Friday, July 12, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to talk over reality.

This morning, a reporter asked Trump about the visit to a border detention facility that Vice-President Mike Pence would be taking later in the day.

Q Mr. President, are you visiting an immigration detention center like the Vice President?
TRUMP: Yeah — and very importantly, today, in a few hours, Vice President Pence and the head of Homeland Security are taking the press and congresspeople into detention centers. And we’re the ones that said they were crowded. They’re crowded because we have a lot of people. But they’re in good shape.

Later in the day, Josh Dawsey, the press pool reporter assigned to Pence's trip, filed this report.

After negotiating with the VP's office, [I] was taken into an outdoor portal at the McAllen Border Station around 5 P.M., where almost 400 men were in caged fences with no cots. The stench was horrendous.

The cages were so crowded that it would have been impossible for all of the men to lie on the concrete. There were 384 single men in the portal who allegedly crossed the border illegally. There were no mats or pillows — some of the men were sleeping on the concrete.

When the men saw the press arrive, they began shouting and wanted to tell us they'd been in there 40 days or longer. The men said they were hungry and wanted to brush their teeth. It was sweltering hot. Agents were guarding the cages wearing face masks.

Water was available outside the fences, and agents said the men could leave and get water when the press wasn't there.

Most of the men did not speak English and looked dirty. They said they'd been there for 40 days or more upon questioning from [me.]

We were pulled out of the portal within 90 seconds, and a White House official said the Secret Service had expressed opposition to the Vice President going in. He briefly went into the room.

"I was not surprised by what I saw," Pence said later at a news conference. "I knew we'd see a system that was overwhelmed."

Trump hasn't offered any further comment today on the "good shape" he thinks border facilities are in. But this morning, he did offer an explanation for why he was sending Pence to tour a detention camp:

And the reason is because the fake-news New York Times wrote a phony story. ...So they’re touring detention centers. And that was my idea because I read a phony story in the New York Times today — or the other day — about the detention centers, about the conditions. And I had people calling me up at the highest levels from Border Patrol and ICE, almost crying, about that phony story. 
And they never saw anything. They have phony sources. They don’t even have sources. They write whatever they want. The New York Times is a very dishonest newspaper. They write what they want. And what they do is a tremendous disservice to this country. They are truly the enemy of the people, I’ll tell you that. They are the enemy of the people. And what they wrote about detention centers is unfair.

Trump is a little confused about what day he supposedly read the "phony" New York Times story, because he was repeating things he'd said this past Sunday. The article with "phony sources" about the McAllen Border Station Trump appears to be talking about has this headline

and is sourced primarily to this Department of Homeland Security report, published last Tuesday.

Why does this matter?

  • Reality doesn't change just because a president says everything is fine.
  • Presidents who can't or won't admit that problems exist can't solve them.
  • Reporting on official government reports doesn't make anyone the "enemy of the people."