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Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego Raises Concerns About Trump's Visit To Phoenix

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Congressman Ruben Gallego represents Phoenix and the surrounding area. He's a Democrat and joins us now from his district office. Congressman, thanks for joining us.

RUBEN GALLEGO: Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: You've said that President Trump is not welcome in Phoenix, that he's trying to stir up trouble. I know you strongly disagree with Trump's policies, but he is the sitting president. Do you think it sends a wrong message to say that the leader of the country should not come to the district you represent?

GALLEGO: Well, I think it's always appropriate for the president to come to whatever part of the country that he wants to. It's - the question is whether it's appropriate at this time and juncture in this country. You know, we just had an American citizen that was mowed down by a neo-Nazi. The president then proceeded to basically trip over himself to neither condemn the neo-Nazis and white supremacists until finally being pushed. And then to come on the heels of that to Arizona and what I suspect will be a campaign rally filled with rhetoric and not one to actually heal the country, I think it is very dangerous.

Now, if this is two months from now or even, you know, a week from now, I think that's a different story. I would disagree with his policies. But, you know, there are people that support him. There are people that want to see him. And I wouldn't have a problem with that at all. But at this point, this is not good for the nation, nor is it good for Phoenix.

SHAPIRO: You said you're worried that this will consist of campaign rhetoric. Are you concerned that it could go beyond rhetoric? Are you afraid of violence?

GALLEGO: I am afraid of violence and not from the Trump supporters and not people that are going to see Trump but for an excuse for these neo-Nazis and white supremacists to come and stir up trouble. You know, we've seen that they take advantage of symbolic opportunities and/or even create opportunities for conflict, whether it's in Berkeley, whether it's in Charlottesville. But they use these opportunities, basically, to come stir up trouble, get into fights and fundraise.

A lot of the elements of why this is happening is because many of the people that are the neo-Nazis or the white supremacists use these opportunities to go get in fights and they raise money from people for this kind of action. It's kind of sad. But this is the only way they find meaning in their life.

SHAPIRO: So what steps are you, law enforcement, state and local elected officials taking to make sure that that doesn't happen?

GALLEGO: Well, you know, I trust the Phoenix Police Department and our DPS security as well, of course, the Secret Service. They're going to do everything they can to keep the peace, keep people separated. The grassroots organizations that are involved here in terms of organizing some of the protests are emphasizing everyone to stay safe, exercise their First Amendment rights but also avoid confrontation. Nobody wins if there's any type of confrontation.

And most of the - almost all the groups that I've spoken to are thinking about that in the same vein. And as well as your elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans are asking everybody to stay calm. And if everyone does that, I think we'll have a successful day, and we'd be happy to have nothing to report tomorrow about this.

SHAPIRO: Finally, I'd like to ask you about President Trump's approach to Afghanistan that he laid out last night. You served in the Marines. You're on the House Armed Services Committee. Do you think the strategy that the president laid out is the right one?

GALLEGO: I don't think so. It didn't sound like much of a strategy. It sounded like a lot of bluster using big words, a big wish list and then kind of a continuation of some of the Obama policies that did not work out. Adding 4,000 more troops doesn't make sense because you don't - I don't understand what the strategy goal is. They didn't even describe how many troops they're sending and what kind of troops. The idea that you want an unlimited amount of money and an unlimited amount of time to do this is also counter to American, you know, strategic goals.

You know, Afghanistan cannot be our suck where it basically sucks up our resources and our manpower and our attention. You know, as a military member, it scares me that there was too much of an element involved in this type of decision-making process that was entirely generals. Generals are good at conducting war. They're not good at conducting stabilization. They're needs to be more input from the diplomatic community into this.

And it also makes me a little fearful that they're more focused on trying to keep the honor of not being the administration that pulls out of Afghanistan versus actually trying to bring this to a resolution and stopping unnecessary American lives from dying in a cause that may not end up having a good result.

SHAPIRO: Ruben Gallego, Democrat of Arizona. Thank you, Congressman, for joining us.

GALLEGO: Thank you. You guys have a good one. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.