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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.
The Trump administration has already built its case for Iran war
By Jonathan Allen
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump may not need Congress to go to war with Iran.
That’s the case his lieutenants have been quietly building as tensions between the two nations have escalated.
The key elements involve drawing links between al Qaeda and Iran and casting Iran as a terrorist threat to the U.S. — which is exactly what administration officials have been doing in recent weeks.
That could give Trump the justification he needs to fight Iran under the still-in-effect 2001 use-of-force resolution without congressional approval.
That prospect is unsettling to most Democrats, and even some Republicans, in part because Iran didn’t attack the U.S. on 9/11, in part because there is a reluctance to engage U.S. forces in another theater of war, and in part because many lawmakers believe Congress has given too much of its war-making authority to the president over the years.
With Congress unlikely to grant him new authority to strike Iran under the current circumstances, and amid a campaign of “maximum pressure” against the regime in Tehran that has escalated tension between the two countries, Trump administration officials have sent strong signals that they will be ready to make an end run around lawmakers, using the 2001 authorization for the use of military force — or “AUMF” in Washington-speak — if necessary.
That law gave the president the power to use force against “nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. deployed an aircraft carrier strike group to the region. Three U.S. officials told NBC that a surge in American forces in the region was a response in part to intelligence-gathering suggesting that the Iranian regime had given proxies a green light to attack U.S. personnel and assets in the region.
And in recent weeks, the Trump administration has accused Iran of assisting al Qaeda, designated an arm of the Iranian military as a foreign terrorist organization and accused Iran of being linked to a terrorist threat against the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.
National Security Council officials declined to speak on the record with NBC about whether such incidents would satisfy the legal threshold necessary for the president to determine he had the authority to use force against Iran.
But former government lawyers familiar with the 2001 law and its applications say it’s obvious from those moves what the Trump administration is trying to do.
“The whole thing is building up to the notion that they don’t have to go to Congress for approval,” Yale University law professor Harold Koh, who served as the State Department’s top lawyer under Secretary Hillary Clinton, said in a telephone interview with NBC News.
Yet Koh said an attempt to shoehorn Iran into the 2001 AUMF is absurd and shouldn’t pass legal muster.
“The theory of war powers has to be that Congress doesn’t just sign off once,” he said. “The suggestion now that Iran attacked us on 9/11 is ridiculous.”
The original law essentially creates a two-part test for the president to make a determination that force is warranted: a country, group or person has aided al Qaeda and force is necessary to prevent a terrorist attack against the U.S. from that entity.
Under questioning from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a critic of the executive branch’s expansive view of its war powers under both Presidents Barack Obama and Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that he would “leave it to the lawyers” to sort out whether Trump had the authority to go to war with Iran absent a new authorization from Congress.
But he also forwarded an argument that he has been making since the early days of the administration that is tantamount to a case that the first part of the test has been met.
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“The factual question with respect to Iran’s connections to Al-Qaeda is very real. They have hosted al Qaeda, they have permitted al Qaeda to transit their country,” he said at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing. “There is no doubt there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and al Qaeda. Period, full stop.”
There has been intense debate in recent years about the extent to which the remnants of al Qaeda have found assistance in Iran, with Iran hawks taking the position that the ties are deep and significant and others contending that attempts to link the Shia regime to terrorism carried out by Sunni groups are wrong or disingenuous.
But the deployment of more forces to the region to counter the threat of attacks on American personnel and assets, as well as the partial evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, could be seen as satisfying the second part of the use-of-force test. That is, the idea that force is appropriate to prevent a terrorist threat from a country that has given assistance to al Qaeda.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said last week that she appreciates that Trump has generally been reluctant to go to war and cast his advisers as the drivers of the current escalation of tensions. She said the president doesn’t currently have the power to go to war with Iran.
“The responsibility in the Congress is for Congress to declare war,” she said. “So I hope the president’s advisors recognize that they have no authorization to go forward in any way. They cannot call the authorization, AUMF, the authorization for the use of military force, that was passed in 2001, as any authorization to go forward in the Middle East now,”
Trump himself has left the door open.
Asked about the possibility this week, he said, “I hope not.”
But there’s little question that his administration is getting ready — and getting ready to go it alone.
Joe Biden at rally casts himself as candidate who could unify the nation
By Mike Memoli
PHILADELPHIA — Joe Biden framed the 2020 presidential election as a choice between unity over division and cast himself as the candidate uniquely positioned to close the nation’s political divide, promising Saturday “a different path.”
Speaking in the heart of Philadelphia at a rally billed as a campaign kickoff, the former vice president doubled down on his view of the Democratic Party and the broader political climate in which more extreme voices often carry the day.
And his remarks once again appeared designed to look beyond the very crowded primary field toward the general election fight to come against President Trump, even as he acknowledged some skepticism in his party about his approach.
“I know some of the really smart folks said that Democrats do not want to hear about unity. The Democrats are so angry, the angrier that candidate could be the better chance to win the nomination. I do not believe it,” Biden said. “I believe Democrats want to unify this nation.”
America already has someone who would “add more divisions,” or “demonize” his opponents in Trump, Biden added.
“I am running to offer our country — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — a different path, not back to a past that never was but to a future that fulfills our true potential,” he said.
In more than three weeks as an announced candidate, the former two-term vice president to Barack Obama has seen his lead in national polls grow even as the field has as well. His perceived strength as a Democrat who can go toe-to-toe with Trump in the general election, but on substance and politically with an appeal in bellwether states like Pennsylvania, is a major reason why.
As he has for weeks, Biden warned in stark terms about the threat Trump’s presidency poses to America’s standing in the world and to our democratic system itself. On Saturday, he also took on Trump over what could be a critical 2020 issue: the economy.
“I know President Trump likes to take credit for the economy,” he said. “But just look at the facts — not the alternative facts. President Trump inherited an economy from an Obama/Biden administration that was given to him — just like he inherited everything else in his life. And just like everything else he has been given in life, he is in the process of squandering that as well.”
Even as he trained his sights on Trump, Biden addressed head-on the questions that will dominate the Democratic primary. He acknowledged that Democrats doubt his view that he could work with Republicans in Washington if elected.
“I’m going to say some thing outrageous: I know how to make government work. Not because I have talked or tweeted about it, but because I have done it,” he said, citing his work to convince swing Republican votes to back the 2009 Recovery Act as one example. “I helped make government work. I can do that again.”
But he also said he understands that there are times Democrats would have to fight on their own to advance their goals.
“I know how to go toe to toe with the GOP, but it does not have to be, and it cannot be on every single issue,” he said.
Saturday’s rally marked the end of a three-week campaign rollout for the former vice president in which he laid out the rationale for his candidacy and addressed voters in each of the four early-voting states, promising to work as hard as anyone to earn their support.
In the month ahead, though, Biden will turn toward readying himself for the next major test of his frontrunner status: the first primary debate. His public schedule is expected to be more limited, with several major policy speeches possible in addition to fundraising swings through New York, Texas and Florida.
On Saturday, Biden outlined policy priorities for his administration in broad strokes, calling for a clean energy revolution, a public option on health care, and protecting a woman’s right to an abortion. But achieving those goals started with one key step, he reminded the audience.
“The single most important thing we have to accomplish to get this done … is defeat Donald Trump,” he said.
Republican Rep. Justin Amash says Trump committed ‘impeachable conduct’
By Dennis Romero and Winston Wilde
U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan on Saturday became the first congressional Republican to conclude that President Donald Trump has engaged in “impeachable conduct.”
His conclusion came after he read special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, he tweeted in a widely circulated thread.
“President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct,” he tweeted.
He also said Attorney General William Barr “deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report” with a four-page summary sent to Congress in March before the release of the full, redacted report.
Barr said the report showed no collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russians bent on impacting the election in his favor with hacked emails from the campaign of Hillary Clinton and with a disinformation attack that relied on social media.
Barr also declared that the report said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prosecute the president for possible obstruction of justice.
The report did not say Trump was exonerated, just that there was insufficient evidence to initiate prosecution for possible conspiracy or what the president has called collusion.
On the matter of obstruction, Mueller looked at 10 possible instances of presidential meddling in the Russia investigation. “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” the report stated.
Amash tweeted, “Contrary to Barr’s portrayal, Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment.”
“In fact,” he said, “Mueller’s report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence.”
Some Democratic activists seized on the congressman’s conclusions as a breakthrough at a time of widespread Republican support for the president’s dismissal of the Mueller report as a “witch hunt.”
Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “HUGE.”
“Thank you for your leadership, @justinamash,” she stated.
Amash isn’t exactly a staunch Trump supporter. He’s a libertarian who in February voted with Democrats in Congress in a failed attempt to overturn the president’s declaration of emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border.
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