CNN immediately followed up President Donald Trump's speech on Friday about his administration's efforts to destroy the violent street gang MS-13 with a segment about how its members feel "emboldened" by Trump.
CNN host Brooke Baldwin interviewed correspondent Dan Lieberman, who published a report Friday morning that included interviews with MS-13 members who say Trump has made the gang stronger.
"For the last couple months, we were speaking with gang members from MS-13 and victims of the gang and immigrants on Long Island, and they say that Trump policies and rhetoric are helping the gang, emboldening the gang," Lieberman said.
"Alex," an MS-13 member, said Trump used rhetoric against Hispanics and the gang could use that to its advantage.
"Immigrants are saying that they don't want to go to the police, that they're too afraid of deportation, they're afraid of talking," Lieberman said.
And several people familiar with MS-13, including two gang members themselves, told CNN they think Trump's crackdown on immigrants is actually making MS-13 stronger because witnesses are more reluctant to come forward for fear of being deported."It's not like before, where … they (the gang) were more hidden," said Margarita, adding that a decade after fleeing violence in El Salvador she has never felt more afraid. "People can get deported, so they don't call the police. So they (MS-13) feel more free."
"The people that we spoke to say this is actually gaining strength for the gang, they're recruiting more members, and it's getting worse," Lieberman said.
Trump, speaking in Long Island, New York, because of MS-13's murders in the community there, said the U.S. would "destroy" the brutal gang, which has its foothold in Central America but also has large memberships in American cities.
The Obama administration labeled MS-13 a "transnational criminal organization" in 2012.
The Trump administration has made MS-13 a focus of the Justice Department, conducting raids, arrests, and deportations against the gang. It has connected the threat of MS-13 with stopping illegal immigration, a cornerstone of Trump's campaign for the White House.