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story.lead_photo.caption In this Feb. 7, 2019 photo, President Donald Trump speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast, in Washington. Trump is trying to turn the debate over a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border back to his political advantage as his signature pledge to American voters threatens to become a model of unfulfilled promises. Trump will hold his first campaign rally since November’s midterm elections in El Paso, Texas, on Monday. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

EL PASO, Texas — President Donald Trump headed to the Texas border on Monday to argue his case that walls work as Democrats and Republicans back home in Washington announced a deal had been reached to avoid another government shutdown.

Trump was bound for El Paso, aiming to reshape the debate around the wall following a damaging shutdown fight and with his signature 2016 campaign promise hanging in limbo. In a case of pointed political counterprogramming, Beto O'Rourke, the former Democratic congressman from Texas now mulling a presidential run, planned an evening El Paso march and rally against the wall with dozens of local civic, human rights and Hispanic groups.

The first dueling rallies of the 2020 election season were set to serve as a preview of a heated yearslong fight over the direction of the country. And they made clear that Trump's long-promised border wall is sure to play an outsized role in the presidential race, as both sides use it to try to rally their supporters and highlight their contrasting approaches.

As Trump traveled to the site of his Monday rally, negotiators on Capitol Hill announced that lawmakers had reached an agreement in principle to fund the government ahead of a midnight Friday deadline to avoid another shutdown. The emerging agreement was announced by a group of lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Richard Shelby and Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey, after a closed-door meeting.

The talks had cratered over the weekend because of Democratic demands to limit immigrant detentions by federal authorities, but lawmakers apparently broke through that impasse Monday evening. Now they will need the support of Trump, who must sign the legislation.

Trump has repeatedly pointed to El Paso to make his case that a border wall is necessary, claiming that barriers turned the city from one of the nation's most dangerous to one of its safest. But that's not true.

El Paso had a murder rate of less than half the national average in 2005, a year before the most recent expansion of its border fence. That's despite being just across the border from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a city plagued by drug violence. The FBI's Uniform Crime Report shows that El Paso's annual number of reported violent crimes dropped from nearly 5,000 in 1995 to around 2,700 in 2016. But that corresponded with similar declines in violent crime nationwide and included periods when the city's crime rates increased year over year, despite new fencing and walls.

The Trump campaign released a video showing El Paso residents saying the wall helped reduce crime. But many in the city have bristled at the prospect of becoming a border wall poster child.

That includes O'Rourke, a potential 2020 candidate, who came close to unseating Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 and maintains an army of small-dollar donors and a large social media following. While few Democratic candidates have focused on immigration in their launches, O'Rourke has described Trump's calls for the wall as the "cynical rhetoric of war, of invasions, of fear."

"While some try to stoke fear and paranoia, to spread lies and a false narrative about the U.S.-Mexico border and to demand a 2,000-mile wall along it at a time of record safety and security, El Paso will come together for a march and celebration that highlights the truth," he said in a statement ahead of the event.

Moments before leaving the White House, Trump made it clear that O'Rourke was on his mind.

"We have a line that's very long already," Trump said of his El Paso rally. "I understand our competitor has got a line, too, but a tiny little line."

At the time, short lines had formed for both events.

The El Paso rally is Trump's first since the November midterm elections and comes at a precarious moment for his presidency. Weakened by the longest government shutdown in American history, Trump is also contending with the ongoing investigation into Russian election meddling and a flurry of investigations by newly empowered majority Democrats in the House.

Read Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.


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  • RBear
    February 11, 2019 at 12:08 p.m.

    "A Trump campaign adviser said the Trump team sees the El Paso rally as less about winning over voters ahead of the 2020 election and more an opportunity to reshape the debate around the wall. The campaign views the rally, which is to take place just a few hundred yards from El Paso's border fence, as an opportunity for Trump to make the case that border barriers work, said the adviser, who was not authorized to discuss campaign strategy by name and requested anonymity."
    Bullsh*t. This is a campaign rally if I've ever seen one. Hopefully, taxpayers weren't hit too hard with this one. Oh, and for those who berated me several weeks back about how long it takes to put together a presidential visit, this one happened in days.

  • GeneralMac
    February 11, 2019 at 12:37 p.m.

    RBear ...A difference between an El Paso Texas visit and visiting the troops in Syria or Afghanistan.

  • Seitan
    February 11, 2019 at 12:40 p.m.

    El Paso is mocking him because, as usual, he lied about their crime rate and the wall. They even got the Trump Baby blimp for the event. LOL!

  • mrcharles
    February 11, 2019 at 12:46 p.m.

    I believe this trip costs , what was the fox figure, oh 200 million dollars a day, according to a source.. No confirmation, well , dont worry just put it out there and it will be true.

    Why dont DT go back to washington and try to work out the governments obligation to help america. Last time he shut down the government, it didnt hurt putin, but did hurt the merican people.

    chris wallace interview Sarah huckster spinmaster. She is getting paid to lie to children and mericans.


    February 11, 2019 at 12:53 p.m.

    Mr.Charles-HEAR,HEAR. The Truth shall rise again.

  • RBear
    February 11, 2019 at 2:38 p.m.

    Actually not, fake. But keep trying to make it seem bigger. Oh, and he visited neither.

  • Seitan
    February 11, 2019 at 2:52 p.m.

    I wonder which private golf course Trump will visit in El Paso. You know, during his "executive time."

  • GeneralMac
    February 11, 2019 at 4:01 p.m.

    SEITAN.....Trump should go to the time clock and punch out before golfing.

    What ?

    He isn't an hourly employee?


    He donates his yearly salary?

    Carry on !

  • Seitan
    February 11, 2019 at 4:07 p.m.

    GM. Remember when Trump said he would be too busy to golf? Remember when he complained about Obama golfing too much (he tweeted about it at least 27 times)? Trump has spent more time on the golf course than anyone, all at private clubs and at taxpayer costs. One estimate is that Trump's golfing has cost taxpayers $87 million thus far. h t t ps://w w w.trumpgolfcount.c om/

  • Waitjustaminute
    February 11, 2019 at 4:34 p.m.

    Trumpgolfcount? Seriously? It takes about two minutes of reading their site to know how bogus their figures are.
    Newsweek is much more reliable, and leans left. According to their article of November 27th, Trump had cost taxpayers 10 million so far, while Obama spent 114 million over 8 years, which averages out to 14.25 million a year.