A presidential visit to San Diego would not be complete without a stop along the U.S.-Mexico border and President Donald Trump did not disappoint as he traveled to Otay Mesa Wednesday to view the construction of a new segment of fencing between the two countries.
Several helicopters including Marine One took off from Lindbergh Field just before 2:30 p.m. Fifteen minutes later, helicopters arrived to Brown Field just north of the border. Law enforcement officers using binoculars stood atop a roof with high-powered weapons set up near their feet.
"This is top of the line," Trump said of a fence being constructed to replace an older barrier along the border.
“San Diego was, they were just thanking me for the wall we built in San Diego. It’s like, they said it’s a difference of day and night. They actually said it’s 100 percent. The only thing is, we have to now expand it out," he said.
As NBC 7 Investigates has reported, the San Diego Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol involves 60 miles of a 1,900-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico.
Of those 60 miles, 46 miles have at least a primary fence with 13.5 miles having a secondary barrier. Fourteen miles have no fencing at all.
The president talked about how the replacement fence is designed to absorb heat.
"You won't be able to touch it. You can fry an egg on that wall. It's very, very hot," the president said.
When Trump talked about how he originally thought the U.S. should build an all-concrete wall, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official said being able to see through the wall helps with officer safety.
Earlier in the day, police cars and U.S. Secret Service shut down several blocks of downtown San Diego as the presidential motorcade moved to and from the airport and the U.S. Grant.
Trump attended a fundraising luncheon at the downtown hotel.
A crowd of people waited outside the hotel, many of them recording images or video of the president and his entourage with their phones.
Blake Marnell was dressed in a blazer and tie covered in a pattern depicting a brick wall.
“I’m out here to show my support for President Trump,” Marnell told NBC 7. “I was lucky enough to be at a rally earlier this year and see him up close and personal. I have been and seen him in other states and if he’s going to come to San Diego and visit my hometown, there’s no way that I’m going to sit at home and miss it. There’s just no way.”
Past presidential visits to San Diego often included arrivals at a local military base and then a short drive or helicopter ride to a private home. This visit was unusual in that the president’s itinerary included a trip into the heart of downtown in the middle of the day.
Manny Aguilar of Los Angeles shared that he felt the country was being divided by the president's actions.
“Our president needs to build bridges, not barriers,” he said.
The organization behind the "Baby Trump" balloon, Backbone Campaign, was also in downtown San Diego. The group frequently travels to U.S. cities that the president visits to protest the administration.
The president arrived in San Diego aboard Air Force One which landed at MCAS Miramar just after 11 a.m. The stop in San Diego follows campaign fundraising events in Los Angeles and the Bay Area on Tuesday.
President Trump stepped off the plane at 11:32 a.m. and was greeted by a delegation of local officials. Among them were MCAS Miramar Commanding Officer COL Charles Dockery, Commanding Officer, SMMC Michael Walton, Poway Mayor Steven Vaus, 3rd MAW Assistant Wing Commander COL Simon Doran, 3rd MAW SMMC Peter Siaw, 3rd MAW CMDCM Donald Davis, Jr. and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein of Chabad of Poway.
He then walked over to a crowd of people on the military tarmac where he signed hats and other items and posed for photos. Some supporters wore red hats with Trump’s slogan, "Make America Great Again."
The president, followed closely by Secret Service agents, boarded the presidential helicopter Marine One before noon for the trip to San Diego International Airport.
He landed a few minutes later and walked over to the presidential motorcade for the drive through downtown.
The San Diego Police Department had advised the public to stay clear of an area seven blocks wide and eight blocks long as they expected closures and gridlock for much of the day.
At approximately 5 p.m., President Trump boarded Air Force One for the trip home.
This was the president's third visit to the region since he took office. In April, he stopped in El Centro to view new fencing in place along the U.S.-Mexico border. In March 2018, he stopped in Otay Mesa and looked at prototypes for a proposed border wall.