President Donald Trump delivered his first Oval Office TV address to the nation on Tuesday night.
While previous presidential speeches from the Oval Office have been rallying moments in times of tragedy, the eight-minute address did little but reiterate ambiguous immigration claims and introduce more questions during a standoff with Congress.
It is now day 19 of the partial government shutdown—the second longest in history—with no new solutions having been offered.
Here’s what you need to know.
The US-Mexico border is 1,954miles long and already has 650miles of fencing in place through California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
The Republican President wants $5.7billion to build a steel barrier, which would deliver on his signature campaign promise—although his campaign promise included the caveat that “absolutely, Mexico is paying for the wall.”
Both Democrats and Republicans agree that more border security is needed, but Democrats—who recently took control of the House of Representatives—are opposed to giving Trump funds for the new structure.
Fact or fear?
Trump’s dark vision of the country continued as he told primetime viewers that “vicious coyotes…ruthless gangs” and “vast quantities of illegal drugs” crossing the border are responsible for “thousands of deaths.”
“How much more American blood will be shed before Congress does its job?” he questioned.
The number of illegal border crossings has decreased—down from 1.6million in 2000 to fewer than 400,000 last year. Research actually suggests that undocumented immigrants are significantly less likely to commit crime than native-born American citizens.
Figures also make clear that only a small percentage of heroin sold in the US is smuggled through legal entry points.
“The cost of illegal drugs exceeds $500bn a year, vastly more than the $5.7bn we have requested from Congress,” Trump added.
“The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.”
Fact-checkers have disputed the claim that the trade deal—a successor to Nafta—means that Mexico will pay for the wall, as the Mexican government has always refused to do so.
Addressing the nation, Trump said that the federal government has remained shut “due to one reason and one reason only: because Democrats will not fund border security.”
The president insisted that he had already compromised by moving from a concrete wall to a barrier made of steel slats and offered no fresh solution to the situation.
In a rare turn of events, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, were allotted time after the president’s speech to deliver a rebuttal.
The California congresswoman said: “The fact is the women and children at the border are not a security threat, they are a humanitarian challenge.
“And the fact is President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must reopen the government.”
Shumer concluded: “The symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a 30-foot wall.”
While most of Trump’s party is supporting him, moderate Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska sided with Democrats in calling for an end to the government shutdown before the resolution of the border wall issue.
Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado have also issued similar appeals.
According to an opinion poll, just over half of Americans (51 percent) blame President Trump for the current government shutdown.
With no new outcomes pending from the Oval Office address, it is unclear what’s next for the immigration and border security “crisis.”
The president chose not to threaten or declare a national emergency on Tuesday night—an option that could allow him to access military spending to fund his barrier.
However, speculations have suggested that Trump may still resort to such a declaration before the impasse comes to an end.
Congressional leaders are set to return to the White House on Wednesday for negotiations and the president will head to the southern border on Thursday to continue his work.
“Thank you for soooo many nice comments regarding my Oval Office speech. A very interesting experience!” Trump said on Twitter.
Thank you for soooo many nice comments regarding my Oval Office speech. A very interesting experience!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2019