T.J. Kirkpatrick-Pool/Getty Images(EL PASO, Texas) — In his first campaign rally of the year, President Donald Trump told a packed 6,000-seat arena in El Paso, Texas that he is thrilled to be in El Paso, where a short distance away, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke was headlining a rally celebrating El Paso’s immigrant culture.
Trump called out O’Rourke early in his remarks, calling him “a young man who’s got very little going for himself, except he’s got a great first name.”
The president also claimed that thousands more people showed up for his rally than O’Rourke’s event.
“That may be the end of his presidential bid,” Trump said.
Last week, during the State of the Union, the president claimed El Paso has become one of the safest cities in America because of a barrier fence, igniting a firestorm of reactions from state and local representatives.
“The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities,” Trump said during the address. “Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.”
Ahead of Trump’s visit, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said it’s incorrect to attribute a drop in crime in the city to the construction of the barrier.
“We’re the safest city in the nation, according to FBI statistics – but it’s not because of the border fence,” Margo told ABC News’ Devin Dwyer. “[Trump] was merely echoing what our Texas attorney general said a couple weeks ago in McAllen, which was not correct — that we were lawless beforehand with high crime rates, etc., and then the fence went up and it was 180 degrees. It’s just not the case.”
O’Rourke, whose hometown is El Paso, also engaged in the debate.
“Our government built a border fence in El Paso in 2008, a misguided response to 9/11 (no terrorists have crossed the southern border and attacked this country). It didn’t make us any safer,” O’Rourke said in a tweet.
The president is renewing his push for a border wall just as talks between congressional Republicans and Democrats charged with coming up with a compromise have continued in an effort to avoid another government shutdown. Shortly before the two competing rallies began, the top four negotiators on border security talks emerged from a meeting and announced they have reached “an agreement in principle.”
The tentative agreement comes just four days ahead of another potential partial government shutdown.
The agreement addresses the border wall, detention beds, and other major issues, but additional details were not released.
Asked if the White House supports the agreement, Sen. Richard Shelby said, “We think so, we hope so.”
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