Trump brags…and lies…a lot

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at American Airlines Arena in Dallas. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

It’s never just a deal.

President Donald Trump’s penchant for overselling his accomplishments has been on vivid display in recent days as he hailed his Syria cease-fire as a boon for civilization and claimed his trade agreement with China was the biggest ever. The economy is the “greatest” ″in the history of our Country,” the military is the “most powerful” it has ever been, regulations have been cut at record rates, and, in his telling, America is “winning, winning, winning” like never before.

Trump has been a master of the art of exaggeration for decades, as he famously explained in his 1987 book, “The Art of the Deal.”

“People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular,” he wrote. “I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration, and a very effective form of promotion.”

A search of Trump’s Twitter feed turns up more than 1,200 mentions of the words “biggest,” ″best” and “smartest.”

Critics, for their part, accuse him of creating problems in order to solve them — essentially setting fires and then demanding credit for putting them out.

Here’s a look at some recent inflated claims.

THS SYRIA CEASE-FIRE

Trump made big news Thursday when he announced that Vice President Mike Pence and other top administration officials had secured a five-day cease-fire deal with Turkey in northeast Syria — something Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said he wouldn’t do.

Trump quickly took credit, insisting his “unconventional approach” — including a pullback of U.S. troops that paved the way for a Turkish invasion targeting Syrian Kurds — was responsible.

Rather than bemoaning the loss of life that resulted, Trump spent much of Thursday minimizing the carnage and hailing the deal in epic proportions.

“It’s really a great day for civilization,” Trump said. He insisted that because of his intervention, “millions of lives will be saved.”

“What Turkey is getting now is they’re not going to have to kill millions of people, and millions of people aren’t going to have to kill them,” Trump said. In all, over the more than eight years of Syria’s devastating civil war, hundreds of thousands have been killed.

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THE CHINA DEAL

Trump last week announced with great fanfare a reprieve in the U.S.-China trade war that has resulted in tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of goods.

“The deal I just made with China is, by far, the greatest and biggest deal ever made for our Great Patriot Farmers in the history of our Country,” Trump tweeted the day after. “In fact, there is a question as to whether or not this much product can be produced? Our farmers will figure it out. Thank you China!”

But despite his big talk, there is much left to be done, with many details to be determined and no documents signed. And some of the thorniest issues — such as U.S. allegations that China forces foreign companies to hand over trade secrets and a major dispute over the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei — were dealt with only partially, or not at all, and will require further talks.

“The president is acting as if a lot of Chinese concessions have been nailed down, and they just haven’t,” said Derek Scissors, a China specialist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

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CRITICIZING DEMOCRATS

Plenty of politicians criticize their rivals for having a bad idea or pushing ill-conceived policies. Trump paints them as an existential threat to the Republic and democracy. Throughout the 2016 campaign, the 2018 midterms and at his recent rallies, Trump has demonized Democrats as the enemy, claiming Thursday that they are out to “destroy America as we know it.”

“At stake in this fight is the survival of American democracy itself,” he told the crowd at a Dallas campaign rally. “I don’t believe anymore that they love our country.”

He warns the stock market will crash if he loses, and says Democrats want to destroy health care and repeal the Second Amendment.

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HIS CROWD SIZE

Trump’s exaggerations of his crowd sizes are well documented. On Thursday night he offered a doozy.

“So outside, they have close to 30,000 people,” he reported to the enthusiastic crowd. Then he asked local officials whether they might be able to “fill up this little area, let ’em in. It would be so nice.”

“You know they have a certain max,” he added. “We broke the record tonight.”

Tamika Dameron, a public information officer with the Dallas Police Department, said that wasn’t even close.

The Dallas Fire-Rescue Department and American Airlines Center calculated the total number inside was 18,500, less than the 20,000 or so capacity of the arena, and said there were “about 5,000 on the outside.”

During the Mavericks 2011 NBA Finals series, the highest attendance at the American Airlines Center was 20,433.

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Associated Press writers Jake Bleiberg and Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this report.

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Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Trump calls on China to investigate Bidens


President Donald Trump speaks to the media. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Ensnarled in an impeachment investigation over his request for Ukraine to investigate a chief political rival, President Donald Trump Thursday called on another nation to probe former Vice President Joe Biden: China.

“China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” Trump said in remarks to reporters outside the White House. Trump said he hadn’t directly asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to investigate Biden and his son Hunter but said it’s “certainly something we could start thinking about.”

Trump and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have also tried to raise suspicions about Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China, leaning on the writings of conservative author Peter Schweizer. But there is no evidence that the former vice president benefited financially from his son’s business relationships.

Trump’s requests for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to dig up dirt on Biden, as well as Giuliani’s conduct, are at the center of an intelligence community whistleblower complaint that sparked the House Democratic impeachment probe last week.

Trump’s comments came as he publicly acknowledged that his message to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and other officials was to investigate the 2020 Democratic presidential contender. Trump’s accusations of impropriety are unsupported by evidence.

“It’s a very simple answer,” Trump said of his call with Zelenskiy. “They should investigate the Bidens.”

Trump has sought to implicate Biden and his son in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.

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Trump’s latest excuse for backing off on gun background check promise

President Donald Trump winks at a journalist. Another wink, another broken promise? (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Donald Trump insisted Tuesday that the U.S. already has “very, very strong background checks” for gun purchases in the latest sign that he is backing away from throwing his political support behind changes to the system that are opposed by the powerful gun lobby.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Trump also noted “a lot of the people that put me where I am are strong believers in the Second Amendment,” and suggested he worries about blurring the contrast between Republicans and Democrats on the issue.

“We have to be very careful about that,” he said.

A gradual rhetorical softening by Trump has taken place in the more than two weeks since gunmen opened fire in El Paso, Texas, then in Dayton, Ohio, leaving more than 30 people dead. Trump said in the tragedies’ wake that he was eager to implement “very meaningful background checks” and told reporters there was “tremendous support” for action.

“We don’t want people that are mentally ill, people that are sick — we don’t want them having guns,” he said.

But in the days since, Trump has changed his tone. He said Tuesday that, while the current system has “sort of missing areas and areas that don’t complete the whole circle,” it is overall “very, very strong” — even though federal law only requires background checks for guns sold through licensed firearm dealers.

And he said he worried about the potential risk of a “slippery slope,” where “all of a sudden everything gets taken away.” Just 11 days earlier Trump dismissed that very same “slippery slope” thinking, which he attributed to the National Rifle Association. “I don’t agree with that,” he said then.

The waffling drew anger from Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who said if Trump is serious about action he should call on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to put a House-passed background checks bill up for vote.

“These retreats are heartbreaking, particularly for the families of the victims of gun violence,” Schumer tweeted.

Republicans have refused to take up several Democratic-backed gun control bills that passed the House, and historically have opposed many efforts to strengthen the nation’s gun laws.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who spoke with Trump last week, said the president expressed support then for working across the aisle “to come up with a background checks bill that can pass the Senate and save lives.” While he said he would wait to hear from Trump again directly, he compared the episode to Trump’s flip-flop on background checks following the Parkland, Florida, shooting after intervention from the NRA.

“It’s time for Republicans and President Trump to decide whose side they’re on,” Murphy said in a statement. “Are they going to stand with the 90% of Americans who want universal background checks, or are they going to once again kowtow to the desires of the gun lobby?”

Trump, who has reversed course on gun issues throughout his adult life, had insisted when pressed by skeptical reporters earlier this month that this time would be different because the composition of the House and Senate had changed.

But a senior White House official pushed back on the notion that Trump was backing away from support for legislative changes, noting that Trump has repeatedly voiced a desire to get something done.

The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said that the White House’s policy and legislative affairs teams have been discussing potential options, in addition to ongoing conversations with members of Congress led by Eric Ueland, the director of legislative affairs.

They also said “meaningful background checks” remain on the table, even after Trump spoke again by phone Tuesday with NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre.

LaPierre tweeted the two had discussed “the best ways to prevent these types of tragedies,” and called Trump “a strong #2A President and supports our Right to Keep and Bear Arms!”

While two Democrats on the Hill described talks with the White House as largely stalled, others said White House officials have been engaged in continued conversations with Democratic and Republican lawmakers. That includes staff-level conversations with Murphy’s office since he spoke with Trump last Sunday, according to one Senate staffer.

“The White House has been very responsive to our office,” said Steve Kelly, a spokesman for Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who has long pushed a bipartisan expanded background check bill with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. “We’ve had ongoing conversations, at the staff level, with the White House regarding background checks both last week and this week.”

Republicans have been trying to build support for more modest measures, including so-called red-flag bills from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that would allow friends and family to petition authorities to keep guns away from some people. But those efforts are also running into trouble from conservatives, who worry about due process and infringing on gun owners’ rights.

Meanwhile, NRA spokeswoman Amy Hunter said the group “has always supported efforts to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill” and “appreciates the president’s desire to find logical ways of accomplishing that goal.”

“However, even the most ardent anti-gun advocates would concede expanded background checks would not have stopped any of the recent high-profile shootings,” she said. “In order to reduce gun deaths, we must address the root causes of crime.”

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Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

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Trump’s visit to shooting sites: Unity or hypocrisy?

Migrants turn themselves in to border agents in El Paso, Texas, after crossing the US – Mexico border. El Paso has swiftly become one of the busiest corridors for illegal border crossings in the U.S. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

President Donald Trump is bringing a message aimed at national unity and healing to the sites of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. But the words he offers for a divided America will be complicated by his own incendiary, anti-immigrant rhetoric that mirrors language linked to one of the shooters.

It is a highly unusual predicament for an American president to at once try to console a community and a nation at the same time he is being criticized as contributing to a combustible climate that can spawn violence.

White House officials said Trump’s visits Wednesday to Texas and Ohio, where 31 people were killed and dozens were wounded, would be similar to those he’s paid to grieving communities including Parkland, Florida, and Las Vegas, with the Republican president and the first lady saluting first responders and spending time with mourning families and survivors.

“What he wants to do is go to these communities and grieve with them, pray with them, offer condolences,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Tuesday. He said Trump also wants “to have a conversation” about ways to head off future deadly episodes.

“We can do something impactful to prevent this from ever happening again, if we come together,” the spokesman said.

That’s a tough assignment for a president who thrives on division and whose aides say he views discord and unease about cultural, economic and demographic changes as key to his reelection.

At the same time, prominent Democrats have been casting blame on Trump more often than calling for national unity in the aftermath of the shootings, a measure of the profound polarization in the country.

Trump, who often seems most comfortable on rally stages with deeply partisan crowds, has not excelled at projecting empathy, mixing what can sound like perfunctory expressions of grief with awkward offhand remarks. While he has offered hugs to tornado victims and spent time at the bedsides of shooting victims, he has yet to project the kind of emotion and vulnerability of his recent predecessors.

Barack Obama grew visibly shaken as he addressed the nation in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre and teared up while delivering a 2016 speech on new gun control efforts. George W. Bush helped bring the country together following the Sept. 11 attacks, notably standing atop the smoking rubble of the World Trade Center, his arm draped over the shoulder of a firefighter, as he shouted through a bullhorn. Bill Clinton helped reassure the nation after the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City and the mass school shooting at Columbine High School.

Trump, too, has been able to summon soothing words. But then he often quickly lapses into divisive tweets and statements — just recently painting immigrants as “invaders,” suggesting four Democratic congresswoman of color should “go back” to their home countries even though they’re U.S. citizens and deriding majority-black Baltimore as a rat-infested hell-hole.

In the Texas border city of El Paso, some residents and local Democratic lawmakers said Trump was not welcome and urged him to stay away.

“This president, who helped create the hatred that made Saturday’s tragedy possible, should not come to El Paso,” tweeted Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who served the area for three terms as a congressman. “We do not need more division. We need to heal. He has no place here.”

Trump, on the eve of his El Paso trip, snapped back on Twitter that O’Rourke “should respect the victims & law enforcement – & be quiet!”

In Dayton, Mayor Nan Whaley said she would be meeting with Trump on Wednesday, but she told reporters she was disappointed with his scripted remarks Monday responding to the shootings. His speech included a denunciation of “racism, bigotry and white supremacy” and a declaration that “hate has no place in America.” But he made no mention of new efforts to limit sales of certain guns or the anti-immigration rhetoric found in an online screed posted just before the El Paso attack.

The hateful manifesto’s author — police believe it was the shooter but investigation continues — insisted the opinions “predate Trump and his campaign for president.” But the words echoed some of the views Trump has expressed on immigration, including claiming that Democrats “intend to use open borders, free HealthCare for illegals, citizenship and more to enact a political coup by importing and then legalizing millions of new voters.”

Dayton Mayor Whaley said simply, “Everyone has it in their power to be a force to bring people together, and everybody has it in their power to be a force to bring people apart — that’s up to the president of the United States.”

Democrats vying to challenge Trump in the 2020 election have been nearly unanimous in excoriating him for rhetoric they warned has nurtured the racist attitudes of the El Paso shooter as they sought to project leadership during a fraught moment for a bruised nation.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the front-runner in the 2020 Democratic primary, is slated to speak on white nationalism on Wednesday in Iowa and, according to excerpts from his campaign, will declare Trump “lacks the moral authority to lead” because he has “aligned himself with the darkest forces in our nation” and “in both clear language and in code … has fanned the flames of white supremacy.”

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was delivering a speech on gun violence and white nationalism Wednesday at the Charleston, South Carolina, church where nine black parishioners were killed in 2015. Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, released a detailed plan for gun control and deterrence.

Gidley and other White House officials denounced suggestions that Trump’s rhetoric was in any way responsible for the shooting. They called it “dangerous,” ″pathetic,” ″disgusting.”

“It’s not the politician’s fault when somebody acts out their evil intention,” he said, pointing to other shooters who have expressed political preferences for Democratic politicians including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont’s Bernie Sanders.

“It is shameful that Democrats are unable to prevent themselves from politicizing a moment of national grief,” added Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

Trump, quoting one of the hosts of his favorite “Fox & Friends” show, tweeted: “Did George Bush ever condemn President Obama after Sandy Hook. President Obama had 32 mass shootings during his reign. Not many people said Obama is out of control. Mass shootings were happening before the president even thought about running for Pres.”

Warren spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said leaders have an obligation to speak out.

“Let’s be clear,” she said in a statement. “There is a direct line between the president’s rhetoric and the stated motivations of the El Paso shooter.”

Recent Pew Research Center polling found 85% of U.S. adults believe the tone and nature of political debate in the country has become more negative, with a majority saying Trump has changed things for the worse. And more than three quarters, 78%, say that elected officials who use heated or aggressive language to talk about certain people or groups make violence against those people more likely.

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Associated Press writers Elana Schor, Deb Riechmann and Darlene Superville and AP polling editor Emily Swanson contributed to this report.

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Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Trump strangely silent on asylum stunt

President Donald Trump listens to a question during a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, July 22, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

It is, arguably, the most sweeping step that President Donald Trump’s administration has taken to try to stop the flow of migrants at the border — the kind of thing he might have been expected to promote on Twitter and brandish in front of news cameras as proof he is taking hardline steps to crack down on illegal immigration.

Under proposed new rules, Trump would effectively end asylum, barring claims from migrants who’d traveled through Mexico from other countries and closing the door to tens of thousands of individuals and families fleeing violence and economic duress in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Instead, the move one week ago has been followed by relative silence about the policy change.

Trump has yet to tweet about the effort or discuss it publicly, even when prompted. Asked specifically about the move by a reporter last week, Trump took the conversation elsewhere. His most prominent anti-immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, failed to mention the effort during a Sunday talk show appearance. And a senior Department of Homeland Security official tried to play down its significance before issuing a quiet retraction.

The approach has been met with surprise by some who have spent more than two years fighting Trump’s attempted immigration changes.

“I think we were all surprised that the administration has conceded that the policy may be quickly enjoined and even suggested that it wasn’t as broad as everyone assumed,” said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt, who was traveling to California on Monday to argue against the changes in court.

“Normally,” he said, the administration has “tried to paint their policies as broad and unprecedented as possible.”

The White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the strategy, but several senior administration officials seemed to have paid the measure and its rollout little attention themselves.

Observers offered several potential explanations, including possible fatigue over an endless stream of immigration orders, rules and changes that seem to blur together — including another Monday that would expand the authority of immigration officers to deport migrants without requiring them to appear before judges. In addition, the announcement came during an especially crowded news cycle, with Trump’s racist tweets and comments targeting four Democratic congresswoman of color commanding most of the attention in Washington over the past week.

When Miller appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” for instance, he did not field a single question on immigration policy and instead spent his segment defending the tweets. And lawmakers didn’t bring it up when Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan appeared before a House committee last week to discuss family separations.

Others cited the fact that both activists and administration officials seem certain the asylum change will be blocked by the courts, as have so many of Trump’s previous immigration efforts.

“If we thought this really was going to be the new policy of the land, we would be lying down in front of ICE buses and taking over DHS facilities,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a liberal immigration reform group. But, he said, “just about everybody expects it to be enjoined by the court and the preparation for the implementation of the strategy has been almost non-existent.”

Sharry said the administration appeared more interested in producing a headline to scare off potential migrants than actually following through with policy changes.

“They’re trying to use cruelty as a deterrent and tough talk as a deterrent. And so this was, ‘Let’s get a headline that says we’re stopping asylum,’” Sharry said.

But the threat of court action didn’t stop the administration from stirring up attention for past efforts that have either been quickly blocked by judges or abandoned at the last minute — including the first iterations of Trump’s proposed “Muslim ban” and his threat to shut down the entire southern border.

This time, however, the effort was announced with little fanfare — published quietly in the Federal Register — with a joint statement hours later from the attorney general and McAleenan, but no explanation of how it would work practically at the border.

Some Homeland Security officials said they were caught off guard by the regulations’ introduction and unsure about how to implement the new process alongside the administration’s other efforts to curb asylum, including the so-called “remain in Mexico” program. That program forces asylum-seekers to wait out their cases in Mexico.

There also appears to be confusion within the department’s highest ranks. Mark Morgan, the new acting head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, tried to downplay the effort in an NPR interview last week, saying the administration would only be testing the new rules in a pilot program along one small stretch of the border. He also said he doubted the courts would allow the rule to move forward, citing two federal lawsuits seeking to block it.

“We’re actually anticipating that probably the regulation will be enjoined,” he said.

But no mention of a piecemeal approach had been made previously and Morgan walked back the comment hours later.

The rule “speaks to asylum eligibility and applies to all amenable individuals,” he said.

A judge on Monday said he’d decide as soon as possible whether to block the rules temporarily while the case played out. The judge cited Morgan’s comments in his questioning, wondering why the government would have a problem with halting the new rules if they anticipated it anyway.

Trump, meanwhile, was busy tweeting about the self-described “squad” of Democratic congresswomen, calling their views on immigration “So bad for our Country!”

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Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.

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Trump threatens to deport ‘millions’ as 2020 campaign begins

President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump is threatening to remove millions of people living in the country illegally on the eve of formally announcing his re-election bid.

In a pair of tweets Monday night, Trump said that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would next week “begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States.”

“They will be removed as fast as they come in,” he wrote.

An administration official said the effort would focus on the more than 1 million people who have been issued final deportation orders by federal judges but remain at large in the country. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to explain the president’s tweets.

It is unusual for law enforcement agencies to announce raids before they take place. Some in Trump’s administration believe that decisive shows of force — like mass arrests — can serve as effective deterrents, sending a message to those considering making the journey to the U.S. that it’s not worth coming.

Trump has threatened a series of increasingly drastic actions as he has tried to stem the flow of Central American migrants crossing the southern border, which has risen dramatically on his watch. He recently dropped a threat to slap tariffs on Mexico after the country agreed to dispatch its national guard and step-up coordination and enforcement efforts.

A senior Mexican official said Monday that, three weeks ago, about 4,200 migrants were arriving at the U.S. border daily. Now that number has dropped to about 2,600.

Immigration was a central theme of Trump’s 2016 campaign and he is expected to hammer it as he tries to fire up his base heading into the 2020 campaign.

Trump will formally launch his re-election bid Tuesday night at a rally in Orlando, Florida — a state that is crucial to his path back to the White House.

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