President Donald Trump claimed in a phone conversation with Mexican President Pena Nieto that he won New Hampshire because it is a “drug-infested den,” according to a transcript released by The Washington Post.
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“We have the drug lords in Mexico that are knocking the hell out of our country,” said Trump, according to the transcript of the Jan. 27 call between Trump and Pena Nieto.
In the transcript, Trump continued, “They are sending drugs to Chicago, Los Angeles and to New York. Up in New Hampshire — I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den — is coming from the southern border.”
He won New Hampshire’s Republican primary in 2016 and narrowly lost the state to Hillary Clinton in the general election. During his campaign, he often referred to the opioid epidemic striking communities across the country and the flow of illegal drugs from Mexico.
New Hampshire’s senators quickly denounced Trump’s reported characterization of the Granite State as “drug infested.”
Sen. Maggie Hassan, formerly the state’s governor, called Trump’s comment “disgusting.”
“As he knows, NH and states across America have a substance misuse crisis,” she tweeted. “Instead of insulting people in the throes of addiction, the president needs to work across party lines to actually stem the tide of this crisis.”
.@RealDonaldTrump owes NH an apology & then should follow through on his promise to Granite Staters to help end this crisis 1/2— Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (@SenatorShaheen) August 3, 2017
It’s absolutely unacceptable for the President to be talking about NH in this way – a gross misrepresentation of NH & the epidemic 2/2— Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (@SenatorShaheen) August 3, 2017
.@realDonaldTrump's comments about New Hampshire are disgusting. As he knows, NH and states across America have a substance misuse crisis 1/— Sen. Maggie Hassan (@SenatorHassan) August 3, 2017
Instead of insulting people in the throes of addiction, @POTUS needs to work across party lines to actually stem the tide of this crisis 3/3— Sen. Maggie Hassan (@SenatorHassan) August 3, 2017
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen asked Trump to issue an apology to New Hampshire. “It’s absolutely unacceptable for the President to be talking about New Hampshire in this way — a gross misrepresentation of New Hampshire & the epidemic.”
The state's Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who is up for re-election next year, quickly rebuked Trump’s comment and said in a statement “the president is wrong.”
“It’s disappointing his mischaracterization of this epidemic ignores the great things this state has to offer,” said Sununu. “Our administration inherited one of the worst health crises this state has ever experienced, but we are facing this challenge head on. We have doubled our resources to support prevention, treatment and recovery; dedicated millions to law enforcement efforts to keep drugs out of our state; increased the availability of naloxone; and are rebuilding our prevention programs for our kids.”
He continued, “We are already seeing positive signs of our efforts, as overdoses and deaths are declining in key parts of the state. In spite of this crisis, New Hampshire remains the best place to live, work and raise a family.”
When asked for comment, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told ABC News, "I am not going to comment on a leaked document but even New Hampshire voters recognize that drugs are a major problem." She added, "the president has put such an emphasis on the opioid epidemic and securing the border."
Trump said he learned about the opioid crisis by campaigning in New Hampshire. “I go to other states, and they say very similar things,” Trump said in Atkinson, New Hampshire days before the election. “But honestly, never as much fervor as drugs in New Hampshire, and it just really had a great impact.”
New Hampshire has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic. Nationally the state is second only to West Virginia in the number of opioid-related deaths per capita and is first in the number of synthetic opioid (fentanyl) deaths per capita, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This week the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis asked Trump to declare a national emergency to combat the epidemic.