President Trump delivered his first prime-time address from the Oval Office Tuesday night, reiterating that there is a “crisis” at the southern border but offering no new policy or approach. He did not declare a national emergency, as he has been considering.
The partial government shutdown is now in its third week over Mr. Trump’s demand for a border wall.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi issued their own response.
RNC response to Trump speech
Unsurprisingly, the Republican National Committee issued a statement strongly supporting the president’s message.
“Tonight, Americans saw their president fighting for a solution to fund our government while protecting American citizens, versus the approach of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer which is to resist, resist, resist at all costs,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said. “It wasn’t always this way. President Trump is simply asking Democrats to support border security policies they all supported just a few short years ago. It’s time for Democrats to put down their swords and work with President Trump.”
Fact check: Heroin coming across the southern border
CLAIM: President Trump said the southern border pipeline vast quantities of illegal drugs including meth, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl. He said that every week, 300 U.S. citizens are killed by heroin alone, and 90 percent floods from the southern border.
FACT: According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 15,958 Americans died from heroin overdoses in 2017. This comes out to about 306 deaths per week. And according to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2018 report, “The SWB remains the primary entry point for heroin into the United States. Most of the heroin seized by CBP occurs along the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego, California.”
Full remarks by Pelosi, Schumer
Here are the full remarks, as prepared, by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer:
Speaker Pelosi. Good evening. I appreciate the opportunity to speak directly to the American people tonight about how we can end this shutdown and meet the needs of the American people.
Sadly, much of what we have heard from President Trump throughout this senseless shutdown has been full of misinformation and even malice.
The President has chosen fear. We want to start with the facts.
The fact is: On the very first day of this Congress, House Democrats passed Senate Republican legislation to re-open government and fund smart, effective border security solutions.
But the President is rejecting these bipartisan bills which would re-open government – over his obsession with forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and ineffective wall – a wall he always promised Mexico would pay for!
The fact is: President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety and well-being of the American people and withhold the paychecks of 800,000 innocent workers across the nation – many of them veterans.
He promised to keep government shutdown for ‘months or years’ – no matter whom it hurts. That’s just plain wrong.
The fact is: We all agree that we need to secure our borders, while honoring our values: we can build the infrastructure and roads at our ports of entry; we can install new technology to scan cars and trucks for drugs coming into our nation; we can hire the personnel we need to facilitate trade and immigration at the border; and we can fund more innovation to detect unauthorized crossings.
The fact is: the women and children at the border are not a security threat, they are a humanitarian challenge – a challenge that President Trump’s own cruel and counterproductive policies have only deepened.
And the fact is: President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must re-open the government.
Senator Schumer. Thank you, Speaker Pelosi.
My fellow Americans, we address you tonight for one reason only: the President of the United States – having failed to get Mexico to pay for his ineffective, unnecessary border wall, and unable to convince the Congress or the American people to foot the bill – has shut down the government.
American democracy doesn’t work that way. We don’t govern by temper tantrum. No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down, hurting millions of Americans who are treated as leverage.
Tonight – and throughout this debate and his presidency – President Trump has appealed to fear, not facts. Division, not unity.
Make no mistake: Democrats and the President both want stronger border security. However, we sharply disagree with the President about the most effective way to do it.
So, how do we untangle this mess?
There is an obvious solution: separate the shutdown from the arguments over border security. There is bipartisan legislation – supported by Democrats and Republicans – to re-open government while allowing debate over border security to continue.
There is no excuse for hurting millions of Americans over a policy difference. Federal workers are about to miss a paycheck. Some families can’t get a mortgage to buy a new home. Farmers and small businesses won’t get loans they desperately need.
Most presidents have used Oval Office addresses for noble purposes. This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his Administration.
My fellow Americans, there is no challenge so great that our nation cannot rise to meet it. We can re-open the government AND continue to work through disagreements about policy. We can secure our border without an expensive, ineffective wall. And we can welcome legal immigrants and refugees without compromising safety and security.
The symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a thirty-foot wall.
So our suggestion is a simple one: Mr. President: re-open the government and we can work to resolve our differences over border security. But end this shutdown now.
Pelosi responds: “The president has chosen fear”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi began the Democratic response, saying the president’s border wall campaign has been full of misinformation and even “malice.”
Pelosi said it’s “plain wrong” for the president to keep thousands of federal workers from pay.
Fact check: Number of Americans who have died from drugs
CLAIM: The president claimed more Americans die from drugs than were killed in the entire Vietnam War.
FACT: The Vietnam War claimed the lives of over 58,200 people. The Centers for Disease Control reported that over 72,000 people died due to drug overdoses in 2017. This figure includes illicit drugs and prescription opioids.
– CBS News’ Jack Turman
Fact check: Number of women sexually assaulted on trip to border
CLAIM: The president claimed one in three women have been sexually assaulted traveling to the border.
FACT: Between 60 percent and 80 percent of female migrants traveling through Mexico are raped along the way, Amnesty International estimates.
The president said Democrats have refused to acknowledge there is a crisis at the southern border, and that Democrats are the only reason the federal government remains closed.
Mr. Trump confirmed he has invited leaders from Capitol Hill to come to the White House Wednesday to negotiate further.
Trump lays out DHS needs
The president said the White House plan, at the request of the Department of Homeland Security, requests funding for technology, humanitarian needs, and $5.7 billion “for a physical barrier.”
The president said that “at the request of Democrats,” the barrier will be steel rather than a concrete wall.
But Democrats have made no such public proposal.
“A crisis of the heart, and a crisis of the soul”
The president also declared the situation at the border is a “humanitarian crisis.”
“A crisis of the heart, and a crisis of the soul,” the president said.
The president began his address by laying out what he declares is the threat of illegal immigration.
“All Americans,” Mr. Trump said, are hurt by illegal immigration.
The president, looking into the camera, rattled off crime statistics related to illegal immigrants.