Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence speaks at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Ariz., on Aug. 31, 2016.
Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Pence makes the mistake of sticking his neck out for Trump (again)

Periodically throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, Vice President Mike Pence has played the role of good soldier and stuck his neck out in defense of a misguided White House line. In nearly every instance, it’s gone horribly awry for the VP.

Take yesterday, for example.

Earlier this week, Trump proclaimed that “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” among Central American migrants fleeing poverty and violence, and seeking refuge in the United States. Though the claim was ridiculous, the White House refused to walk it back.

And so, naturally, Pence felt the need to stick to the Trump World script, insisting yesterday that it’s “inconceivable that there are not people of Middle Eastern descent” in the caravan. The vice president added:

“In the last fiscal year, we apprehended more than 10 terrorists or suspected terrorists per day at our Southern border from countries that are referred to in the lexicon as ‘other than Mexico’ – that means from the Middle East region. The idea that they would not be in this large throng…”

Two problems quickly emerged. The first is that Trump soon after made Pence’s defense appear quite foolish, admitting during a presidential Q&A with reporters that there’s “no proof” to substantiate the dubious underlying claim.

The second is that Pence’s pitch was based on plainly false assertions. The Washington Post  reported:

He seemed to be referencing statistics shared by the Department of Homeland Security on Monday when asked by reporters for evidence to support Trump’s claim.

Those statistics, from fiscal 2017, were not specific to the U.S.-Mexico border and offer no proof that anyone in the current caravan is a Middle Easterner or terrorist.

DHS also told reporters Monday that Customs and Border Patrol agents had in fiscal 2018 “apprehended 17,256 criminals, 1,019 gang members, and 3,028 special interest aliens from countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Somalia.” None of the countries mentioned are in the Middle East.

Incidentally, earlier this year, Pence asserted that U.S. officials were capturing seven suspected terrorists a day at the U.S./Mexico border. That number was also completely wrong, but yesterday, the vice president nevertheless upped the total from 7 to 10.

Team Trump sure does like to inflate bogus statistics, doesn’t it?