Texas Governor Greg Abbott has spent days ridiculing President Joe Biden for “standing by” while drug cartels “terrorize” Americans, but while doing so on Friday he cited events that took place under former President Donald Trump—and he omitted that Biden’s predecessor also refused to designate cartels as foreign terrorists.
Abbott told Fox News on Friday that the Biden administration, including “border czar” Vice President Kamala Harris, need to “step up” and deal with increasing Mexican drug cartel violence he claimed they “created.” Abbott penned a letter Thursday that urged the White House to officially designate cartels as part of the U.S. foreign terrorist organization list. Abbott claimed Biden’s reluctance to add cartels to the list is part of his rollback of Trump’s “hardline” border stance, but the GOP governor failed to mention that the former president publicly threatened to add the cartels to the list but ultimately backed down.
Mexican officials at the time blasted Trump’s threat and rejected any use of military force or U.S. breaches of their sovereignty. This pushback led Trump to “delay” the move in December 2019.
Abbott’s Thursday letter and Friday remarks on Fox & Friends listed numerous violent incidents of cartel trafficking, kidnapping, and murders as evidence that Biden supports “open borders.” But all of the atrocities he listed from the Los Zetas and Gulf Cartel occurred in 2019 or 2020 under Trump’s administration.
“To take a few examples from the past year: a U.S. citizen held hostage by the Sinaloa Cartel was recently rescued; heavily armed members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel attempted to assassinate Mexico City’s chief of police; and a journalist was beheaded for his coverage of the cartels,” Abbott wrote in his letter to Biden.
“For example, in November 2019, cartel gunmen fatally ambushed nine U.S. citizens, all women and children,” Abbott continued, noting that he’d sent four “unanswered” letters to Biden.
The November 2019 incident highlighted by Abbott prompted Trump to tell Mexico the U.S. is ready to “go in and clear out” the cartels. The country’s foreign minister responded, saying Mexico would not allow any “violation of national sovereignty” as it investigated the deadly ambush of three Mormon women and six children.
“They will be designated…I have been working on that for the last 90 days. You know, designation is not that easy, you have to go through a process, and we are well into that process,” Trump told Bill O’Reilly at the time, acknowledging the political difficulty of labeling neighboring groups “terrorists.”
But one month later, Trump pulled back on his plan to designate the cartels as terrorists, a move that was celebrated by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and other top government officials. Currently, Biden is simply holding the same stance as his predecessor.
As The Dallas Morning News’ Todd Gillman noted Saturday in a fact-check piece, “Abbott never publicly pressured Trump to designate the cartels as terrorist groups. Nor did Abbott air any complaint when Trump, under pressure from Mexico, backed down from a threat to add cartels to the foreign terrorist group list.”
But Abbott has nonetheless continued attacking the Biden administration as weak and unable to curb the migrant or cartel crises at the border. He once again ridiculed Biden for not adding the cartels to the terrorist list Friday on Fox News:
“If [Biden] were to enact and impose the foreign terrorist organization law it would increase the length of sentences that people they would arrest who are parts of these terrorist organization. Number two, it would make certain people inadmissible into the United States, hence, in the future, if we catch any of these members of these terrorist organization we’d be able to arrest them and keep them for that.”
Abbott added that Biden could put the cartels “out of business” by adding them to the terrorist list, a move that would allow the government to freeze their assets.
Newsweek reached out to the governor and the White House for additional remarks Saturday afternoon.