Fox News' Chris Wallace Presses White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders on the Wall, the Southern Border, and Terrorism

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks to reporters at the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Facts matter when it comes to the wall and illegal immigration, as Fox News’ Chris Wallace showed this morning. When White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders appeared on Wallace’s Fox News Sunday to discuss the necessity of the border wall, Wallace used the State Department’s own words to press Sanders on the facts, even admitting, “I studied up on it.”


Wallace first brought up the ways that the government shutdown is affecting Americans and how it will affect them if it continues.

“But if the shutdown drags on, not months or years, but even into February, it’s going to start to hurt real people,” Wallace said. “Take a look at this, Sarah: Federal tax refunds will be delayed. Food stamps for 38 million Americans will be cut. Millions of people will lose rental assistance payments. And union leaders say hundreds of TSA workers are already off the job because they can’t afford to get to work. President Trump thinks the border wall is worth all that.”

One has to wonder if any of these affected Americans voted for Trump in 2016 and how they feel about this shutdown, particularly given that Trump declared in December that he would be “proud to shut down the government.”

However, the most tense part of the exchange occurred when Wallace brought up the president’s false claim that the wall is needed to stop terrorists from coming across the southern border.

“Let’s talk about the wall, because there is no question that there has been a big spike in the number of family units coming across the border,” Wallace said. “The president talks about terrorists potentially coming across the border, and here is Secretary of Homeland Security Nielsen, take a look.”

He then played a clip of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen from a press conference last week, in which she said, “CBP [Customs and Border Protection] has stopped over 3,000 what we call ‘special interest aliens’ trying to come into the country on the southern border. Those are aliens who the Intel community has identified are of concern.”


After the clip, Wallace continued, “But special interest aliens are just people who come from countries that have ever produced a terrorist — they’re not terrorists themselves. And the State Department says that there is, their words, ‘no credible evidence of any terrorist coming across the border from Mexico.'”

Sanders replied, “We know that roughly, nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally, and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border…”

Wallace interrupted, saying “Wait, I know this statistic, I didn’t know if you were going to use it, but I studied up on it. Do you know where those 4,000 people come from — where they’re captured? Airports.”

Sanders replied, “Not always,” but Wallace continued, “Airports. The State Department says there hasn’t been any terrorist that they’ve found coming across the southern border.”

“It’s by air, it’s by land, it’s by sea, it’s all of the above,” Sanders said, “but one thing that you’re forgetting is at the most vulnerable point of entry that we have into this country is our southern border. You have to protect it, and the more and more that individuals know that…”

Wallace interrupted again, saying, “But they’re not coming across the southern border, Sarah, they’re coming and they’re being stopped at airports.”

Watch the clip below, via Fox.


On Friday, Forbes reported that Trump’s focus on the wall was not due to any sort of cost-benefit analysis or study on illegal immigration and its effects. According to Forbes, political consultants Roger Stone and Sam Nunberg, with encouragement from Steve Bannon, suggested a wall as a way for Trump to remember to discuss illegal immigration:

“Inside Trump’s circle, the power of illegal immigration to manipulate popular sentiment was readily apparent, and his advisers brainstormed methods for keeping their attention-addled boss on message,” writes Joshua Green, author of Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Nationalist Uprising. “They needed a trick, a mnemonic device. In the summer of 2014, they found one that clicked.”

Although the promise of a wall may have began as a “trick,” it’s since become a massive headache for Trump, in several ways.

At last week’s press conference, Trump repeated his claim that he could build the wall quickly. However, this does not acknowledge the reality regarding eminent domain, which can take years.

For example, under President George W. Bush, the Secure Fence Act of 2006 authorized “two layers of reinforced fencing” plus “additional physical barriers.” (And, in order to recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach for the border was inefficient, Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas later successfully introduced an amendment stating that Secretary of Homeland Security was not required to “to install fencing, physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors in a particular location along an international border of the United States, if the Secretary determines that the use or placement of such resources is not the most appropriate means to achieve and maintain operational control over the international border at such location.”)


That was in 2006. The Act caused more than 300 eminent domain cases, 90 of which are still pending more than a decade later.

Like Bush and Obama before him, Trump will have to handle angry Texas landowners. For example, in 2015, Texas landowners sued the Bureau of Land Management regarding nearly 100,000 acres of land along the Texas-Oklahoma border — and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton later filed a motion to join suit, declaring, “Washington, D.C., needs to hear loud and clear that Texas will not stand for the federal government’s infringement upon Texas land and the property rights of the people who live here.” (Though Paxton apparently changed his views on eminent domain once Trump became president, since he told the Dallas Morning News just one year later, “It’s a public purpose providing safety to people not only along the border, but to the entire nation.”)

And then there is the question of the cost for the wall, since Trump first claimed Mexico, and not American taxpayers, would pay for the wall.

Read more of my thoughts on the wall here (Trump is Wrong to Abuse Government Power and Eminent Domain for His Wall) and here (The GOP Should Give Up On The Wall, Not On Outreach And Hispanic Voters).


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.


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