President Donald Trump made a surprise appearance in the White House press briefing room Thursday where he congratulated Rep. Nancy Pelosi on her election as the next House speaker and again advocated for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
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“I just want to start off by congratulating Nancy Pelosi on being elected Speaker of the House,” Trump said. “It’s a very, very great achievement, and hopefully we’re going to work together and we’re going to get lots of things done, like infrastructure and so much more.
“I think it will be a little bit different than a lot of people are thinking so I congratulate Nancy. Tremendous, tremendous achievement.”
Trump spoke at the hastily-arranged press briefing. An announcement was made over the loud speaker to reporters that White House press secretary would be holding a briefing in “five minutes” and the news set off a flurry of activity among reporters and photographers, as no briefing was on the official schedule. While it is typically standing-room only during the increasingly rare Trump administration briefings, many seats went unoccupied because of the short notice.
A senior White House official told ABC News it was the president’s idea to come to the briefing room at the last minute.
The president was flanked at the briefing by leaders from the National Border Patrol Council and National ICE Council who were there to advocate for Trump’s demands for a wall as the partial government shutdown stretched into its 13th day.
“Without a wall you can not have border security,” Trump said, following several statements from the individual officers. “Without a very strong form of barrier, call it what you will, but without a wall you can’t have border security it won’t work.”
Trump said he has received unprecedented support for his border wall in the past few weeks. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” Trump said.
But he made no comments about ongoing negotiations to fund a wall across the Southern border.
“We’ve never had more people wanting to come to the united States, and that has to do with the economy, and it those do with a lot of other things. We’re doing great as a country, but the better we do, the more people want to come in,” Trump said.
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents many — but not all — border agents, called for “physical barriers” at the border.
“It has nothing to do with political parties. You all got to ask yourself this question: If I come to your home, do you want me to knock on the front door, or do you want me to climb through that window?” Art Del Cueto, vice president with the National Border Patrol Council said.
The president declined to answer any shouted questions from reporters who attended the briefing.
It was Trump’s first-ever appearance, since taking office, at the podium of the James S. Brady briefing room.
In March, Trump popped his head into the briefing room to tease a “major” announcement from South Korean officials. Later that evening, a South Korea official announced that Trump had agreed to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.