President Trump said Monday that Republicans "can retake the House" next year by vowing asylum restrictions, calling a surge of Central American migrants a "big con job."

"Congress has to get smart," Trump said in Minnesota. "The Republicans want to do it but you need the votes of the Democrats. You need 60 votes in the Senate, and we are a little bit short in the House. We can retake the House, I think, over this issue."

Trump said he believed many asylum-seekers are not actually victims of persecution.

"You look at some of these people, you want protection from them, and they are saying, 'We need protection from our country.' In the meantime they are carrying their country's flag thousands, 2000 miles walking up, the journey," he said.

Earlier this month, Trump threatened to close the U.S. border with Mexico if congressional Democrats would not pass various immigration reforms, including limiting asylum laws. He dropped the demand after widespread Republican concern about economic costs.

With the prospects for legislation bleak, the White House pursued a dramatic housecleaning of senior leadership at the Department of Homeland Security to speed enactment of regulations to limit admittance of migrants seeking asylum and to limit the benefits available.

"Asylum is a ridiculous situation," Trump said Monday, objecting to migrants clearing an initial screening if "they read a little line from a lawyer that a lawyer hands them out online."