President Trump delivered an address to the nation Tuesday from the Oval Office.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“Every week 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which flows across our southern border.”

This needs context.

Most heroin smuggled into the United States does come through the southwest border, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s latest National Drug Assessment report.

But most fentanyl enters the United States from packages mailed directly from China through traditional ports of entry, according to the report, and through Canada from China. A lower potency, lower-cost grade of fentanyl is also smuggled across the southwest border from Mexico. The fentanyl directly from China is far more lucrative for sellers because of its higher purity. The fentanyl sent through conventional mail packages has proven difficult for law enforcement to detect. Fentanyl coming from Mexico is often hidden in automobile compartments, much like conventional drug smuggling.

The president’s opioids commission reported last November that, “we are losing this fight predominately through China.”

—Michael Tackett

“In the last two years, I.C.E. officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records.”

This needs context.

In the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested over 210,876 people with previous criminal convictions, and another 55,233 people with pending criminal charges.

But it should be noted that these criminal convictions covered a range of offenses, including many that were nonviolent. The most common charges were for traffic violations, possessing or selling drugs and immigration offenses like illegal entry.

— Linda Qiu

“The wall will also be paid for, indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.”


First, the revised North American Free Trade Agreement, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement, has yet to pass in Congress. Any economic benefits from the agreement, if it passes, will likely come in the form of lower tariffs for American companies or higher wages for American workers.

This is different than Mr. Trump’s campaign promise that Mexico would finance the wall.

—Alan Rappeport

“The border wall would very quickly pay for itself.”

This needs context.

The president has claimed that the annual cost of illegal drugs in the United States is $500 billion. But a 2015 report by the surgeon general estimated that the annual economic impact of illicit drug use is $193 billion.

Stopping the flow of drugs across the southwest border would not entirely stem the flow of drugs across the United States. Moreover, it is not clear how reducing the cost of drug addiction would finance the wall.

Alan Rappeport

A Border Patrol agent helped a family after they crossed a section of a border fence in San Diego.CreditDaniel Ochoa De Olza/Associated Press

When is it a “crisis”?

Saying a situation is a crisis does not make it so, but Mr. Trump and other senior administration officials have been using the word repeatedly in recent days to describe the state of affairs along the border.

They point to a direct connection between the flow of drugs from Mexico and the opioid epidemic in the United States. They say that migrants, particularly women and children, are victims of crime as they travel to the United States. And Mr. Trump has also strongly suggested that terrorists may be slipping across the border.

These threats are greatly exaggerated, if not fabricated. Migrant border crossings have been declining for nearly two decades. The majority of heroin enters the United States through legal ports of entry, not through open areas of the border. Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes in the United States than native-born Americans. The State Department said in a recent report that there is “no credible evidence” that terrorist groups had sent operatives to enter the United States through Mexico.

Trump’s Claim of Terrorists Streaming Over Border ‘Simply Isn’t True,’ Experts Say

Despite all of this, Mr. Trump could repeat some of these statistics, which other administration officials have cited misleadingly.

— Michael Tackett

[Read more about what to watch for in the speech.]

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, discussed their response to Mr. Trump’s address to the nation on Tuesday at the Capitol.CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, will speak from the Capitol after Mr. Trump finishes his remarks from the Oval Office. The dueling speeches from opposite sides of Pennsylvania Avenue will unfold at the close of Day 18 of a government shutdown over Mr. Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall that Democrats have steadfastly opposed.

The Democratic leaders’ decision to select themselves as the message-bearers to counter the president underscores how a partisan power struggle in a new era of divided government is undergirding the discussions over resolving the shutdown, even as the paychecks of hundreds of thousands of federal workers and benefits for millions of Americans hang in the balance.

The Border Wall: What Has Trump Built So Far?

Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, also plans to make a public response to Mr. Trump, which his office said would be streamed live on social media platforms after Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer conclude their remarks. The move was reminiscent of how a fractious Republican Party responded to State of the Union addresses when Barack Obama was president: Republican leaders designated a formal response and Tea Party-aligned conservatives chose their own messengers to deliver a different rebuttal.

— Julie Hirschfeld Davis

[Read more about the Democratic response.]

Mr. Trump could also try to circumvent Congress by declaring a national emergency to order that the wall be built, but administration officials who had seen a draft copy of his speech said the president was not preparing to do so.

The rationale for the emergency power is to give the president the capacity to act quickly to deal with matters like an urgent security threat. For example, President George W. Bush invoked emergency powers after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

— Michael Tackett

A dozen Senate Democrats are taking the floor this evening for a talkathon-style protest calling on Mr. Trump and Senate Republicans to end the government shutdown. Led by Senators Tim Kaine of Virginia and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, it is yet another effort to raise the pressure on Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, to allow a vote on legislation that would reopen the government.

What the Shutdown Would Look Like if It Happened in Other Industries

It’s Payday for Many Federal Workers. One Problem: There’s No Paycheck.

Earlier Tuesday, Senate Democrats voted against advancing a package of bipartisan Middle East policy bills slated for consideration this week to further press Republicans. Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor on Tuesday that he would “not waste time on show votes.” But he is also being pushed by vulnerable members of his own party up for re-election in 2020 to intervene and end the shutdown.

— Catie Edmondson

What is normally an easy decision for network executives — granting airtime to a sitting president to address the nation — led to hours of hand-wringing by journalists and producers wary of giving a platform to a president whose public remarks, particularly on immigration, have been marked by untruths and misleading claims. Liberals wondered why news outlets would defer to a president who, hours earlier, had used Twitter to label journalists “the Enemy of the People,” “the real Opposition Party” and “crazed lunatics.”

Eventually, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox agreed to a request by Mr. Trump for the airtime, forgoing their 9 p.m. entertainment shows — and millions of dollars in associated ad revenue — for his Oval Office appearance, in which he plans to address the government shutdown. The networks said on Tuesday that they would also broadcast the Democratic response.

— Michael M. Grynbaum

[Read more about the media decision.]

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