On Monday evening, lawmakers emerged from the conference committee to announce that they have reached a tentative deal—one that would keep funding for border security at the same level as 2018, specifically including language against any form of concrete wall, and which limits the number of immigrants who can be held in detention. After months of Trump insisting that he was going to settle for nothing less than $5.7 billion to create his massive wall, the Washington Post reports that the actual deal includes $1.375 billion, including provisions for 55 miles of “fences.”
Hours after this deal emerged, Trump stepped out in front of rally crowd in El Paso to continue his build-that-wall chat. His resolution to this dichotomy was simple. As CNN reports, Trump told them he hadn’t bothered to look at the deal reached by Congress. In fact, Trump said he “skipped the briefing” on the deal, to concentrate on preparing for the rally. Which might be the single best summary of Trump’s entire term in office.
Instead of talking about the deal—the deal Trump just lost by every measure—he concentrated on attacking the Green New Deal and “socialism,” while complaining that Democrats are too focused on 2020. In his attacks on the Green New Deal, Trump predictably pulled out all the stops, claiming that the plan including “taking away your car” and that the plan would also “take away your airline flights.” He also claimed that under the Green New Deal “You’re not allowed to own cows anymore!” The attacks on the Green New Deal and the supposed “socialism” of Democrats provided a preview of Trump’s 2020 strategy.
Throughout the night, Trump didn’t just have trouble with imaginary cow and airplane bans, he also struggled with numbers. Trump made multiple claims whose values morphed just over the course of the speech. For example, in an effort to paint Mexicans as violent and dangerous, Trump first pegged the number of murders in Mexico over the last year at 33,000, then jumped that value to 38,000 the next time he mentioned it, then finally settled on “almost 40,000.” On South Korea, Trump claimed he had raised the amount that South Korea contributes to joint military activities from $500 to $900 million, which is off by a factor of four.
But no set of numbers proved as laughably flexible as Trump’s measurements of crowds. Throughout the evening, Trump complained that the media wasn’t giving him credit for having a bigger crowd than a cross-town counter-rally led by former Democratic representative and senate candidate Beto O’Rourke. Trump claimed that he had first “tens of thousands” of people at his rally before settling on a claim of 35,000 inside the area with another 13,000 watching outside. As NPR reports, Trump stated that the rally headlined by O’Rourke drew “200 or 300.” Which … wasn’t exactly true. As in, it wasn’t even as accurate as Trump’s inauguration crowd claims.
At the other rally, Beto O’Rourke was rather modest, claiming about 7.000 people. But local police pegged the number at 10,000 to 15,000. On the other hand, Trump claimed that 69,000 people had “RSVP’d” to attend his event and that 35,000 were present was about six times as many as the arena he used would hold. The stated capacity of the small arena selected for the Trump event was 6,500 and it did appear to be mostly full. At one point, Trump said that fire marshalls had let 10,000 people in. They didn’t. However, local authorities did estimate another 10,000 were outside. So, even assuming that all the people there were supporters of Trump, it appears he drew around 16,500 to the estimated 15,000 for O’Rourke.
That would seem to make it possible that O’Rourke actually outdrew Trump. And certainly shows that Trump’s estimate of the counter-rally crowd was off by a wee bit. Where “wee” is 5000 percent.
As usual, much of Trump’s speech was devoted to his favorite topic—the greatness of Trump. And, as usual, Trump made a whole series of false claims about the economy, health care, and foreign policy.
But while Trump’s lies about the Democratic counter-rally may have been gawpingly yuge, the silence about the deal emerging from the conference committee was even more telling. After making it the cornerstone of his campaign from the moment he came slowly down the golden escalator to call immigrants ‘rapists,’ after contracting for a series of ludicrous slab ‘samples’ that should be left to stand as the Stonehenge of Stupidity, after forcing the longest government shutdown in history … Trump is not getting his wall.
There’s a good reason Trump wants to distract with claims that Democrats are after cars and cows. He has to say something so ludicrous that people don’t look too closely at how badly he just lost.