NewsNational

Actions

Fact-checking Trump's speech declaring a national emergency

Posted: 11:09 AM, Feb 15, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-15 19:34:22Z

President Donald Trump on Friday signed a national emergency declaration to address "an invasion of our country with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs." He also spoke about a wide variety of issues, including trade with China and the national debt.

Here's a partial rundown of the President's statements and the context:

Trump: "I built a lot of wall. I have a lot of money and I built a lot of wall."

As of Friday, no new miles of wall have been constructed during Trump's tenure, but preparations are underway.

Customs and Border Protection has awarded contracts for around 14 miles of new wall. Construction in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas is expected to begin this month. Site preparations have already begun, according to a senior CBP official.

However, replacement projects have been constructed during Trump's time in office. A number of contracts have been awarded, funded by appropriations from Congress for the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years. Among them: Nearly $300 million to build 40 miles of replacement structures in multiple locations. As of December, 35 of those 40 miles had been completed, according to Andrew Meehan, CBP's assistant commissioner for public affairs.

-- Geneva Sands

Trump: "A big majority of the big drugs, the big drug loads don't go through ports of entry"

It's unclear what exactly Trump is claiming here regarding "big drug loads," but the majority of hard narcotics seized at the border are coming through ports of entry, not between them as the President continues to claim.

The majority of hard narcotics seized by Customs and Border Protection come through ports of entry either in packages, cargo or with people who attempt to enter the US legally. The only drug that is smuggled in higher numbers between legal entry points is marijuana, according to CBP and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

For example, the majority of the heroin on the southern border flows into the US through privately owned vehicles at legal ports of entry, followed by tractor-trailers, where the heroin is co-mingled with legal goods, according to the DEA's 2018 annual drug threat assessment. Ninety percent of heroin seized at the border in fiscal year 2018 was apprehended at ports of entry.

The majority of meth, too, is detained at the border. In fiscal year 2018, Customs and Border Protection seized 67,292 pounds of methamphetamine at legal ports of entry, compared with 10,382 pounds by Border Patrol agents in between ports, based on available data.

-- Holmes Lybrand and Priscilla Alvarez

Trump: "President Obama put on more debt on this country than every president in the history of our country combined."

This is false.

From fiscal year 2009 through fiscal year 2017, the national debt -- which includes both the money the US government owes to others as well as the money it owes to itself -- grew from $11.9 trillion to $20.2 trillion. That's an addition of about $8.3 trillion, which is less than the debt outstanding when President Barack Obama took office, when President George W. Bush had already begun spending billions of dollars in order to cushion a deepening recession.

Adjusting for inflation, the amount Obama added is even smaller. As a share of gross domestic product, it is far smaller, especially compared to the enormous spike during World War II.

Trump was responding to a question about his own contribution to the national debt, which this week topped $22 trillion for the first time.

-- Lydia DePillis

Trump: "China is paying us billions in tariffs."

The President has made this claim again and again, but this not really what's happening.

When Trump talks about tariffs, he often talks about the amount of money that is now pouring into the US Treasury. He tends to give the impression that money is being paid by foreign companies. However, most of those tariffs are being paid by US companies that import those foreign goods. The real question is who bears the cost. Often, US companies will pass it on to the consumer by raising prices, while other times a company will reduce compensation or employment internally to offset these higher costs. In some instances, the Chinese supplier might take on the burden of the tariff by reducing its prices in order to maintain its price advantage in the US.

Trump is trying to realign trade so that US products become more competitive with their cheaper Chinese alternatives. That will likely require a long-term adjustment of the US industrial base. In the short term, US consumers and companies will most likely end up bearing the cost of the tariffs. The Tax Foundation said last year that it expects the tariffs to lower the gross domestic product and wages, and cost American jobs, hitting lower- and middle-income households the hardest.

RELATED: Trump greatly oversimplifies his tariffs with 'billions' claim

-- Holmes Lybrand

Trump: "Two weeks ago, 26 were killed in a gunfight on the border a mile away from where I went."

The President visited McAllen, Texas, in January, but CNN has found no reports of 26 people killed in a gunfight within a mile of the area Trump visited.

A day earlier, Mexican authorities found a grizzly scene that they described as a gang clash: at least 20 bodies, many of them burned , and military-style bullets, according to Irving Barrios Mojica, the attorney general of Tamaulipas. The bodies were found near the Mexican town of Miguel Aleman. The day after Trump's visit, the Associated Press reported local authorities raised the number killed to 24.

Miguel Aleman is located nearly 130 miles northwest from McAllen as the crow flies, according to Google Maps.