Trump Distorts Democrats’ Positions on North Korea and MS-13

Fact Check of the Day

President Trump accused Democrats of “rooting against us in our negotiations with North Korea” and “coming to the defense of MS-13.” Neither claim is true.

The Facts


Democrats have neither cheered on Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from a summit with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, nor defended the violent gang MS-13.

Many Democrats called the collapse of talks unsurprising, butunfortunate.” They criticized Mr. Trump for a lack of strategy, but urged the administration to continue its efforts. While some Democrats did mock calls for Mr. Trump to receive a Nobel Peace Prize as a result of the diplomatic effort, few if any celebrated or described the scuttled talks as a positive development.

Neither Senator Chuck Schumer of New York nor Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leaders in Congress, expressed glee after Mr. Trump’s announcement.

In a news conference on Thursday, Ms. Pelosi said the “big winner” of the canceled summit was Mr. Kim. She said the North Korean leader was legitimized by Mr. Trump’s overtures. But she nonetheless expressed disappointment at the turn of events.

“Now, we were sympathetic to say, ‘Well, talk, talk, talk. That’s better than war, war, war,’ ” Ms. Pelosi said. “It’s unfortunate because, as you said, you want to be optimistic, you want to be hopeful that something can come of something.”

By contrast, many Republicans praised Mr. Trump for making theright decision” by pulling out from the summit.

Some, including House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, urged the continuation of a “maximum pressurecampaign.

“I think President Trump did exactly the right thing in canceling the meeting,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said in a Thursday interview on Fox News.

Mr. Trump is also wrong that Democrats have defended MS-13 members. In recent days, he has used Ms. Pelosi as an example and accused her of “trying to find all sorts of reasons why they should be able to stay.”

In a May 17 news conference, Ms. Pelosi criticized Mr. Trump’s use of the term “animals.” The president and the White House maintain he was referring specifically to MS-13 members. Others — like Ms. Pelosi and many Democrats — interpreted his comments more broadly.

Here’s what Ms. Pelosi said:

“When the president of the United States says about undocumented immigrants, ‘These aren’t people, these are animals,’ you have to wonder, does he not believe in the spark of divinity, the dignity and worth of every person? ‘These are not people, these are animals.’ The president of the United States.”

Ms. Pelosi did not defend, or even mention, MS-13 or gangs. She clearly said she objected to the term “animals” used to describe undocumented immigrants.

Because Mr. Trump phrased his initial May 16 “these are animals” comment ambiguously, he left room for interpretation. Democrats have been precise in their criticism of his comments: They object to using the term to describe immigrants, not MS-13.

The White House did not respond to a request for evidence for Mr. Trump’s claims.

Source: Twitter, Fox News, C-SPAN

Linda Qiu is a fact-check reporter, based in Washington. She came to the Times in 2017 from the fact-checking service PolitiFact. @ylindaqiu