Sheriff Lewis on hand for Trump veto event

President Trump signs a veto of the congressional measure to end his emergency declaration to get funds to build a border wall as Wicomico Sheriff Mike Lewis, far right, looks on with Attorney General William Barr and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

It’s one thing to get invited to the White House.

It’s another thing to have an opportunity to witness a history-making event in the Oval Office.

It’s a completely different thing to be called on by the President of the United States and asked to address a swarm of media and senior government officials, all while standing inches from the president’s desk.

Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis found himself in that situation on Friday, while he was attending an Oval Office event in which President Trump vetoed the Congress’ rejection of his emergency declaration to divert federal money to construct a massive wall along the Mexico border.

Lewis, in comments later distributed worldwide in print and on video, demonstrated he was ready for the prime time experience and voiced his unwavering support for Trump’s commitment to border security.

Standing beside federal Homeland Security Director Kirstjen Nielsen and within handshaking distance of U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Lewis said:

“Mr. President, I can’t thank you enough on behalf of America’s sheriffs. As you well know, there are men and women in law enforcement across this country that are fighting a battle every single day. They are in the trenches.

“While we Americans only make up about 7 percent of the world’s total population, about 68 percent of the world’s total drugs are consumed here in the United States every year. This is not political propaganda.

“We have a dire crisis on our southwest border, and America’s sheriffs stand behind the President of the United States, 100 percent. He has had our back. He’s had the Americans’ back. And we stand behind you solidly for what you’re doing here today.

“This is unprecedented for a President to take this type of action.  And we commend you, we applaud you, and I salute you, sir.”

This week in recalling the event, Lewis said he was blindsided at being called on and hadn’t planned a brief speech.

“I had no idea I would be asked to speak, but the president looked at me and he pointed at me and so I stepped out and spoke,” Lewis said.

Lewis is no stranger to the president. He escorted Trump on his campaign visit to the Lower Shore in 2016 and has attended previous White House events. The sheriff has also often appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program, which the president is known to view each night.

Still, Lewis said he was surprised when the invitation came last Thursday night.

He said when the voice on the phone said they were from the White House and could he be there the next day, his first thought was it might be a prank.

“I asked the guy if I could call him back,” Lewis said.

Lewis said that on Friday he and nine other sheriffs from across the nation were first escorted to the West Wing’s Roosevelt Room, where they met personally with Ivanka Trump, the president’s oldest daughter, and Kellyanne Conway, a top administration adviser.

He said Attorney General Barr then spoke briefly to the group, followed by Vice President Mike Pence. He said some people representing Angel Moms and Angel Dads — those whose families have been crime victims at the hands of undocumented immigrants — were also there.

The event was used by Trump to reject a congressional effort to block the emergency declaration he’d used to end-run lawmakers to secure cash his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The confrontation is now expected to move to the federal courts.

Said Trump on Friday: “Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution, and I have the duty to veto it.”

Lewis is unabashed in his support of Trump and his border policies.

“I fully agree with what the president said,” Lewis said this week. “No one knows the depth and the magnitude of what’s going on on our borders right now. It is indeed a crisis.”

Agreeing with the need for a wall, Lewis said: “Without border security, we would never have homeland security.

“While the wall is not a solution, it is a critical component to a solution. We need more Border Patrol Agents down there, greater technology along our border — but the wall is a critical component and we’ve got to get it.”

Lewis said U.S. State Department officials have asked him to go Sinaloa, Mexico, where jailed Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán “reigned for decades.”

“I will be joining the State Department down there to help assess the situation,” Lewis said. “I’m honored that I’ve been asked to go.”

He also said that Homeland Security Director  Nielsen approached him after the event and asked for his business card.

“I told her I would help in anyway I could in training their Border Patrol,” he said.

Lewis is well known professionally for his expertise in locating hidden compartments in drug laden vehicles, a talent he became famous for while working as a Maryland State Police Trooper.

All the high-level federal attention, however, does not have the sheriff considering a career change.

“I love my job here as sheriff of Wicomico County and have no plans to go anywhere, but if I can assist my country then I am honored to do that,” he said.

Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at gbassett@newszap.com

As your community newspaper, we are committed to making Salisbury a better place. You can help support our mission by making a voluntary contribution to the newspaper.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment