Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET
President Trump says he wants to use military troops to help secure the U.S. border with Mexico. He made the suggestion Tuesday during a White House summit meeting with Baltic leaders.
Trump also renewed his call for a quick withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria. And he expressed support for embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Since the weekend, Trump has been tweeting about a caravan of Central Americans, most of them from Honduras, who are making their way north through Mexico.
“Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” Trump said. “That’s a big step.”
The U.S. has occasionally deployed National Guard troops to the border in the past. Former President Obama did so in 2010 and former President George W. Bush did so in 2006.
Border apprehensions, which are a proxy for illegal border crossings, have generally declined since Trump took office. Apprehensions of unaccompanied minors have dropped 36 percent in the first five months of the fiscal year, while apprehensions of families are down 46 percent.
The administration is in the process of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. Trump has long criticized the deal, which he blames for encouraging U.S. companies to relocate factories south of the border.
Trump claimed the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico tops $100 billion. In fact the deficit last year was $64.1 billion.
Trump repeated his call for withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria soon, now that ISIS has largely been driven out of its former territory there.
“I want to bring our troops back home,” Trump said. “I want to start rebuilding our nation.”
Military experts warn a precipitous withdrawal could create an opening for ISIS or similar groups to regain strength.
Trump’s EPA administrator is under scrutiny for an apparent sweetheart housing arrangement he enjoyed last year in an apartment owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist. A White House official confirms that Trump telephoned Pruitt Monday night, but the official would not talk about what was said in the conversation.
“I hope he’s going to be great,” Trump said Tuesday.
The “U.S.-Baltic Summit” celebrates the 100th anniversary of independence for the three countries, following World War I.
Throughout the World War II and the Cold War, the Baltic countries were dominated by the Soviet Union. They regained their independence in the early 1990s and joined NATO in 2004.
Trump praised the Baltic countries’ robust defense spending. Latvia and Lithuania devote nearly 2 percent of their economies to defense — a NATO benchmark — while Estonia spends slightly more than 2 percent.
“When nations are committed to peace and to security, they have to pay their share and we will all enjoy a much more safe and prosperous future,” Trump said.