That video is pinned to the top of Trump’s feed, and the White House blasted it to Republican members of the House and Senate on Monday.
In the videos, Crenshaw is measured and calm, coming off as a reasonable defender of Trump rather than a fire-breather. He takes care to say he’s merely defending Trump rather than casting blame on Democrats and the media.
But if the video is the best defense of Trump, that says a lot about the state of Trump’s defense — because it includes misrepresentations, incorrect and context-free claims and false choices.
Let’s break down the Crenshaw video Trump promoted piece by piece.
Jan. 31: Crenshaw says Trump implements China travel restrictions “even though things like the World Health Organization were saying ‘no need to limit trade and movement,’ and they largely criticized President Trump’s travel restrictions.”
This is an incorrect summary of the WHO’s comments on travel bans. The headline shown on the screen comes from Reuters on Feb. 3 and says, “WHO chief says widespread travel bans not needed to beat China virus.” In the story, the WHO’s head, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, doesn’t say there is “no need” for travel bans at all; he instead says there was no need to “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade.” He is quoted saying, “We call on all countries to implement decisions that are evidence-based and consistent.” That’s not saying there should be no bans but instead that countries should be judicious with them.
Crenshaw also repeated Trump’s claim that the WHO “largely criticized” the president’s travel restrictions; STAT News has found no evidence to bolster that claim.
Crenshaw adds it was the “same day, Jan. 31, that Nancy Pelosi proposed the No Ban Act, which would actually stop President Trump from implementing the lifesaving travel restrictions that he did implement.”
Pelosi didn’t propose the No Ban Act on Jan. 31. The bill had been introduced by another member a year ago. Nor did she take the action in response to the China restrictions; she had announced days earlier the bill would be taken up in response to reports previewing Trump’s expanded ban on travel from some majority-Muslim countries.
What’s more, the No Ban Act wouldn’t “stop President Trump from implementing the lifesaving travel restrictions.” In fact, while the act requires more significant and documented justification for travel bans, it affirms a president’s authority in such cases.
Per the language of the bill, if the administration “determines … that the entry of any aliens or any class of aliens into the United States would undermine the security or public safety of the United States or the preservation of human rights, democratic processes or institutions, or international stability, the President may temporarily … suspend the entry of such aliens or class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants or … impose any restrictions on the entry of such aliens that the President deems appropriate."
Feb. 4: “Let’s not forget that President Trump did talk about the coronavirus in the State of the Union on Feb. 4. What happened to that State of the Union? That happened.” (Video plays of Pelosi ripping up her copy of the speech after Trump finished.)
Crenshaw notably doesn’t relay what Trump actually said about the virus in his State of the Union. In the speech, Trump said, “We are coordinating with the Chinese government and working closely together on the coronavirus outbreak in China. My administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat.”
It was among comments around that time in which Trump played up the coordination between the two countries, even as figures within his administration were privately bemoaning the lack of cooperation from China. It’s also worth noting that just about all of Trump’s other comments around this time downplayed the actual threat.
“Fast forward a couple weeks when the president actually asked Congress for supplemental funding to combat the virus. What did Nancy Pelosi do? Instead of putting that money on the House floor to be voted on, she put a bill to ban flavored tobacco.”
As PolitiFact has noted, there were ongoing negotiations about the funding package until early March. The Trump administration also asked for the funding on Feb. 24, when the bill on flavored tobacco and vaping products already was on the agenda. The GOP-controlled Senate at the time was taking up antiabortion-rights bills.
March 12: Trump announced Europe restrictions, which Crenshaw said prompted “widespread criticism. ‘How could you do this?’ ‘What’s the point of this?’ Well, does this really sound like an administration that’s in denial about this? Of course not.”
In making this point, Crenshaw showed headlines raising questions about the Europe ban Trump announced. Most of those headlines weren’t questioning the need for the ban. Instead, they pointed to the selective nature of the countries involved — i.e. exempting some countries in which Trump has businesses interests — or simply reported that the European Union objected to the ban, rather than journalists taking positions themselves.
Here are the headlines Crenshaw used:
Again, it’s another great example of misconstruing the actual resistance to Trump’s travel restrictions.
“This is the main point here: If we’re going to look back in time and try to suggest that our government should have shut everything down back in February, well, where’s the evidence for that? Were we really going to shut things down when our cases hadn’t really started to increase — when it barely started to increase in places like Italy or Iran? Of course not, they didn’t shut things down until way later.”
This is a false choice that Trump has referred to repeatedly. It pretends as if the decision was between the little that the federal government did in February and a total shutdown of the country. In fact, there were few calls for a shutdown in February — when, as Crenshaw notes, even countries that were hit harder at the time than the United States hadn’t taken that step. Trump has sought to suggest critics wanted things shut down in January, despite there being very few cases at the time.
The fact that Crenshaw concluded with this says plenty about the aim of his video.