WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Sunday expressed more doubts about a new policy allowing trophies of African elephants shot for sport to be imported, appearing to question whether "this horror show" would actually aid in the conservation of any animal.
The trophy policy was among issues Trump cited in a series of tweets. He also insulted Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and branded as ungrateful the father of one of the UCLA basketball players jailed in China but freed after Trump's intervention. The death of a Customs and Border Protection agent in Texas brought a message of condolence.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has argued that encouraging wealthy big-game hunters to kill the threatened species would help raise money for conservation programs. It announced Thursday that it would allow such importation, drawing criticism from animal rights advocates, environmental groups and some GOP lawmakers.
Trump decided Friday to delay the policy until he could review it with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. However, on Sunday night, Trump tweeted that he would announce a decision in the coming days "but will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal."
The Fish and Wildlife Service said in a written notice issued Thursday that permitting parts of elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia to be brought back as trophies will raise money for conservation programs. The change would override a 2014 ban imposed by the Obama administration. The new policy applies to the remains of African elephants killed between January 2016 and December 2018.
In another tweet Sunday, Trump said he thinks Flake won't support the Republican tax overhaul in Congress as he insulted the Arizona Republican two days after Flake criticized him. Flake's spokesman responded that the senator was "still reviewing the tax reform bill on its merits. How he votes on it will have nothing to do with the President."
Flake, who announced last month that he was not seeking re-election, was caught on an open microphone Friday saying the GOP is "toast" if the party follows Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. It was not a surprising sentiment given Flake's previous criticism of Trump. Moore's refusal to drop out of a special Senate race in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls has divided Republicans.
In the Sunday tweet, Trump fired back: "Sen. Jeff Flake(y), who is unelectable in the Great State of Arizona (quit race, anemic polls) was caught (purposely) on "mike" saying bad things about your favorite President. He'll be a NO on tax cuts because his political career anyway is 'toast.'"
Trump also tweeted Sunday that he should have left three UCLA basketball players accused of shoplifting in China in jail. That remark came after the father of player LiAngelo Ball minimized the president's involvement in winning the players' release in comments to ESPN.
Trump tweeted: "Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!"
He revisited the matter in another tweet: "Shoplifting is a very big deal in China, as it should be (5-10 years in jail), but not to father LaVar. Should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead. China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful!"
The death of Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez and the injury of his partner in the Big Bend area of Texas prompted Trump to tweet: "Border Patrol Officer killed at Southern Border, another badly hurt. We will seek out and bring to justice those responsible. We will, and must, build the Wall!"
Border Patrol spokesmen said they could not provide any details on what caused the agent's injuries or what led to them.