FACT CHECK: President Trump's False Claims On Migrant Caravan, Tax Cuts President Trump has been keeping fact-checkers busy with his campaign claims of Middle Eastern migrants and a 10 percent middle-class tax cut.
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FACT CHECK: President Trump's False Claims On Migrant Caravan, Tax Cuts

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FACT CHECK: President Trump's False Claims On Migrant Caravan, Tax Cuts

FACT CHECK: President Trump's False Claims On Migrant Caravan, Tax Cuts

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

President Trump is campaigning hard with just two weeks to go till the midterm elections, and he's keeping the fact-checkers busy. We're going to take a look now at some of the president's latest claims with NPR's Scott Horsley. Hey there, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.

CORNISH: First let's talk about the caravan of Central American migrants. The president has been talking a fair bit about that. They're making their way through Mexico in hopes of reaching the U.S. border. Now, President Trump has suggested that they're not just families looking for a better life. What is he saying instead?

HORSLEY: The president tweeted this week without offering any evidence that, quote, "criminals and an unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in with this caravan." He was pressed on that in the Oval Office today and conceded there's no proof to that claim. But he continues to insist the caravan and illegal immigration more generally pose a serious threat to the country.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Certainly you have people coming up through the southern border from the Middle East and other places that are not appropriate for our country. And I'm not letting them in.

HORSLEY: Now, it's not unheard of for people from the Middle East to try to cross the border illegally from Mexico, but it is extremely rare, Audie. Out of more than 300,000 people who were apprehended along the southern border last year, only about 80 were for - were from countries in the Middle East. And reporters who have been traveling with the caravan say they have not seen any Middle Easterners in that group.

CORNISH: There is no evidence then of Middle Eastern infiltration. The president has not presented any. Why is he talking about it?

HORSLEY: Illegal immigration and the threat of terrorism have been potent rhetorical weapons for Donald Trump since he first launched his White House campaign more than three years ago. He believes - and there is some polling data to support this - that illegal immigration is an important issue for Republicans. He has been very clear on his plans to harp on hot-button issues like immigration and the Supreme Court in the homestretch of the midterm campaign.

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TRUMP: This will be the election of the caravan, Kavanaugh, law and order, tax cuts and common sense. That's what it is - common sense.

CORNISH: All right, so third on that list was tax cuts, which I think a lot of mainstream Republicans thought would be the first thing, right? That's the tax cut they passed in 2017. But we haven't been hearing too much about it. What's going on?

HORSLEY: The GOP tax cut has not worn terribly well. Right now it's polling at about 40 percent approval. A lot of people maybe don't feel like they've seen a big jump in their own take-home pay. There's also been some renewed attention paid to the federal deficit, which has ballooned as corporate tax revenues shrank. The president believes he has a fix for this, though, and it's another tax cut. I want to play a piece of tape from his rally in Houston last night, Audie. But I have to warn you. Take this message with a big grain of salt.

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TRUMP: We're going to be putting in a 10 percent tax cut for middle-income families. It's going to be put in next week.

HORSLEY: Now, whatever you might think about the merits of another tax cut, Congress certainly is not going to be taking any action on that next week. They're not even in session until after the election. And what's more, nobody outside the White House seems to know what the president is talking about. The head of the House Ways and Means Committee belatedly put out a statement this afternoon saying he's willing to work with the president over the coming weeks. But this appears to be a bit of political vaporware that's just time for the election and a tacit admission that the actual tax cut that Republicans passed last year isn't selling very well.

CORNISH: So this middle-class tax cut is, I guess, aspirational. But critics of the president are saying that he's doing something very specific on the campaign trail, that he is playing on people's fears. Help us understand what they're talking about.

HORSLEY: The president believes that fear works as a get-out-the-vote message, and he's been focusing a lot on kind of a grim, American-carnage-type rhetoric. Take the Kavanaugh confirmation. There are certainly a lot of Republicans who were delighted to have another conservative justice on the high court, but many were also offended by the vocal protesters that disrupted Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings. And the president's been playing off that. Take a listen.

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TRUMP: Democrats produce mobs. Republicans produce jobs.

HORSLEY: That's kind of a distillation of the president's exaggerated complaint that Democrats stand for lawlessness while the GOP stands for order. Obviously lots of Democrats would contest that characterization. And we should point out that while the president's job record is good, former President Obama's job record was even better.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Scott, thank you.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

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