The president’s visit to the Texas border town was controversial even before he left Washington DC, with many believing he should stay away because of racist language they believed fuelled the bigotry that resulted in such incidents.
Several Democrats, among them congresswoman Veronica Escobar, and Democratic 2020 hopeful Beto O’Rourke, directly linked the president’s rhetoric and actions to the Walmart shooting that killed 22 people.
Now, the Republican mayor of El Paso has claimed the president insulted him during a private meeting, describing him as a so-called RINO, an insult among conservatives that is short for “Republican in name only”.
Dee Margo told PBS the insult came when he raised with the president “misinformation” he had stated in his state of the union address in February, when he had claimed El Paso had been suffering from a high crime rate. Mr Margo had said at the time this was not the case and that his was a safe city.
“He said, ‘You’re a RINO,’ and I said, ‘No, sir. I am not a RINO’,” Mr Margo said in an interview to be broadcast this week.
“I said, ‘I simply corrected the misinformation you were given by [the Texas] attorney general, and that’s all I did’.”
The network pointed out the differences between Mr Trump and Mr Margo, who previously served as a Republican member of the Texas state legislature made headlines in the aftermath of the president’s February address to the joint houses of Congress, in which he spoke about El Paso as part of his effort to secure funds for a border wall.
He said the city once suffered from “extremely high rates of violent crime, one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities”. He added: “Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.”
Mr Margo was quick to push back at the president, saying in a tweet that “El Paso was never one of the most dangerous cities in the US.“
“We’ve had a fence for 10 years and it has impacted illegal immigration and curbed criminal activity,” he added. “It is NOT the sole deterrent. Law enforcement in our community continues to keep us safe.”
The network reminded Mr Margo that after that tweet, the president had claimed he was talking “full of crap”.
The mayor said: “I would hope he wouldn’t say that now, given our conversation.“
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