President Donald Trump stopped in El Paso, Texas, on Monday night to highlight the need for a border wall – and to begin his 2020 campaign for reelection in earnest.
He spent 75 minutes speaking to a crowd who hung on his every word and seemed more than willing to relive the greatest hits of his 2016 campaign – from “Build the wall!” to “Lock her up!” Trump, of course, reveled in the adulation – allowing the love of the audience to take him to ever more fantastical rhetorical heights, lifted there by a mountain of inaccurate information.
I went through the whole transcript and pulled out the lines that matter most. They’re below.
1. “I love this state, and I love the people of this state. We’ve had a great romance together. You know that. Been a great romance.”
Donald Trump and Texas sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love then comes … ah, you know the rest. And away we go!
2. “This is like the Academy Awards used to be. Used to be. They’ve gone down a long ways since they started hitting us a little bit, right?”
There’s so much here. First, Trump was comparing his rally to the Academy Awards because of the amount of press that was covering it. (But I thought he hated the media?) Then he’s saying that the Oscars, like everything else, aren’t as good as they used to be. And finally, he is attributing the decline of the Oscars to the fact that some of the actors have taken shots at him. He truly contains multitudes.
3. “And America is winning again. Isn’t that nice?”
Winning is nice. And no, before you even ask, I am not sick of it yet. Or bored.
4. “It’s a mainstream, commonsense agenda of the American people.”
This line is a preview of how Trump is going to try to sell himself to skeptical voters in 2020: Don’t believe the way the media covers me, look at my results on the economy. Or on trade. Or on foreign policy. The elites may disapprove of how I’ve done things, but the average Joe gets it. I think that is a very hard sell given where his poll numbers are among independents, but we shall see!
5. “And a new poll just came out today. Rasmussen. One of the most respected polls. One of the polls that got the election right. So I have to remember that. You know what the number is? Fifty-two percent, with no good news!”
Rasmussen is widely regarded as a decidedly Republican-leaning polling outfit. On November 2, 2018, they ran a piece headlined “Is Another Silent Red Wave Coming?” It wasn’t. Rasmussen has consistently been an outlier when it comes to Trump’s approval ratings as well. While Rasmussen’s latest poll did have Trump’s job approval at 52%, the Real Clear Politics polling average has his approval 10 points lower than that.
6. “So, someday, with all of us – this is all of us – and those hats are beautiful, by the way. Someday.”
This an an unedited “sentence” from the President of the United States. Someday.
7. “If you would say, as an example, that tonight 69,000 people signed up to be here – now the arena holds 8,000. And thank you, fire department. They got in about 10,000.”
This, from the El Paso Times, serves as a tidy fact check: “A Fire Department spokesman said 6,500 people were inside the venue and denied any special accommodations were made.” The story also says that “thousands” of people were outside, but refrained from any official estimate. Crowd size is, of course, a dumb measure of, well, anything. But Trump cares deeply – and exaggerates heavily – about it.
8. “But if you want to really see something, go outside. Tens of thousands of people are watching screens outside. Tens of thousands.”
Enrique Aguilar, a public information official with the El Paso fire department, said there might have been 10,000 total people at the Trump rally. That would mean about 6,500 inside and another 3,500 outside. Which is slightly short of “tens of thousands.”
9. “A young man who’s got very little going for himself, except he’s got a great first name. He has – he challenged us, so we have let’s say 35,000 people tonight and he has 200 people, 300 people. Not too good.”
OK, so Trump likes the name “Beto.” That’s about all that’s true in this line though. Law enforcement officials that the Dallas Morning News spoke to estimated that 7,500 people participated in the “March for Truth” that O’Rourke appeared at. Which is more than 300. By a lot.
10. “What I would do is I would say, that may be the end of his presidential bid. But he did challenge us.”
So, Trump is claiming that he effectively ended Beto O’Rourke’s unannounced presidential bid because 10,000 people came to his rally and 7,500 went to Beto’s? Oh yeah, this all checks out.
11. “The trade deficit really went down very big this last month. And people are saying, whoa! I told you so. That’s what I do. That’s what I do.”
This is a good read on whether Trump’s trade tariffs on China are actually, you know, working.
12. “We obviously – we found the magic wand.”
Tell me more…
13. “The United States is now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas on Earth.”
14. “Where do these people come from? Where do they come from? They go back home to Mommy. They get punished when they get home.”
It’s when a protester interrupts speech – as in this moment – when Trump’s real bullying tendencies emerge.
15. “Now, you really mean ‘finish that wall,’ because we’ve built a lot of it. It’s ‘finish that wall.’ We have.”
This is how Trump responded to the “build the wall!” chant from the crowd. What he is saying is patently false. Here’s WaPo’s Matt Viser: “The US-Mexico border is 1,954 miles. There’s 654 miles in existing barrier. And as of January, 0 miles of barriers had been added since he took office.”
16. “Is there any place that’s more fun to be than a Trump rally? Is there any place?”
Remember: Trump views himself as an entertainer first and everything else second. So his measure of success is whether people are having fun.
17. “Some people said it was a great speech. Some people said, really, a great speech.”
The two options when it came to Trump’s” State of the Union speech were, according to Trump “great” and “great.” I didn’t think it was a great speech, just for the record. I thought it was sort of blah but fine.
18. “But I really don’t like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane flights, of, ‘Let’s hop a train to California,’ of … ‘You’re not allowed to own cows anymore.’”
The “Green New Deal” to which Trump is referring was introduced into Congress last week by, among others, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. While liberals love it, you can bet Trump is going to make it a major talking point in his effort to paint Democrats as totally out of touch with the average person in 2020.
19. “No president should ever have to go through what we’ve gone through in the first two years. It’s a hoax. It’s a disgrace. And it should never be allowed to happen again. A hoax!”
To date, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election has produced 199 criminal charges against 37 people and entities. There have been seven guilty pleas and four people have been sentenced to prison. Another person, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was found guilty in a jury trial. These are all facts.
20. “And Richard just announced that they found no collusion between Donald Trump and Russia.”
Here’s what North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, actually said: “If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia.” Which isn’t exactly how Trump is spinning it.
21. “The fact is that the real collusion was between Hillary and the Democrats and the other side with Russia. That’s where the collusion is.”
Trump says this a lot. It’s based on a theory that the entire Mueller probe began because of an anti-Trump dossier produced by former British spy Christopher Steele and funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. But we know for a fact that’s not why the probe started; it started because George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat in Britain that he knew the Russians had dirt on Clinton. Read more about all of it here.
22. “And by the way, there’s also collusion between the Democrats and the fake news right here. And they know it better than anybody.”
What is being alleged here? And who is “they”? And why do “they” know it better than anybody?
23. “I don’t think anybody in this room wants to pay 70%, 80%, 90% and 95% tax. Does anybody want to pay a 90% tax?”
Trump refers here to some elements of tax proposals put forward by liberals – including Ocasio-Cortez – that would install a 70% tax on people who make more than $10 million a year. The tax levies would help fund the “Green New Deal.” While Trump is obviously exaggerating here – since most people in the crowd aren’t likely earning over $10 million a year – his attack is a preview of what’s to come for Democrats in the 2020 general election.
24. “We are a hot, hot country.”
“Hansel, so hot right now. Hansel.” – Jacobim Mugatu
25. “It sounds like a high-school term paper that got a low mark. It would shut down American energy, which I don’t think the people in Texas are going to be happy with that.”
Trump, again on the “Green New Deal.” So yeah, I think he’s going to make it a BIG part of his 2020 stump speech.
26. “They want to take away your car, reduce the value of your home, and put millions of Americans out of work, spend $100 trillion, which, by the way, there’s no such thing as $100 trillion. You have to spend $100 trillion. And remember this. No other country except us is going to do it. That’s a little problem, too.”
The idea that “they” – in this case Democrats who support the “Green New Deal” – are coming to take away your stuff and spend a bunch of money on their liberal ideas is a very powerful one in a campaign context for Trump. It also represents the danger for 2020 Democrats who are rushing to the left at the moment to win support from the party’s most liberal voters. It opens them up to the possibility of being caricatured by Trump in the general election.
27. “To pave the way for socialism.”
And this, for Trump, is the cherry on top. He mentioned socialism in his SOTU speech, which was no accident, and he talked about it again on Monday night. The idea is simple: Convince voters that, even if they don’t like Trump personally, that they like his capitalist views. And that the other side is really and truly trying to pursue turning America into a socialist state.
28. “Some of the most dishonest people in media are the so-called ‘fact-checkers.’”
Oh, that is rich. Important note: Donald Trump made over 8,000 false or misleading claims in his first two years in office, according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker.
29. “He almost moonwalked. His wife stopped him. ‘Darling, darling, it would be inappropriate.’ I want to see somebody try and imitate Michael Jackson in the moonwalk. This would not have been a good scene.”
When he’s right, he’s right.
30. “But the governor stated that he would even allow a newborn baby to come out into the world and wrap the baby and make the baby comfortable, and then talk to the mother, and talk to the father, and then execute the baby. Execute the baby.”
Here’s what Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam actually said: “There are – you know when we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of, obviously, the mother, with the consent of the physicians, more than one physician by the way. And it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that’s non-viable. So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
But there is NO question that Northam’s comments – coupled with a new New York law that allows for abortions after 24 weeks in certain extreme situations – have allowed Trump to re-inject the abortion issue into the national consciousness. And that is a very good thing for a Republican president who needs to rally his base come 2020.
31. “They’re becoming the party of socialism, late-term abortion, open borders and crime.”
You are going to hear A LOT more of this from Trump between now and November 2020.
32. “As I was walking up to the stage, they said that progress is being made with this committee. Just so you know: We’re building the wall anyway.”
I am sure this line went down smoothly with the congressional negotiators who have spent the last two weeks trying to hammer out some sort of compromise to keep the government open and funded. No matter what sort of deal you guys make, I am building the wall anyway, says Trump. So there!
33. “The wall’s being built. It’ll continue. It’s going at a rapid pace.”
[narrator voice] It isn’t.
34. “You look at the car companies, they’re moving back.”
Uh, sort of?
35. “Pretty soon we’re going to be saying keep America great. Keep America great.”
Trump has already said, repeatedly, that “Keep America Great” is his preferred 2020 slogan. Also, he’s been running for a second term since the day he won in 2016.
36. “He suffered a great defeat. Watch what the news does tomorrow, though. They won’t mention the disparity. They won’t mention the disparity tomorrow. They’ll say, “Beto O’Rourke.” That’s his last name, right? O’Rourke? Beto O’Rourke had a wonderful rally. Although they had 15 people.”
Again, crowd size is indicative of not a hell of a lot. That said, based on estimates from police and fire officials in El Paso, Trump had 10,000 people at his rally while O’Rourke had 7,500. Just saying. Also: O’Rourke came closer to beating a Republican senator in Texas than any Democrat since 1978.
37. “It’s driving them crazy, but look at them. They still come. I’ve never seen anything like it. But illegal immigration hurts all Americans.”
In the space of five seconds, Trump goes from saying that the media is driven crazy by his success to denouncing illegal immigration. I’m sure this transition makes sense to someone. But that someone is not me.
38. “If we didn’t do that shutdown, we would not have been able to show this country, these politicians, the world what the hell is happening with the border. That was a very important thing we did.”
To be clear: Trump demanded $5.7 billion for the border wall and said he would agree to no deal to re-open the government unless he got that money. He re-opened the government without any new wall funding. And, in the compromise deal that emerged from Congress last night, there is $1.375 billion for new border structures. Which – check my math here – is less than $5.7 billion.
39. “How about the word ‘caravan?’ Caravan? I think that was one of mine.”
In which Donald Trump claims to have invented the word “caravan.”