Trump uses Border Patrol agents as props during Fox News interview

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The president attacked Democrats while CBP agents stood behind him.

President Donald Trump, with US Customs and Border Protection agents surrounding him during a mostly substance-free Fox News interview with Sean Hannity, made the federal employees — working without pay due to the shutdown — seem a bit like props.

The irony, of course, is that Democrats have been accused of politicizing federal employees, hundreds of thousands of whom will being missing their paychecks on Friday.

With agents all around him, Trump’s points were overtly political; attacking Democrats for denying his demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall he promised Mexico would pay for.

“It’s not a money thing. It’s a political thing,” Trump told Hannity of Democrats’ insistence that government reopen before border money is negotiated. “They look at the 2020 race and they’re not feeling too good about it — they will do whatever they can to win.”

Trump’s Hannity interview wasn’t the first time he used CBP agents as props this month — he pulled a similar stunt during an appearance in the White House briefing room on January 3. And hours before the Hannity interview aired, Trump posted a video in which he stood, again surrounded by CBP agents, and made a case for his border wall.

While Trump praised CBP agents during the interview, he seemed less concerned about the hundreds of thousands of federal employees who are now missing paychecks because of the shutdown. Toward the end of the interview, Hannity had to go out of his way to remind the president that “I know you’re thinking about the furloughed employees.”

Trump responded by saying, “100 percent I support them tremendously. But I also support families… that have lost somebody because our [immigration] policies are so bad.”

It’s worth pointing out that immigrants, data show, commit crimes at lower rates than native-born citizens — an inconvenient fact Trump has avoided while making his case for the wall, instead choosing sensationalize the issue by focusing on specific violent crimes.

Trump wandered off script in an interview that was supposed to help him make his case for the wall

At the beginning of the interview, Trump seemed to be articulating his case for the wall. He cited the “tremendous amount of drugs” CBP agents seized as a reason a wall is necessary — a similar point to the one he made Tuesday night during his televised speech. (In fact, the majority of drugs smuggled into the country come through ports of entry, and a wall would do nothing to stop that.)

But then Trump’s arguments for the wall veered into bizarre territory:

Do you know what works? A wheel. And a wall. They call it a medieval thing. Well, you know, I’m looking at all these very expensive cars all over here loaded up with machine gun, and every single one of them has wheels. A wheel is an old thing and a wall is an old thing. These are two things that they work. A wall would be so effective. It would solve so many killings and so much death and drugs and human trafficking.

In one 90-second stretch, Trump made false claims about how some “new” Democrats are saying “we can’t win this battle with Trump,” reiterated his promise to declare a national emergency if he can’t secure wall funding from promise — a political threat undercutting his case about there being a real emergency at the border — and offered a disturbingly graphic description of kidnapping and human trafficking similar to the one he made earlier in the day just before Fox News pulled away from live coverage of his roundtable event at the border.

And Trump couldn’t resist adding that “the real collusion” isn’t anything to do with his campaign and Russia, but consists of the mainstream media outlets and Democrats both using the same talking point — a talking point that’s true, as it turns out — about Trump trying to “manufacture” a crisis at the southern border.

“I call it the fake news,” Trump said, before complimenting Hannity, who made no effort to fact-check or push back on any of Trump’s false claims throughout the interview. “You are not fake news, actually. You are real news.”

The Fox News feedback loop was in full display

Shortly after the interview ended, Trump — who promoted Hannity’s show on his Twitter account just before it aired — posted a nonsensical tweet about the situation at the border that was lifted almost word from word from something Hannity said to him during the interview. (The tweet, intentionally or not, seems to be missing the words “from heroin.”)

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It turns out Hannity actually lifted the quote from a speech Trump made — meaning that Trump was quoting Hannity quoting him.