Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday struggled to back President Donald Trump’s lie that former presidents have affirmed their support for his proposed border wall, claiming that Trump meant that they support “border security.”
On Friday, Trump falsely boasted that his predecessors “have told me that we should have” built the wall.
“This should have been done by all of the presidents that preceded me, and they all know it,” he said during a news conference. “Some of them have told me that we should have done it.”
But all four living former presidents have denied that they ever spoke to Trump about the wall or have made it clear they do not support Trump’s long-promised proposal.
Pressed by NBC News’ Hallie Jackson in an interview Tuesday, Pence hesitated, before attempting to claim that the president meant that it had been “his impression” and that he meant “the importance of border security.”
“I know the president has said that 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.”
None of the living former presidents has explicitly stated any support for the wall itself, contrary to Trump’s brag on Friday.
The vice president’s attempted defense was similar to a statement from an administration official to The New York Times on Monday, in response to all of Trump’s living predecessors contradicting Trump’s false claim.
The official said that Trump “might have been referring to public comments made by previous presidents on behalf of border security, though not the wall specifically or directly to Mr. Trump,” The Times reported.
Pence gave several interviews Tuesday morning attempting to bolster Trump ahead of the president’s primetime address on the border wall.
He similarly struggled to defend Trump’s repeated lies about immigration and the border, including the false claim about the former presidents, in an interview with ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl.
“How can the president be, how can his word be trusted on this, when he has said so many things that are just not true about this crisis?” Karl asked.
Pence deflected by saying that “the American people aren’t as concerned about the political debate.”
This story has been updated with more comments from Pence.