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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Data show U.S. efforts on border, trade and North Korea all sputtering

President Donald Trump on Wednesday in the Oval

President Donald Trump on Wednesday in the Oval Office. Credit: Getty Images / Tom Brenner

President Donald Trump kept boasting during his first year in office that he'd driven down illegal immigration, as indicated by a sharp drop in border apprehensions.

Trump liked this trend so much he repeatedly exaggerated the official numbers in public during 2017.

But on Tuesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures showed that people crossing into the U.S. illegally from Mexico reached the highest rate for a month of February in 12 years.

For Trump, these new numbers will now be pressed into service to justify his border-wall "emergency."

The president keeps saying at rallies that his wall already is being built. But he failed to convince Congress to fund it, even after a record-long shutdown of federal agencies.

The 76,103 immigrants apprehended last month either presented themselves at ports of entry or were picked up elsewhere along the Mexican border, officials said.

It will be hard to spin that figure into an argument that border control has improved.

The president also proclaims his trade policy, particularly with China, to be reversing a bad situation. During a rally in June 2016, he called the trade deficit — the degree to which U.S. imports exceed exports — "a political and politician-made disaster" and said it "can be corrected."

But the alleged "disaster," if that's what it ever was, has gotten worse under Trump. On Wednesday, his Commerce Department revealed that the U.S. trade deficit in goods hit a record-high $891.3 billion in 2018, up 10 percent year-to-year.

Imports jumped and several exports such as soybeans were cut amid a tariff battle. Trade with China and Mexico led the trend. Experts cite numerous reasons, including tax policies that increased consumer spending that went to foreign vendors.

“The trade deficit exploded last year despite the Trump administration efforts to make America great again, and the trend is unlikely to get any better in 2019,” Chris Rupkey, chief economist at the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group in New York, told Reuters.

Bad news for Trump also arrived last week in the form of satellite images showing North Korea rapidly restoring a missile launch site days after dictator Kim Jong Un's second summit with Trump.

Only last year, Trump said when asked if he believes he should win the Nobel Peace Prize for the first round of Korean talks: “Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it." 

Now the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Stimson Center and South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency have all pointed out the work under way at Kim's launch facility in the northwestern part of the country.

The latest satellite images were reported to be taken March 2.

“I would be very disappointed if that were happening,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday. “It’s a very early report. We’re the ones that put it out. But I would be very, very disappointed in Chairman Kim, and I don’t think I will be, but we’ll see what happens.”

That's three major releases of bad policy news for Trump in one week. Will the next few days bring gladder tidings?

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