Listening to Donald Trump talk about immigration lately, it’s hard not to wonder if he’s telling us something about his porn-viewing habits. The image of trafficked women with tape across their mouths has recurred so frequently—eight times in 12 days, by the Washington Post’s count—and in such detail that it’s clear it’s got a tight hold on his imagination.
“You’ll have traffickers having three and four women with tape on their mouths and tied up,” Trump said on January 4 in the Rose Garden. He returned to it on January 6, 9, and 10, saying on the latter that “They have tape over their mouths—electrical tape. Usually blue tape, as they call it. It’s powerful stuff. Not good. It’s powerful stuff. Not good.” On January 11, Trump got particularly graphic, saying:
But human trafficking — grabbing women, in particular — and children, but women — taping them up, wrapping tape around their mouths so they can’t shout or scream, tying up their hands behind their back and even their legs and putting them in a back seat of a car or a van — three, four, five, six, seven at a time.
On January 12 and 14 it was “duct tape …. electrical tape,” which are two different products.
People who work with immigrants at the border can’t 100 percent rule out this scenario—“Could it happen? Sure, it could,” said one—but they haven’t actually seen it. Four different advocates told the Post that “I think his statements are completely divorced from reality” and “I have no idea the roots of it” and “I’m not really sure where his information is coming from” and “I’ve never had that” (that quote from someone who’s worked on trafficking issues for 20 years).
The best guess is that a border agent told a story like this in private conversation with Trump, who started talking about tape the day after he met with National Border Patrol Council officials. But given the lurid embellishments he keeps putting on it, you really can’t rule out that he went and googled “women with tape on their mouths” and spent some time watching videos and making mental notes about the types of tape involved. Or maybe it’s wishful thinking now that he has to go toe to toe with a powerful woman.