After a brief Oval Office photo-op this morning, reporters were being ushered out of the room when one asked Donald Trump about his former family separation policy. The president initially ignored the question, before changing his mind.
“Obama separated the children, by the way. You can – just so you understand, President Obama separated the children. Those cages that were shown, I think they were very inappropriate. They were built by President Obama’s administration, not by Trump.
“President Obama had child separation. Take a look. The press knows it. You know it. We all know it. I didn’t have – I’m the one that stopped it. President Obama had child separation. And I’ll tell you something. Once you don’t have it, that’s why you see many more people coming. They’re coming like it’s a picnic because, ‘Let’s go to Disneyland.’ President Obama separated children. They had child separation. I was the one that changed it.”
He added that he’s not “looking to” reinstate the policy, though Trump added moments later that he considers the tactic effective.
The Republican then added, “President Obama had the law. We changed the law, and I think the press should accurately report it. But of course they won’t.”
What a great idea. Let’s accurately report it – because Trump either has no idea what he’s talking about, or he knows the facts and is scrambling to brazenly deceive the public.
Let’s start with the basics. Obama “separated the children”? Not exactly.
“During the Obama administration, there was no policy in place that resulted in the systematic separation of families at the border, like we are now seeing under the Trump administration,” Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, explained last summer. “Our understanding is that generally parents were not prosecuted for illegal entry under President Obama. There may have been some separation if there was suspicion that the children were being trafficked or a claimed parent-child relationship did not actually exist. But nothing like the levels we are seeing today.”
Is Trump “the one that stopped” the family separation policy? Grammar aside, this is backwards: Trump is the one who created the family separation policy. He eventually issued an order ending his own practice, but for Trump to brag about this is like listening to an arsonist boast about putting out a fire he started.
“President Obama had the law”? I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, exactly, but Obama did not sign any laws requiring children to be separated from their families.
Did the Trump administration “change the law”? Again, it’s often difficult to translate gibberish to English, but the law never changed. It was a matter of implementation – and Trump implemented the law in brutal and cruel ways no previous administration has.
Stepping back, Trump has a bizarre, head-spinning habit of creating problems, and then bragging about his greatness when he tries to resolve those problems. We saw it recently with Trump’s effort to strip funding from the Special Olympics and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, but those aren’t the only examples.
At its core, however, it’s a clumsy con and an exasperating attempt at gaslighting. Lying about Barack Obama’s record only adds insult to injury.