The Arizona Republic

Fact-checking Trump’s speech in Arizona

- Mary Jo Pitzl

President Donald Trump’s rally on Friday was full of references to his agenda, accomplish­ments and, of course, kudos for Republican U.S. Rep. Martha McSally and criticisms of Democratic U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the two women in a tight contest to be Arizona’s next U.S. senator.

Here’s a look at the accuracy of some of Trump’s claims.

McSally: A first in combat?

Trump was effusive in his praise for McSally, delivering the kind of fullthroat­ed endorsemen­t she had been angling for.

He called her “the first female fighter pilot to fly combat missions in American history.”

That is a central part of McSally’s biography, and a fact attested to in a story released by the U.S. Air Force 12 years ago, before McSally entered the political arena. The article described McSally as the first female pilot in the history of the Defense Department to fly in combat.

Her first mission was in 1995, when she was deployed to Iraq, according to her biography.

Is the border wall underway?

Trump touched on topics with a distinct border-state flavor, including his assertion that the U.S.-Mexico border wall is currently being built.

“The wall is under constructi­on,” he said early in his remarks at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

“We started the wall,” Trump said, as the crowd assembled in an aircraft hangar cheered Friday. “Anyway, we’re going to get it done.”

However, there is no new constructi­on underway on a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and funding for new work is stalled in Congress.

What is happening is replacemen­t of old fencing, called landing-mat fencing, with sturdier “bollard fence” that consists of evenly spaced vertical metal posts, such as the fencing that exists along the border in Nogales.

Just last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued environmen­tal waivers for 17 miles of border barriers in south Texas.

Building new solid segments of wall — not fencing — hinges on congressio­nal approval of the massive project, and that has not yet happened.

U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., complained last month that Congress is dragging its feet on the project and said quick action is needed to hold off Democratic gains in the midterm elections.

“You want to stanch a blue wave. Then keep your promises — and one of those promises is to build the wall,” Biggs said, according to a report in Breitbart News.

Undocument­ed immigrants run a city in California?

To bolster his argument that the U.S. needs to crack down on illegal immigratio­n, Trump claimed that undocument­ed migrants have the reins of power in a

California city.

“In California, a town council is run by illegal immigrants. Is this even possible?” he said to the Mesa crowd.

No, it is not possible. Huntington Park, California, has a five-member city council. All of the current council members have Hispanic surnames, but there is nothing in dispute about their American citizenshi­p.

Three years ago, then-Councilman Jhonny Pineda (now the mayor) announced he would appoint two young men who are in the country illegally to city commission­s. The commission advises council members but does not set policy. The move was intended to better reflect the makeup and interests of the community, Pineda said at the time.

Is the force with the Space Force?

During his tour of Luke Air Force Base, Trump touted his plan for a Space Force, a new branch of the military that would protect orbiting U.S. aircraft from attacks and would create a permanent presence on the moon, among other things.

He said the force is “necessary and has wide support.”

But polls taken two months after his June announceme­nt — the most-recent data The Arizona Republic could find — showed the idea was not popular, except among Republican­s.

A poll of 19,487 Americans in August showed 29 percent of adults thought it was a good idea, while 42 percent characteri­zed it as a bad idea. The remainder weren’t sure.

The idea didn’t fly well in other demographi­c breakdowns of those polled, from age to income level. However, 59 percent of respondent­s who identified as Republican­s supported the Space Force, compared with 14 percent among Democrats and 20 percent among independen­ts.

Another August poll, this one for CNN, found 37 percent of respondent­s thought a Space Force should be establishe­d, compared with 55 percent who opposed it.

Pretty and gritty pioneers

In his closing comments Friday, Trump made a nod to Arizona’s history.

“This great state was settled by some of the toughest men and most beautiful women,” he said to the crowd.

That’s a hard one to prove or disprove. We’ll leave that in the realm of opinion.

 ?? CHERYL EVANS/ THE REPUBLIC ?? President Donald Trump speaks during a Make America Great Again Rally at Internatio­nal Air Response Hangar at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport on Friday.
CHERYL EVANS/ THE REPUBLIC President Donald Trump speaks during a Make America Great Again Rally at Internatio­nal Air Response Hangar at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport on Friday.

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