It’s not ex­actly news to hear the same old digs and dis­tor­tions from Trump

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - glenn.kessler@wash­post.com

“I don’t think there’s ever been a pres­i­dent elected who in this short pe­riod of time has done what we’ve done.”

—Pres­i­dent Trump, news con­fer­ence, Feb. 16, 2017

We can’t quite fact-check the state­ment above — it’s cer­tainly open to de­bate what counts as achieve­ments — but we can fac­tcheck some of the du­bi­ous claims, false state­ments and in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion spouted by the pres­i­dent dur­ing his 77-minute news con­fer­ence. This is sum­ma­rized from a longer on­line list writ­ten with my col­league Michelle Ye Hee Lee.

“A new Ras­mussen poll just came out just a very short while ago, and it has our ap­proval rat­ing at 55 per­cent and go­ing up.”

Trump has a ten­dency to fo­cus only on polls that are good for him. Ras­mussen has a rightlean­ing bias and earns a C-plus grade from FiveThir­tyEight.com. Other polls show Trump with sig­nif­i­cantly lower ap­proval rat­ings, such as Gallup (40 per­cent) and Pew Re­search Cen­ter (39 per­cent).

“Trump’s over­all job ap­proval is much lower than those of prior presidents in their first weeks in of­fice,” Pew said. “Nearly half (46 per­cent) strongly dis­ap­prove of his job per­for­mance, while 29 per­cent strongly ap­prove.”

“The stock mar­ket has hit record num­bers.”

This is a flip-flop for Trump. Be­fore he was elected, he dis­missed the stock mar­ket per­for­mance un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama as “ar­ti­fi­cial” and “a bub­ble.”

“Plants and fac­to­ries are al­ready start­ing to move back into the United States, and big league — Ford, Gen­eral Mo­tors, so many of them.”

Trump keeps giv­ing him­self credit for busi­ness de­ci­sions made be­fore he be­came pres­i­dent. Ford’s de­ci­sion has more to do with the com­pany’s long-term goal — par­tic­u­larly its plans to in­vest in elec­tric ve­hi­cles — than with the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“To be hon­est, I in­her­ited a mess. It’s a mess. At home and abroad, a mess.”

Trump in­di­cated he was back­ing up this state­ment by not­ing that “jobs are pour­ing out of the coun­try . . . . The Mid­dle East is a disaster. North Korea.”

The state of for­eign pol­icy is open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion, but the econ­omy was in pretty good shape when Trump be­came pres­i­dent, es­pe­cially com­pared with the eco­nomic cri­sis that Obama in­her­ited in 2009.

In Jan­uary 2009, co­in­cid­ing with the last la­bor re­port of the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, nearly 800,000 jobs dis­ap­peared, ac­cord­ing to the Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics, com­pared with the nearly 230,000 jobs added in Jan­uary 2017. (Trump has given him­self credit for the Jan­uary num­bers, but the data was col­lected when Obama still held of­fice.)

“We got 306 [elec­toral col­lege votes] be­cause peo­ple came out and voted like they’ve never seen be­fore, so that’s the way it goes. I guess it was the big­gest elec­toral col­lege win since Ron­ald Rea­gan.”

This state­ment is wrong on sev­eral lev­els.

Trump did get more raw votes than any other Repub­li­can can­di­date in his­tory — but he also earned 2.9 mil­lion fewer votes than Hil­lary Clin­ton. An ad­di­tional 8 mil­lion peo­ple voted for third-party or write-in can­di­dates. More­over, turnout of the vot­ing-age pop­u­la­tion (54.6 per­cent) was lower than in the elec­tions of 2012, 2008 and 2004.

Fi­nally, Trump was wrong on the size of his elec­toral col­lege win. Of the nine pres­i­den­tial elec­tions since 1984, Trump’s elec­toral col­lege win ranks seventh. When a reporter pointed out his er­ror, Trump first in­di­cated that he was talk­ing about Repub­li­can can­di­dates. But Ge­orge H.W. Bush re­ceived 426 elec­toral votes in 1988. Trump’s re­sponse: “I don’t know, I was given that in­for­ma­tion.”

“In fact, we had to go quicker than we thought be­cause of the bad de­ci­sion we re­ceived from a cir­cuit that has been over­turned at a record num­ber. I have heard 80 per­cent . . . . I think that cir­cuit is in chaos and that cir­cuit is frankly in tur­moil.”

Trump is re­fer­ring to the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the 9th Cir­cuit, which ruled against re­in­stat­ing his travel ban. But there are other ways to slice the data, and it’s im­por­tant to put this num­ber into con­text. None of the data sup­ports Trump’s con­tention that the court is “in chaos” and “in tur­moil.”

First of all, most cases that are re­viewed by the Supreme Court are re­versed.

Each ap­peals court’s re­ver­sal rate changes ev­ery year, so it’s easy to cherry-pick this data. Un­der Chief Jus­tice John G. Roberts Jr., the 9th Cir­cuit did not set a “record” for re­ver­sals. The 9th Cir­cuit’s re­ver­sal rate was usu­ally higher than the av­er­age, but not al­ways the high­est. In the 2014-2015 term, the 9th Cir­cuit’s re­ver­sal rate was 63 per­cent, be­low the av­er­age rate of 72 per­cent. In the 2015-2016 term, the lat­est year of data avail­able, the 9th Cir­cuit court’s re­ver­sal rate was 80 per­cent, and the av­er­age rate was 67 per­cent.

“You [the me­dia] have a lower ap­proval rate than Congress. I think that’s right.”

Trump in­di­cated that he wasn’t sure if this as­ser­tion is cor­rect. It is not. The pub­lic’s trust in the me­dia has cer­tainly fallen over the years. But a 2016 Gallup poll shows that Congress is viewed pos­i­tively by 9 per­cent of re­spon­dents, com­pared with 20 per­cent for news­pa­pers and 21 per­cent for tele­vi­sion.

That’s not a high con­fi­dence level — be­sides Congress, only “big busi­ness” ranks lower than the me­dia — but it’s enough to make Trump’s claim in­cor­rect.

“No­body men­tions that Hil­lary re­ceived the ques­tions to the de­bates.”

Trump over­states the dis­clo­sure about Clin­ton re­port­edly get­ting a sin­gle de­bate ques­tion. Dur­ing the Demo­cratic pri­maries, a de­bate was held in Flint, Mich., to fo­cus on the wa­ter cri­sis. Donna Brazile, then an an­a­lyst with CNN, sent an email to the Clin­ton cam­paign say­ing that a woman with a rash from lead poi­son­ing was go­ing to ask what Clin­ton as pres­i­dent could do to help the peo­ple of Flint.

There’s no in­di­ca­tion Clin­ton was told this in­for­ma­tion, but in any case it’s a pretty ob­vi­ous ques­tion for a de­bate be­ing held in Flint. In her an­swer, Clin­ton com­mit­ted to re­move lead from wa­ter sys­tems across the coun­try within five years. LeeAnne Wa­ters, who asked the ques­tion, later said Clin­ton’s an­swer “made me vomit in my mouth” be­cause that was too long to wait in Flint.

“You know, they say I’m close to Rus­sia. Hil­lary Clin­ton gave away 20 per­cent of the ura­nium in the United States. She’s close to Rus­sia.”

Trump re­peated this claim, wor­thy of Four Pinoc­chios, sev­eral times dur­ing the news con­fer­ence.

An en­tire chapter is ded­i­cated to this ura­nium deal in Peter Sch­weizer’s “Clin­ton Cash.” In the book, Sch­weizer re­veals ties be­tween the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion and in­vestors who stood to gain from a deal that re­quired State Depart­ment ap­proval.

Trump’s claim sug­gests the State Depart­ment had sole ap­proval au­thor­ity, but the depart­ment is one of nine agen­cies in the Com­mit­tee on For­eign In­vest­ments in the United States to vet and sign off on all U.S. trans­ac­tions in­volv­ing for­eign gov­ern­ments. There is no ev­i­dence Clin­ton got in­volved in the deal per­son­ally, and it is highly ques­tion­able that this deal even rose to the level of the sec­re­tary of state. The Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion also needed to ap­prove, and did ap­prove, the trans­fer.

“You go to some of these in­ner-city places and it’s so sad when you look at the crime . . . . They’re liv­ing in hell.”

“In­ner cities” is not a cat­e­gory by which crime is mea­sured, and Trump of­ten uses this term to re­fer to large ur­ban ar­eas. In 2016, there was an uptick in the homi­cide rate in the 30 largest cities. One out­lier city — Chicago — was re­spon­si­ble for 43.7 per­cent of the to­tal in­crease in homi­cide rates in 2016. Over­all, vi­o­lent crime is on a decades-long de­cline, since the height of the crack co­caine epi­demic in the early 1990s.

The Fact Checker GLENN KESSLER

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.