Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said in a whirlwind visit to Texas on Thursday that local border patrol agents scrapped a planned tour of the U.S.-Mexico border with him at the last minute on "orders from Washington."
"They invited me and then at the last moment — I mean, we were virtually in the air and [they] said we can't get involved," he told reporters after a brief tour with local officials. "I heard they got those orders from Washington."
At the end of a visit that lasted less than three hours, Trump blasted top officials of the National Border Patrol Council, which is represented by the Washington-based AFL-CIO. Officials pressured
local representatives in Laredo to scrap their participation in the "boots on the ground" trip proposed by local president Hector Garza.
"The unions are very much involved with the border patrols, but you have to let them do their job," Trump said. "They want to do their job."
In a visit that was embraced by local officials and brought out throngs of supporters and many protesters, the billionaire businessman also slammed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and reiterated his desire to run on the Republican Party ticket.
"Hillary is the worst. Easily, she's the worst secretary of state in the history of our country," Trump said. "She's going to be beaten — and I'm the one to beat her, and I will take jobs back."
Trump's tour was cut short after Local 2455 of the border patrol agents union announced early Thursday that it was canceling its involvement in the event.
"After careful consideration of all of the factors involved in this event ... it has been decided by Local 2455 to pull out of all events involving Donald Trump," the local said in a statement. "Make no mistake, our border with Mexico is not secure and there's no doubt that we need to have an honest discussion about that with the American people."
In Laredo, Trump told reporters that "the border patrol invited me and then canceled because, frankly, they don't want to get involved. The reason they invited me was because of a tremendous problem and the tremendous crime."
He caused an uproar with his blunt comments about immigration and Mexico — claiming that Mexico went rapists and other criminals across the border — when he announced his candidacy last month.
Asked whether he had evidence to back his claim about Mexican criminals, Trump replied, "Yes, I have, and I've heard it from a lot of different people."
He has promised to build a wall on the border and make Mexico pay for it, however, Laredo City Manager Jesus Olivares told reporters Thursday that "we don't think that's necessary at this time."
Still, Trump embraced a wall "for certain sections" of the border.
"You have to have a wall," he said. "The wall will save you a tremendous amount of money, but absolutely there are areas where you have to have a wall."
Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz and other local officials also embraced Trump, while protesters challenged his statements on linking illegals from Mexico to violent crime and other issues in the United States.
"Five people were killed by Marines," one protester yelled, referencing last week's shooting in Chattanooga, Tenn., by a naturalized U.S. citizen from Yemen. "By an American citizen. That means that killers come from all over the world."
Trump responded: "Yeah, I agree with that. They come from here and all over the world. I agree with that."
When a reporter said that crime along the border was down, Trump responded: "There's great danger with the illegals and we were just discussing that but we have tremendous danger with the illegals coming in.
"I love the country," he said. "There's nothing more important than what I'm doing. I'm the one that brought up the problem of illegal immigration.
"We have big crowds all screaming in favor of Trump," he added. "They want the problem fixed. We will have legal immigration. We want to get the legal immigration in. We want legal immigration."
Trump also blasted fellow candidate Rick Perry's record of securing the border when he was Texas governor, saying that his successor, Greg Abbott, who took over in January, is doing a better job.
Regarding an independent candidacy, Trump said he still wanted to run on the GOP ticket. He told The Hill
earlier Thursday that he would mount a third-party challenge if he did not get "fair" treatment by party officials.
The developer is at or near the top of many opinion polls of the 16 Republican candidates for the 2016 nomination — worrying the party establishment, which fears he could turn off moderate voters.
Trump told the Hill that any such bid would depend on the Republican National Committee's actions during the primaries.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has rebuked Trump for attacking illegals and the war record of Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 presidential nominee, and for personal attacks against other contenders.
An independent run could split Republican voters and give leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton an edge in the 2016 election.
"I'm a Republican," Trump told reporters. "I'm conservative. I'm running and in first place by a lot, it seems, according to all of the polls.
"I want to run as a Republican. I think I'll get the nomination. We'll see soon enough. I think I'll get the nomination.
"The best way for me to win is to get the nomination and run probably against Hillary."
Trump ended the presser by saying that he did not need to apologize to Hispanics for last month's comments.
"They weren't insulted because the press misinterprets my words," he said.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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