Rep. Adam Smith demands answers from Pentagon, Trump over troops at the border

SEATTLE -- As the humanitarian crisis continues at the U.S.-Mexico border, a Washington state congressman with a big voice on the House Armed Services Committee has more questions than answers on why U.S. troops are needed at the border.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, spoke to Q13's Brandi Kruse in a phone interview earlier this week. He said he has a long list of questions about the use of military force at the border as thousands of Central American migrants try to enter the U.S. through a point of entry in San Diego.

Among his questions: Why are military troops needed at the border? What is their specific role? What is their responsibility? And what are border control agents unable to handle that requires a military presence?

“I want an answer … Sending active military to the border is questionable to begin with, but it’s even more problematic if they don’t have specific rules of engagement, and if they don’t have a specific assignment on what it is they’re supposed to be doing," he said. 

The showdown at the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing on Sunday ended with border patrol agents throwing tear gas into crowds as they tried to rush across the border.

The situation has thrown into sharp relief two competing narratives about the caravan of migrants hoping to apply for asylum but stuck on the Mexican sider. President Trump portrays them as a threat to U.S. national security, intent on exploiting America’s asylum law, but others insist he is exaggerating to stoke fears and achieve his political goals.

The sheer size of the caravan makes it unusual.

"They were being rushed by some very tough people and they used tear gas," Trump said Monday of the previous day's encounter. "Here's the bottom line: Nobody is coming into our country unless they come in legally."

Smith, currently the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, is expected to be named chairman of the same committee when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives. 

“There’s no short path here, but I think if we work together as a region to try to confront it, instead of trying to make it a divisive, confrontational issue, we can do better at trying to meet the grave humanitarian crisis that’s brewing in Central America," Smith said.