While taking questions from the press on Friday afternoon — following a meeting with Congressional leaders about a border wall and the government shutdown — President Donald Trump claimed that he had spoken with several former presidents about the matter, former presidents who assured him he was in the right.
Trump suggested that he had spoken to former presidents about the border wall.
“This should have been done by all of the presidents that preceded me,” he said, per reporting from the New Civil Rights Movement. “They all know it. Some of them have told me that we should have done it.”
But Trump did not name any of the presidents he supposedly spoke with, leading users on social media to suggest that the president was inventing stories about who he had discussed the issue with.
We’re left to make assumptions about the matter. But we do know with certainty that at least one former president did not speak to Trump about the wall.
Former President Bill Clinton’s spokesman explained shortly after Trump made the comment that Clinton hasn’t advised the current president one way or another on the issue of the wall. “In fact, they’ve not talked since the inauguration,” the spokesman said, according to a Twitter post from Politico White House reporter Andrew Restuccia.
So, was Trump lying? We can’t know for sure at this time, but it might be proper to assume that he is, based on the relationships and the party affiliations of the former presidents who are still alive.
There are four living ex-presidents. President Trump says "some of them" have told him we should have built a border wall in the past. pic.twitter.com/ReFDDlmKmp— Josh Campbell (@joshscampbell) January 4, 2019
There are four living former presidents — three of them are Democrats, and one is a Republican.
- We already know that Clinton did not speak to Trump, per his spokesman’s comments.
- It’s unlikely that former President Barack Obama spoke with Trump in favor of building the border wall, since he’s spoken extensively against the idea, per reporting from NBC News.
- Former President Jimmy Carter has suggested that a border wall could be part of a broader negotiation on immigration that helps individuals like Dreamers, who are seeking ways to stay in the U.S. to become permanent citizens. But Carter has also gone on record as having said that there are better ways to deal with immigrants entering the country than building a wall, according to reports from Voice Of America.
- Former President George W. Bush might have the same ideological preference about a border wall, but likely hasn’t spoken to Trump about it — the Bush family is not exactly on speaking terms with the current president, Politico pointed out.
So who exactly did Trump speak to? Until the president expands upon that point, we can’t truly know for sure. Given his propensity to lie — which the Washington Post reported happened, on average, 15 times per day in 2018 — one can be forgiven if they automatically assume Trump isn’t being truthful on this point.
The onus is on the president to explain which of the living former presidents he said he was speaking to about the wall, and which told him they had regrets about not doing better during their presidencies. Until he does, it’s best to assume Trump’s telling another one of his grandiose lies.