president’s favorite programs.

What followed was a public mind meld with the president, one that has frequently occurred since Mr. Trump took office.

“Our legislators actually have to stand up, and the Republicans control the House and the Senate; they do not need the Democrat support to pass any laws they want,” Mr. Judd said during the segment. “They can go the nuclear option, just like what they did on the confirmation. They need to pass laws to end the catch-and-release program that’ll allow us to hold them for a long time.”

The president followed up on Twitter shortly after.

“Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release,” the president wrote. “Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW.”

... In January, Mr. Trump publicly praised Mr. Judd’s continued support.

“Thank you to Brandon Judd of the National Border Patrol Council for your kind words on how well we are doing at the Border,” Mr. Trump tweeted after another Fox segment featuring Mr. Judd. “We will be bringing in more & more of your great folks and will build the desperately needed WALL!”

Judd is not universally admired by his colleagues:

Some rank-and-file agents call Mr. Judd a strong advocate for the force, including pushing for more personnel and better technology. Others say that Mr. Judd has, on occasion, taken positions that some agents call bizarre.

Last year, Agent Rogelio Martinez was killed while on patrol in Texas and his partner, Agent Stephen Garland, was seriously injured. Mr. Judd and other National Border Patrol Council officials have repeatedly said the two agents were the victims of a savage attack by smugglers or undocumented immigrants.

No evidence of smugglers was ever found in the area, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was possible that the men were hurt accidentally. Oscar Carrillo, the local sheriff, helped investigate the case and concluded that the two men could have been hit by a vehicle.

The Times story notes that the National Border Patrol Council actually used to oppose border walls:

The Border Patrol union had previously opposed building border walls and fences. In a mission statement on its website, the union said it did not believe in “wasting taxpayer money on building fences and walls along the border as a means of curtailing illegal entries into the United States.”

Also, curiously, Judd doesn't even work on the southern border anymore, according to the Times -- he's stationed in Montana.

As for Garza and Del Cueto, well....

Their tweets speak for themselves.

So this was just Fox News in the White House briefing room, nothing more.

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