At Briefing, Press Blasts ‘Misleading’ Trump Admin. Terrorism Stats

Principal Deputy Attorney General Ed O'Callaghan fields skeptical questions from reporters.
January 17, 2018 2:37 p.m.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration released a report filled with heavily gamed statistics that aimed to link immigration with international terrorism. At a White House briefing Wednesday, reporters said they weren’t fooled.

As TPM reported, the joint Department of Justice-Department of Homeland Security report found that nearly three in four people convicted of international terrorism in U.S, courts since 9/11 were foreign-born. The report was framed as offering support for President Trump’s strict immigration policies. But to get to the three in four number, it included foreigners who committed crimes on foreign soil before being extradited to the U.S. — cases which have no bearing on immigration issues. 

Justice Department official Ed O’Callaghan appeared at the White House briefing Wednesday to discuss the report. 

“A lot of the crimes that you’re using as examples to justify changing the immigration system are crimes that were attempted crimes or would have taken place outside the United States,” one reporter observed. “Can you give maybe better examples that fit what you’re trying to say?”

O’Callaghan responded that this was just “the first iteration of this report in response to the executive order’s directives.” He said the government would “have more statistics and address some of this issues we weren’t able to address” in later versions.

The reporter appeared unconvinced. “It seems like the focus there should be on things that people did in the United States, to people in the United States,” he followed up.

As O’Callaghan spoke, a CNN chyron flatly called the report “misleading.”

O’Callaghan also couldn’t answer a question about how many among the 549 people convicted of “terrorism-related” offenses were immigrants. Attorney General Jeff Session had said in a statement accompanying the report, and blasted out on Twitter, that the report shows “our immigration system has undermined our national security and public safety.”

The report has attracted widespread criticism from immigrant groups notably the Tahirih Justice Center, a 20-year-old nonprofit advocate for refugees, which called the report “deeply flawed” for failing to note that “immigrants are uniquely vulnerable to violence and exploitation by U.S.- and foreign-born perpetrators.”

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