WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration sought Tuesday to defend its budget compromise with Congress, saying it's a start to President Donald Trump's promise to build a "big, beautiful wall" at the Mexican border. But it claimed more than the deal really provides.
A sampling of statements:
TRUMP: "This includes swiftly replacing ineffective and failing fences and walls with an unbreakable barrier," the president said during a Rose Garden ceremony. "And we're putting up a lot of new walls in certain areas. We're putting up a tremendous amount of money to fix the existing structures that we have, some of which we can keep into the future. They're in good shape, but we have to bring them back to the highest level. We'll be doing that with this payment. And make no mistake, we are beginning to build the wall and we will keep out the gang members, criminals, drug and human traffickers that threaten our citizens and that threaten our security."
BUDGET DIRECTOR MICK MULVANEY: "And we're going to build this," Mulvaney told a briefing. "There are several hundreds of millions of dollars for us to replace cyclone fencing with 20-foot high steel wall. There's several hundreds of millions of dollars in the bill for us. There's several hundreds of millions of dollars for us to build levee walls along the southern border. And as many of you know who follow this issue, some of the most vulnerable areas that we have are places along rivers where we desperately need levees in order to provide the protection of the southern border that we -- that we need, OK?"
THE FACTS: The deal to keep the government running through September doesn't have money to build any new fencing or walls along the roughly 2,000-mile (3,218-kilometer) border with Mexico. The deal does provide $772 million for border security, money that can be used for repairs to existing fencing or vehicle barriers that spread across just over 650 miles (1,046 kilometers) in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
Most of the existing fencing and barriers were built under the Bush administration as part of the 2006 Secure Fence Act, though some of the construction was completed by the Obama administration.
MULVANEY: "There is money in this deal to build several hundreds of millions of dollars of this to replace this," he said, gesturing to photos that show new steel fencing replacing a chain-link fence a stretch of border in New Mexico just outside El Paso, Texas. "That's what we got in this deal and that's what the Democrats don't want you to know. This stuff is going up now."
THE FACTS: Steel fencing is going up in the Border Patrol's El Paso sector. But that project was approved and started by the Obama administration. In fact, it's replacing fencing that predates the 2006 law that mandated the construction of hundreds of miles of new fencing along the border.
MULVANEY: "You can talk to the DHS about the details, but there's been a dramatic reduction in attacks on our Border Patrol agents where they can see through the wall, because nobody's throwing anything over the top at them," he said during the briefing, pointing at photos of border fencing already in place.
THE FACTS: Attacks on border agents are up, not down. Most of the fencing already at the border — more than 650 miles worth — is see-through and it hasn't stopped assaults on agents. Last month then-Border Patrol Chief Ron Vitiello told a security conference in San Antonio, Texas, that such assaults were up nearly 200 percent.
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