At West Virginia Event, Some of Trump’s Facts Don’t Add Up
Posted April 5, 2018 10:40 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON — At an event on Thursday billed as a round-table discussion on tax overhaul, President Donald Trump aired a litany of familiar — and often inaccurate — grievances on immigration, trade and voter fraud.
He suggested he had been vindicated by reports about the perils of immigration, particularly for women, and referred to a “caravan” of hundreds of Central American migrants traveling through Mexico, some headed toward the U.S. border.
“Remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower when I opened,” Trump said at the discussion, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, referring to comments he made in 2015 during a speech announcing his candidacy for president. “Everybody said, ‘Oh, he was so tough,’ and I used the word ‘rape.'”
Trump continued, “And yesterday, it came out where, this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before.”
The risks of crossing the U.S. border are well documented. But The New York Times has been unable to find any news reports of rape in the caravan that has so captured the attention of Trump and the right-wing news media — whether by smugglers or cartels or even among the migrants themselves.
A White House spokesman did not directly respond to a question about what the president meant when he seemed to indicate new information about such instances of rape had been released on Wednesday. Instead, the spokesman said Trump was referring to sexual violence inflicted on migrants by smugglers, citing articles from 2009 and 2014 as evidence of those claims.
Hours after Trump’s speech, Rodrigo Abeja, one of the caravan organizers, said he was unaware of any accusations of rape against the migrants.
“You guys heard of a case?” Abeja asked reporters in Matías Romero, Mexico. “Neither have we.”
Others also disputed Trump’s assertion.
“I’ve been with the caravan for 12 days and haven’t seen or heard of anyone being ‘raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before,'” Adolfo Flores, a reporter who is following the migrants for BuzzFeed News, wrote in a Twitter post.
Eric L. Olson, the deputy director of the Latin American program at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, agreed that migrants faced dangers but said there was no reliable data on rates of sexual abuse. He said he had not heard that members of the caravan had experienced violence at the hands of smugglers or cartels in recent days.
“In fact, this is why the caravan formed: to protect themselves from abuse from Mexican authorities and criminal groups and unscrupulous people,” Olson said. “No criminal is so stupid to do something like that while everyone’s eyes are trained on them.”
The comment about rape was not the only inaccurate or misleading claim Trump made during his speech. A partial list follows:
— “They used to call it tax reform. And for 40 years, they couldn’t pass anything and they didn’t know why.”
False. Tax cuts were passed under Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
— “We had a trade deficit of almost $500 billion last year with China.”
This is exaggerated. The U.S. trade deficit with China was closer to $400 billion in 2017.
— “In many places, like California, the same person votes many times. You probably heard about that. They always like to say, ‘Oh, that’s a conspiracy theory.’ Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people, and it’s very hard because the state guards their records.”
This is false. There have been no credible allegations of fraudulent voting at anything close to this scale during the 2016 election.
— The suspect in a truck attack last year in Manhattan “brought a lot of people with him. They say 22 people. Twenty-two people. So this guy, because he’s here, now can get the mother and the father and the grandmother and the cousins and the brothers and the sisters and the aunts and the uncles.”
This is implausible. U.S. green card holders can only sponsor their spouses and unmarried children for permanent residence. Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in the attack in October, is married with three children. Under the law, he would not be able to sponsor his extended family to come to the United States. And there is no known evidence that he tried.
— “We have very weak laws because of the Democrats,” the president said, adding, “We had very, very weak laws. We have the worst laws — you ever think catch-and-release, which we’re terminating very quickly.”
False. Trump is referring to a practice, not a law, where detained immigrants are released until court proceedings because of legal and logistical constraints. It has occurred under Republican and Democratic administrations alike, including under Trump.