Vice President Mike Pence claimed Tuesday that Americans are not “as concerned about the political debate” surrounding President Donald Trump’s demands for a border wall, dodging multiple questions about Trump’s credibility as the president prepares to address the nation Tuesday night.
Pence appeared on all three major broadcast morning news shows on Tuesday to bolster Trump’s demands for funding to build his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Those demands, and Democrats’ unwillingness to accede to them, have led to a government shutdown, now in its 18th day.
In its efforts to find traction on the issue, the White House has most recently begun to characterize the flow of migrants into the U.S. as a humanitarian and national security crisis. Previewing Trump’s televised address to the nation scheduled for Tuesday night, Pence told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the president will make the case for Democrats to provide $5.7 billion to build a steel barrier to alleviate what he called “an undeniable crisis at our southern border.”
The vice president avoided direct answers to questions from ABC and others about repeated misstatements from Trump and others that overstate the national security threat at the border.
Confronted with the inaccurate White House talking point that U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped 4,000 terrorists at the U.S.-Mexico border last year — that number appears to refer to data for 2017, not 2018, and it refers to apprehensions worldwide made primarily in airports — Pence argued to ABC News’ Jon Karl that the need for border security transcends the president’s rhetoric.
“How can the American people trust the president when he says this is a crisis, when he says things over and over again that aren’t true?” Karl asked.
“Well, look, the American people aren’t as concerned about the political debate as they are concerned about what’s really happening at the border,” Pence responded.
The vice president also repeated Trump’s misleading insistence that a renegotiated free trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada fulfills to his campaign promise that Mexico would pay for a border wall, arguing that the new deal is structured “in a way that it will benefit the United States in jobs and tax revenues.” Fact checkers have rated those claims false, even if the deal had been ratified and gone into effect, which it has not.
And he addressed the president’s bizarre claim made last week that former U.S. presidents had personally expressed their regret over not having built a border wall. Spokespeople for every living U.S. president have denied that such comments were made.
“This should have been done by all of the Presidents that preceded me, and they all know it,” Trump said in a press conference last week. “Some of them have told me that we should have done it.”
Asked about the president’s assertion regarding his conversations with past presidents, Pence misrepresented what Trump had said. The vice president did note, correctly, that past presidents have indeed sought immigration and border reforms.
“I know the president said that was his impression from previous administrations, previous presidents,” Pence said. “I know I’ve seen clips of previous presidents talking about the importance of border security, importance of addressing the issue of illegal immigration.”
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
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