Mike Pence Tries to Walk Back Donald Trump's Claim That Former Presidents Told Him They Would've Built a Wall

Vice President Mike Pence tried to reconfigure claims made by President Donald Trump that past presidents had told him they'd wished they'd built a wall along the southern border of the United States.

"This should have been done by all of the presidents that preceded me," Trump said of his proposed border wall at the White House last week. "And they all know it. Some of them have told me that we should have done it."

That's been denied by representatives of every president who could have conceivably advised Trump: Jimmy Carter, recently deceased George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

In an interview with NBC's Today show, Hallie Jackson, NBC's chief White House correspondent, asked Pence about Trump's claims.

"Which former presidents told President Trump, as he said, that he should have built a wall?" Jackson asked. "All their representatives have denied that was the case."

"Well, you, you—I know that the president has said that was his impression from previous administrations, previous presidents," Pence said. "I know I've seen clips of previous presidents talking about the importance of border security, the importance of addressing the issue of illegal immigration."

Jackson followed up by clarifying that video clips and advice from presidents were not the same thing. "That's different than telling the president though, right?" she asked.

Pence deflected.

"But look, you know, honestly the American people—the American people want us to address this issue," Pence said.

Jackson also pointed out, speaking on-air after the interview, that Pence had run with a misleading stat that overestimated the number of suspected terrorists caught on the southern U.S border.

Pence and the White House claimed that about 4,000 immigrants on the suspected terrorist list had been caught in the last year in an effort to push for a wall. Citing a source with access to Customs and Border Protection data, CNN reported that only 12 such people had been caught at the southern border between October 2017 and October 2018. The vast majority of those with suspected ties to terrorist groups try to enter the U.S through air travel—and, notably, the Air Line Pilots Association, International warned the national airspace system's safety was at risk amid the government shutdown and decreased work force.

"The vice president repeated that claim that has been debunked as misleading about the number of suspected terrorists or immigrants coming across the southern border," Jackson said on-air after the interview. "But he did make clear the president is feeling resolved in his stance. Democrats are too. Which means unless somebody starts to give in, this shutdown could stretch even longer than it's already gone on."

mike pence donald trump
Vice President Mike Pence speaks as President Donald Trump stands by at the Rose Garden of the White House on January 4. Pence tried to qualify Trump's erroneous claim that former presidents had told him they'd wish they'd built a border wall. Alex Wong/Getty Images
Mike Pence Tries to Walk Back Donald Trump's Claim That Former Presidents Told Him They Would've Built a Wall | U.S.