When Donald Trump talks about record-setting developments, it’s probably a good idea to be skeptical. He argued this week, for example, that the number of jobs created in December was “record setting,” It wasn’t. In fact, December wasn’t even the best month for jobs in 2018, much less all of American history.
But this is how the president likes to see the world: good news isn’t just good, it’s the best of all time, even when that’s absurd. Over the summer, for example, the Republican boasted of “record” enrollments in association health plans, despite the fact that the plans hadn’t yet gone on sale. Trump has similarly bragged several times that he set a “record” by increasing defense spending, even though the record doesn’t belong to him.
Occasionally, the president talks about setting records without explaining what they are. In August, Trump told Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, “We’ve already broken every record in the book.” As Daniel Dale noted, the Republican did not specify “which records or which book.”
Yesterday, Trump traveled to southern Texas, where he highlighted another non-existent record set by Customs and Border Patrol officials. “They have done a fantastic job,” the president said. “Never so many apprehensions, ever, in our history.”
That’s not just wrong; it’s backwards.
In fact, apprehensions at the southern border are at historic lows. Border Patrol agents caught just under 400,000 people trying to illegally cross the border in 2017, and just over 300,000 in 2016. Yet from 1983 to 2006, border apprehensions topped one million 19 times, with the agency setting a record in 2000 with 1,643,679 apprehensions, according to Customs and Border Patrol data.
And while it’s problematic when Trump peddles claims that aren’t true, in this case, the issue is made more serious by how the president intends to respond to his confusion.
Does Trump want a wall because he thinks CBP is making more apprehensions than at any point in American history? If someone can point out reality to him, maybe he’ll back off his shutdown gambit?