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Trump’s First Oval Office Address Filled with False Claims, Conway Keeps Repeating Them Anyway

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WASHINGTON, January 9, 2019 — As the second-longest government shutdown in American history enters its third week, President Trump on Tuesday attempted to galvanize public support for his unpopular proposal to build a wall at the country’s southern border with a televised, prime-time address to the nation.

After the broadcast networks broke into their regularly-scheduled programming, the president appeared on screen shortly after 9 p.m. to address his fellow Americans about what he called “a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border,” caused by “thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country.”

Trump spoke while sitting at the Resolute desk, behind which past presidents have delivered televised remarks at pivotal moments in history. These include John F. Kennedy’s warning to the Soviets during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Lyndon Johnson’s declining to seek a second full term, and Richard Nixon’s announcing his resignation amidst the turmoil of Watergate, Gerald Ford’s putting an end to the “long national nightmare” by pardoning Nixon days later, Ronald Reagan’s consoling Americans after Challenger disaster, and George W. Bush’s comforting and reassuring a traumatized nation after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Unlike those singular examples of presidential oratory, Trump’s ten-minute-long speech broke no new ground.

Mischaracterizations and falsehoods began almost immediately, with the president’s claim that Customs and Border Protection officers encounter “thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter the country each day.”

The president then attempted to draw a line from the number of aliens — legal and otherwise — arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to a claimed epidemic of violent crime resulting from the lack of a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Over the years, thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country, and thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now,” he said.

Trump also attempted to tie current immigration and border security policies to the nationwide opioid epidemic by repeating his claim that the lack of a border wall has turned the southern border into “a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl.”

Trump has frequently suggested that the fentanyl responsible for so many overdose deaths is brought into the United States from Mexico despite the fact that the vast majority of fentanyl sold on American streets comes from Chinese manufacturers and makes its way to the U.S. through the mail or through ports of entry.

Numerous studies have found that immigrants, regardless of status, commit crimes at far lower rates than native-born Americans. Moreover, most drug smuggling — and drug seizures by Customs and Border Protection officers — takes places at ports of entry.

While Trump’s use of the phrase “illegal immigration” brings to mind the image of men and women furtively crossing the border by evading border patrol officers, administration officials openly admit that the number of actual illegal immigrants caught while attempting to cross the border has been on the decline for years. In fact, it is the lowest it has been in decades.

Most people who are residing in the United States illegally came here not through a furtive dash through the desert, but through a passport line on a tourist visa.

Trump also invoked the scourge of human smugglers known as “coyotes” while claiming that 20,000 children “were illegally brought into the country” last month. But as the children in question were granted legal status while their asylum claims are pending, this claim falls flat.

Asked why the president continues to deliberately mischaracterize persons exercising the right to claim asylum in the U.S. as “illegal immigrants,” Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway said Wednesday that such a distinction was nothing more than “semantics” because “not everyone who presents a claim of fear has a credible claim of fear.”

Conway complained that under current law, families seeking asylum are required to be released into the United States during the pendency of their claims.

When it was pointed out to Conway that the asylum process is a legal method of immigrating to the United States, she told reporters that “that’s not true” because Mexico is a “safe third country” from which immigrants could apply for asylum. “Under the law, they could certainly stay there while their claims are being processed.”.

While the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act bars asylum to aliens who can be returned to a “safe third country,” the Immigration and Nationality Act requires a bilateral or multilateral agreement to be in place between the United States and that country before the 1996 law can be invoked to deny anyone asylum.

The U.S. has a “safe third country” agreement with Canada, but no such agreement exists between the U.S. and Mexico.

When pressed further, Conway again tried to deny that the asylum process is a legal one, telling BeltwayBreakfast: “As a woman, as a mother, I don’t want these kids raped, trafficked, getting into drugs. I care about the kids on that side on the border, I care about kids on this side of the border, and I think it’s high time that people rise above the partisanship and agree on that very basic point,” she said.

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Andrew Feinberg covers the White House, Capitol Hill, and anywhere else news happens for BeltwayBreakfast.com and BroadbandBreakfast.com. He has reported on policy and politics in the nation's capital since 2007, and his writing has appeared in publications like The Hill, Politico, Communications Daily, Silicon Angle, and Washington Business Journal. He has also appeared on both daytime and prime radio and television news programs on NPR, Sirius-XM, CNN, MSNBC, ABC (Australia), Al Jazeera, NBC Digital, Voice of America, TV Rain (Russia) and CBS News. Andrew wishes he could say he lives in Washington, DC with his dog, but unfortunately, he lives in a no-dogs building in suburban Maryland.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Russian Lies

Trump Still Wants Putin Back In G-7, Lies Repeatedly About Why Russia Was Suspended

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WASHINGTON, August 20, 2019 — President Trump on Tuesday said he’d support allowing the G-7 to become the G-8 again by allowing Russia to rejoin the annual summit held by the leaders of the world’s seven largest advanced economies.

Speaking in the Oval Office alongside Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Trump repeatedly lied about how long Russia had been participating in the annual summit before its 2014 suspension from what had been the Group of Eight, as well as the reasons for the suspension.

“So it was the G8 for a long time, and now it’s the G7, and a lot of the time, we talk about Russia,” said Trump, who then suggested that it “would be much more appropriate to have Russia in” and return to the G-8 format.

“It should be the G-8 because a lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia,” he said. “So I could certainly see it being the G8 again, and if somebody would make that motion, I would certainly be disposed to think about it very favorable.”

Trump also falsely attributed Russia’s non-participation to nothing more than spite on the part of his predecessor, rather than a consequence of Russia illegally invading and occupying part of Ukraine.

“I guess President Obama, because Putin outsmarted him, President Obama thought it wasn’t a good thing to have Russia in. So he wanted Russia out,” he said.

None of the claims Trump made about Russia and the G-8 have any basis in reality.

Although he claimed that Russia had participated “for a long time,” the G-7 summit existed for more than two decades before Russia first became involved.

The first edition of what would become an annual affair took place in 1975, when the leaders of the world’s top six International Monetary Fund-ranked industrialized economies — France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States — met in France.

Canada joined what had been known as the Group of 6 a year later, after which the annual meeting would be known as the Group of 7, or G-7, for the next 19 years.

Russia’s involvement dates back to 1994, when Russian officials met with G-7 leaders at a series of separate meetings after that year’s summit had concluded.

Boris Yeltsin, then President of the post-Soviet Russian Federation, attended the next three meetings as a guest, and in 1998, Russia became a full member of would then be known as the Group of Eight. The invitation was extended in spite of that country’s comparatively insignificant position among the world’s industrialized economies as a way to encourage Yeltsin’s efforts to transition Russia away from the Soviet model to a market economy.

Trump’s claim that Russia’s suspension was initiated by then-President Barack Obama is also false.

The suspension began in March 2014, a month after Russian forces invaded Ukraine and annexed the Crimean Peninsula. As a result of the invasion, which has been widely condemned by the international community, the leaders of what had been the Group of Seven canceled plans to attend that year’s G-8 summit — which Putin had been set to host.

While the assertion that subjects having to do with Russia are routinely discussed at the G-7 level is correct, those discussions most often concern efforts by the G-7 nations — six of which are NATO members — to counter Russian aggression.

Although the international community holds Putin responsible for Russia’s occupation of its neighbor, Trump has previously lied about his culpability and attempted to place the blame on Obama to justify allowing Russia to rejoin the G-8.

During a question-and-answer session with reporters last June, Trump said Putin “should be in the G8” and repeatedly accused Obama of having “lost Crimea.”

“President Obama lost Crimea because President Putin didn’t respect President Obama, didn’t respect our country, and didn’t respect Ukraine,” he said.

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White House Deputy Press Secretary Rejects Linkage Between Donald Trump and Anti-Hispanic El Paso Killer

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Screenshot of Hogan Gidley speaking on August 6, 2019, via C-SPAN

WASHINGTON, August 6, 2019 — White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley on Tuesday rejected the idea that President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric played any role in pushing a Texas man to drive to an El Paso Wal-Mart and open fire on the mostly-Latino shoppers inside.

“There are plenty of people in this country who commit acts of evil in the names of politicians, of celebrities and all types of things,” Gidley said while speaking to reporters outside the West Wing.

The alleged gunman, 21-year-old Patrick Crucius, posted a manifesto online before he allegedly shot and killed 22 people on Saturday.

In it, he claimed to be responding to the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” He also cited the March 15, massacre of two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, as an inspiration for his action.

The incident renewed questions over President Trump’s frequent use of anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric which have persisted since he opened his 2016 presidential campaign by attacking Mexican immigrants as “rapists.”

His attacks on immigrants were also featured prominently in the run up to the 2018 midterm elections, during which his campaign rally stump speech frequently included descriptions of “caravans” of migrants, which he warned would be allowed to bring diseases into the country of Democrats were allowed to take control of Congress.

Democrats, civil rights activists, and some Republicans have condemned Trump’s remarks as racist, and many observers have drawn parallels between his rhetoric and the views expressed in Crucius’ manifesto.

Other violent killers have invoked rhetoric from Donald Trump

Crucius is not the first violent actor to invoke Trump’s rhetoric.

Last fall, federal agents arrested so-called “MAGA Bomber” Cesar Sayoc after he sent pipe bombs to a long list of prominent Democrats and journalists.

In court documents, Sayoc’s attorneys said their client had fallen victim to the cult-like atmosphere of Trump’s campaign rallies and a steady diet of Fox News and pro-Trump internet conspiracy theories.

But Gidley denied there was any connection between Trump’s rhetoric and those violent actions, and suggested any attempt to link them was beyond the pale.

“It’s not the politician’s fault when someone acts out their evil intention,” he said before rattling off list of Democratic politicians whom the administration “would never blame” for various attacks allegedly carried out by their supporters.

“We would…never blame Barack Obama for the police shootings in Dallas,” Gidley added. “And quite frankly, it’s ridiculous to make those connect in some way. You have to blame the people here who pulled the trigger.”

But other Republicans did, in fact, blame Obama for the 2016 sniper attack that killed five police officers in Dallas, Texas.

During an appearance on Fox News, Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., blamed the shooting on “the demonization strategies that the Democratic Party uses on a regular basis.”

“I personally believe that what we saw in Dallas where a gunman shot at and killed law enforcement officers and Caucasians simply because they were law enforcement officers and Caucasians is in part because the Democratic Party strategy of demonizing the law enforcement community on the one hand, and also engaging in a strategy of racial division, where they try to get block votes from minority groups by trying to portray Caucasians as the enemy,” Brooks said.

Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, also blamed then-President Obama for the shootings at the time.

“The spread of misinformation and constant instigation by prominent leaders, including our president, have contributed to the modern-day hostility we are witnessing between the police and those they serve,” he said.

Trump, on the other hand, accused the press of fomenting violence in the wake of last year’s massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

During a question-and-answer session with reporters on the South Lawn last November, a reporter asked him about a poll which found that over half of Americans said he was encouraging political violence.

“You’re creating violence by your questions, you know,” Trump said. “And also, a lot of the reporters are creating violence by not writing the truth. The fake news is creating violence.”

“I’ll tell you what, if the media would write correctly, and write accurately, and write fairly, you would have a lot less violence in the country,” he added.

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Dayton Police Chief Says ‘It Would Be Irresponsible’ To Speculate On Mass Shooter’s Motive; Conway Speculates Anyway

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WASHINGTON, August 6, 2019 — Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday ignored warnings from law enforcement against suggesting a motive for the perpetrator of the recent mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio by claiming without evidence that he was motivated by “leftism and sympathy for antifa.”

Dayton, Ohio Police Chief Richard Diehl said it would be “irresponsible” to suggest a motive for last weekend’s mass shooting, but Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway did so anyway.

During a press conference on Sunday, Dayton, Ohio Police Chief Richard Diehl cautioned reporters that his department “[did] not have sufficient information” to answer the question of why 24-year-old Connor Betts opened fire with at a popular bar with an AR-15 rifle, killing nine. 

“We are very, very early into this investigation. Any suggestion, at this time, of motive would be irresponsible,” Diehl said.

But as Conway spoke to reporters outside the West Wing on Tuesday, she apparently had no qualms about referencing media reports which indicated that social media accounts belonging to Betts had reflected an affinity for liberal causes, despite the fact that the same report stressed that investigators have not discovered any political motive on his part.

“The president will continue to speak about the Second Amendment and the difference between law abiding citizens…versus…people who are motivated by hate and bigotry and race, and I guess in the case of the Dayton, Ohio shooter…leftism and sympathy for antifa,” Conway said while speaking

Although Conway had no basis for asserting that Betts’ actions were politically motivated, her claims echoed similar statements made by conservative media figures with the aim of creating an equivalence between Betts’ actions and those of Patrick Crusius, the 21-year-old who shot and killed 22 people at an El Paso, Texas, Wal-Mart less than 24 hours before. 

But unlike Betts, Crusius’ motive has been clear from the start. According to a manifesto he purportedly posted online prior to the shooting, he was motivated to carry out the shooting as a response to what he called the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

Crusius’ use of the term “invasion” mirrors rhetoric President Trump has regularly used in speeches and at campaign-style rallies to describe Hispanic and Latino immigrants. 

Trump condemned Crusius’ actions in prepared remarks on Monday, during which he denounced “racism, bigotry, and white supremacy.”

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