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Putting Trump’s State of the Union statements in context

Tuesday's State of the Union was an occasion for both political parties to lay out their priorities and stake out ground for political battles to come. President Trump highlighted his pursuit of a border wall, lowering drug prices, the fight against the Islamic State group and economic issues. Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to fact-check some of the president’s claims.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As is the case most years, last night's State of the Union address was as an occasion for both parties to lay out their priorities and stake out ground for political battles to come.

    The president spoke at length about immigration and jobs, topics he raises frequently, while also highlighting the fight against ISIS, prescription drug prices, and other issues.

    Our own Yamiche Alcindor has taken a close look at the president's statements last night. And she joins me now.

    Hello, Yamiche.

    So let's talk about some of what the president laid out last night, how this could affect the next two years. First, talk about what he had to say about immigration.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So the president spoke a lot about working across the aisle last night, but his speech was laced with all sorts of misinformation.

    And it's the kind of misinformation that could complicate the next two years of his presidency. When it comes to immigration — and we will put it up — the president said San Diego and El Paso, Texas, are much safer because of new walls that were put up.

    That's just simply not true, Judy. What we know is that the wall — and there's been no new wall built. And all that's been happening is existing repairs on existing fencing. And it's important to note that the president said this and has said over and over again that the wall is being built, that the construction has already started, when that's just not true.

    And I want to read to you a statement that the sheriff of El Paso Texas put out today, because he was — he's a Democrat, but he was very frustrated with the president's characterizations. He said the characterizations are falsehoods used to justify building a 2,000-mile wall.

    He said — quote — "The facts are clear. President Trump continues to give a false narrative about a great city that truly represents what the great — what this great nation is all about."

    It's also important to note that the president talks about the country being invaded by immigrants. Border apprehensions are at an all-time low, so this could complicate the president. Why it matters is because there's this bipartisan committee working on immigration. But the president continues to use this information that Democrats say is completely false.

    And it's hard to see how we're going to get to some sort of resolution before the shutdown deadline, if the president is using this misinformation.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The two sides see a different reality on their own terms.

    He also talked about health care, talked about how good it would be if we could — the country could lower prescription drug costs. Explain what he had to say there and how that looks for the next year or so.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So health care costs and the cost of prescription drugs are something that's a really important, hopeful area for bipartisanship in this country.

    The president said — quote — "Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs often made in the exact same place."

    That's true, Judy. And it's also true that Democrats and Republicans alike are very interested in trying to decrease the cost of health care in this country. It's important to note that this matters, because, according to a study that was put out by the government last fall, there are some companies that charge 1.8 times higher rate for the U.S. than in other countries.

    So, as we look forward, the president and Democrats definitely don't agree on the Affordable Care Act, but they could possibly come together for some sort of policy change that could help people spend less money on prescription drugs.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So that's a couple of examples on domestic policy.

    The president did spend a good bit of time toward the end of the speech on foreign affairs, and including talking about the fight against ISIS. Explain what he had to say there, what he laid out.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    How to tackle ISIS is something that is one of the rare and sharpest areas of disagreements between this president and Republicans.

    The president said, and we will put it up again, ISIS once controlled 20,000 square miles, and they now have been removed from virtually all of its territory in Iraq and Syria. That's true, but it needs more context. The president is saying that ISIS has been basically defeated at some point.

    What we know is that ISIS used to control up to 34,000 square miles in 2014. Now it's down to about 20 square miles. The president said today that ISIS could actually be rooted out from 100 percent of the territory that they once claimed.

    But one of the top military officials for the Middle East and U.S. forces said that ISIS could reclaim that territory if the president pulls out. And the president, of course, in December said he was pulling troops out of Syria.

    So, when we look forward, this could mean that Republicans have to now make a decision. Are they going to push back more against the president and say, you know what, we're going to push back on this and maybe other things, or the president — or are the Republicans going to do what they did in the last two years, which is largely align with the president?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just very quickly, the economy, the president also touted the progress that has been made under his leadership. How does that square with facts on the ground?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the president loves talking about the economy, because it is going well, but it's — and it's also a 2020 campaign strategy for him, something that he wants to talk about on the campaign trail.

    He said, we have created 5.3 new jobs and 600,000 new manufacturing jobs. That's simply not true. He's actually created 4.9 million jobs and 436 manufacturing jobs. Some of the numbers he's using come from President Obama's administration.

    That's important, because, as we look forward, the president and Democrats need to get together and agree on a set of facts. And if he's taking information from President Obama's administration and trying to use that against Democrats, you can just see that would be a hard road to go down, and that Democrats will say, well, you're not credible on this issue or other issues.

    So we will just have to see how this speech and the president's misquotes and misleading information impacts his relationships with Democrats.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A recipe for what? We will find out.

    OK, Yamiche, thank you very much.

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