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By Jane C. Timm

President Donald Trump made several misleading or false claims on immigration and the border on Monday, after defending his administration’s use of tear gas on migrants attempting to gain entry to the U.S. over the weekend.

Here are his claims, made during a pair of campaign rallies and a law enforcement round table in Mississippi to bolster Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in her runoff election, and the facts.

Claim: More than 500 ‘serious criminals’ are in migrant caravan

“But I would say the violence is very strong. We have over 500 people that are serious criminals and gang members. And it’s a tough situation. We just don’t want that in our country. And we’re keeping it in Mexico,” Trump said at a law enforcement round table on Monday in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Trump’s administration has made this claim before, but has yet to offer evidence or say how officials identified more than 500 alleged criminals within the caravan of Central American migrants traveling toward the U.S. border with Mexico.

Claim: Three border agents were badly injured

“We had tremendous violence — three Border Patrol people yesterday were very badly hurt through getting hit with rocks and stones,” Trump claimed at the Gulfport round table.

That’s false, according to the president’s own administration. The Department of Homeland Security said Monday that there were no injuries during the weekend clashes in which border agents used tear gas against migrants seeking to enter the U.S.

Trump administration officials said the use of tear gas was justified because migrants were throwing “rocks and projectiles.”

“Our Border Patrol agents and officers responded admirably and responsibly to the events on Sunday. It is a testament to their training and professionalism that no one was injured,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement Monday.

Claim: My wall stopped the migrants

“The wall has started very, very substantially and in fact you saw the other day the wall stopped everybody and it was only the section that’s now under construction. They’ve breached it but only momentarily, it didn’t take long. Momentarily. That was called a very momentary breach,” Trump said in the Biloxi rally.

This is misleading. Trump is currently repairing and replacing old border fence sections — just as previous administrations did — but he’s not building any new sections yet.

Migrants who attempted to enter the United States illegally on Sunday — by trying to cross on either side of the San Ysidro Port of Entry at the border between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego — were stopped by tear gas, pepper spray and manpower, according to a statement from Customs and Border Protection and eyewitness reports.

Claim: ‘Fake news’ ignores crimes committed by immigrants

“In the state of Texas alone, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, between 2011 and 2018, more than 663,000 crimes were committed by illegal immigrants. You know you hear these stories about ‘oh they don’t commit crimes, we commit crimes, they don’t commit crimes. Oh, it’s just us.’ No, no, it doesn’t work that way, it’s fake news. It’s fake news,” Trump said in the Biloxi rally.

Trump is inflating the numbers here, according to statistics from the Texas Department of Public Safety. During that period, Texas data says there were 284,000 criminal offenses committed by people in the state that authorities knew were undocumented at the time.

Texas authorities estimate that about 270,000 undocumented immigrants were charged with crimes during this period. That’s about 16 percent of the undocumented population in Texas.

Overall, there’s no evidence foreign nationals or immigrants commit more crimes than Americans, which Texas’ data specifically notes.

Claim: Democrats want to harbor violent criminals

“Yet Democrats want to abolish ICE. They want to turn America into one giant sanctuary city for violent criminals and MS-13 and other gang killers,” Trump said in the Biloxi rally.

Trump’s claim about ICE is partly true, but requires some context, including that not all members of the Democratic Party are on board with calls to “abolish ICE.” While some Democrats have advocated for eliminating or restructuring the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency,none have advocated for ending immigration enforcement.

The second half of Trump’s claim is entirely unsupported, as NBC News has fact checked previously. Democrats have not expressed or even hinted at a desire to encourage and support crime or gang members.

In addition, there’s no evidence that sanctuary cities, which limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, foster crime or gangs, and authorities have said sanctuary policies actually help them fight crime.

Claim: ICE is hunting down dangerous people

“Every single day, we are finding the illegal alien gang members and predators and throwing them the hell out of here, putting them in jail, or just plain getting them out of our country as nicely as possible,” Trump said in the Biloxi rally.

This is partly true. ICE does target undocumented immigrants deemed dangerous by law enforcement, arrest and deport them, but it’s a small portion of their overall work. In fiscal year 2017, there were more than 181,000 arrests. Seventeen percent of those arrests were arrests targeting criminals, and 2.6 percent of the total were gang-related arrests. The rest were administrative arrests.

Claim: Obama separated families at the border, too

“Obama had a separation policy, we all had the same policy. I tried to do it differently, but Obama had a separation policy, but people don’t like to talk about that,” Trump told reporters before heading to Mississippi.

That’s false. The Obama administration attempted to detain families together. It did not have a policy of family separation.



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Prosecutors broke law in deal with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein

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By Sarah Fitzpatrick, Tom Winter, Kristen Welker, Hallie Jackson and Rich Schapiro

A Florida judge ruled Thursday that federal prosecutors, led by a man who is now President Donald Trump’s secretary of labor, broke the law when they signed a plea agreement with financier Jeffrey Epstein without notifying his sex abuse victims.

Epstein, 66, reached a nonprosecution deal in 2008 with then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta’s office to halt a federal sex abuse probe involving more than 30 teenage girls. Epstein could have faced a possible life sentence. Instead, he pleaded guilty to state charges, spent 13 months in jail and paid settlements to victims.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra, in a 33-page ruling, said prosecutors violated the victims’ rights by not informing them of the deal and instead sending a letter counseling them to have “patience.”

“Particularly problematic was the Government’s decision to conceal the existence of the [nonprosecution agreement] and mislead the victims to believe that federal prosecution was still a possibility,” Marra wrote. “When the Government gives information to victims, it cannot be misleading.”

Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta at an event in the East Room of the White House on Oct. 6, 2017.Evan Vucci / AP file

A Department of Labor spokesperson released a statement following the judge’s ruling.

“For more than a decade, the actions of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida in this case have been defended by the Department of Justice in litigation across three administrations and several attorneys general,” it read. “The office’s decisions were approved by departmental leadership and followed departmental procedures. This matter remains in litigation and, thus, for any further comment we refer you to the Department of Justice.”

In his ruling, Marra said Epstein and others operated an international sex ring.

“Epstein and his co-conspirators knowingly traveled in interstate and international commerce to sexually abuse Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2 and others, they committed violations of not only Florida law, but also federal law,” Marra wrote.

“In addition to his own sexual abuse of the victims, Epstein directed other persons to abuse the girls sexually…Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others.”

A lawyer for Epstein did not immediately return requests for comment.

The Justice Department has opened a probe into how federal government lawyers handled the case, an official confirmed with NBC News earlier this month.

Brad Edwards, who represented several victims, applauded the ruling.

“Today’s order represents long-overdue vindication for all of the victims of Mr. Epstein and his co-conspirators,” Edwards said. “Unfortunately, this decision also highlights the failure of the United States Government to acknowledge its obvious wrongdoing. Rather than work to correct the injustices done to the victims, the Government spent 10 years defending its own improper conduct.”

Lawyer Jeffrey Herman, who also represented women alleging they were abused by Epstein, called Mara’s ruling a “step in the right direction.”

Epstein — a wealthy money manager who was friends with the likes of Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Great Britain’s Prince Andrew — has been dogged for years by allegations that he sexually abused dozens of teenage girls at his Palm Beach mansion and elsewhere in the early 2000s.

In December, he struck a last-minute deal to avoid a civil trial that would have allowed some of his victims to finally testify against him in open court.

The deal included a financial settlement, the details of which were kept confidential, NBC Miami reported. It also included an apology from Epstein to Edwards, who had accused Epstein of trying to ruin his reputation as retaliation for having represented the accusers.



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IRS agent admits giving Michael Cohen’s financial records to Stormy lawyer

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By Andrew Blankstein and Tom Winter

Federal prosecutors say an IRS investigator in California has admitted leaking confidential details of financial transactions by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen to Michael Avenatti, lawyer for Stormy Daniels.

John C. Fry has been charged in federal court with searching for and disseminating Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), reports filed by banks when they note potentially suspicious transactions.

Federal officials say they found telephone records that indicate Fry placed a phone call from his personal cell phone to that of Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti the day before Avenatti released details of Cohen’s financial transactions, and the day after.

Via Twitter, Avenatti disseminated information about Cohen’s receipt in 2017 of $500,000 from Columbus Nova, a company founded by a Russian billionaire, as well as payments to a Cohen company called Essential Consultants from other firms who do business with the federal government, including AT&T and aircraft manufacturer. The

The Treasury Department’s Inspector General’s Office announced after Avenatti’s disclosure that it would be investigating the source of his information.

Fry, 54, is an investigative analyst with the law enforcement arm of the IRS, the Criminal Investigative Division. He has worked for the IRS since 2008.

According to the complaint, he conducted numerous searches related to Cohen, and downloaded five SARs, including one related to a bank account for Essential Consultants.

The federal complaint says Fry verbally admitted providing the information to Avenatti when he was confronted by federal agents.

In a statement, Avenatti told NBC News, “I have done nothing wrong and did not violate any law whatsoever, just like reporters don’t violate the law when they do their jobs.”

Sarah Fitzpatrick contributed.



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Republican candidate Mark Harris calls for new election in disputed North Carolina House race

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 / Updated 

By Leigh Ann Caldwell and Dartunorro Clark

RALEIGH, North Carolina — Republican candidate Mark Harris on Thursday called for a new election in the disputed North Carolina House race.

“Neither I nor any of the leadership of my campaign were aware of or condoned the improper activities that have been testified to in this hearing. Through the testimony I listened to over the past three days, I believe a new election should be called,” Harris said. “It’s become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the ninth district seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.”

Harris’ request for a new election came after several days of a state Board of Elections hearing that is seeking to determine whether there was misconduct with mail-in ballots in the state’s 9th congressional district. Harris testified Thursday morning that he had no knowledge of the alleged illegal activities of a political operative hired by his campaign.

State investigators described the matter as a “coordinated, unlawful” mail-in ballot “scheme” in Bladen County run by political operative McCrea Dowless that included the collection of absentee ballots, which is illegal in North Carolina.

Harris testified Thursday that Dowless had repeatedly assured him that he would not be doing anything against the law in his absentee ballot operation. Harris said that after consideration and talking with others he trusted, he decided to move forward with the hire.

“I was comfortable enough with the recommendations of the individuals from Judge Marion Warren who at first told me about McCrae Dowless and what he did and all the way through in meeting with those individuals, I was comfortable enough at that point,” Harris said.

However, Harris’ son, John Harris, testified before the North Carolina State Board of Elections on Wednesday, saying that he warned his father about the illegal tactics of Dowless, casting doubt on Harris’ insistence that he had no knowledge of fraudulent election activity in last year’s election.

John Harris, an assistant U.S. attorney in North Carolina, testified that he told his father he had become concerned about the practices of the operative, McCrae Dowless, after studying the 2016 congressional primary in the same 9th District. He said that his father decided to hire Dowless despite his concerns.



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