Politics & Government

Former NC highways chief defends Trump’s decision to send troops to US-Mexican border

Note: This story has been updated to reflect a correction.

Former North Carolina Transportation Secretary Tony Tata appeared on Fox and Friends with a message of support for sending U.S. troops to the border with Mexico, and his comments drew the tweeting approval of President Donald Trump.

The retired brigadier general and current novelist spoke on the cable news show Sunday morning.

The Defense Department sent 5,200 active duty soldiers to the border, with the potential for as many as 7,000, according to CNN. The Trump administration has said the troops are needed in anticipation of a “caravan” of mostly Honduran migrants moving north through Mexico.

The soldiers currently at the border include troops stationed at Fort Bragg.

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Tata, a Republican who served as the head of state transportation for two years in former Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration, called the domestic deployment the fulfillment of Trump’s pledge to be “tough on the border.”

“President Trump is a man of his word, he said he was going to be tough on the border and he is tough on the border,” Tata said during the Sunday interview.

Sunday afternoon, the President took to his Twitter account to thank Tata, who responded in a tweet of his own.

In the five minute interview, Tata was asked about the effectiveness of mobilizing troops as an immigration tactic and the “consternation it has caused on the left.”

“The left has an immediate visceral reaction in the opposite direction to anything that President Trump does for a lot of different reasons,” Tata said.

Among those: “He’s fighting the globalists tooth and nail by espousing patriotism and nationalism, as he should, as we should all do within this great country.”

Critics of the deployment include Rep. David Price, a Chapel Hill Democrat who tweeted last week: “President Trump exploited our nation’s service members to sow fear in Americans ahead of a national election — a disgraceful abuse of power that was categorically ignored by Congressional Republicans.”

Tata is well known in North Carolina politics, particularly in the Triangle. He was hired as the superintendent of Wake County Schools in late 2010. He was fired less than two years later after a new school board majority took over, then served as highway secretary from 2013 until his resignation in 2015.

He has continued to write under the name AJ Tata and appear on Fox News panels.

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Correction: Tony Tata was hired as Wake County Schools superintendent in late 2010. A previous version of this story had an incorrect date.

Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson