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New Hampshire lawmakers take issue with Trump-Peña Nieto transcript

By
Danielle Haynes
President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on January 28. Trump was criticized Thursday for remarks he purportedly made during a call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto a day earlier. File Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI
President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on January 28. Trump was criticized Thursday for remarks he purportedly made during a call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto a day earlier. File Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 3 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump said he won New Hampshire because it is a "drug-infested den," prompting lawmakers in the state to lash out Thursday and blame him for supporting policies that would worsen the problem.

Trump's comments were revealed Thursday when The Washington Post published full transcripts of phone calls he had with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the days after his inauguration.

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In his discussion with Peña Nieto on Jan. 27, he decried Mexican "drug lords" coming across the border and bringing drugs into U.S. cities. He said his anti-immigration efforts to halt the spread of drugs was what won him New Hampshire's support during the 2016 election.

"We have the drug lords in Mexico that are knocking the hell out of our country," Trump said. "I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den.

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"We are becoming a drug-addicted nation and most the drugs are coming from Mexico or certainly from the southern border."

Though New Hampshire has had particular problems with drug abuse in recent years -- it has the highest synthetic opioid death rate in the country, the Post said -- Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., called Trump's statement "a gross misrepresentation of New Hampshire and the epidemic."

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"[Trump] owes NH an apology & then should follow through on his promise to Granite Staters to help end this crisis," she wrote in a tweet.

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Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, also called Trump's comment a "mischaracterization," while former GOP national committeeman Tom Rath pointed out that Trump didn't actually win New Hampshire in the election -- Hillary Clinton did. Trump did win New Hampshire in the Republican primary, though.

Trump spoke often about the drug crisis during his campaign stops in New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported. During one rally in August, he said "poisonous drug dealing" wouldn't be tolerated and promised to "dismantle the criminal gangs and cartels."

Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., said his comments to Peña Nieto were "disgusting" and that his proposed policies "would severely set back our efforts to combat this devastating epidemic."

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"Instead of insulting people in the throes of addiction, [Trump] needs to work across party lines to actually stem the tide of this crisis," she wrote in a tweet.

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Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., echoed Hassan's comments that repealing the Affordable Care Act would impede efforts to halt opioid abuse.

"No, Mr. President, you're wrong about New Hampshire -- but you have failed to help us fight the opioid crisis. We need [recovery] facilities now. Stop attacking healthcare and make the investments you promised."

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For his part, Trump signed an executive order March 29 establishing the President's Commission Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. In a report released at the end of July, the panel called on Trump to declare a national emergency on drug overdoses.

The Justice Department also has taken on the task of halting the epidemic by hiring 12 federal prosecutors to tackle opioid-related healthcare fraud. The unit was charged with using data to identify physicians overprescribing opioids, regional hot spots for abuse and pharmacies that are dispensing the drugs at a higher rate than others.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in July that prescriptions for opioid painkillers have dropped since 2010, but the number of Americans getting the highly addictive medications is still too high. The CDC said drug overdoses accounted for more than 52,400 deaths in 2015, with nearly two of three overdoses caused by an opioid.

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Prescriptions declined from a peak of 782 morphine milligram equivalents per person in 2010 to 640 MME per person two years ago. But the total amount of opioids prescribed in 2015 was still about three times that of 1999, CDC researchers said, with many people being provided lengthy prescriptions of the narcotics at high doses.

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