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Did the U.S. catch 4,000 terrorists at the southern border in 2018?

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By Julia Ainsley

WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday that Customs and Border Protection picked up nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists last year “that came across our southern border.”

But in fact, the figure she seems to be citing is based on 2017 data, not 2018, and refers to stops made by Department of Homeland Security across the globe, mainly at airports.

In fiscal 2017, the latest year for which data is available, according to agency data and the White House’s own briefing sheet, the Department of Homeland Security prevented nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists from “traveling to or entering the United States.”

According to Justice Department public records and two former counterterrorism officials, no immigrant has been arrested at the southwest border on terrorism charges in recent years.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders leaves after speaking to the press outside the White House on Jan. 4, 2019.Jim Young / Reuters

The White House did not respond to a request for comment about Sanders’ statement.

Ahead of President Donald Trump’s meeting Friday afternoon with Congressional leaders to negotiate the end of the government shutdown, the White House issued briefing materials that stated “3,775 known or suspected terrorists [were] prevented from traveling or entering the U.S. by DHS” in fiscal year 2017. Nowhere did the briefing materials state the known or suspected terrorists were stopped at the southern border.

Ned Price, who served on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council, said many of those 3,775 were stopped simply because their name matches that of someone on a terrorist watch list, which have grown in recent years, and not because they pose a threat.

“So-called terrorist watchlists are an important tool in our national security arsenal, but they are far from fool-proof in large part because of their sheer size. The number of people on such lists ballooned in the years after 9/11, with some reports indicating that more than one million names had been associated with suspected terrorist activity. That’s why false-positives, including in the case of crossings at our southern border, are commonplace. Even the late Ted Kennedy was registered on one such list when attempting to fly, presumably because of the commonality of his name,” Price said.

Nick Rasmussen, the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center from December 2014 through December 2017 said, “During my tenure, the threat of terrorists trying to infiltrate the United States across our southern border was much more of a theoretical vulnerability than an actual one. It simply isn’t the case that terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda see the southern border as the optimal the way to get would-be terrorists into the country.”

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at a press conference at the White House Friday afternoon that more than 3,000 immigrants have been stopped at the southwest border, over an unspecified period, because they are special interest aliens. DHS classifies nearly all immigrants crossing the border who is a national of a country outside of the Western Hemisphere as a Special Interest Alien, according to DHS reports.

A spokeswoman for the National Counterterrorism Center did not respond to a request for comment.

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Tory leadership race tracker: How Boris Johnson and Rory Stewart fared after BBC debate

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Hope Hicks testifies before House committee behind closed doors

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s former aide Hope Hicks arrived on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to testify behind closed doors before the House Judiciary Committee.

Democrats planned to focus their questions on what they say are five crimes of obstruction of justice established by the Mueller Report against Trump, as well as campaign finance violations involved with alleged election-year hush money payments.

Her appearance marks the first time a former Trump aide has come in to answer questions before that panel as part of Democrats’ obstruction of justice investigation. A transcript of the interview will be released, though it may not appear for several days.

Other issues Democrats plan to question Hicks about include Trump’s conduct and attitude towards former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Trump’s reaction when former Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation and the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, among others.

In a letter sent to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., Tuesday evening, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone asserted that Hicks was not legally required to provide testimony regarding her time working in the White House.

“Ms. Hicks is absolutely immune from being compelled to testify before Congress with respect to matters occurring during her service as a senior adviser to the President,” he wrote.

Nadler dismissed those claims. “I reject that assertion” regarding blanket executive privilege, he said in a response released late Tuesday night, adding that after the panel poses questions to her, “we will address privilege and other objections on a question by question basis.”

Hicks’s testimony comes after the Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena last month for her appearance. She previously served as White House communications director and the White House director of strategic communications after a stint as a senior aide on Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The White House directed Hicks and another former White House aide earlier this month not to hand over any documents to the House Judiciary Committee related to their time at the White House.

Mike Memoli contributed.



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Commons erupts in fury as SNP's Ian Blackford brands Boris Johnson 'racist'

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SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford sparked fury in the House of Commons after he branded former foreign secretary Boris Johnson “racist”.

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