WASHINGTON — As he makes his case for building a border wall, President Trump says that his predecessors have secretly confided in him that they should have done it themselves. The only problem: All of the living presidents say that’s not true.
Former President Jimmy Carter said on Monday that he never had such a conversation with Mr. Trump, making him the last of the veterans of the Oval Office to dispute the assertion. “I have not discussed the border wall with President Trump and do not support him on the issue,” Mr. Carter said in a statement.
Aides to the other living presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — have all likewise denied Mr. Trump’s claim. Former President George Bush, who died in November, was in failing health throughout Mr. Trump’s administration and did not have any discussion with the current president about substantive issues, according to people close to him.
This would not be the first time Mr. Trump has bragged about conversations that never happened. In 2017, he publicly claimed that the head of the Boy Scouts called him to praise a speech as the best ever given to the organization. He also asserted that the president of Mexico had called him to say that Mr. Trump’s enforcement efforts at the border were deterring Central Americans from crossing into Mexico because they knew they could no longer get into the United States.
After both the Boy Scouts leader and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico denied making such calls, the White House acknowledged that they never happened. But the president’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, insisted that Boy Scouts leaders and Mr. Peña Nieto had said things like that in person, just not on the telephone.
The White House did not respond to requests on Friday or Monday to explain the president’s latest statement. A senior administration official, who insisted on anonymity to address the matter, said Mr. Trump might have been referring to public comments made by previous presidents on behalf of border security, though not the wall specifically or directly to Mr. Trump.
The issue came up on Friday when Mr. Trump held an expansive news conference in the Rose Garden about his standoff with Congress over funding for a wall. “This should have been done by all of the presidents that preceded me,” he said. “And they all know it. Some of them have told me that we should have done it.”
While in office, the younger Mr. Bush signed legislation authorizing 700 miles of fencing. But he has said that stronger border enforcement should be paired with an overhaul of rules making it possible for some of the millions of immigrants in the country illegally to stay. A spokesman said Mr. Bush had not discussed the issue with Mr. Trump. Mr. Clinton, Mr. Obama and Mr. Carter are on record opposing Mr. Trump’s wall.
Mr. Trump has not interacted with any of his predecessors in any meaningful way since his inauguration. None of the five former presidents alive when Mr. Trump was elected in 2016 voted for him, even the Republicans. The elder Mr. Bush voted for Hillary Clinton, and the younger Mr. Bush told the author Mark K. Updegrove that he voted for “none of the above.”
Mr. Trump has not met with any of his predecessors in two years in office. He called the younger Mr. Bush to offer condolences when his father died, and the first time he saw any of the former presidents since taking office was at the funeral a few days later. He shook Mr. Obama’s hand and Mr. Bush came over to shake his, but none of the former presidents had any extended words with the incumbent.