The Republican mayor of El Paso, Texas, said this week that President Trump referred to him as a “Republican in name only” – or “RINO” – when the president visited the city following a mass shooting.
Mayor Dee Margo (R) told “PBS Frontline” in an interview that aired Wednesday that Trump made the remark while the two held an impromptu meeting amid the president’s visit in the wake of a shooting that left 22 people dead.
During their discussion, Margo said, Trump called him a “RINO” after he objected to the president’s “misinformation” about crime in El Paso.
“He said, ‘You’re a RINO,’ and I said, ‘No, sir. I am not a RINO.’ I said, ‘I simply corrected the misinformation you were given by [the Texas] attorney general, and that’s all I did,'” Margo told Frontline, adding that his response prompted a grin from the president.
Margo earlier this year denounced Trump for saying in his State of the Union address that El Paso experienced a dramatic dip in crime after installing a border fence. The criticism came amid a push for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Margo tweeted shortly after the speech 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,” Margo wrote. “It is NOT the sole deterrent. Law enforcement in our community continues to keep us safe.”
He later added that Trump may have been given incorrect information from the Texas attorney general about crime statistics during his previous visit to McAllen, Texas.
Days later, Trump took aim at Margo, saying during a February rally in El Paso that “people were full of crap” if they say a border fence hasn’t made a difference in reducing crime.
“There’s no place better to talk about border security, whether they like it or not,” Trump said at the time. “I’ve been hearing a lot of things. ‘Oh the wall didn’t make that much of a difference.'”
“I don’t care if a mayor is a Republican or a Democrat, they’re full of crap when they say it hasn’t made a big difference,” he added.
Margo said his recent meeting with Trump occurred as the president traveled to the airport after visiting medical staff and shooting survivors in El Paso. The two discussed border security, according to Margo, who said he told Trump that a physical barrier is not a “panacea.”
“I said, ‘If you want to deal with immigration, the first thing you do is you have Homeland Security define what is a secure border and what they need in the way of resources to handle that,'” Margo said, adding that his comments about crime in El Paso seemed to “resonate” with Trump.
Asked about Trump calling his previous comments “full of crap,” Margo said he he hoped Trump “wouldn’t say that now, given our conversation.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.