White House defends controversial Trump campaign ad

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday defended a controversial ad released by President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE’s campaign over the weekend that accused Democrats of being “complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants.”

At Monday's press briefing, Sanders defended the ad's central claim. 

“I think if people are unwilling to secure our borders and unwilling to end chain migration, unwilling to end the visa lottery system and unwilling to fix all of the problems we have in our immigration system and aren’t willing to negotiate and actually do things to fix a system that we know to be problematic, then yes, that's a problem and would allow for future incidents to take place,” Sanders said.

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The ad was released over the weekend as lawmakers on Capitol Hill sought common ground on immigration reform in an effort to pass a spending bill that would reopen the government.

"President Trump is right — build the wall, deport criminals, stop illegal immigration now," the ad says, showing clips of Democratic Minority Leaders Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerLawmakers push Trump to restore full funding for National Guards responding to pandemic Bipartisan senators ask congressional leadership to extend census deadline Lawmakers of color urge Democratic leadership to protect underserved communities in coronavirus talks MORE (N.Y.) and Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiKamala Harris makes history — as a Westerner On The Money: McConnell says it's time to restart coronavirus talks | New report finds majority of Americans support merger moratorium | Corporate bankruptcies on pace for 10-year high McConnell: Time to restart coronavirus talks MORE (Calif.). "Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants." 

Critics blasted the ad, saying it would inflame tensions on Capitol Hill at a time when lawmakers were working feverishly for a compromise.

Sanders dismissed questions about whether the ad would make it more difficult for Democrats and Republicans to work on immigration reform going forward.

“The president's number one focus is our national security,” Sanders said. “He's been very strong on discussing the need for border security and tying that directly to national security. That was a big focus of the president's campaign at the time and also since he's become president.”

At the end of the ad, Trump says he approves the message. But Sanders argued on Monday the campaign ads “aren’t being run by the White House.”

 “I can’t get into any details, but his position on the need for border security is something we have talked about and have been clear on,” she said.