As President Donald Trump holds the threat of another government shutdown over the American people as he negotiates with Congress in order to get funding for a border wall, his White House released a new report Thursday that dramatically undermined the central argument he has made in favor of the wall.
Initially, Trump and Press Secretary Sarah Sanders distorted numbers about terrorism to imply that a border wall would somehow reduce the risk of terrorism from Mexico. But these numbers were bogus, and the White House quickly dropped this argument after it was debunked on Fox News, of all places.
Instead, they emphasized the need for a border wall to stop deadly drugs from flowing in from Mexico. This was preposterous on its face, too — the Drug Enforcement Administration says that most illicit substances cross at ports of entry, not through unoccupied parts of the border. Despite this fact, the administration has stuck by this talking point, arguing that anyone who opposes the border wall must not care about the drug overdose crisis.
But a new report on the White House's National Drug Control Strategy complete rips that argument to shreds.
The report found that deadly drugs are often coming from foreign sources, and it cites this as a major problem.
"Almost all of the illicit drugs causing American deaths are produced outside the United States and trafficked across the Nation’s borders and, increasingly, through the international mail and express consignment carriers," it said.
However, at no point in the report does it claim that a border wall, or even any "barriers," would help reduce drug trafficking or American drug overdoses.
One section of the report even specifically addresses how the administration should fight drugs that cross physical borders, like the border between the United States and Mexico:
The historically high levels of cocaine production in Colombia, along with heroin and methamphetamine production in Mexico, combined with the vast number of routes and conveyances into the United States, make the challenge of combating drug trafficking across our physical borders no less daunting than it has been for the past several decades. Federal agencies should expand efforts in the detection and monitoring of the air and maritime approaches to the United States; the detection of illicit drugs and precursor chemicals being shipped in commercial containers; and interdiction of plant-based drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, as well as synthetic drugs and their precursor chemicals, along the Nation’s land borders. Moreover, this increased effort must be complemented by increased effort and cooperation from foreign partners who can contribute vital information on trafficking patterns and assets to seize drugs bound for the United States.
Not mentioned as a solution? A border wall.
This is particularly embarrassing for the president because this report comes from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a branch of the White House, not some other agency. Even the people most directly under his own supervision won't allow their policy work to conform to his baseless rhetoric.
In fact, the report also reveals how Trump's own policies are hurting the cause of fighting drug abuse and overdose deaths. It noted that ensuring access to drug treatment is a key part of the strategy for reducing drug trafficking:
Providing treatment services leading to long-term recovery for those suffering from substance use disorder, often using medication-assisted treatment(MAT) combined with therapy, moves people out of the active user population and on the path to recovery. By reducing the number of individuals who use illicit drugs through prevention and treatment, we can diminish the market forces pulling illicit drugs across our borders and into our communities.
But under Trump, who has fought to weaken Obamacare and failed in his promise to deliver health insurance to everyone that is both cheaper and better, we have actually seen the number of uninsured Americans expand by 7 million, according to a Gallup. Without health insurance, it will be much harder for these people to access addiction treatment programs.
This means that not only is Trump pushing a policy that his own experts don't think will help reduce overdoses, but he has also taken active measures that undermine the strategy that they recommend.