Fact Check Friday: Trump opts for shock-jock politics

PHOTO: John Kelly is seen before the 2018 White House business session with governors in the State Dining Room of the White House, Feb. 26, 2018, in Washington, D.C.PlayMandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
WATCH House passes resolution rejecting hate

In a normal news cycle it would be a huge headline for the president to claim that his former personal attorney asked him directly for a pardon before deciding to turn against him in dramatic fashion, as President Donald Trump claimed Friday was the case with Michael Cohen.

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But that statement came just moments after the president was making far more inflammatory remarks in which he twice claimed that "Democrats have become an anti-Jewish party."

That type of shock-jock identity politics may work in elections, but it doesn't offer clarity on what happened between the president and his former fixer or what any of that means for a congressional investigation into the matter.

Welcome to Fact Check Friday.

Anti-truthism

On Friday, the president told reporters: "The Democrats have become an anti-Israel party. They’ve become an anti-Jewish party.” His comments came after the House voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution broadly condemning hatred rather than specifically calling out alleged anti-Semitic comments made by freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is Muslim.

This is obviously an egregious lie. His comments were immediately rebuked by several Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups, including the Jewish Democratic Council of America. Jonathan Greenblatt, national director and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, criticized the comments as “grandstanding”.

It must be pointed out that 23 members of the Republican Party voted against the resolution because they said the resolution wasn’t aggressive enough in critiquing Omar.

PHOTO: Rep. Ilhan Omar walks through an underground tunnel at the Capitol as top House Democrats plan to offer a measure that condemns anti-Semitism in the wake of controversial remarks by the freshman congresswoman, in Washington, D.C., March 6, 2019. J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Rep. Ilhan Omar walks through an underground tunnel at the Capitol as top House Democrats plan to offer a measure that condemns anti-Semitism in the wake of controversial remarks by the freshman congresswoman, in Washington, D.C., March 6, 2019.

It's also important to note that the president has a troubling record on the issue of calling out anti-Semitism himself. In the days after white supremacists marched in Charlottesville chanting "Jews will not replace us," the president claimed there "very fine people on both sides."

During his presidential campaign, he told the Republican Jewish Coalition "“You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money,” which critics note rings of the same antis-Semitic tropes Congressman Omar is accused of trafficking in.

The Times of Israel published a timeline of its concerns about Trump’s anti-Semitism controversies in 2016.

And the same publication recently pointed out that there are now 34 Jewish members of Congress and “all of the Jews in the Senate are Democrats, as are all but two in the House.”

Kelly breaks silence... and facts

On Tuesday, President Trump's former chief of staff John Kelly, who finally broke his silence months after leaving the White House, blamed the fallout from the controversial "zero tolerance" policy of separating migrant children from their parents squarely on then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

On Tuesday, President Trump's former chief of staff John Kelly, who finally broke his silence months after leaving the White House, blamed the fallout from the controversial "zero tolerance" policy of separating migrant children from their parents squarely on then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

He also said that other government agencies were caught off guard by the “surprise” policy and did the best they could to respond.

Kelly must have forgotten that while he served as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, family separation was under consideration, and a policy he endorsed.

"Yes, I'm considering (that), in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network," Kelly boldly declared in an interview with CNN in 2017. "I am considering exactly that. They will be well cared for as we deal with their parents..."

PHOTO: John Kelly, White House chief of staff, attends an Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons annual meeting in Washington, D.C. in this Oct. 11, 2018 file photo. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE
John Kelly, White House chief of staff, attends an Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons annual meeting in Washington, D.C. in this Oct. 11, 2018 file photo.

Kelly was speaking at an event at Duke University. He also told the audience he didn't believe in building a wall from "sea to shining sea" and that he opposed the president's decision to deploy active-duty troops to the Southern border. Kelly is a retired four-star general and was considered one of the most hawkish voices in the White House on the topic of illegal immigration.

Kelly's recent comments contradict his own arguments on behalf of the separation policy in the days after it was announced by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in which he argued it could be an effective deterrent to stem the flow of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

"It could be a tough deterrent — would be a tough deterrent," Kelly said in a May 2018 interview with NPR. "A much faster turnaround on asylum seekers."

Nielsen's truth ratings

Appearing before a Democratically controlled House committee for the first time, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen falsely suggested that every migrant family who was deported during her tenure was given the opportunity to take their children with them.

"To the best of my knowledge, every parent was afforded that option," Nielsen said.

But an ongoing ABC News project documenting immigration at the US-Mexico border has found that claim is simply not true.

Jesus, a migrant from Honduras who requested his family name not be published, told ABC News he was tricked into being deported without his 6-year-old son, Ariel. Read more about his story here.

The Department of Homeland Security would not comment on Jesus's claims, but that there could be as many as 471 cases in which parents who were removed from the country without their children and without being given the opportunity to elect or waive reunification.

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