President Trump scolded CNN’s Jim Acosta on Friday during the president's Rose Garden announcement that he is declaring a national emergency on the southern border, telling the reporter he has “an agenda” -- before angel moms in attendance confronted the chief CNN White House correspondent.
The clash came as Acosta challenged Trump over what he described as a "disconnect" concerning his description of illegal immigration.
“You are presenting information about what’s happening at the border, calling it an invasion, talking about women with duct tape over their mouths and so on, and yet there is a lot of reporting out there, a lot of crime data out there ... that shows border crossings at a near record low,” Acosta said.
Trump fired back, “That’s because of us,” as the CNN reporter attempted to talk over the president.
“Excuse me,” Trump intervened. “It’s still massive numbers of crossings.”
Acosta – who has emerged as a hero among progressives for attacking Trump and members of his administration when they’re available to the press – then said stats show “undocumented immigrants committing crime at lower levels than native-born Americans.”
Trump rebuked Acosta by asking, “You don’t really believe that stats, do you?”
As Acosta tried to keep talking, Trump repeated himself.
“Do you really believe that stat? Take a look at our federal prisons,” Trump said as he gestured Acosta to hurry up with his longwinded question.
“What do you say to critics who say that you are creating a national emergency? That you’re concocting a national emergency here to get your wall,” Acosta said.
Trump pointed to angel moms in attendance, asking them for their thoughts.
“You think I’m creating something? Ask these incredible women who lost their daughters and their sons,” Trump said. “OK, Because your question is a very political question because you have an agenda. You’re CNN. You’re fake news.”
Trump told Acosta the statistics he provided were “wrong” and told him to take a look at the federal prison population for proof.
“See how many of them,percentage-wise, are illegal aliens,” Trump said. “Just see, go ahead and see. It’s a fake question.”
Acosta was subsequently confronted by the angel moms in attendance, after the press conference. As angel moms confronted the CNN reporter, he invited them to appear on the network in the background of a live shot.
“There is no attempt whatsoever to diminish what they’ve gone through, or take away what they’ve gone through, but as you heard in that question that I had with the president … it was really about the facts and the data,” Acosta said on CNN following his exchange with Trump. “Some of these folks came up to me right after this press conference … they’re holding up these pictures of loved ones who lost their lives.”
An angel mom then discussed that a previously deported illegal alien murdered her son.
“President Trump is completely correct on this issue, we need to protect this country,” the angel mom told Acosta.
Before Acosta’s questioning, Trump said he is declaring a national emergency on the southern border, tapping into executive powers in a bid to divert billions toward construction of a wall even as he plans to sign a funding package that includes just $1.4 billion for border security.
“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border … one way or the other, we have to do it,” Trump said.
The move is expected to face a swift and forceful legal challenge that could stall the attempt in the courts for the near future. But the declaration and other money-moving plans allow Trump to continue to fight for border wall construction while also averting another partial government shutdown -- which would have been triggered at midnight absent the new funding package.
Ironically, Acosta accidently supported Trump’s argument that walls work during a widely mocked selfie-style video last month.
Acosta wasn’t the only reporter who was reprimanded by the president during the Rose Garden event, as Trump angrily told another member of the media to “sit down” after a question about where he receives his information.
Last year, Acosta was briefly banned from the White House after he engaged in a contentious back-and-forth with Trump during a Nov. 7 press conference. During the now-infamous moment, Acosta refused to pass the microphone to a female White House aide.
Acosta’s press pass was restored on Nov. 19 after CNN argued that keeping him out of the White House violated the network and Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment rights.
To coincide with Acosta being allowed to return to the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders implemented a series of rules to govern White House press conferences going forward. The CNN reporter has been praised by liberal comedians such as Jimmy Kimmel, and even appeared in the most recent season of the Netflix political drama “House of Cards.”
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and John Roberts contributed to this report.