President Donald Trump ramped up his “build a wall” rhetoric during a prime-time television address Tuesday by contending that America’s safety is at stake.
The president asserted that there’s a “crisis” at the country’s southern border and he appears content leaving the government shut down until Congress approves $5.7 billion for the wall along the border, which he previously guaranteed Mexico would pay for.
Democrats swiftly excoriated Trump’s address.
“President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety and well-being of the American people and withhold the paychecks of 800,000 innocent workers across the nation – many of them veterans,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during a joint speech with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer following Trump’s address. “He promised to keep government shutdown for ‘months or years’ – no matter whom it hurts. That’s just plain wrong.”
Schumer said that Trump “has appealed to fear, not facts.”
“The president of the United States — having failed to get Mexico to pay for his ineffective, unnecessary border wall, and unable to convince the Congress or the American people to foot the bill — has shut down the government,” he said. “American democracy doesn’t work that way. We don’t govern by temper tantrum. No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down, hurting millions of Americans who are treated as leverage.”
Sen. Kamala Harris, a potential 2020 presidential contender, also lambasted Trump for ginning up outrage.
“That was unproductive,” the California senator tweeted. “Time to reopen the government and get back to work for the people.”
Ahead of the president’s speech, Harris told ABC’s “Good Morning America” Tuesday that Trump’s border wall was nothing short of a “vanity project.”
She scoffed at Trump’s contention of a border crisis.
“It’s an emergency of his own creation,” she said, noting that hundreds of thousands of federal workers remained furloughed or without pay during the shutdown.
Should Trump move forward with his border wall and institute a national emergency declaration for its funding, Harris said there would be litigation.
“These are moments in our country where the beauty of the design of our democracy is being tested,” she said. “If you think about our democracy or the republic as being a tabletop standing on four legs, there are three independent, coequal branches of government and a free and independent press … those other branches of government and the courts and the press will put the checks and balances on the outrageous conduct of this administration.”
The president’s speech contained many misleading statements and flat-out untruths, according to factcheck.org. Among them:
• Despite the president’s claims of a “crisis,” the number of apprehensions at the southwest border remains historically low.
• Trump made the misleading claim that Customs and Border Protection agents “encounter thousands of illegal immigrants” every day trying to enter the U.S. The average number of apprehensions at the border is less than 2,000 a day.
• Trump suggested that 20,000 children were illegally brought into the country last month by “vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs,” but there’s no evidence of that in the available statistics.
• The president falsely claimed the border wall “would very quickly pay for itself” by stopping the flow of illegal drugs. But the majority of illicit drugs is smuggled through legal ports of entry in cars and tractor-trailers, and would not be stopped by a wall.
• Trump continued to claim Mexico would pay for the border wall “indirectly” through a new international trade agreement. Economic experts said the new trade pact won’t generate enough additional federal revenues to pay for a border wall.
Trump shut down the government to force the construction of a wall that even security experts say won’t work, said Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.).
“Once the government is reopened, Congress should have a substantial debate on how to fix our broken system and begin work on legislation that mirrors the bipartisan 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill,” he said. “That legislation passed with 68 votes in the Senate and provided $40 billion in funding for border security. It also provided order, rules and certainty for individuals and businesses and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”