From the December 12 edition of CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto:
JIM SCIUTTO (CO-ANCHOR): Yesterday in that raucous Oval Office meeting on funding for the border wall, President Trump made a claim that recent terror arrests at the border made a wall necessary.
PRESIDENT TRUMP (PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES): We caught 10 terrorists over the last very short period of time. Ten. These are very serious people. Our border agents, all of our law enforcement has been incredible, what they've done. But we caught 10 terrorists. These are people that were looking to do harm. We need the wall.
SCIUTTO: CNN asked the White House to provide details of those 10 terrorists the president claimed. The White House referred us to the Department of Homeland Security. However, DHS did not have any information about 10 recent terror arrests. Instead, it referred CNN to a previously issued statistic not specific to the southern border, but referring to individuals attempting to travel to the U.S. from across the globe by air, sea, or land, and including efforts to obtain visas from embassies and consulates around the world. On average last year, DHS prevented 10 individuals tied to known or suspected terrorists from traveling to the U.S. each day. Now, that is very important work. But this is a worldwide figure not principally related to the southern border. In fact, DHS did not provide evidence of a single terrorist caught at the southern border over the very last short period of time as the president claimed. This is not the first time that the president has implied that the wall is necessary due to the terror threat.
Prior to the election, just prior, the president implied that potential terrorists were mixing in among the migrant caravan. On October 27th -- 2nd, rather -- he tweeted in part, “It looks like Mexico's police and military are unable to stop the caravan heading to the southern border of the United States. Criminals, unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and the military. This is a national emergency.” So the next day the DHS spokesperson tweeted, quote, "@DHSgov can confirm that there are individuals within the caravan who are gang members or have significant criminal histories." DHS did say that 17,000 criminals were caught at the border last year, but notably nothing about terrorists in the caravan. Instead, DHS then tweeted, quote, “Citizens of countries outside Central America, including countries in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and elsewhere are currently traveling through Mexico towards the U.S.” Crucially not in the caravan, but somewhere in Mexico. And crucially, no evidence provided that any of those people from the Middle East had terror ties. That is a major difference. The president can make many arguments for a border wall, but he has repeated a claim about a terror threat specific to that border that the agency responsible for protecting the U.S. homeland from terrorism has not backed up.