Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera is pushing back against President Trump's characterization of his city. While in New Hampshire earlier this week, Trump blamed Lawrence, a so-called sanctuary city, for fueling the region's opioid crisis.

Rivera spoke with WGBH about what he'd like Trump and others to know about Lawrence.

The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: The city of Lawrence is playing defense after President Trump blasted them during his visit to New Hampshire, as he showed up to outline a plan to crack down on the opioid epidemic while calling out the city.

(Tape) President Trump: According to a recent Dartmouth study, the sanctuary city of Lawrence, Massachusetts is one of the primary sources of fentanyl in six New Hampshire counties.

JM: Joining me to talk about this is the mayor of Lawrence, Dan Rivera, who had quite a reaction after hearing the president. Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and welcome to WGBH's Morning Edition.

Mayor Dan Rivera: Good morning, Joe. Thank you for having me.

JM: You asked the president to come visit Lawrence, see for himself, to look, you said, "at the faces of the people on the streets." I'm guessing you have not heard a response.

DR: No, and I don't think one is forthcoming. You know, I said something the other day, and I said, you know, somebody asked me 'why do you think it's, first it was the governor of Maine and the governor of New Hampshire and now the president?' And I said, 'because they're all cut from the same cloth.' They want to make an easy, cheap statement to get an applause line, and they don't want to do anything real about it.

The reality is this: the answer to these problems is long-term treatment, it's expensive and it's messy but you have to give people multiple chances, and it's not — it doesn't fit nicely into their, you know, soundbites. And so, you know, coming to Lawrence would be a problem for him, because then he'd have to say something and do something substantive. And reacting the way he did in Puerto Rico, I'm not sure he's capable of it.

JM: Understood. Here's the question, Mr. Mayor, when I heard you say that, I wondered, where would you bring him? If Donald Trump came to Lawrence, where would you bring him, what would you want him to see and take away?

DR: Well, I would take him to the methadone clinic — we have a methadone clinic in our city. I would take them to, you know, our wet shelter. We have one of two wet shelters in the whole Commonwealth, which means you can stay in a homeless shelter and still be either on drugs using or on alcohol. And so, there's plenty of places to take him. I'd take him to the food pantries, he can see for himself. Or maybe take them under the bridge, if Secret Service allowed us, to show him people who are, you know, homeless because of this stuff. And you know, I think what he'd find out quickly is that people in my community would have just as much beef about the drug epidemic because a lot of people who buy drugs in our community don't live in our community. And so, I think that's the problem at hand is that it could be very easily put into this one community against the other, and you know, I think he'd be surprised.

JM: I think a lot of people could benefit from that tour, Mayor Rivera. I wouldn't mind going on that tour myself.

DR: Exactly. You know, what I think it's one of those things like, you know, part of our work that we do every day, is try to promote Lawrence, to show all the best sides of it. But you know, the funny part about this is that the federal government has largely been absent when it comes to the opioid epidemic. I mean, they've been sitting on $6 million — $6.5 by the way, for two years — they want to do a bunch of bureaucratic stuff with it, so that doesn't leave much money for actual treatment.

JM: Well, you've been hearing comments like this for a long time, and you're actually the man who gets to see —

DR: —I've listened to it since I was a kid.

JM: Yeah I understand that.

DR: —who've been beating up this city since I was a kid.

JM: And that is absolutely correct. So now you're in charge. Now you're the mayor. Now you're the guy who's on the ground dealing with these issues and I wonder, I wonder how optimistic you feel?

DR: Listen, every day I wake up and I think about how great the possibilities are for this community. We have the best and the most energized workforce in the Merrimack Valley, from Newburyport to Lowell. I think the future is bright. I mean, if you look at gateway cities, there's a lot of things happening in them. And if you look at Lawrence specifically, we are down field further than a lot of other gateway cities. Trust me, presidents come and go but this community has been here a very long time.

JM: Yeah well that's right. Do you wonder about a federal crackdown, whether it's a sanctuary city crackdown, a loss of funding, maybe a crackdown on drugs that we've heard about from Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions. Do you fear the feds coming into Lawrence?

DR: No, I think that, again, that's another red herring. You'll know they're serious when they put more people on the Cape. You know they're serious when they go after the education money. When they say we're not going to give you any education money, but they're not going to do that, because first of all, they're not really sure how to do it.

I think, like health care, the president's going to find out that this stuff is very complicated. You know, it's not as easy as you expect it to be, and frankly it shouldn't be because it's, you're dealing with the lives and fortunes of, you know, millions of people, and from my community it's thousands of people.

JM: Do you feel supported by our Republican governor?

DR: I do. You know, I actually called Governor Baker before I went on and talked about this matter, because he's on the commission that the president impaneled. And one thing that was very clear is that the three things that the president talked about in his speech — the focus point of his three things: the border wall, the sanctuary cities and the death penalty for drug dealers — none of those things are in the recommendations provided by this commission. And so that's what the governor said, he said, 'this is crazy. I don't support any of the things he's talking about.' So yeah, I do feel support. I mean, I think, you know, he understands that the president is volatile, and that we have to do serious business even though that's the case. And you know, I feel like he's doing the best he can, like the rest of us, under the new environment.

JM: Is the irony of this whole situation, mayor, I'll ask you lastly, the fact that this actually makes you stronger — that this promotes Lawrence and makes you stronger?

DR: (laughs) Yeah, I think that is the irony. You know, we are used to making lemons out of lemonade and trust me, we got a pitcher full this week.