WESLACO, Texas – Since 2015, when he had a bodyguard remove me from a news conference in Iowa, I had not seen Donald Trump. And now I was going to see him again, during his visit to the border in Texas. But, like everything else with Trump, things did not work out like I expected.
“We all have to hunt a lion,” writer Gabriel García Márquez once told journalist Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza. “Some of us have managed to do it. But trembling.” And when you're trying to hunt someone like Trump, regardless of what happens, you have to know he will never accept that he lost. He is the typical sore loser. Given to tantrums and vengeful.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had invited Trump to support his proposal for a new wall on the Texas border with Mexico. The governor has declared a state of “disaster” because of the number of undocumented migrants crossing the border illegally – more than 180,000 in May – and opposes what he calls he “open borders” policies of President Joe Biden. He hopes the declaration will bring him the money to build a new wall that closes the gaps on the federal wall along the border.
But there's a slight problem. The effort will be useless. Nearly half of all undocumented migrants arrive by airplane or stay past the time allowed by their U.S. visas. The Pew Center puts the figure at 45 percent and the Center for Migration Studies puts it at 42 percent. Therefore, no matter how high that wall between Texas and Mexico will be, the strategy will not work.
That's what I wanted to tell Trump and Gov. Abbott. That walls don't work. And that it's not true that Trump built “nearly 500 miles of wall” with Mexico, as he often claims, when in fact the number was just 476, according to The New York Times. What's more, Mexico did not pay one cent for that wall.
But I couldn't. Trump was protected by a security system that blocked reporters from getting close to the former president. And after his public meeting with the governor and other state politicians, they did not allow us a single question.
So, at the end of the meeting and amid the applause, I had no choice but to shout the former president's name several times, to get his attention, and move as close as possible under the watching eyes of the Secret Service. It worked. Trump saw me and said, with some irony, “Look! It's my friend out there.” Of course I am not Trump's friend, but his words led the Secret Service agents to allow me move within about six feet of the former president.
And there, in seconds, I had to change my strategy. My questions about immigration were too long and complex to fire them at Trump as he left. And there were a lot of officials greeting him and taking pictures with him. So I switched to Plan B. I would ask a short question about his refusal to admit that Joe Biden won the presidential elections. That is, after all, the essence of what is known as the “great lie.”
“Are you going to recognize finally that you lost the elections?” I asked him as he approached the door to leave.
“We won the election,” he said, looking directly at me.
“No no,” I answered him. “You lost the election. You lost the electoral college. When are you going to recognize that?”
Trump turned away, kept walking and said nothing more. End of the conversation. In fact, Joe Biden won 306 electoral votes in November to 232 for Trump. Biden received more than 81 million votes compared to 74 million for Trump.
That should be the end of it. But it's not for Trump or for his supporters. It is surprising that seven months after the presidential elections, Trump continues to tell so many lies. But what is truly incredible is that this man, who became the most powerful person in the world in 2016, would believe his own lies. And what is even more difficult to believe is that 55 percent of Republicans, according to a Reuters poll, believe that Biden won because of electoral fraud.
The Trump phenomenon is worrying and dangerous for U.S. democracy. Many have fallen for his lies, and the insurrection and invasion of Congress on Jan. 6 by some of his followers was a serious threat to the stability of the country.
Trump has support among Latinos. A study by the Pew Center shows 38 percent of Latinos voted for Trump last year. That is much more than the 28 percent who did so in 2016. Clearly, for them, Trump's racist comments – like the one about Mexican migrants who are “criminals” and “rapists” – did not keep them from voting for him.
Trump seems to have kidnapped some part of the Republican party. Few dare to criticize him publicly or even to contradict his new mantra that he won the elections. And even politicians with long records, like Gov. Abbott, seek his blessings.
Trump meanwhile continues to play with the idea of winning reelection in 2024. And no matter how abhorrent and false his ideas are, we should not lose sight of him. That's why I went to the border. At least this time I was not removed by a bodyguard.