President Donald Trump crossed a major threshold on Friday, declaring a national emergency at our southern border in order to take money allocated for other purposes and use it to build his much-ballyhooed wall.
He announced the move in what has now become characteristic fashion: With a brash and unapologetic press conference larded with falsehoods and foofaraw. Given that the legal and political fight over Trump’s emergency declaration — and the broader immigration issue — will dominate Washington for weeks (if not months) to come, I thought it made sense to go through the transcript of exactly what Trump said in his press conference.
Below, my thoughts on the lines you need to see.
1. “We have a lot of great announcements having to do with Syria and our success with the eradication of the caliphate. And that’ll be announced over the next 24 hours.”
It’s been 96 hours. No “great” announcement yet. Although the general in charge of leading the fight against ISIS told CNN on Friday that he disagreed with Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria.
And away we go!
2. “And many other things. A lot of positive things are going on.”
Hard to argue! Many other things!
3. “We’re going to do it one way or the other. We have to do it — not because it was a campaign promise, which it is.”
So, the President is declaring a national emergency because “we have to do it,” not because he said we had to do it on the campaign trail. But ask yourself this: If it was such an emergency, why did Trump wait more than two years into his term to declare it one?
4. “You look at other economies, they’re doing terribly, and we’re doing phenomenally.”
Other economies: Bad. Our economy: Good.
5. “We — we have all the records. We have every record. But we’re getting close to that point again where we’ll create new records.”
Trump is speaking specifically about the stock market here, although this also functions as a nice stock quote for, well, anything he is asked about as it pertains to either himself or his presidency. Best ever! Record-breaking!
6. “When you look and when you listen to politicians, in particular certain Democrats, they say it all comes through the port of entry. It’s wrong. It’s wrong.”
“A small percentage of all heroin seized by [Customs and Border Protection agents] along the land border was between Ports of Entry,” reads the Trump Administration’s 2018 Drug Threat Assessment. Sooooooo…
7. “It’s just a lie. It’s all a lie.”
8. “They say walls don’t work. Walls work 100%.”
No one has ever penetrated a wall. Can’t happen. It’s 1,000 feet high and made of sheer ice! Wait…
9. “Take a look at Israel. They’re building another wall. Their wall is 99.9% effective, they tell me — 99.9%.”
The border wall between Israel and Egypt is 150 miles long. The US border with Mexico is 2,000 miles long. Apples, please meet oranges.
10. “And a big majority of the big drugs — the big drug loads don’t go through ports of entry.”
Just to reiterate: Trump is wrong about this, according to his own administration.
11. “They can’t see women with tape on their mouth or three women whose hands are tied.”
Trump often leans on this notion — of women who are being taken across the border as part of human trafficking rings. The problem? There doesn’t appear to be any factual evidence for this disturbing image.
12. “It’s all a big lie. It’s a big con game.”
Trump is speaking specifically about the border here. But again, this statement is also a decent stand-in for his worldview: Everyone is lying to you and trying to screw you. Everybody but me.
13. “I’m going to be signing a national emergency. And it’s been signed many times before. It’s been signed by other presidents. From 1977 or so, it gave the presidents the power.”
True! The National Emergencies Act of 1976 did give presidents broad powers to declare national emergencies. And 58 have been declared since the law went into place.
14. “There’s rarely been a problem. They sign it; nobody cares. I guess they weren’t very exciting. But nobody cares.”
The issue here is not whether Trump can declare a national emergency at the border (he can!) but whether it qualifies as an actual national emergency. If it doesn’t, it set a huge precedent for the executive branch to seize power from the legislative branch.
15. “It’s a very good emergency that [Obama] signed, and we’re going to use parts of it in our dealings on cartels.”
Solid emergency. Quality emergency. Some say one of the best emergencies. (Also, here’s Obama 2011 national emergency declaration on cartels.)
16. “Nobody’s done the job that we’ve ever done. I mean, nobody’s done the job that we’ve done on the border.”
Isn’t this an argument against the necessity of the wall? If Trump is doing such an amazing job at the border, one might think a wall was unnecessary?
17. “We’ve done a fantastic job. But we haven’t been given the equipment. We haven’t been given the walls.”
Again the contradiction here is startling. On the one hand, Trump wants to make clear he is doing a better job than any other president ever on immigration (and everything else). On the other, he wants to make excuses for why he hasn’t been able to get it all done. But he just said he did better than any other president!
18. “I was a little new to the job, a little new to the profession, and we had a little disappointment for the first year and a half. People that should have stepped up did not step up. They didn’t step up, and they should have.”
Important thing to always remember about Trump: Nothing is ever his fault. He is always the undeserving victim of other peoples’ malice, incompetence or both.
19. “We’re right now in construction with wall in some of the most important areas. And we have renovated a tremendous amount of wall, making it just as new.”
20. “We will have a national emergency, and we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the 9th Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there, and we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we’ll get another bad ruling, and then we’ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we’ll get a fair shake and we’ll win in the Supreme Court.”
This sentence is 65 words long. Ernest Hemingway would not be pleased.
21. “I am prepared. I’m always prepared.”
[nods head slowly]
22. “I was speaking to a couple of them. They think this is far more important than what they were going to use it for.”
Trump claims here that he spoke to a number of generals who told him that they were fine with using money allocated by Congress for the military to build the wall because the wall is more important than anything they could do with that money. Trump never names these generals who loved the idea of building the wall using military funds. Maybe they exist! Also, maybe they don’t!
23. “You know, I’m a big deficit believer and all of that, but before we really start focusing on certain things, we have to build up our military.”
24. “Go ahead, ABC — not NBC. I like ABC a little bit more, not much. Come on, ABC — not much, pretty close.”
ABC > NBC. But, IT’S CLOSE!
25. “Look, I expect to be sued. I shouldn’t be sued. Very rarely do you get sued when you do national emergency.”
When you do national emergency, you don’t get sued usually. Everybody knows this about national emergency. Of course, past presidents did national emergency when there was actual national emergency.
26. “So I think what will happen is sadly we’ll be sued, and sadly it’ll go through a process and happily we’ll win, I think.”
Sad, sad, then happy!!!
27. “I got almost $1.4 billion when I wasn’t supposed to get $1 — not $1. He’s not going to get $1. Well, I got $1.4 billion, but I’m not happy with it.”
Yet another example of the utter contradictions at the heart of Trump. He refuses to concede that he came out on the losing end of the compromise that emerged out of Congress. But if that was true, then why did he need to declare a national emergency to get the $3.6 billion in military funding? Answer: It’s not true.
28. “I could do the wall over a longer period of time, I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”
In which the President of the United States undermines the necessity of declaring a national emergency even as he is announcing said national emergency. Truly remarkable.
29. “And I don’t have to do it for the election; I’ve already done a lot of wall for the election 2020.”
[Narrator voice] He hasn’t.
30. “So I love tariffs, but I also love them to negotiate.”
Tariffs are great! Negotiating is also great!
31. “The USMCA from Mexico — that’s United States, Mexico, Canada — that’s where the money’s coming from, not directly, but indirectly, for the wall. And nobody wants to talk about that.”
They may not want to talk about it because Trump’s claim is, well, false.
32. “But, you know, I never did politics before. Now I do politics.”
“Now I do politics.” — The President of the United States
33. “In the meantime, I built a lot of wall. I have a lot of money, and I built a lot of wall.”
[narrator voice] He didn’t.
34. “Where a bad person comes in, brings 22 or 23 or 35 of his family members because he has his mother, his grandmother, his sister, his cousin, his uncle. They’re all in.”
Experts in the immigration field have dismissed Trump’s numbers here as wholly untethered to reality.
35. “Here’s a guy who could speak for three hours without a phone call. Try doing that sometime. For three hours, he speaks.”
Donald Trump likes Rush Limbaugh because Limbaugh can speak for three hours straight. So, there’s that.
36. “Ann Coulter. I don’t know her. I hardly know her. I haven’t spoken to her in way over a year. But the press loves saying, ‘Ann Coulter.'”
Trump has tweeted favorably about — or retweeted — Coulter 47 times since 2015, according to the Trump Twitter archive. “Thank you @AnnCoulter for your nice words. The U.S. is becoming a dumping ground for the world. Pols don’t get it. Make America Great Again,” he tweeted in June 2015.
37. “So I like her. But she’s off the reservation. But anybody that knows her understands that. But I haven’t spoken to her. I don’t follow her. I don’t talk to her. But the press loves to bring up the name ‘Ann Coulter.’ And you know what, I think she’s fine. I think she’s good. But I just don’t speak to her. “
I dare you to tell me, definitively, how Trump feels about Ann Coulter.
38. “I actually have a couple of people on CNN that have been very good.”
Two things here: 1) Trump says he never watches CNN 2) Trump defines “very good” as “they say nice things about me.”
39. “Because your question is a very political question, because you have an agenda, you’re CNN, you’re fake news, you have an agenda.”
But you were just saying such nice things! I thought we had something! Something real!
40. “No, no, I use many stats. I use many stats.”
Trump doesn’t accept stats about border crossing or ports of entry that are provided by his administration. So, what stats does he accept? He won’t say.
41.”You have stats that are far worse than the ones that I use, but I use many stats, but I also use Homeland Security.”
[looks vacantly into space]
42. “When I came into office, I met right there in the Oval Office with President Obama. And I sat in those beautiful chairs.”
Glad he remembers the chairs. So beautiful!
43. “I believe he would have gone to war with North Korea. I think he was ready to go to war. In fact, he told me he was so close to starting a big war with North Korea.”
Wait, so former President Barack Obama told Trump he was planning a “big” war against North Korea? Interesting! I am sure that conversation happened exactly as Trump said it did!
44. “Prime Minister Abe of Japan gave me the most beautiful copy of a letter that he sent to the people who give out a thing called the Nobel Prize.”
No big deal — just nominated for a little thing called the Nobel Prize. (Side note: Abe is refusing to deny he nominated Trump for the prize.)
45. “Many other people feel that way, too. I’ll probably never get it. But that’s OK. They gave it to Obama. He didn’t even know what he got it for. He was there for about 15 seconds, and he got the Nobel Prize.”
Trump views himself — even now as president — as the guy looking in from the outside at the exclusive club that won’t let him in. And he hates it. It drives the tremendous resentment and bitterness her harbors to the so-called “elites.”
46. “I mean, it was the most beautiful five-letter — five-page letter. Nobel Prize. He sent it to them.”
Nobel Prize. Letter. Beautiful. Five pages. Letter. Beautiful. Nobel Prize.
47. “Nobody else would have done that. The Obama administration couldn’t have done it.”
So true. And, no, I am not totally sure what Trump is referencing here. But, he did it. And Obama didn’t. This feels like a good place to end.