Donald Trump sold out America Monday in a press conference before a stunned world, shocked American leaders and saddened aides.
“One of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory,” declared Vietnam war hero John McCain.
“Bizzare and flat-out wrong,” said Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
“Shameful,” said GOP Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona.
“The Russians are not our friends,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “I’ve said that repeatedly, I say it again today. And I have complete confidence in our intelligence community and the findings that they have announced.”
“There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia,” said Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
Notes Mark Landler of The New York Times:
President Trump made one thing clear after his meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin on Monday: He is willing to take Mr. Putin’s word over those of his own intelligence agencies about whether the Russians tried to fix the 2016 election.
Such an admission by a president sworn to be the principal defender of the Constitution and America’s sovereignty in the world is extraordinary enough. But it was only one of several statements made by Mr. Trump, the likes of which no other American president has ever uttered on foreign soil.
He condemned the Justice Department’s investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russia as a “disaster for our country.” He suggested that the F.B.I. deliberately mishandled its investigation of Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee. And he labeled an F.B.I. agent who testified about that investigation before Congress as a “disgrace to our country.”
After a one on one meeting with Putin, who denied any Russian involvement in hacking servers, posting fake messages and using leaked materials to discredit Trump’s Democratic opponent in the 2016 election, Trump stood before the cameras in Helsinki and declared:
I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.
Former CIA director John Brennan responded quickly:
“Donald Trump’s news conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”
Adds McCain, a Republican stalwart fighting brain cancer:
No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.
As has become the norm among the spineless GOP that controls both houses of Congress, most Republicans sat quietly and let Trump debase America while applauding Putin.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was not quiet and said:
A single, ominous question now hangs over the White House: What could possibly cause President Trump to put the interests of Russia over those of the United States? Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous behavior is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry said even more:
This is a disgraceful moment. The president’s party knows better. I know they do. I served with many of them. America needs them to speak out with clarity and conviction not just in this news cycle, but until there’s common sense governing America’s foreign policy.
McCain, in a statement from his home in Arizona, said what other Republicans have no guts to say:
It is tempting to describe the news conference as a pathetic rout — as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.
No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are — a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad.
Trump’s actions Monday, called treasonous by an increasing number, even brought criticisms from his steadfast cheering section at Fox News:
Fox Business News host Neil Cavuto called Trump’s actions “disgusting. I’m sorry, it’s the only way I feel. It not a right or left thing to me, it’s just wrong.”
From Fox’s senior political analyst Brit Hume:
Because Trump is unable to see past himself, he sees the Russia meddling investigation as only about him and the collusion claim, and thus calls it a witch hunt.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper:
You have been watching perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader certainly than I’ve ever seen.
In Helsinki, Mr. Trump again insisted “there was no collusion” with Russia. Yet in refusing to acknowledge the plain facts about Russia’s behavior, while trashing his own country’s justice system, Mr. Trump in fact was openly colluding with the criminal leader of a hostile power.
Republican Senator Bob Corker, retiring chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he “did not think this was a good moment for our country.”
There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world. That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence. The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.
What Ryan did not say was that the best way to accomplish that is to remove Donald Trump, immediately, from the presidency and charge with the ultimate high crime: Treason and punish those crimes to the full extent of the law.
If Ryan and his other compliant Republican psychopaths don’t have the guts to do what needs to be done, they should stand trial for treason along with Trump.
With fanfare befitting the nation’s pre-eminent showman, President Donald Trump on Monday poured accelerant on his campaign to shift Washington’s balance of power toward conservatives and remake the federal judiciary for generations to come.
Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is the latest milestone in what has been an 18-month, top-to-bottom remaking the federal bench, the fulfillment of more than three decades of emergent conservative legal jurisprudence, and a watershed moment for the president and his legacy. Trump’s tax cuts will fade with time, regulations erased by this president can be rewritten by the next one, spats with foreign leaders can be patched up, but judicial appointments — and their court rulings — endure for decades.
“When the political winds shift, Congress never leaves policy issues alone,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has served as the legislative architect of Trump’s remaking of the courts. “When we did comprehensive tax reform 30 years ago, it lasted four years. What I want to do is make a lasting contribution to the country.
“And by appointing and confirming these highly intelligent nominees to the courts who are in their late 40s or early 50s, I believe, working in conjunction with the administration, we’re making a generational change in our country that will be repeated over and over and over down through the years,” he added.
For a president increasingly besieged by political scandals, a special counsel investigation and congressional gridlock, the high court nomination secures a relatively unsung, but wide-reaching, impact on the nation.
So far Trump has more than doubled his predecessor’s rate of judicial appointments. In 18 months he has selected more than 12 percent of active appellate court judges and still more are pending before the Senate. At the district level, he’s secured 20 lifetime appointments, and another 70-plus are set to be brought up in the Senate.
“President Trump has taken advantage of an enormous political opportunity to transform the federal judiciary,” said Leonard Leo, the president’s outside adviser on judicial nominations and an official at the conservative Federalist Society, which has vetted his judicial picks. “This has been a defining feature of the president’s agenda.”
Trump was intent on maximizing the impact of his appointments by studiously seeking out a younger nominee, according to officials involved in the process. Kavanaugh, 53, could reasonably be expected to serve three decades on the high court. Trump is replacing Kennedy, the court’s swing vote for more than a decade, with an avowed conservative whose positions could upend precedents on matters from abortion to gay rights to the powers of the executive branch.
Kavanaugh, seeking to get ahead of the coming confirmation fight in the Senate, made a point of giving shout-outs in his speech to the female influences in his life, mentioning his wife, mother, daughters and female law clerks.
Trump’s landmark success on judicial nominations comes in no small part due to the work of McConnell, who oversaw a blockade on President Barack Obama’s court picks to create what White House counsel Don McGahn called an unprecedented number of vacancies to be filled by the next Republican president.
Both McConnell and Trump realized early on that the judicial vacancies could prove to be a potent political weapon, an opportunity to heighten the stakes of the campaign. In the throes of the GOP primary campaign in 2016, Trump released a Leo-approved list of nominees designed to reassure skeptical conservative voters who were slow to embrace his candidacy.
As McConnell plans a flood of judicial confirmation votes this summer and fall, the GOP is hoping to run again on the success of Trump’s judicial confirmations.
The selection of Kavanaugh marks the latest blow by the Trump administration against what conservative legal circles call the “administrative state,” an effort that goes hand in hand with widespread deregulation and efforts to limit the power of the federal bureaucracy.
Kavanaugh has been a strong voice on the D.C. circuit for reining in regulatory agencies, including an opinion, in dissent, in which he would have declared the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unconstitutional.
A senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations, said Trump decided on Kavanaugh, the front-runner throughout the search process, because of his large body of jurisprudence cited by other courts, making him, as Trump called him, “a judge’s judge.”
Trump, who ran on disrupting Washington, for the second time selected a mainline conservative to the court, following on last year’s pick of Neil Gorsuch. A member of the GOP legal elite, Kavanaugh is a darling of the legal movement promoting “originalism” that has come to the forefront in recent decades.
“A judge must interpret the law, not make the law,” Kavanaugh said, repeating a mantra of the self-proclaimed “textualists” who have made up the bulk of Trump’s judicial picks.
“The president’s not a lawyer — he doesn’t have the same detailed knowledge, but he understands at a fundamental level that the way you ensure fair judging is by making sure that judges interpret the law as it’s written,” said Leo.
Kavanaugh may have additional relevance to Trump. Once a key player in the investigation that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, Kavanaugh later wrote that the experience, coupled with his time working for President George W. Bush, had persuaded him that presidents should not have to face criminal investigations, including indictments, or civil lawsuits while they are in office.
In 2009, Kavanaugh said Congress should enact a law to defer legal action against a president until after he had left office. Some of these issues could be before the court in the event special counsel Robert Mueller tries to compel Trump’s testimony or, perhaps less likely, persuades a grand jury to indict Trump in connection with the Russia investigation.
Kavanaugh’s nomination may not be Trump’s final opportunity to cement his influence — with several aging justices, he may get one or two more picks.
Zeke Miller has reported on government and politics in Washington since 2011.
Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey and Mark Sherman contributed to this report.
Scandal-ridden EPA administrator Scott Pruitt finally resigned Thursday amid at least 14 investigations into his sordid misuse of taxpayer funds and outright corruption, becoming the latest appointee exposed in the most corrupt presidential administration in modern times, if not the entire history of America.
Pruitt’s misuse of power, which continued unabated while Donald Trump and the Republican Congressional leadership looked the other way, has been called “a range of scandals not seen since the Teapot Dome affair.”
His corruption was astounding — from his order of a $43,000 soundproof booth to first-class air travel at taxpayers’ expense to a $50-a-night condo rental from a lobbyist’s spouse to his use of aides to run errands on government time to his pursuit of a cushy job for his wife, there seemed to be no item that was too small to snatch and no item too big to turn down. In any other administration, he would have been gone months ago.
He has not divested himself of ongoing businesses which he continues to profit from. He continues to receive foreign emoluments, although multiple lawsuits seek to end what may be a constitutional violation. And the president has employed relatives who have their own conflicts, such as his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, giving foreign governments the impression that they could use his financial situation to advance their interests with the U.S. government.
In other words, a perfect appointee for a corrupt president like Donald Trump.
The most dishonest and corrupt administration in about a century is only marginally improved by the departure of Pruitt. Only with serious oversight (which likely will come only from a Democratic majority in one or both houses) can we hope to fumigate the administration. In the meantime, Congress needs to beef up ethics reporting and enforcement, make disclosure of the president’s tax returns mandatory and stiffen penalties for violations of ethics rules. Only then will we restore a modicum of normalcy to the government, which has come to resemble a corrupt banana republic.
Norman L. Eisen, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and Noah Bookbinder, executive director of that group and a former federal corruption prosecutor, say Pruitt’s problems could well be the start of the end of the corrupt reign of Trump.
Given the extent of Mr. Pruitt’s scandals and the damage he leaves behind, it is a wonder that he survived so long. Some may point to the fact that he doggedly pursued Mr. Trump’s environmental agenda, including the shredding of Obama-era commitments to reduce greenhouse emissions in the power and transportation sectors, but we are not convinced — after all, that effort didn’t work out as well as he had hoped.
A more likely explanation is that Mr. Trump did not want to let Mr. Pruitt go because the president was afraid of what it might mean for him. Mr. Trump too has endured in the face of mounting investigations and litigation. Between the Russia investigation, Michael Cohen’s potentially impending cooperation with the government, and a raft of civil cases, Mr. Trump surely knows that the legal flood around him is rising. Did he put off firing Mr. Pruitt because he was afraid to admit the taint of scandal on his administration?
While the media, and the Democrats, were getting all worked up about the mattress and the lotion and Chick-fil-A and Disneyland and the phone booth and the bulletproof seats and the rest of Pruitt’s penny-ante corruption, relatively little attention was going to the emoluments, which are of much greater value: Ivanka Trump’s trademarks and Jared Kushner’s investors and foreign governments pumping millions into Trump properties.
Now Pruitt is gone, and Trump is about to be caught with his tactical pants down.
Boasting about his tax cuts, President Donald Trump inflated his role in boosting the economy to mythical proportions, claiming full credit for U.S. growth that was already in the making and ignoring the reality of a mounting deficit. On immigration, he and administration officials repeatedly spread questionable alarms by linking weak border enforcement to pervasive crime and a “surge” in MS-13 gangs.
His statements capped a week of head-spinning assertion, fabricated history and dubious claims.
They included a contradictory tweet about his support for legislation to end family separations, a claim that Russia didn’t meddle in the 2016 election, a mangled account of Wisconsin politics and declarations of campaign promises fulfilled on an Obama-era law and veterans’ health care that don’t hold up.
A look at the claims:
TAX CUTS AND DEFICIT
TRUMP: “Six months ago, we unleashed an economic miracle by signing the biggest tax cuts and reforms …the biggest tax cuts in American history.” — remarks at tax bill event Friday.
THE FACTS: He’s exaggerating.
Rather than achieving a miracle, his tax cuts have helped stoke additional growth in an economic expansion that was already approaching its 10th year. The additional growth is largely fueled by government borrowing, as the federal deficit rises because of the tax cut. The pace of growth is expected to taper off after next year, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the Federal Reserve and outside analysts.
And while the $1.5 trillion worth of tax reductions over the next decade are substantial, they’re far from the largest in U.S. history as a share of the overall economy. The Trump tax cut ranks behind Ronald Reagan’s in the early 1980s, post-World War II tax cuts and at least several more, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which advocates for deficit reduction.
Trump listed economic achievements that build on the progress begun under President Barack Obama. The 3.8 percent unemployment rate and the historically low level of requests for jobless aid are both the result of a steady and gradual recovery from the worst economic meltdown since 1929.
Several hundred companies responded to the tax cuts by paying workers bonuses or hiking hourly wages, but any significant income growth has yet to surface in the overall economy.
The tax cuts have added on average $17 a month to people’s incomes, according to an analysis by Ernie Tedeschi, head of fiscal policy analysis at the investment firm Evercore ISI and a former Treasury Department economist. The analysis is based off consumer spending, income and inflation data released Friday.
That $17 monthly gain is helpful, but it’s far from miraculous.
WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER LARRY KUDLOW: “As the economy gears up, more people working, better jobs and careers, those revenues come rolling in, and the deficit, which is one of the other criticisms, is coming down, and it’s coming down rapidly.” — interview Friday on Fox Business Network.
THE FACTS: No, the deficit is not falling.
Since the fiscal year started in October, Treasury Department reports show the federal government has recorded a $385.4 billion deficit, a 12 percent jump from the same period in the previous year.
The Congressional Budget Office was even more blunt in a long-term assessment released Tuesday.
It estimates that the national debt — the sum of yearly deficits — will be $2.2 trillion higher in 2027 than it had previously forecast, largely a consequence of Trump’s 10-year, $1.5 trillion tax cut. The size of the debt could be even higher if provisions of the tax cut that are set to expire are, instead, renewed.
TRUMP: “The Liberal Left, also known as the Democrats, want to get rid of ICE, who do a fantastic job, and want Open Borders. Crime would be rampant and uncontrollable! Make America Great Again.” — tweet Sunday.
TRUMP: “Crime, crime, crime happens automatically when you have those open borders. The Democrats want to let the country be overrun. Just take a look at what’s going on, everybody comes in including the vile gang MS-13.” — remarks Wednesday in Fargo, North Dakota.
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: “Without this action by Congress, lawlessness at the border will continue, which will only lead to predictable results — more heroin and fentanyl pushed by Mexican cartels plaguing our communities, a surge in MS-13 gang members, and an increase in the number of human trafficking prosecutions.” — statement Wednesday arguing for legislation to address border enforcement.
THE FACTS: It’s inaccurate for Trump and his administration to assert that weak immigration enforcement is leading to “rampant” crime, including from the “vile gang MS-13.” Nor is there evidence of a “surge” in MS-13.
The group is unquestionably violent but its overall numbers are somewhat limited. The Justice Department has said there are about 10,000 MS-13 members in the U.S., the same number as more than a decade ago. MS-13 accounts for less than 1 percent of total U.S. gang membership.
Formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s by El Salvador refugees and more recently expanded in Central America, the group is indeed linked to a high number of homicides in certain parts of the U.S. Even so, an FBI report put the group well behind other gangs for crimes on the southwest border — seventh of 12 — with the Surenos, Barrio Azteca and Tango Blast ranked in the top three.
Trump suggests that weak border enforcement is contributing to crime committed by MS-13. But the gang actually has many U.S.-born members at this point — people who by virtue of U.S. citizenship can’t be denied entry based on their nationality, or deported. The government has not said recently how many members it thinks are citizens and immigrants. In notable raids on MS-13 in 2015 and 2016, most of the people caught were found to be U.S. citizens.
More broadly, Trump overgeneralizes about people who arrive illegally in the U.S. Several studies have shown that immigration does not lead to increased crime.
TRUMP: “I never pushed the Republicans in the House to vote for the Immigration Bill, either GOODLATTE 1 or 2, because it could never have gotten enough Democrats as long as there is the 60 vote threshold. I released many prior to the vote knowing we need more Republicans to win in Nov.” — tweet Saturday.
THE FACTS: Trump is contradicting himself, again, as to whether the Republican-controlled Congress should seek to pass legislation to end family separations. He tweeted just three days prior that House Republicans should approve the “STRONG BUT FAIR” bill even though Democrats wouldn’t allow it to pass the Senate.
“Passage will show that we want strong borders & security while the Dems want open borders = crime. Win!” he wrote in all caps on Wednesday.
His back and forth statements came in the aftermath of highly publicized images and cries from young immigrant children being separated from their parents at the southern border. Trump has sought to blame Democrats for failure to pass legislation, but he also previously urged Republicans to stop wasting their time on the bill until after the congressional elections in November.
The GOP-led House soundly rejected a wide-ranging immigration bill last week despite Trump’s endorsement, a vote that followed the defeat on a harder-right package that garnered more conservative support.
TRUMP: “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election! Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!” — tweet Thursday.
TRUMP: “When is Bob Mueller going to list his Conflicts of Interest? Why has it taken so long? Will they be listed at the top of his $22,000,000 Report…And what about the 13 Angry Democrats, will they list their conflicts with Crooked H?” — tweet Thursday.
THE FACTS: Trump repeats Russia’s denial that it had meddled in the 2016 election, even though the U.S. intelligence community determined that Russia had indeed intervened to help Trump. Many Republicans and Democrats have said they accept the findings of that intelligence assessment, including Trump’s own Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has warned that Russia will likely try to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections.
The Senate intelligence committee said in May it had uncovered no reason to dispute the conclusions of the intelligence assessment released in 2017. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the committee, said his staff spent 14 months “reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work” conducted by the intelligence agencies in accepting its conclusion.
Trump also refers to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team as “13 angry Democrats,” but Mueller is a Republican and some others on his team owe their jobs largely to Republican presidents. Some have indeed given money to Democratic candidates over the years. But Mueller could not have barred them from serving on that basis because regulations prohibit the consideration of political affiliation for personnel actions involving career attorneys. Mueller reports to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a Trump appointee.
TRUMP: “When we won the state of Wisconsin, it hadn’t been won by a Republican since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952. Did you know that? And I won Wisconsin … And Ronald Reagan, remember, Wisconsin was the state that Ronald Reagan did not win.” — remarks Thursday in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin.
THE FACTS: He’s wrong. Eisenhower won the Badger State, in 1952 as well as 1956, but so did Reagan in the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections. Wisconsin also helped elect Republican Richard Nixon to the White House in 1968 and 1972, and gave him its backing as well in 1960, when Democrat John F. Kennedy won the presidency.
TRUMP: “We’ve eliminated horrible policies that burdened young Americans. You were burdened by things that were really, in some cases, insurmountable, including the individual mandate in Obamacare. A disaster. That’s where you pay a lot of money for the privilege of not buying health insurance. Right? One of the worst things. It’s gone.” — remarks Wednesday to college students at the White House.
TRUMP: “Obamacare is largely gone now.” — remarks Thursday in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin.
THE FACTS: Trump’s suggestion that the sweeping Obama-era health law has wholly burdened young Americans is misleading.
Federal studies have found the Affordable Care Act’s popular provision requiring employers and insurers to keep young adults on parental coverage until age 26 has helped millions of young people transitioning from school to work, or trying to start a career. Previously, the age at which insurance companies often forced children from their parents’ plans was 19.
Since 2010, when the new provision went into effect, the number of those 19-25 who were uninsured fell by more than half, to 4.5 million last year.
Regarding the individual mandate, while Congress did repeal the requirement that most Americans carry insurance or risk a tax penalty, that doesn’t take effect until next year. People who go without insurance this year are still subject to fines.
Other major parts of the Obama-era overhaul remain in place, including its Medicaid expansion, protections for people with pre-existing conditions, guaranteed “essential” health benefits, and subsidized private health insurance for people with modest incomes.
TRUMP, on reducing wait times for veterans seeking medical care: “The vets would be in line for 13 days, 18 days, 3 weeks, 7 days and they’d start off and they wouldn’t be in bad shape. And sometimes it would take so long before seeing a doctor that they would be terminally ill….Why don’t they just go to a doctor — local — that’s looking for the business? …We got it done. I signed it.” — remarks at Wednesday’s rally in Fargo, North Dakota.
THE FACTS: No, fulfilling his campaign promise of reducing wait times by giving veterans access to private-sector care is not done.
Trump signed into law last month a bill that would ease restrictions on private care. But its success in significantly reducing wait times for appointments depends in large part on an overhaul of VA’s electronic medical records to allow for a seamless sharing of records with private physicians. That overhaul will take at least 10 years to be complete.
Currently, only veterans who endure waits of at least 30 days — not “13 days, 18 days, 3 weeks, 7 days” — for an appointment at a VA facility are eligible to receive care from private doctors at government expense. Under a newly expanded Choice program that will take at least a year to implement, veterans will still have to meet certain criteria before they can see a private physician.
A recent Government Accountability Report found that despite the Choice program’s guarantee of providing an appointment within 30 days, veterans waited an average of 51 to 64 days. Pressed at his confirmation hearing Wednesday, VA secretary nominee Robert Wilkie declined to commit the VA to meeting the 30-day standard. He pledged to push interim fixes and better training for VA schedulers to help speed appointments.
Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report.
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President Donald Trump is distorting the truth when it comes to the impact of his administration’s policy regarding separating children from their parents at the U.S. border.
He falsely suggests that a newly signed executive order will permanently solve the problem of separations by keeping families together when they are detained for illegally crossing the border and exaggerates the number of immigration judges available to process their claims while they’re held in custody. A growing backlog of claims could mean that people will be held longer in detention until their cases are heard.
Among other questionable statements this past week, Trump declares that total denuclearization in North Korea has already begun, repeats misleading claims about the Russia probe and doesn’t tell the full story about the creation of new U.S. jobs and rising wages.
A look at some of his statements and the reality behind them:
TRUMP: “And ultimately, we have to have a real border — not judges. Thousands and thousands of judges they want to hire. Who are these people? When we vet a single federal judge, it goes through a big process. Now we’re hiring thousands and thousands. … And it got so crazy that all of these thousands — we now have thousands of judges — border judges — thousands and thousands.” — remarks Tuesday to the National Federation of Independent Business.
TRUMP: “We shouldn’t be hiring judges by the thousands, as our ridiculous immigration laws demand, we should be changing our laws, building the Wall, hire Border Agents and Ice and not let people come into our country based on the legal phrase they are told to say as their password.” — tweet Thursday.
THE FACTS: He’s incorrect about the U.S. having “thousands and thousands” of immigration judges and about thousands more judges being hired. The Justice Department’s immigration courts division has about 335 judges currently on staff nationwide, with the budget for 150 additional judges.
Dana Leigh Marks, past president of the National Association of Immigration Judges who also works in the Justice Department’s executive office for immigration review, said funding for immigration courts has increased modestly amid a growing backlog of cases. With a backlog of 700,000, each judge would have to take on more than 2,000 cases apiece to clear the docket.
The figures also don’t take into account a wave of expected retirements that would shrink the ranks of judges. A June 2017 Government Accountability Office report determined that 39 percent of immigration judges are now eligible for retirement. Congressional investigators blamed the mounting caseload in part on the slow hiring of immigration judges and said the federal government needed to do a better job to address staffing needs.
TRUMP: “We’re keeping families together, and this will solve that problem.” — remarks Wednesday at signing of order to halt his administration’s policy of separating children from their parents when they are detained illegally crossing the U.S. border.
THE FACTS: It doesn’t solve the problem.
Trump’s executive order will continue his “zero tolerance policy” of criminally prosecuting all adults caught crossing the border illegally, and will now seek to keep families together in detention instead of separating them while their legal cases are heard by the courts.
But a 1997 landmark settlement known as the Flores agreement that generally bars the government from keeping children in immigration detention for more than 20 days remains in place. Trump is seeking to have the settlement overturned, but his Justice Department says the 20-day policy remains in effect until Congress or the courts take action to change that.
That means without further action from Congress or the courts, the Trump administration could be forced to again separate the immigrant children from their parents in three weeks.
TRUMP: “The big thing is, it will be a total denuclearization, which has already started taking place.” — remarks Thursday at Cabinet meeting.
THE FACTS: That’s not what his Pentagon chief, Jim Mattis, says. When asked by a reporter on Wednesday whether he had seen any sign that North Korea had begun steps toward denuclearization, Mattis replied, “I’m not aware of any. Obviously, we’re at the very front end of the process. Detailed negotiations have not begun.”
At a Singapore summit with Trump earlier this month, North Korea’s leader committed to “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” but no details were worked out.
In May, prior to the summit, North Korea demolished tunnels at its sole underground nuclear test site, although outsiders have not inspected the result. Its nuclear program has many other elements, including nuclear materials production facilities, nuclear warheads, ballistic missiles and missile launchers.
TRUMP: “We have created more than 3.4 million new jobs since Election Day. 3.4 million. Think of what that means.” — remarks Tuesday to the National Federation of Independent Business.
THE FACTS: Well, one thing it means is that job creation has slowed a bit compared to its previous pace. Trump is right that U.S. companies have added 3.4 million jobs in the 18 months since his election, a healthy total. But in the previous 18 months, 3.7 million jobs were added. That’s not entirely surprising or a sign of a weakening economy — job gains typically decline as the unemployment rate falls and there are fewer people to hire. The unemployment rate is currently at an 18-year low of 3.8 percent. But Trump’s remarks suggest there has been a turnaround in job creation, when there hasn’t.
TRUMP: “Wages for working people are finally, after 22 years, rising again in our country.” — remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: Wages, before adjusting for inflation, have ticked up in recent months. But so has inflation, which is offsetting those gains. In May, average hourly pay rose 2.7 percent from a year earlier. Yet inflation rose slightly more during that time: 2.8 percent. Household incomes rose at a solid pace in 2015 and 2016, according to the Census Bureau, partly because inflation was much lower during that time.
TRUMP, on a health insurance option for small businesses and self-employed people: “You’re going to save massive amounts of money and have much better health care. It’s going to cost you much less. It’s going to be, I think, fantastic. And it’s very comprehensive. I will tell you, a lot of people — big, big percentages of this country — are going to be doing that.” — remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: Trump paints an overly rosy picture. It’s not projected that “big, big percentages” of people will benefit.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates a more modest impact of 4 million people who will be covered by the plans within five years but only some 400,000 — just 10 percent of those — who would have been uninsured. That’s compared to about 160 million who are covered by job-based insurance.
TRUMP: “‘I can’t think of something more concerning than a law enforcement officer suggesting that their (sic) going to use their powers to affect an election!’ Inspector General Horowitz on what was going on with numerous people regarding my election. A Rigged Witch Hunt!” — tweet Tuesday.
THE FACTS: Trump’s statement is misleading. He suggests that findings of a Justice Department watchdog report by inspector general Michael Horowitz on the 2016 Hillary Clinton email investigation means that special counsel Robert Mueller’s separate Russia probe — which he often criticizes as a “witch hunt” — is “rigged.” The IG report determined that the FBI had made mistakes in the handling of the Clinton probe, which Horowitz did describe as “extremely serious.” But Horowitz also dismissed the notion that the probe had been “rigged,” saying that investigators did not uncover evidence that political bias had influenced the FBI’s conclusion that Clinton should not be prosecuted.
The IG report released last week also did not address questions of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the subject of the investigation led by Mueller, who was appointed last year to take over the FBI’s Russia probe after Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey.
TRUMP: “We’ve eliminated record numbers of job-killing regulations … we’ve cut more regulation than any other president in the history of our country whether it’s four years, eight years or in one case 16 years, we’ve cut more regulations in 500 days than any president. Even our 16-year president.” — remarks Wednesday at Duluth rally.
THE FACTS: Trump gets his history wrong, repeating a claim that a U.S. president once served 16 years. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the country’s longest-serving president, died after serving 12 years in office from 1933 to 1945.
TRUMP, on the return of remains from the Korean War: “We got back our great fallen heroes, the remains sent back today, already 200 have been sent back.” — remarks Wednesday.
THE FACTS: No remains have been returned, although Pentagon officials say they are prepared to receive them. Although the Singapore declaration said this would happen immediately, U.S. officials have given no indication that North Korea has committed to any specific timetable for the return.
On Thursday, in remarks at a Cabinet meeting, Trump modified his claim, saying, “They’ve already sent back or are in the process of sending back the remains of our great heroes who died in North Korea during the war.”
Aside from uncertainty over when North Korea will return the remains it has collected over the years, it’s unclear whether all will be in a condition to permit their positive identification, or whether they all are even Americans. A number of allied soldiers who fought alongside the U.S. during the war also are missing.
Nearly 7,700 American service members are listed as unaccounted for from the Korean War, of which an estimated 5,300 were lost in North Korea.
TRUMP: “There was a story two days ago, in a major newspaper, talking about people living in Canada, coming into the United States, and smuggling things back into Canada because the tariffs are so massive. The tariffs to get common items back into Canada are so high that they have to smuggle them in. They buy shoes, then they wear them. They scuff them up. … We’re treated horribly.” —remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: The president appears to be referring to a column in the New York Post about Canadians who buy shoes, jeans and outdoor goods in the United States and take them into Canada without paying duties or taxes. In some cases, the items aren’t available in Canada or were more expensive.
But most items made in the United States, including shoes, can be imported into Canada duty-free under NAFTA, an agreement that Trump has strongly criticized and is renegotiating with Canada and Mexico.
For its part, the United States imposes some of its highest tariffs on shoe imports. Duties on footwear average nearly 11 percent but for some products can reach nearly 68 percent, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission.
Yet even with the higher costs imposed by tariffs, roughly 95 percent of shoes in the United States are imported from countries like China, Vietnam and Italy, the ITC says.
TRUMP: “The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!” — tweet Monday.
TRUMP: “Crime in Germany is up 10% plus (officials do not want to report these crimes) since migrants were accepted.” — tweet Tuesday.
THE FACTS: Crime in Germany is not “way up.” It’s actually dropped to the lowest in a quarter century.
According to official crime statistics released last month, crime in Germany dropped nearly 10 percent in 2017 compared with the previous year. Police recorded a total number of 5.8 million crimes last year, compared with 6.4 million cases in 2016. It was the lowest figure since 1992.
While violent crime declined, the number of homicides increased 3.2 percent last year. Several high-profile killings in which migrants were suspects made national headlines in recent years, even as others where the suspects were German received less attention.
Trump cites no examples of how migrants have “strongly and violently” changed European culture, except to make his erroneous claim about crime in Germany.
Although there are noticeably more recent arrivals in the cities, there’s little sign of German culture being eroded by the influx of more than 1 million asylum seekers since 2015, primarily from Muslim countries.
Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington, Elliot Spagat in San Diego, and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.
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Donald Trump lied outright in his tweet that claimed Republicans applauded loudly when he mentioned his work against South Carolinian Mark Sanford, who lost his Congressional seat in last week’s state primary, say three Republicans members of the House at the meeting.
“Had a great meeting with the House GOP last night at the Capitol,” Trump claimed in a tweet Wednesday. “They applauded and laughed loudly when I mentioned my experience with Mark Sanford. I have never been fan of his.”
Applause? Nope. Boos. Yep. The party of Trump booed him when he called Sanford “a nasty guy.”
Didn’t happen, said Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash. He and other House Republicans were “disgusted” with Trump’s remarks.
“House Republicans had front row seats to @POTUS’s dazzling display of pettiness and insecurity,” Amash tweeted. “Nobody applauded or laughed. People were disgusted.”
Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania said no Republican cheered.
“Categorically false,” he tweeted after Trump’s latest lies.
Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee was another Republican who said Trump’s claims were wrong.
Normally, Republicans disgusted with Trump keep quiet when he lies but three came out after his gloated about any role he might have played in Sanford’s defeat to state Rep. Katie Arrington, who says she will be “more supportive” of Trump.
Costello is not seeking re-election this year, saying he is leaving Congress because of the “partisan political environment.”
Donald Trump met with Republican members of Congress at the White House Wednesday to tell them to back off on attempts to scrap his attempts to help Chinese telecom firm ZTE, claiming his efforts to help the company is part of a “broader geopolitical negotiating strategy.”
Some close to Trump say his claims are just another lie. He really wants to help ZTE to help Chinese president Xi Jinping, who in turn granted a profitable string of trademarks that mean millions in new business for daughter Ivanka.
In question too is Chinese government support of an Indonesian real estate development that will include several Trump-brand properties. The Chinese government issued $500 million in loans to the project just a few days before Trump announced his support for ZTE.
Trump ordered the Commerce Department to water down sanctions and penalties against ZTE right after Ivanka Trump got the trademarks and after the Chinese boss lobbied him for help with ZTE.
David J. Apol, acting director and general counsel for the federal government’s ethic office says Trump’s business dealings “raise serious concerns” but adds that he does not have the power to launch any investigations. Such investigations are the purview of Congress, which is controlled by the party of Trump.
ZTE is also believed to be heavily involved in hacking American government and business operations and was heavily fined and sanctioned by Congress.
The sanctions barred ZTE from buying American products, including semiconductors, for seven years as punishment for violating United States sanctions against Iran and North Korea but Commerce — under orders from Trump — decided to levy a $1 billion fine on the company along with orders to replace senior leadership and install American compliance officers.
Trump also wants to develop real estate properties in China and knows the penalties on ZTE could bring that effort to an unprofitable halt.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, high-ranking GOP leader in the Senate, says lawmakers are willing to compromise.
The House, which marches to any tune Trump issues, has already axed the penalty but the Senate can still leave it in place.
“We came to no conclusion that I could discern,” said Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin. “This type of meeting really isn’t one where you’d think you will really come to any conclusion.”
The decisions will be one where the Senate decides to serve the nation or fatten Trump’s bank account.
Steve Schmidt was a “go-to” political strategist and consultant for Republicans.
Schmidt, “Smitty” to those who worked closely with him, served both President George W. Bush in the successful 2004 Presidential election and Sen. John McCain for his unsuccessful attempt to win the job in 2008.
In McCain’s campaign, Smitty talked the candidate into bringing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin into the fray as the vice presidential running mate.
Unleashing Palin onto the national political stage helped turn politics into even more of a carnival sideshow.
Smitty thought Palin, a “different type of candidate who upset the natural order of things” might upset the celebrity buzz that surrounded opponent Barack Obama.
For a while, it seemed to work. McCain led the polls and Paliln was the focus of much media and voter attention. She attracted the gun fanciers with tales of hunting big game in Alaska. She seemed more she was — which soon became the problem.
In briefings, Palen turned out to be ignorant of policy and shallow when it came to general knowledge of how government worked. She said incredibly stupid things, like claiming she could “see the coast of Russia” from Alaska.
She fell apart in a critical interview with Katie Couric and went rogue with statements and actions that showcased her ignorance and outright stupidity.
Palin brought McCain down but her presence on a national presidential ticket laid groundwork for other pretenders and wannabes — like Donald John Trump.
Smitty realized that Wednesday when he renounced his three decades as a Republican and urged voters to cast their ballots for Democrats in the midterm elections this November.
In a series of tweets on Twitter, Schmidt announced:
29 years and nine months ago I registered to vote and became a member of The Republican Party which was founded in 1854 to oppose slavery and stand for the dignity of human life. Today I renounce my membership in the Republican Party. It is fully the party of Trump.
It is corrupt, indecent and immoral. With the exception of a few Governors like Baker, Hogan and Kasich it is filled with feckless cowards who disgrace and dishonor the legacies of the party’s greatest leaders. This child separation policy is connected to the worst abuses of humanity in our history. It is connected by the same evil that separated families during slavery and dislocated tribes and broke up Native American families. It is immoral and must be repudiated. Our country is in trouble. Our politics are badly broken. The first step to a season of renewal in our land is the absolute and utter repudiation of Trump and his vile enablers in the 2018 election by electing Democratic majorities. I do not say this as an advocate of a progressive agenda. I say it as someone who retains belief in DEMOCRACY and decency.
On Ronald Reagan’s grave are these words. “ I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.” He would be ashamed of McConnell and Ryan and all the rest while this corrupt government establishes internment camps for babies. Everyone of these complicit leaders will carry this shame through history. There legacies will be ones of well earned ignominy. They have disgraced their country and brought dishonor to the Party of Lincoln.
I have spent much of my life working in GOP politics. I have always believed that both parties were two of the most important institutions to the advancement of human freedom and dignity in the history of the world. Today the GOP has become a danger to our democracy and values.
This Independent voter will be aligned with the only party left in America that stands for what is right and decent and remains fidelitous to our Republic, objective truth, the rule of law and our Allies. That party is the Democratic Party.
Strong words but also ones that needed to be said.
Peevish little spoiled brat Donald Trump is complaining that he’s not getting enough credit for his stage, reality-show styled summit that wasn’t with North Korean Kim Jong Un.
Even his Republican lockstep followers offer — at best — lukewarm thoughts while Democrats, America’s shrinking number of allies around the world and the media at large call it vague and lacking of details and clear objectives.
Wake up Trumpie. Your bluster and constant lies continue to make and more Americans realize that you are — at best — a blowhard con artist and — most likely — a traitor who threatens the future of this nation far more than the boyish leader of North Korea or any other enemy.
You flew off to Singapore after lambasting and insulting close allies at the G-7 meeting in Canada and praised a terrorist nation where its leader killed his brother to gain power and murdered thousands of his own countrymen.
You hugged Kim Jong Un, saluted his military and praised his “toughness” because you, as a wannabe despot, wants his kind of control over what is supposed to be a Democratic Republic here in America.
In Trump’s world, constant and unearned praise is demanded, even when it is not deserved — which is the case most often.
“He’s his own communications director. Once again his press team is trying to catch up to him,” GOP consultant Alex Conant told the Washington post. “He’s focused more on the optics than the policy, which is a trend we’ve seen throughout this presidency.”
Notes Laura Rosenberger, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and senior fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States:
Simply agreeing to the summit was a surrender of one of the United States’ greatest sources of leverage. When Trump walked across the stage to grasp Kim’s hand Tuesday against the backdrop of U.S. and North Korean flags, Kim won a recognition and status that he, his father and his grandfather had long sought.
Meanwhile, Kim has been treated as a cross of statesman and rock star — with gawking onlookers snapping photos of him as he toured Singapore and Singaporean officials posing for selfies with him out on the town, whitewashing the brutal dictator’s image.
And what did we get in exchange? A vague agreement that includes less favorable language on denuclearization than previous statements had — and no mention of how to verify that North Korea is complying; the resumption of POW/MIA remains recovery, which is an important humanitarian issue but will require working out additional details; and aspirational pledges, echoing previous agreements, on improving bilateral relations, developing a peace regime and providing security assurances. In remarks after the summit, Trump referred to several commitments the text doesn’t include at all, including the closure of a missile test site in North Korea (experts aren’t clear to what this refers) and the ending of “war games” with South Korea (to the surprise of South Korea and the Pentagon, and with an already evolving definition). It seems quite possible that on this or other issues — such as verification, which Trump danced around in his post-summit comments and interviews — Trump and Kim could come away with different understandings of these vague commitments, or Trump’s definitions could evolve, as has happened on other issues. Such a misunderstanding could blow up the talks and put both countries back on the path toward confrontation.
She adds that Trump’s ego is “not just misguided. Trump’s one-man show does not equal diplomacy, and it pus the United States at significant disadvantage.”
Trump, of course, came out of the summit convinced that he is a great deal maker. He always claims that everything he does is “the best” and “record-setting” and “something we have never done before.”
In reality, Donald Trump is a madman, a threat and a traitor to America. He should be treated as such.
President Donald Trump is claiming exoneration in the Russia matter from a Justice Department report that actually offers him none. He’s also branding fired FBI chief James Comey a criminal, though the report in question makes no such accusation.
Fallout from the internal report by the department’s inspector general capped a week of diplomacy with North Korea, trade spats on several fronts and growing attention to an immigration policy that is splitting children from parents after their arrests at the border. Trump dropped misrepresentations into the mix at every turn.
TRUMP: “I think that the report yesterday, maybe more importantly than anything, it totally exonerates me. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. And if you read the report, you’ll see that. … I think that the Mueller investigation has been totally discredited.” — remarks to reporters Friday.
THE FACTS: The report neither exonerated nor implicated Trump. It did not make any findings about collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice. It did not discredit, or give credence to, special counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing investigation into Russian interference in the election and ties between the Trump campaign and Russians. The report was about the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email practices.
TRUMP on Comey: “Certainly he, they just seem like criminal acts to me. What he did was criminal. … Should he be locked up? Let somebody make a determination.” — to Fox News on Friday.
THE FACTS: The report does not substantiate Trump’s lock-him-up rhetoric. Comey was roundly faulted by the inspector general for violating FBI practices and for insubordination in making public statements about the Clinton investigation at the height of the presidential campaign. The report also revealed communications among some FBI employees who plainly wanted Trump to lose. But it does not support Trump’s complaint that political bias influenced the conduct of the email investigation into his Democratic rival.
Nor does it allege any criminal behavior by Comey, who has been accused by Clinton supporters of taking actions that hurt her election chances.
Trump, on family separations at the border: “The Democrats forced that law upon our nation. I hate it. I hate to see separation of parents and children.” And: “I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That’s their law.” — remarks to reporters Friday.
THE FACTS: It’s not their law. There is no law mandating the separation of children and parents at the border.
The separations are a consequence of a Trump administration policy to maximize criminal prosecutions of people caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally. That means more adults are jailed, pending trial, so their children are removed from them. Before the policy, many people who were accused of illegal entry and did not have a criminal record were merely referred for civil deportation proceedings, which generally did not break up families.
The policy was announced April 6 and went into effect in May. From April 19 to May 31, 1,995 children were separated from 1,940 adults, according to Homeland Security statistics obtained by The Associated Press. The figures are for people who tried to enter the U.S. between official border crossings.
Trump’s repeated, but nonspecific references to a Democratic law appear to involve one enacted in 2008. It passed unanimously in Congress and was signed by Republican President George W. Bush. It was focused on freeing and otherwise helping children who come to the border without a parent or guardian. It does not call for family separation.
TRUMP: “The economy is the best it’s ever been with employment being at an all-time high.” — tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Thanks largely to population growth, the number of people with jobs is, in fact, at a record high of 155.5 million. But a more relevant measure — the proportion of Americans with jobs — isn’t even close to a record.
Last month, 60.4 percent of Americans 16 and older had jobs. That is up from the recession and its aftermath, when many Americans stopped looking for work. It bottomed out at 58.2 percent in July 2011. Both figures are far below the record high of 64.7 percent, which was briefly reached in 2000. At the beginning of the 2008-2009 recession, 62.7 percent of Americans had jobs.
Economists estimate that at least half of the decline reflects ongoing retirements by the huge baby boom generation. For Americans in their prime working years — age 25 through 54 — roughly 79 percent have jobs. That’s up substantially from the post-recession low of 74.8 percent in November 2010. But it’s below the record of 81.9 percent in April 2000.
TRUMP: “Oil prices are too high, OPEC is at it again. Not good!” — tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: He oversimplifies the reasons for increased prices.
OPEC is the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Members of the cartel, led by Saudi Arabia, and other big producers including Russia have contributed to reversing the plunge in crude oil prices that started in 2014. They have shown discipline in limiting production since the start of last year, helping push up the benchmark price of international crude.
Prices, however, were already rising on growing demand and expectations that a sharp pullback in new investment by oil companies would reduce the oil supply.
Some estimates put the post-crash reduction in investment by major oil companies such as Exxon Mobil, Chevron and BP at more than $1 trillion — almost akin to eliminating the fourth-largest oil producer in the world.
Meanwhile, output from Venezuela, a major oil exporter to the U.S., has plunged as the South American country goes through a political and economic crisis.
Then there is Iran, OPEC’s third-biggest producer. Iran boosted production after the U.S. lifted sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program in 2016. But analysts expect output to fall when Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal takes full effect later this year.
TRUMP: “Fair Trade is now to be called Fool Trade if it is not Reciprocal. According to a Canada release, they make almost 100 Billion Dollars in Trade with U.S. (guess they were bragging and got caught!). Minimum is 17B. Tax Dairy from us at 270%.” — tweet June 10. Two days earlier: “Canada charges the U.S. a 270% tariff on Dairy Products! They didn’t tell you that, did they? Not fair to our farmers!”
THE FACTS: He’s not telling the whole story. While Canadian dairy tariffs average nearly 249 percent, the troubles that U.S. dairy farmers face can’t all be blamed on Canada.
Canadian trade policies have had only a “tiny impact” on America’s struggling dairy farmers, says Daniel Sumner, an agricultural economist at the University of California, Davis.
Despite Canadian barriers, the United States last year ran a $474 million trade surplus in dairy with Canada, and exported $636 million in dairy products to Canada while importing $162 million, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.
Dairy is barely a blip — 0.1 percent — in U.S.-Canada trade, which amounted to $680 billion last year. As a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement, “99 percent of the trade between Canada and the U.S. is tariff-free,” said Bruce Heyman, former U.S. ambassador to Canada. Overall, the U.S. ran a nearly $3 billion surplus in trade with Canada last year.
TRUMP: “Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea…” —tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: His claim that there is no nuclear threat is an exaggeration. The five-hour nuclear summit gave the two leaders an opportunity to express optimism. But it didn’t nail down how and when North Korea might denuclearize.
North Korea is still believed to have a significant nuclear arsenal that could potentially threaten the U.S. Independent experts say the North could have enough fissile material for anywhere between about a dozen and 60 nuclear bombs. Last year, it tested long-range missiles that could range the U.S. mainland although it remains unclear if it has mastered the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead that could re-enter the atmosphere and hit its target.
TRUMP: Before taking office people were assuming that we were going to War with North Korea. President (Barack) Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer – sleep well tonight!” — tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Trump is wrong to say there was an assumption before he took office that the United States would go to war. Obama had used sanctions to no avail to try to halt North Korea’s nuclear program. But it wasn’t until after Trump took office that North Korea’s testing of an intercontinental ballistic missile and rhetoric between the two leaders heightened talk of war.
TRUMP: “Chairman Kim and I just signed a joint statement in which he reaffirms his unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We also agreed to vigorous negotiations to implement the agreement as soon as possible, and he wants to do that. This isn’t the past. This isn’t another administration that never got it started and, therefore, never got it done.” — remarks Tuesday at news conference with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.
THE FACTS: He’s wrong in suggesting his administration is the first to start on denuclearization with North Korea. The Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations both did so.
Clinton reached an aid-for-disarmament deal in 1994 that halted North Korea’s plutonium production for eight years, freezing what was then a very small nuclear arsenal. Bush took a tougher stance toward North Korea, and the 1994 nuclear deal collapsed because of suspicions that the North was running a secret uranium enrichment program. Bush, too, ultimately pursued negotiations. That led to a temporary disabling of some nuclear facilities, but talks fell apart because of differences over verification.
TRUMP: “He actually mentioned the fact that they proceeded down a path in the past and ultimately as you know nothing got done. In one case, they took billions of dollars during the Clinton regime. … Took billions of dollars and nothing happened.” He said of Clinton: “He spent $3 billion and got nothing.” — remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: His numbers are incorrect. The Clinton administration, which he calls a “regime,” and the Bush administration combined provided some $1.3 billion in assistance from 1995 to 2008, says the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan arm of Congress. Slightly more than half was for food aid and 40 percent for energy assistance.
He’s also wrong in saying “nothing happened” in return. North Korea stopped producing plutonium for eight years under the 1994 agreement. Just how much was achieved, though, is in question, because of the suspicions that emerged later that North Korea had been secretly seeking to enrich uranium.
TRUMP, on Kim’s agreement to work to repatriate the remains of prisoners of the Korean War and those missing in action from the conflict: “He gave us the remains of our great heroes.” — remarks to reporters Friday.
THE FACTS: That’s false. No remains have been returned since the summit, as of Friday. The last time North Korea turned over remains was in 2007, when Bill Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador and New Mexico governor, secured the return of six sets.
TRUMP: “He’s giving us back the remains of probably 7,500 soldiers.” — to Fox News on Friday.
TRUMP: “I asked for it today. And we got it. … So, for the thousands and thousands, I guess way over 6,000 that we know of in terms of the remains, they’ll be brought back.” — remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: Also wrong. About 5,300 U.S. troops are still unaccounted for from North Korea.
Trump is also glossing over the surely impossible odds of locating the remains of all Americans missing from the war, more than six decades later. Several thousand are still missing in South Korea despite its close alliance and history of cooperation with the U.S.
North Korea and the United States remain technically at war because the 1950-53 fighting ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. But between 1996 and 2005, joint U.S.-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 joint recovery operations and recovered 229 sets of American remains.
TRUMP: “I remember a nuclear event took place, 8.8 on the Richter scale, and they announced — I heard it on the radio, they announced that a massive, you know, an earthquake took place somewhere in Asia. And then they said it was in North Korea, and then they found out it was a nuclear test, I said, I never heard of a Richter scale in the high eights.” — remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: North Korea had no earthquake last year approaching that level of severity. This isn’t the first time he has misrepresented the episode.
North Korea tested what it called a hydrogen bomb in September, causing an underground blast so big it registered as a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. Other nuclear tests last year were associated with smaller seismic events.
An 8.8 quake would be 316 times bigger — and release 5,623 times more energy — than a 6.3.
In the past 15 years there have been three earthquakes that were an 8.8 or higher: the 9.1 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011 that killed nearly 16,000 people, a 9.1 earthquake and tsunami off northern Sumatra in 2004 that killed about 250,000 people and an 8.8 earthquake off Chile in 2010 that killed 524.
Associated Press writers Christopher Rugaber, Colleen Long, Matthew Pennington, Seth Borenstein and Paul Wiseman in Washington, David Koenig in Dallas and Elliot Spagat in San Francisco contributed to this report.
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