CNN Investigates: Does Trump Get His Border Talking Points From Movies?


Don Lemon said President Trump had some dramatic new talking points for what the CNN host called a "manufactured crisis" at the border. Lemon's commentary was followed with a presentation of a CNN investigation by national correspondent Miguel Marquez into whether the president is confusing a fictional movie plot with actual border issues.

From the Tuesday broadcast of 'CNN Tonight' with host Don Lemon:

LEMON: President Trump has some dramatic new talking points on his manufactured crisis at the border, like human traffickers gagging women with tape as they drive them across the border illegally. And if that sounds like something you see in a movie, well, maybe it is.

CNN's Miguel Marquez explains.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sicario, the Day of the Soldado. The 2018 sequel starring Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin is a dark and violent take on U.S. Mexico border, Middle Eastern terrorists, drug cartels, and U.S. government efforts to disrupt them. It's fiction, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show me your hands.

MARQUEZ: There are prayer rugs in the film. The president tweeted about prayer rugs found on the border from a story in the conservative Washington Examiner, which quotes an anonymous New Mexico rancher who had no evidence of the prayer rugs. The film also features terrorists who pay drug cartels to bring them into the country, something else on the president's mind.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People are pouring into our country, including terrorists. We have terrorists. We caught 10 terrorists over the last very short period of time, 10. These are very serious people.

MARQUEZ: That claim appears to be the president accidentally or willfully misunderstanding a customs and border patrol statistic that 10 suspected terrorists, on average, are blocked everyday from entering the U.S., mostly by flying at locations worldwide. And then, there's duct tape. The president has that on his mind, too.

TRUMP: They come in. They nab women. They grab them. They put tape over their mouth. They tie their hands. They have tape over their mouths, electrical tape, usually blue tape, as they call it.

MARQUEZ: Ten times this month alone, counted "The Washington Post."

TRUMP: Tying up women, putting tape in their mouths. They tie up women, taping them out. Women are tied up. They're bound. They have women in the backseat of the cars with duct taped all over the place.

MARQUEZ: The president claimed women are duct taped, shoved into vehicles, driven across the border and sold. Those who work everyday trying to protect vulnerable immigrants from sexual exploitation say duct tape isn't a thing.

MARTINA VANDENBERG, THE HUMAN TRAFFICKING LEGAL CENTER PRESIDENT: We have a database of 1,435 indictments and we went through all of the indictments, and we found 26 cases that involved kidnapping. We did a search on duct tape, and we found 1 case of 1,435 cases that mentioned duct tape.

MARQUEZ: And that case was an American, not a migrant. In looking at all federal trafficking cases, most victims are U.S. citizens. Only about a third of trafficking cases are foreign nationals, and the vast majority of them enter the U.S. with legal visas. No duct tape.

VANDENBERG: What Donald Trump is missing with this sort of fictional account, Hollywood version of human trafficking is the dire cases that do exist in the United States, including cases of forced labor and forced prostitution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see nothing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see anything.


MARQUEZ: One other highly dramatic, possible Hollywood fascination the president has, those coming across the border have better cars and equipment than U.S. law enforcement.

TRUMP: They have the best vehicles you can buy. They have stronger, bigger, and faster vehicles than our police have. And then ICE has and than border patrol has.

MARQUEZ: It doesn't exactly fit the second Sicario film. CNN and many news agencies have asked the White House and relevant agencies about the president's claims on prayer rugs, fast cars, and duct tape. None have responded.


MARQUEZ: Now, one more odd twist in all of this. The Washington Post ran a story detailing the president's repeated use of women being gagged and duct taped on January 17th.

The news site, Vox, has now seen an e-mail, a so-called request for information from a top border patrol official asking field offices around that time for claims "that traffickers tie up and silence women with tape before illegally driving them through the desert from Mexico to the United States in the backs of cars and windowless vans."

So two weeks after the president started talking about duct taped women, his own administration appears to be coming -- trying to come up with the facts to support what the president has been saying for two weeks. So far, no agency has come up with any of those facts.

LEMON: Which happens often with this presidency, people in the administration go to try to correct what he has said and see if there's actual evidence of it.

MARQUEZ: Art imitating life, imitating art, imitating maybe not very not good art.

LEMON: Thank you, Miguel. I appreciate it. Still no explanation from the White House about where the president's claims come from, but why does he keep spreading false information?

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