Friday, February 17, 2017

Fact-checking President Trump’s news conference lies

NY Times

At one point, Mr. Trump searched for a new face among the veteran White House reporters who were challenging him and settled on a journalist wearing a skullcap whom he clearly did not recognize, hoping for the best.

“Are you a friendly reporter?’’ Mr. Trump said. The response of the reporter, Jake Turx of Ami magazine, a Jewish publication, could not be heard in the room.

The president’s anger then flared when Mr. Turx asked about a rise in anti-Semitic incidents around the country.

Telling Mr. Turx to sit down and accusing him of lying about asking a “very straight, simple question,” Mr. Trump rejected the charge that he is personally anti-Semitic — something the reporter had explicitly said he was not asserting.

Washington Post

“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, 2016

We can’t quite fact check the statement above — it’s certainly open to debate what counts as achievements — but we can fact-check 15 dubious claims made by the president in his lengthy news conference. Some of these are from his greatest hits of falsehoods, which we have fact-checked many times before. The claims are addressed in the order in which Trump made them.

“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 right-leaning bias and earns a C+ grade from 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%) strongly disapprove of his job performance, while 29% strongly approve.”

But Trump apparently dismisses such findings:

Donald J. Trump

Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.

“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. Here’s what Ford chief executive Mark Fields said about the company’s decision to abandon plans to open a factory in Mexico: “The reason that we are not building the new plant, the primary reason, is just demand has gone down for small cars.”

“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 — Trump claimed he was developing “a plan for the defeat of ISIS,” the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.

But the economy was in pretty good shape when Trump became president, especially compared to 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 to 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 ended up with 304 electoral votes, because two electors he earned voted for someone else.

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. Another 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.”[...]

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 to 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.

“When WikiLeaks, which I had nothing to do with, comes out and happens to give, they’re not giving classified information.”

WikiLeaks actually released hundreds of thousands of classified State Department cables, in a significant blow to U.S. diplomacy.

“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 the 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. Lee-Anne 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. As we’ve noted before, there is no evidence Clinton herself 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.[...]

“Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years. Don’t speak to people from Russia.”

The Wall Street Journal reported during the campaign that before Trump gave a foreign-policy speech in April, he met with the Russian ambassador: “A few minutes before he made those remarks [calling for improved relations with Russia], Mr. Trump met at a VIP reception with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak. Mr. Trump warmly greeted Mr. Kislyak and three other foreign ambassadors who came to the reception.”

Trump also is being misleading when he says has “nothing to do with Russia.” Trump repeatedly sought deals in Russia. In 1987, he went to Moscow to find a site for a luxury hotel; no deal emerged. In 1996, he sought to build a condominium complex in Russia; that also did not succeed. In 2005, Trump signed a one-year deal with a New York development company to explore a Trump Tower in Moscow, but the effort fizzled.

In a 2008 speech, Donald Trump Jr. made it clear that the Trumps want to do business in Russia, but were finding it difficult. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son said at a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, told The Washington Post in May: “I have no doubt, as a company, I know we’ve looked at deals in Russia. And many of the former Russian republics.” [...]

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