Trump addresses the nation, Democrats respond
Senior White House aides, not surprisingly, are doing some messaging after President Trump's address, by going after Democrats.
Top White House officials are claiming that Democrats aren't willing to come around on the issue of border security. Democrats, of course, have voted for border security funds just not for the wall the President wants.
White House officials are also saying Democrats made a mistake tonight describing the situation at the border as a "manufactured crisis" — a sign that's how the White House plans to frame the debate after tonight's address, as they fan out to do TV appearances in the coming days.
Here's how one official described it: "The President wants common sense solutions." Trump said his proposals are "common sense" in his address.
President Trump claimed that "the federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only: because Democrats will not fund border security.”
It’s not true that Democrats oppose funding for border security, they just aren't willing to meet Trump’s demand for more than $5 billion in wall funding. Congressional Democratic leaders have offered funding for roughly $1.3 billion for border security in the current shutdown fight.
That offer remains on the table.
Border security has been a cornerstone of Democratic immigration proposals for years. The Obama-backed comprehensive immigration bill in 2013, which passed with unanimous Democratic support, would have added up to 40,000 Border Patrol agents and deploy more than $3 billion for technology upgrades at the border. House Republicans refused to vote on the proposal and it never reached Obama’s desk.
House Democrats voted last week to approve a stop-gap funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security that would not allocate new wall funding, but would maintain the current $1.3 billion in border security money. Last year, the Senate Appropriations Committee advanced a DHS funding bill for fiscal year 2019 on a bipartisan basis that would allocate $1.6 billion for roughly 65 miles of fencing in the Rio Grande Valley, but the full Senate has not yet approved that measure.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in her response to President Trump's speech, said the President has chosen to use misinformation and "even malice" to get his message across during the shutdown.
"The President has chosen fear. We want to start with the facts," she said.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer echoed that sentiment.
“Most presidents have used Oval Office addresses for noble purposes. This President just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his Administration," he said.
"Throughout this debate and his presidency — President Trump has appealed to fear, not facts. Division, not unity."
President Trump claimed tonight that, "At the request of Democrats, it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall."
Despite Trump's claim, Democrats did not request a steel barrier on the US-Mexico border.
Democrats have long been strenuously opposed to Trump's campaign promise that he would build a concrete wall on the US-Mexico border. But they did not propose a steel barrier as an alternative.
Rather, Democrats have continued to oppose the construction of any new steel or concrete barrier on the Southern border. They have only kept the door open to funding a border barrier as part of a broader immigration deal.
President Trump claimed "more Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam War."
Some 58,220 Americans died as a result of the Vietnam War. In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of total drug overdose deaths was 70,327.
Trump’s assertion is misleading: He is conflating the drugs coming across the US-Mexico border with total drug deaths in the US. In addition, it’s not currently known whether overdose deaths will increase or decrease when the CDC releases 2018 data later this year.
Trump’s figures do not distinguish between deaths caused by drugs smuggled into the country versus those prescribed by US doctors.
The majority of hard narcotics seized by Customs and Border Protection come through ports of entry either in packages, cargo or with people who attempt to enter the US legally. The only drug that is smuggled in higher numbers between legal entry points is marijuana, according to information from Customs and Border Protection and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
President Trump claimed that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer "has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past."
Trump is right: But the context is key.
Schumer has previously supported legislation to build physical barriers on the US-Mexico border. Most notably, Schumer and other Democrats supported the 2006 Secure Fence Act that authorized the construction of several hundred miles of fencing along the border -- but not a wall.
However, as long as the government remains shutdown, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have refused to offer any funding for a border barrier.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, speaking moments after President Trump's prime-time address, said the solution for the shutdown is obvious: "Separate the shutdown from the arguments over border security."
"There is bipartisan legislation — supported by Democrats and Republicans — to re-open government while allowing debate over border security to continue. There is no excuse for hurting millions of Americans over a policy difference," he said, speaking alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
He went on to say that no president should demand "he gets his way or else the government shuts down."
"We don't govern by temper tantrum," Schumer said.
"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."
Pelosi added: “President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must re-open the government.”
Trump acknowledged the violence migrants face in transit to the U.S. during his address when he stated, "One in three women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico. Women and children are the biggest victims by far of our broken system. This is the tragic reality of illegal immigration on our southern border."
Indeed, the trek to the U.S.-Mexico border has been reported to be violent.
According to data from Doctors Without Borders, 68.3 percent of migrants and refugees "entering Mexico reported being victims of violence during their transit toward the United States," and nearly one-third of women said they'd been sexually abused.
But some perspective: This very violence is why women choose to travel in caravans, to achieve safety in numbers. Trump has offered no specifics about how his policies would address the scourge of sexual violence faced by migrants.
The administration has argued in the past that by building the wall, migrants will be deterred from making the journey.