Trump’s com­ments to troops about pay were not ac­cu­rate

The Mercury News Weekend - - NEWS - By Eli Stokols

Pres­i­dent Trump bragged Wed­nes­day to troops sta­tioned in Iraq that he had se­cured them a mas­sive pay raise, re­peat­ing a false claim he’s made re­peat­edly on the cam­paign trail.

Trump made the boast dur­ing his first visit as pres­i­dent to troops in a com­bat zone.

Trump, who spent more than three hours along with first lady Me­la­nia Trump at al-Asad Air­base near Baghdad, ad­dressed sev­eral hun­dred ser­vice­men and women, boast­ing that he had de­liv­ered them “one of the big­gest pay raises you’ve ever re­ceived.”

The pres­i­dent also stated — in­cor­rectly — that he had au­tho­rized the first mil­i­tary pay in­crease in a decade.

“You haven’t got­ten one in more than 10 years,” Trump said. “More than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one. I got you a big one.”

Mil­i­tary pay, in fact, has risen every year for three decades. It was raised 2.4 per­cent in 2018 and will rise by 2.6 per­cent more in 2019, be­cause of the Na­tional De­fense Autho­riza­tion Act signed by Trump in Au­gust. Al­though the 2.6 per­cent in­crease is the largest in nine years, Trump still ex­ag­ger­ated sig­nif­i­cantly, claim­ing that he de­liv­ered a pay raise some four times larger than that and, in an­other un­cer­tain anec­dote, that he fought for it over un­named mil­i­tary per­son­nel who’d wanted a smaller in­crease.

“They said, ‘ You know, we could make it smaller. We could make it 3 per­cent. We could make it 2 per­cent. We could make it 4 per­cent,’ ” Trump claimed. “I said, ‘No. Make it 10 per­cent. Make it more than 10 per­cent.’

“Be­cause it’s been a long time. It’s been more than 10 years. It’s been more than 10 years,” he con­tin­ued. “That’s a long time. And, you know, you re­ally put your­selves out there, and you put your lives out there. So con­grat­u­la­tions.”

Pre­sent­ing him­self as an ar­dent sup­porter of the mil­i­tary just days after the res­ig­na­tion of re­spected De­fense Sec­re­tary James N. Mat­tis, who cited pol­icy dis­agree­ments with the pres­i­dent in an as­ton­ish­ing res­ig­na­tion let­ter, Trump also re­peated an­other com­mon false­hood — his claim that the new Pen­tagon bud­get is the largest in­crease in de­fense fund­ing ever.

The cur­rent bud­get author­ity for the Pen­tagon is not a record.

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