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Trump called N.H. a ‘drug-infested den’; Sununu says ‘The president is wrong’



Monitor staff
Thursday, August 03, 2017

President Donald Trump is under fire from New Hampshire’s political leadership following a report that he said the state was a “drug-infested den” in a call to Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto.

During the Jan. 27 call, the transcript of which was published by the Washington Post on Thursday, Trump pressured Peña Nieto to stop saying publicly that Mexico would not fund Trump’s proposed border wall, a key campaign promise.

“We have a massive drug problem where kids are becoming addicted to drugs because the drugs are being sold for less money than candy,” Trump said, according to the Post. “I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den.”

Trump won a decisive victory in a crowded Republican field during New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary last year. But he lost the state to Hillary Clinton in the general election.

The response from the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation was swift, slamming Trump’s remarks as insulting and taking the opportunity to criticize his policy proposals.

“To date, @POTUS has proposed policies that would severely set back our efforts to combat this devastating epidemic. Instead of insulting people in the throes of addiction, @POTUS needs to work across party lines to actually stem the tide of this crisis,” Sen. Maggie Hassan wrote on Twitter.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen tweeted that Trump “owes NH an apology & then should follow through on his promise to Granite Staters to help end this crisis.”

Similarly, Rep. Annie Kuster said she was “appalled” at Trump’s remarks.

“Mr. Trump’s comments underscore how little he appreciates the gravity of this issue and the need to work together collaboratively on real solutions,” Kuster said in a press statement.

And Rep. Carol Shea-Porter said the president was “wrong” about the state, and failed to help fight the crisis.

“We need recovery facilities NOW. Stop attacking health care and make the investments you promised,” she wrote on Facebook.

Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, also pushed back, calling Trump’s remarks “disappointing.”

“The president is wrong. It’s disappointing his mischaracterization of this epidemic ignores the great things this state has to offer,” he said in a statement.

“Our administration inherited one of the worst health crises this state has ever experienced, but we are facing this challenge head on. We have doubled our resources to support prevention, treatment and recovery; dedicated millions to law enforcement’s efforts to keep drugs out of our state, increased the availability of naloxone, and are rebuilding our prevention programs for our kids,” Sununu added.

For Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire, neither the president’s comments nor local reactions are surprising.

“No New Hampshire politician is going to sit back and let that characterization stand,” Scala said. On the other hand, Trump’s remarks didn’t diverge much from his “typical campaign rhetoric.”

“It wasn’t unusual for Trump to go to different parts of the country and say, ‘This place is a mess. ... Vote for me and I’ll make things better,’ ” Scala said.

Trump frequently talked about the opioid crisis while campaigning in New Hampshire, touting his plan to build a wall along the U.S.’s southern border as a way to combat illegal drugs from coming into the country.

And the opioid epidemic was, in fact, on a lot of voters’ minds. A UNH poll released in March 2016 – just weeks after Trump trounced other Republicans in the primary – found that 40 percent of Granite Staters named illegal drugs as the most important issue facing the state. Only 14 percent said jobs and the economy – long the biggest issue for voters – should take the top spot.

“You may disagree with his policy prescriptions. But it’s hardly night and day from what he was saying all along,” Scala said.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)