Jan 11, 2019, 7:24 PM ET

Fact Check Friday: Trump's factual emergency

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As of Saturday, at 22 days in, the government shutdown over a border wall becomes the longest in U.S. history.

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And as President Donald Trump dominated the media narrative this week with a prime-time speech from the Oval Office, a trip to the border, and nearly a dozen gaggles with reporters, he said plenty that’s not making it through this checkpoint without close factual inspection.

Welcome to Fact Check Friday.

Who’s going to pay for the wall?

So far, the answer to who will pay for Trump’s wall is: taxpayers and possibly victims of natural disasters if the president declares a national emergency.

At the same time this week, he issued a jaw-dropping caveat to his signature campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall, saying, "I never meant they are going to write out a check."

But in 2016 (while he was telling everyone with a microphone that Mexico would pay), his campaign website included a statement calling for a one-time payment from Mexico ... basically demanding Mexico cut a check. The plan threatened to use U.S. banks to cut off billions in remittance payments to Mexico unless Mexico forked over $5-10 billion for the wall.

"When -- during the campaign, I would say, "Mexico is going to pay for it," obviously, I never said this and I never meant they're going to write out a check. I said, "They're going to pay for it." They are," Trump said on Thursday.

He once again falsely claimed Mexico will pay for the wall "indirectly" through his newly revised trade deal with Mexico, called the USMCA. That agreement has yet to be approved by Congress.

Wall is like a wheel

Trump's argument for the wall is that drugs and criminals are pouring into the United States through the southern border. Without the wall, he says, this can't be stopped.

For the doubters, and the layman, he explained it this way Thursday while visiting the border in McAllen, Texas: "The wheel is older than the wall. You know that? And there are some things that work. You know what? The wheel works and a wall works. Nothing like a wall."

Notwithstanding that mankind's walls predate the wheel by nearly 6,000 years, there’s plenty of evidence criminals with drugs and weapons would continue to drive right through ports of entry -- with or without a wall.

Enter Melisa Lucio, the Patrol Agent in Charge at the McAllen station, who presented a slide show showing the president all the drugs, weapons and cash her agents have seized. One problem: Virtually everything she showed him was caught at ports of entry – not where Trump wants a wall.

That's not to say drugs don't cross over from the open desert -- they do. But according to the DEA 2018 Drug Threat Assessment, large amounts of drugs enter the U.S. through ports of entry at the southwest border. Drugs like fentanyl are also mailed from China.

So, the border patrol official showing the president drugs stopped at a point of entry doesn't support his argument for a wall.

She also showed him a photo of a drug-smuggling tunnel, built -- under existing wall.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump delivers a televised address to the nation from his desk in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Jan. 8, 2019.Carlos Barria/Reuters
President Donald Trump delivers a televised address to the nation from his desk in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Jan. 8, 2019.

Crisis at the border

Democrats accuse the president of "manufacturing" a crisis at the border.

Part of that criticism is accurate, part isn't.

As Trump points out, President Barack Obama also called it a “humanitarian crisis.” Migrants are certainly suffering. There are close to 15,000 unaccompanied minors in detention centers today, children waiting for sponsors. Detention centers are overwhelmed in the U.S. and thousands of migrants are now living in tent cities on the Mexican side of the border waiting to claim asylum in the United States.

But is it really a “national security crisis,” as the president claimed in this opening line from his Oval Office address?

"My fellow Americans, tonight I'm speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border. Every day, Customs and Border Protection agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country."

There is a concerning uptick in families coming across the border, but if you're judging by the overall flow of migrants into the U.S., it's not a security crisis.

According to Customs and Border Protection data, illegal migration is down dramatically over the last two decades. For example, in 2001 there were 1,643,679 apprehensions at the border, compared with 396,579 in 2018 -- a more than 75 percent drop.

It’s true that Trump has seen apprehensions increase by about 90,000 during his second year in office. That bothers him, but it's not accurate to call that situation a “security crisis” given recent historical context.

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  • William Harkey

    I say let trump go, it's the best campaign the Democrats could run.

  • PaulCrozer

    Don the Con strikes again!

  • Dicazi

    A 3rd tunnel under a border wall in Arizona was just found.
    For drugs, it's suspected.

    Macchu Picchu was built without the wheel. Plenty of walls, and drainage that amazes today's engineers.

  • Ed Freeman

    Making America great again!

  • Veracity

    This President clearly believes he can govern only by shouting threat after threat.

    He has zero knowledge, nor desires any real knowledge.

    So all he can do is issue threats and punish with damaging actions.

  • mollydtt

    Nothing to check—no facts. NO FACTS.

  • Nala

    baby duck boys favorite phrase is "National Security" to get his way now he has included national emergency - he is NOT KING

  • Chuck

    Why even waste your time fact checking. Nothing out of this man's mouth is factual and is miles from the truth!

  • SJC

    "Without the wall, he says, this can't be stopped."
    What a lying SOS.

  • justanewsreader

    One day, Trump is going to lie, or perpetuate a previous lie, and then choke on his own tongue. Now that the FBI in NY is investing Trump and collusion with Russians, he will need to manufacture some massive fraud on American to push that story off the front page. But, one day, we won't have any pages to push the stories to because the whole media will be filled with him during his trial for criminal activities. Let's include the offspring too as co-conspirators.

  • fastone

    "According to Customs and Border Protection data, illegal migration is
    down dramatically over the last two decades. For example, in 2001 there
    were 1,643,679 apprehensions at the border, compared with 396,579 in
    2018 -- a more than 75 percent drop."

    Credit where credit due....that's because George W. Bush doubled the number of Border agents and built 700 miles of fencing barrier in 2006. In 2017 it was lowest been in 20 years, so naturally there was an increase in 2018...and that's what Trump is touting as increase and invasion but it's still 1.2 million LESS a year than in 2000.

    It's not a crises...and .the wall's not a solution....it's about building a national monument to white nationalism and stupidity. .

  • mollydtt

    The GOP loves all of Trump’s lies. So much easier than reality.

    And Fox “news” is happy to oblige.

  • Prophet With Honor

    He's painted himself into a corner with no good way out.

  • Chelleepea

    Trump has something to brag about now....he has shut the govt down longer than any president ever!

  • Bluejay

    The wheels on Donny's bus go thump, turn a bit, and a few more thumps, from all his people he's thrown under it!

  • jimrussell

    Time to stand up. Donny, you only have an astonishing, but very disappointing
    and troubling in America in the 21st century, 15%-20% of your fellow
    xenophobic and racist, 5% of the nations profoundly naive, gullible, and
    ignorant, the cowardly Republicans Congress and a few rock rib
    Republicans left in support. A cowardly Republican Congress that is
    trapped and afraid because that disappointing 25% of the American
    ignorant and intolerant represent the majority of the Republican Party
    voters. Most Congressional Republicans know they and the Party are
    bleeding out from Trump's inflicted, maybe treacherous wounds and now
    his phony border crisis and government shut down. Stand up Republicans
    your only chance of survival is to disassociate yourselves from Trump's
    proven serial lying, ignorance, incompetence, intolerance, and possible
    treachery. A mental health intervention and impeachment are two obvious
    outs that show some courage, there are others, but finally a show of
    backbone and courage are a must.

  • John Springer

    Even if 80% enter on wheels, the issue is still that we have 20 % , a large amount.

  • Pologize3

    "Wheels are round"
    -Deep thoughts by Donald J. Trump

  • TexasVulcan

    If there is a crisis, it's Trump's own making.

    The lies are astounding. He never said Mexico "would cut a check"? Certainly implied that at his rallies. And his web site was very specific.

  • ROBOTIX JONES

    The only "emergency" to Trump is not fulfilling his little campaign promise to his followers. Nothing else matters to him.

  • Ted Mittelstaedt

    Go ahead, Trump, try declaring an emergency. It will be taken to SCOTUS who will slap you down.and then you will have one less BS point to wave around.

    You are done. You picked a fight that you cannot win. Even if you allowed the vote and accepted no wall tomorrow, by now every federal bureaucrat hates your guts and will do everything they can to sabotage any more of your nonsense.

  • BigBearcatBill

    Give him a wall, only in Texas first!!! Then see if the country wants it through NM, AZ, CA. Let Red Texas with their far right nuts have a wall, bigly!

  • Band, On the Run

    Walls and wheels. Man, Trump really does know more about technology than anyone!

  • Groingo

    Trump is a complete Chuckle Head....Dingbat....Dead from the nect up.