Trump av­er­ages 4.6 mis­lead­ing or false claims per day, 836 since tak­ing o∞ce

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

Shortly be­fore reach­ing the six­month mark of his pres­i­dency, Pres­i­dent Trump made an as­ser­tion and then paused, sug­gest­ing that per­haps he should not be so de­fin­i­tive. “I bet­ter say ‘think,’ oth­er­wise they’ll give you a Pinoc­chio,” he said. “And I don’t like those — I don’t like Pinoc­chios.”

As it turned out, the pres­i­dent’s claim — that he has signed more bills (42) at this point than “any pres­i­dent ever” — was com­pletely wrong. Just among re­cent pres­i­dents, he’s be­hind Jimmy Carter (70 bills signed), Ge­orge H.W. Bush (55) and Bill Clin­ton (50).

So it goes with Trump, the most fact-chal­lenged politi­cian that The Fact Checker has en­coun­tered. As part of our cov­er­age of the pres­i­dent’s first 100 days, The Fact Checker team (along with Les­lie Shapiro and Kaeti Hinck of The Post graph­ics de­part­ment) pro­duced an in­ter­ac­tive graphic that dis­played a run­ning list of ev­ery false or mis­lead­ing state­ment made by the pres­i­dent. He av­er­aged 4.9 false or mis­lead­ing claims a day.

Read­ers en­cour­aged us to keep the list go­ing for the pres­i­dent’s first year.

So at the six-month mark, the pres­i­dent’s tally stands at 836 false or mis­lead­ing claims. That’s an av­er­age of 4.6 claims a day, not far off his first-100-days pace.

We de­cided to com­pile this list, be­cause the pace and vol­ume of the pres­i­dent’s mis­state­ments means that we can­not pos­si­bly keep up. This in­ter­ac­tive data­base helps read­ers quickly search a claim af­ter they hear it, be­cause there’s a good chance he has said it be­fore. But the data­base also shows how repet­i­tive Trump’s claims are. Many politi­cians will drop a false claim af­ter it has been deemed false. But Trump re­peats the same claim over and over.

Trump’s most re­peated claim, ut­tered 44 times, was some vari­a­tion of the state­ment that the Af­ford­able Care Act is dy­ing and “es­sen­tially dead.” But the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice has said that the Oba­macare ex­changes, de­spite well­doc­u­mented prob­lems, are not im­plod­ing and are ex­pected to re­main sta­ble for the fore­see­able fu­ture. If any­thing, ac­tions taken by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion have spawned un­cer­tainty. Sev­eral in­sur­ance com­pa­nies have cited Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion pol­icy as a rea­son to leave in­sur­ance mar­kets in cer­tain states, though oth­ers have sensed op­por­tu­nity and moved in to re­place insurers who have left.

The ap­par­ent im­plo­sion of the Se­nate health-care bill sug­gests the lim­its of Trump’s rhetoric. His re­peated claim that Oba­macare has al­ready failed or is dead, in the face of ob­jec­tive ev­i­dence that the law is work­ing, failed to win enough votes for pas­sage — and failed to sway Democrats to con­sider work­ing with him. Only rarely has the pres­i­dent tried to make a pos­i­tive case for ac­tion on health care, as op­posed to sim­ply tear­ing down the Af­ford­able Care Act.

Trump, as he did dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, also ex­ag­ger­ated the im­pact of in­creases in pre­mi­ums on the Oba­macare ex­changes, cher­ryp­ick­ing num­bers from a hand­ful of states. Trump also fre­quently uses the cal­cu­la­tion of pre­mium in­creases with­out in­cor­po­rat­ing the im­pact of tax cred­its — which most peo­ple in the ex­changes re­ceive. If you take the sub­si­dies into ac­count, the av­er­age monthly pre­mium of most peo­ple in the Oba­macare ex­changes goes down, not up.

Trump also has a dis­turb­ing habit of tak­ing credit for events or busi­ness de­ci­sions that hap­pened be­fore he took the oath of of­fice — or had even been elected. Some 30 times, he has touted that he se­cured busi­ness in­vest­ments and has an­nounced job gains that had been pre­vi­ously an­nounced and could eas­ily be found with a Google search. Nearly 20 times he has boasted that he achieved a re­duc­tion in the cost of Lock­heed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fight­ers, even though the price cut had been in the works be­fore he was elected.

Trump even claimed that it took “one sen­tence” to get the pres­i­dent of China to agree to sell U.S. beef in China. “I said, ‘Pres­i­dent Xi, we’d love to sell beef back in China again.’ He said, ‘You can do that.’ That was the end of that,” Trump bragged on July 17. Per­haps it was so easy be­cause the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion al­ready had bro­kered the beef deal back in Septem­ber. The only thing that was new was a set date for beef sales to start.

Seven­teen times, Trump as­serted that be­cause he de­manded NATO mem­bers pay their fair share, “bil­lions of dol­lars more have be­gun to pour into NATO.” But at a NATO sum­mit in 2014, af­ter Rus­sian ag­gres­sion in Ukraine, NATO mem­bers pledged to stop cut­ting their de­fense ex­pen­di­tures and by 2024 “move to­ward” a goal of spend­ing at least 2 per­cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct on de­fense. Since the 2014 meet­ing, de­fense ex­pen­di­tures from mem­ber coun­tries have in­creased steadily.

The cu­mu­la­tive spend­ing in­crease from 2015 to 2017 above the 2014 level is an ad­di­tional $45.8 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to NATO, with an­other in­crease of $13 bil­lion ex­pected in 2017. But these bud­get de­ci­sions were made dur­ing the 2016 cal­en­dar year, be­fore Trump be­came pres­i­dent. (More­over, the money does not “pour into NATO” but re­mains with each na­tion.)

Ten times, Trump has said he has pro­posed “the big­gest tax cut in the his­tory of our coun­try,” even though his ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­leased no plan be­yond a sin­gle sheet of pa­per. Even if it be­came a real­ity (there are re­ports that the tax plan is be­ing scaled back), it still would be smaller than tax cuts passed by Harry Tru­man and Ron­ald Rea­gan. Eight times, Trump has claimed to have al­ready achieved “record in­vest­ments” in the mil­i­tary even though his pro­posed de­fense in­crease is rel­a­tively mod­est — and not yet been ap­proved by Congress.

Trump’s re­peated claim that he se­cured deals worth $350 bil­lion dur­ing a trip to Saudi Ara­bia, cre­at­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of jobs in the United States, was greatly in­flated. Many of the pur­ported deals were not con­cluded and were sim­ply as­pi­ra­tional — and key in­vest­ments were in Saudi Ara­bia, cre­at­ing few jobs for Amer­i­cans.

More than a dozen times, the pres­i­dent dis­missed in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence into the elec­tion as a Demo­cratic hoax, even though non­par­ti­san in­tel­li­gence agen­cies con­cluded that Rus­sia in­ter­vened on be­half of Trump, and con­gres­sional com­mit­tees led by Repub­li­cans have be­gun their own probes.

When the pres­i­dent was a real es­tate de­vel­oper, there was lit­tle con­se­quence for re­peated ex­ag­ger­a­tion or hy­per­bole, be­cause few peo­ple kept track. But now that he’s pres­i­dent, Trump may find that the “art of the deal” of­ten re­quires close at­ten­tion to the facts, es­pe­cially if he wants to per­suade law­mak­ers to take tough votes.

As pres­i­dent, Trump has al­ready earned 20 Four-Pinoc­chio rat­ings — and a to­tal of 152 Pinoc­chios.

If he doesn’t like his Pinoc­chios, there’s a rel­a­tively sim­ple so­lu­tion: Stick to the facts.

The Fact Checker GLENN KESSLER

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