President Donald Trump privately admitted to television anchors before his Oval Office address Tuesday that his renewed push for a proposed border wall would not “change a damn thing,” The New York Times reported.
According to the report, Trump “dismissed his own new strategy as pointless” at an off-the-record lunch with TV anchors hours before his factually-dubious speech was carried by every major network.
“He made clear in blunt terms that he was not inclined to give the speech or go to Texas, but was talked into it by advisers,” The Times reported.
“It’s not going to change a damn thing, but I’m still doing it,” Trump told the anchors.
Trump also dismissed his planned trip to the Southern border as “merely a photo opportunity.”
“But,” Trump said, pointing to his communication staff, “these people behind you say it’s worth it.”
Trump’s speech was a rehash of previous false claims:
Trump spoke for nearly 10 minutes Tuesday but provided little in the way of new information and largely repeated the same false claims he made on the campaign trail during the midterms, before the Republicans lost the House by more than 8 million votes.
The crux of Trump’s argument is the false claim that there is a “crisis” at the Southern border. In fact, border apprehensions are way down from the early 2000s, according the Customs and Border Protection.
Trump falsely claimed that Mexico will indirectly pay for the wall. He falsely claimed that heroin was pouring over the Southern border despite his own administration’s admissions that most drugs come through legal ports of entry and would not be affected by the wall. Much of the speech was about fear mongering about undocumented immigrants, even though data shows both legal and undocumented immigrants commit violent crimes at a much lower rate than native born Americans.
Democrats take unusual step to hit back:
TV networks that carried Trump’s speech made the unusual move of allowing Democrats to respond. Typically the opposition party only gets a primetime response to the president’s State of the Union address.
"President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis and must reopen the government," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
"Separate the shutdown from the arguments over border security," urged Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. "There is bipartisan legislation -- supported by Democrats and Republicans -- to reopen government while allowing debate over border security to continue."
"Democrats and the President both want stronger border security," he added. "However, we sharply disagree with the President about the most effective way to do it."