Trump Makes First Visit To U.S. Central Command In Florida

Feb 6, 2017
Originally published on February 6, 2017 10:50 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

President Trump is promising a concerted effort to destroy ISIS. And today, the president spoke to service members at the center of that fight when he visited MacDill Air Force Base, home to the U.S. Central Command in Florida.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: To these forces of death and destruction, America and its allies will defeat you. We will defeat them. We will defeat radical Islamic terrorism, and we will not allow it to take root in our country.

SIEGEL: Trump also thanked representatives of the international coalition battling the Islamic State, and he had lunch with enlisted troops. NPR's Scott Horsley traveled with the president to Florida, and he joins us from Joint Base Andrews, just outside Washington, now. Scott, MacDill is home to Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East. What was the president's message there today?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Robert, the president painted a really ominous picture of the threat posed by what he called radical Islam. He said we're up against an enemy that celebrates death and worships destruction. He said that ISIS is on a campaign of genocide, and he listed some terrorist attacks in Orlando, San Bernardino, Paris, and Nice, France.

He also suggested that the news media has been deliberately downplaying that threat, letting some terror attacks go unreported. Now, his spokesman Sean Spicer agreed with that, but was not immediately able to offer any examples of unreported attacks. Of course, the administration's using the threat posed by terrorism as a justification for its temporary travel ban on refugees and residents of seven predominately Muslim countries.

SIEGEL: Scott, a legal challenge, of course, has put one of the president's first big initiatives on hold for now - the temporary travel ban on refugees and travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries. Did Trump say anything about that today?

HORSLEY: The president has been very critical of the federal appeals court judge in Washington state who suspended his travel ban. He tweeted over the weekend that the judge has put our country in peril and added - if something happens, to blame that judge and the court system. But the president also expressed confidence that the administration will prevail in this legal back-and-forth and that his system of extreme vetting will be restored.

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TRUMP: We need strong programs so that people that love us and want to love our country and will end up loving our country are allowed in, not people that want to destroy us and destroy our country.

HORSLEY: Now, Robert, critics say the vetting the president's talking about there runs the risk of alienating the very people the U.S. needs as allies in its fight against ISIS.

SIEGEL: President Trump made some phone calls over the weekend to the head of NATO, to the president of Ukraine, still introducing himself on the world stage. What do those calls tell us about the new president?

HORSLEY: Well, he did express support for NATO, and that's something that's been a question mark, but he again stressed the need for member countries to invest in their own defense. He told troops in Tampa today he's going to make sure they have the tools they need. He wants other NATO allies to boost their defense spending, as well.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Scott, thanks.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.