Trump’s blustery myths obscure truth about hurricanes, etc.

President Donald Trump, left, talks about Hurricane Florence during a briefing in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington as FEMA Administrator Brock Long listens. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

In a stormy week, President Donald Trump blustered and distorted reality, denying massive deaths from a hurricane that scientists believe to be one of the nation’s deadliest and blowing out of proportion U.S. economic growth and his role in spurring it.

He’s insisting the federal response to Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico last September, was “incredibly successful,” even though blackouts there remain common and several forms of federal aid have been slow to arrive compared with past disasters. Independent researchers have estimated the death toll was nearly 3,000 people. Trump is rejecting that work, claiming it’s a conspiracy by Democrats and isn’t true.

And as the November elections near, Trump is citing record-breaking middle-class income that isn’t so and exaggerating progress on his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

At the same time, some of Trump’s critics were not entirely immune from hyperbole.

Former President Barack Obama asserted “healthy” economic growth during his administration that is in dispute and a Democratic lawmaker blamed all the estimated deaths from Puerto Rico’s hurricane on the Trump administration, as if the storm itself took no one.

A look at some of the recent claims:

MIDDLE-CLASS INCOME

TRUMP: “‘Middle-Class Income Hits All-Time High!’ @foxandfriends And will continue to rise (unless the Dems get in and destroy what we have built).” — tweet Thursday.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: “Just today, if you hadn’t heard about it yet, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that, last year, middle-class incomes in America hit an all-time high — that’s worth celebrating — for working families.” — remarks Wednesday in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

THE FACTS: These assertions are an example of how Trump and other administration officials often seek credit for trends in place before they took office. Trump’s own Census Bureau also cast doubt on the claims.

Median U.S. household income — the level at which half of the U.S. population earns more and half less — grew 5.1 percent in 2015 and 3.1 percent in 2016, during the Obama administration. It was the fastest two-year growth on records dating to 1967. In 2017, Trump’s first year in office, median income grew at a slower pace of 1.8 percent to reach a In a stormy week, President Donald Trump blustered and distorted reality, denying massive deaths from a hurricane that scientists believe to be one of the nation’s deadliest and blowing out of proportion U.S. economic growth and his role in spurring it.

He’s insisting the federal response to Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico last September, was “incredibly successful,” even though blackouts there remain common and several forms of federal aid have been slow to arrive compared with past disasters. Independent researchers have estimated the death toll was nearly 3,000 people. Trump is rejecting that work, claiming it’s a conspiracy by Democrats and isn’t true.

And as the November elections near, Trump is citing record-breaking middle-class income that isn’t so and exaggerating progress on his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

At the same time, some of Trump’s critics were not entirely immune from hyperbole.

Former President Barack Obama asserted “healthy” economic growth during his administration that is in dispute and a Democratic lawmaker blamed all the estimated deaths from Puerto Rico’s hurricane on the Trump administration, as if the storm itself took no one.

A look at some of the recent claims:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi slammed President Donald Trump for dismissing death toll in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. (Sept. 14)

MIDDLE-CLASS INCOME

TRUMP: “‘Middle-Class Income Hits All-Time High!’ @foxandfriends And will continue to rise (unless the Dems get in and destroy what we have built).” — tweet Thursday.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: “Just today, if you hadn’t heard about it yet, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that, last year, middle-class incomes in America hit an all-time high — that’s worth celebrating — for working families.” — remarks Wednesday in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

THE FACTS: These assertions are an example of how Trump and other administration officials often seek credit for trends in place before they took office. Trump’s own Census Bureau also cast doubt on the claims.

Median U.S. household income — the level at which half of the U.S. population earns more and half less — grew 5.1 percent in 2015 and 3.1 percent in 2016, during the Obama administration. It was the fastest two-year growth on records dating to 1967. In 2017, Trump’s first year in office, median income grew at a slower pace of 1.8 percent to reach what technically was an all-time high, adjusted for inflation, of $61,372.

The Census Bureau, however, warned in its report Wednesday that after adjusting for changes in its methodology in 2013, last year’s figure was not actually an all-time high. Instead, it remained slightly below 1999′s level of $61,966, though the bureau noted that the difference was minor.

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OBAMA: “And by the time I left office, household income was near its all-time high.” — rally Sept. 7 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

THE FACTS: That’s true, though it was a long time coming. According to the Census Bureau, in 2016 the typical household earned $59,039, adjusted for inflation, nearly matching the peak it reached in 1999. Another way of looking at those figures, of course, is that the U.S. middle class essentially went 17 years, Obama’s two terms included, without a raise.

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BORDER WALL

TRUMP: “We’re building the wall, not only building it, we’ve already started it. We’ve started the wall. $1.6 billion last year, $1.6 billion this year, we’re rapidly in San Diego and other parts of the country. We’re picking the locations that are worse.” — remarks Sept. 7 at fundraising event in South Dakota.

THE FACTS: Trump’s suggestion that he secured $3.2 billion for construction of a wall along the U.S-Mexico border is wrong. Nor is the construction underway adding any mileage to what’s already in place.

Congress allocated $1.6 billion for the wall and related security measures this year. The administration requested an additional $1.6 billion next year to add 65 miles (104 kilometers) of wall in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley but has not received any of it. Legislative leaders in the House and Senate pledged agreement this past week on a short-term spending bill that would not address wall money. GOP leaders have said they preferred to resolve the issue after the Nov. 6 elections.

Trump is correct that wall construction is underway in San Diego — as well as Santa Teresa, New Mexico, and Calexico, California — but it replaces or fortifies existing barriers. Barriers currently blanket 654 miles (1,046 kilometers), or roughly one-third of the border with Mexico, much of it built under President George W. Bush.

The $1.6 billion that Congress authorized this year came with a condition that the wall must adhere to existing designs. Last year, the administration built eight prototypes in San Diego that were intended to guide future construction.

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HURRICANE RESPONSE

TRUMP: “3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000….” ″This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!” —tweets Thursday.

THE FACTS: He is making a baseless assertion that massive deaths did not happen, even if the exact toll from the hurricane remains imprecise.

Independent researchers at George Washington University estimated 2,975 excess deaths related to Hurricane Maria in the six months following the hurricane, which hit last September. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello commissioned the study and accepted the death toll as the best available. Rossello rejected the findings of a different study that estimated more than 4,000 died, saying he found the GWU research with its lower number to be scientifically sound.

The study found that 22 percent more people died than would have been expected during that period in a year without the storm. Its central finding has been roughly corroborated by other, similar studies. A second phase will examine the circumstances of specific deaths to arrive at a more precise number.

The lead researcher on the study was Dr. Carlos Santos-Burgoa, a well-known expert in global health, particularly Latin America.

Trump’s claim that the death toll was no more than 18 when he visited Puerto Rico, nearly two weeks after the storm, ignores the fact that the U.S. territory’s official death toll was raised to 34 later that day, Oct. 3. After that, it climbed to 64. With services devastated, most power out, many people desperate for food and water and roads impassable, it was impossible to know how many died directly from Maria or from floodwaters or deprivation in its immediate aftermath.

That’s why the official death toll remained relatively low until researchers could examine death records and gain a broader understanding of people’s circumstances.

It took years to assess the death toll from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 despite the relative accessibility of the Gulf Coast, for example. About 1,800 died from Katrina.

Trump was a one-man island in attributing the Puerto Rican death estimate to Democrats. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., saw “no reason to dispute” the estimate. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted his support of the 3,000 finding and lamented that “These days even tragedy becomes political.” Several other Republican lawmakers from Florida similarly rejected Trump’s words. Democrats were outraged.

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TRUMP: “We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan).” — tweet Wednesday.

TRUMP: “I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful. Puerto Rico was, actually, our toughest one of all because it’s an island … Everything is by boat …The job that FEMA and law enforcement and everybody did, working along with the Governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous. I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success.” — remarks Tuesday.

THE FACTS: Trump’s claim that the federal government had an “incredibly successful” response to Maria is questionable.

The storm is estimated to be one of the nation’s worst disasters, after the U.S. territory raised its official death toll from 64 to 2,975 based on the GWU study. That surpasses the 1,800 people who died from Hurricane Katrina. Maria is also estimated to have caused $100 billion in damage.

A July report by the Federal Emergency Management Agency noted several shortcomings in its response, including that it underestimated how much food and water would be needed after the storm and that not enough Spanish-speaking aid workers were deployed to the island.

Responding to Trump’s comments, Rossello disputed the notion that the response was “successful.”

Blackouts still remain common; nearly 60,000 homes are covered by only a makeshift roof not capable of withstanding a Category 1 hurricane; and 13 percent of municipalities lack stable phone or internet service.

In Maria’s aftermath, according to FEMA data analyzed by the AP, approvals for individual assistance checks in Puerto Rico were slower compared with what happened with large storms last year. From Sept. 30 to Oct. 7, not one of those checks was approved. On Oct. 8 the approvals began rolling again, but with a large spike suggesting a backlog.

In addition, data from the U.S. Small Business Administration indicate that approvals for disaster loans in Puerto Rico were slow — the first one was not approved until 15 days after the storm was declared, four times as long as with Hurricane Harvey.

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DEMOCRATIC SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ of New Jersey: “You’re right, Mr. President. The Hurricane didn’t kill 3,000 people. Your botched response did.” — tweet Thursday.

THE FACTS: He’s taking it too far. Whatever the shortcomings of the federal response, attributing a specific death toll to that alone is unsupported. FEMA faced some problems that were beyond its control, principally the sheer force of the Category 4 monster storm as well as the logistical difficulties of reaching the Caribbean island, more than 1,000 miles from the U.S. mainland.

Residents have been critical of the hurricane response by local officials, not just by Washington. Puerto Rico’s government has acknowledged that its emergency plans were designed only for a Category 1 hurricane, and admitted failures to follow those plans and communications breakdowns.

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ECONOMY AND JOBS

TRUMP: “The GDP rate (4.2 percent) is higher than the Unemployment Rate (3.9 percent) for the first time in over 100 years!” — tweet Monday.

WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER KEVIN HASSETT: “The correct number is 10 years.” — briefing Monday.

THE FACTS: Actually, the correct number is 12 years. In the first three months of 2006, the economy expanded at a 5.4 percent annual rate. At the same time, the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent.

The economy’s growth rate, which reached 4.2 percent in the April-June quarter, has been higher than the unemployment rate dozens of times since World War II. Hassett acknowledged Trump’s tweet was wrong.

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HASSETT: “There was an inflection at the election of Donald Trump, and … a whole bunch of data items started heading north.” — briefing Monday.

THE FACTS: If you look at a chart of monthly job gains or the economy’s growth rate, that inflection point is hard to spot. Hassett notably did not include in his presentation any mention of overall job creation or the broadest measurement of the economy’s output, GDP.

That’s probably because the growth rate Trump repeatedly cites, the 4.2 percent expansion at an annual rate that occurred in the April-June quarter, isn’t out of line with Obama’s record. The economy grew more quickly than that four times during Obama’s eight years in office.

Economists generally acknowledge that growth has accelerated this year compared with 2016 and 2017, and most of them partly credit last year’s tax cuts for fueling more consumer and business spending. The economy is on pace to grow at a 3 percent or faster pace in 2018, which would be the first time since 2005 it would reach that mark.

Yet it barely missed that cutoff in 2015, when it expanded 2.9 percent under Obama.

When it comes to jobs, the U.S. added more jobs in each of the last three years of Obama’s presidency, 2014-2016, than it did last year, Trump’s first in office. Job growth has picked up a bit this year but is still on track to come in below the 2014-2015 pace.

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OBAMA: “The actions we took during that crisis returned the economy to healthy growth and initiated the longest streak of job creation on record.” — rally Sept. 7 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

THE FACTS: He’s right on jobs, but whether the economy experienced “healthy growth” is a matter of dispute.

As measured by the gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the economy’s output, the U.S. economy expanded at an average annual rate of 2.2 percent from 2010, after the Great Recession ended, through 2016, Obama’s last year in office. That is the weakest growth of any post-recession recovery since World War II.

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OBAMA: “When the job numbers come out, the monthly job numbers, and suddenly Republicans are saying it’s a miracle, I have to kind of remind them, actually, those job numbers are the same as they were in 2015 and 2016.” — Illinois rally.

THE FACTS: Obama is correct, though many economists are surprised that hiring has continued at such a solid pace after more than nine years of expansion. Job gains even picked up a bit in 2018.

Still, in 2015 employers added an average of 226,000 jobs a month. Last year, Trump’s first in the White House, that figure fell to 182,000 a month. So far in 2018, hiring has come in a bit better, averaging 207,000 a month.

In some ways, Obama isn’t giving himself enough credit: The strongest year for job growth since the recession was 2014, when employers added more than 250,000 on average every month.

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Associated Press writers Christopher Rugaber and Lauran Neergaard in Washington and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.

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Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Trump not even close on latest economic claims

Kevin Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House, Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump pitched a wildly off-base claim about economic growth Monday as the White House used selective statistics to build a case that the economy is doing much better than when Barack Obama was in office.

The attention on Obama comes as the ex-president steps back into the political arena on behalf of Democrats in the November elections. The White House dispatched economic adviser Kevin Hassett to rebut Obama’s point that his policies helped end the Great Recession and put the economy on a growth path that Trump is now mostly benefiting from.

Companies are much more optimistic and have increased spending on buildings and equipment, Hassett said. Americans are starting new businesses and the increase in startups is accelerating more quickly than it did under Obama, he added, and blue-collar jobs — in mining, construction and manufacturing — are growing more rapidly.

Yet some of the White House’s case is wrong, exaggerated or lacks context:

TRUMP, in a tweet: “The GDP rate (4.2 percent) is higher than the Unemployment Rate (3.9 percent) for the first time in over 100 years!”

HASSETT: “The correct number is 10 years.”

THE FACTS: Actually, the correct number is 12 years. In the first three months of 2006, the economy expanded at a 5.4 percent annual rate. At the same time, the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent.

The economy’s growth rate, which reached 4.2 percent in the April-June quarter, has been higher than the unemployment rate dozens of times since World War II. Hassett acknowledged Trump’s tweet was wrong.

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HASSETT: “There was an inflection at the election of Donald Trump, and … a whole bunch of data items started heading north.”

THE FACTS: If you look at a chart of monthly job gains or the economy’s growth rate, that inflection point is hard to spot. Hassett notably did not include in his presentation any mention of overall job creation or the broadest measurement of the economy’s output, GDP.

That’s probably because the growth rate Trump repeatedly cites, the 4.2 percent expansion at an annual rate that occurred in the April-June quarter, isn’t out of line with Obama’s record. The economy grew more quickly than that four times during Obama’s eight years in office.

Economists generally acknowledge that growth has accelerated this year compared with 2016 and 2017, and most of them partly credit last year’s tax cuts for fueling more consumer and business spending. The economy is on pace to grow at a 3 percent or faster pace in 2018, which would be the first time since 2005 it would reach that mark.

Yet it barely missed that cutoff in 2015, when it expanded 2.9 percent under Obama.

When it comes to jobs, the U.S. added more jobs in each of the last three years of Obama’s presidency, 2014-2016, than it did last year, Trump’s first in office. Job growth has picked up a bit this year but is still on track to come in below the 2014-2015 pace.

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HASSETT: “Small-business optimism is near the highest level in 35 years.”

THE FACTS: This is true. Small-business owners, as a whole, became far more optimistic about the economy after Trump’s election.

Many small-business people felt Obama was dismissive toward their efforts, particularly after his “You didn’t build that” comment in July 2012. Obama’s larger point was that governments helped create success by building roads, bridges, and the foundations for the internet. But his opponent at that time, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, seized on the comment as evidence that Obama didn’t appreciate small business.

Still, optimism doesn’t automatically translate into more spending or jobs. Small-business hiring has slowed in the past year as the unemployment rate has fallen to nearly an 18-year low. Larger firms are better able to attract workers in a tight labor market because they typically can offer higher pay and more benefits.

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HASSETT: “And I think that if anyone were to assert that the capital spending boom that we’re seeing right now was a continuation of the trend that President Trump inherited, then, well, they wouldn’t get a high grade in graduate school for that assertion.”

THE FACTS: It’s true that companies are investing much more in buildings, computers and other capital goods than they were in the last two years of the Obama administration. And some of that additional investment may have been spurred by the Trump administration’s corporate tax cut.

But another reason for the revitalization of business spending has been a turnaround in oil prices. Oil prices plunged in 2014 and 2015 from over $100 a barrel to roughly $30 a barrel in early 2016. They have since doubled to $67 a barrel. Those swings alternatively dampened investment in drilling rigs and other heavy machinery and helped send that spending higher.

Oil- and gas-related investment accounted for about 40 percent of the growth in business investment in the April-June quarter this year.

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Online:

White House charts: https://bit.ly/2CI6twl

Contact Chris Rugaber on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/ChrisRugaber

Find AP Fact Checks at http://apne.ws/2kbx8bd

Follow @APFactCheck on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APFactCheck

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Trump’s fabrications about jobs, economy and other topics

President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Eager to dismiss his critics, President Donald Trump is fabricating the circumstances regarding jobs, the economy and the social safety net.

He insists that Social Security and Medicare are becoming stronger under his watch when the most recent government report shows the financial condition of both programs worsening. On the economy, his claims of spurring the strongest U.S. growth ever fall way short.

The statements were among varied misrepresentations from the White House and in hearings for his Supreme Court nominee, coming in a remarkable week after an anonymous senior official went public about an effort within the administration to thwart his agenda. Trump also faces the special counsel’s continuing Russia investigation, fewer than 60 days before November’s midterm elections.

A look at the rhetoric and how it compares with reality:

MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY

TRUMP: “We’re saving Social Security. The Democrats will destroy Social Security. We’re saving Medicare. The Democrats want to destroy Medicare. …We will keep it going. We’re making it stronger. We’re making Social Security stronger.” — remarks Wednesday.

TRUMP, promoting Montana Republican Matt Rosendale’s Senate campaign: “I’m going to protect your Social Security. We’re going to take care of your Social Security. Matt Rosendale is going to make sure we’re not touching your Social Security and your Medicare is only going one way. That’s stronger.” — Montana rally Thursday.

THE FACTS: Trump hasn’t made Medicare and Social Security stronger.

The government’s annual trustees reports on the programs released in June shows the financial condition of both worsening significantly since last year. The projected insolvency for Social Security stayed unchanged — in 2034 — but Medicare’s moved three years closer, to 2026.

Both programs also will start tapping their reserves this year, meaning that income from payroll taxes and interest earned by the Social Security and Medicare trust funds will no longer cover costs. That threshold was still a few years away in last year’s report. As a result, Social Security and Medicare will need a $416 billion transfer from the government’s general revenues this year, when the federal deficit is already rising.

Last year’s Republican tax bill, which cut taxes on Social Security benefits, helped exacerbate the shortfall. So did the Trump-supported repeal of the individual mandate in so-called Obamacare. The repeal promises to increase the number of people without health insurance and therefore Medicare payments for uncompensated medical care.

Trump campaigned on a promise not to cut Social Security or Medicare, but he hasn’t offered a blueprint for either program. Democrats want to expand the social safety net by spending more.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has argued that tax cuts, rolling back regulations and better trade agreements could boost economic growth and help stabilize Medicare and Social Security. But nonpartisan government experts who produced the annual Social Security assessment didn’t seem to accept that, forecasting “sustained moderate economic growth.”

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TRADE

TRUMP: “‘Ford has abruptly killed a plan to sell a Chinese-made small vehicle in the U.S. because of the prospect of higher U.S. Tariffs.’ CNBC. This is just the beginning. This car can now be BUILT IN THE U.S.A. and Ford will pay no tariffs!” — tweet Sunday.

THE FACTS: It’s not true that Trump’s taxes on Chinese imports will now mean the Focus Active can be built in the U.S.

Citing Trump’s new tariffs, Ford on Aug. 31 said it was dropping plans to ship the hatchback vehicle to the United States from China.

But Ford said in a statement Sunday “it would not be profitable to build the Focus Active in the U.S.,” given forecast yearly sales below 50,000. For now, that means Ford simply won’t sell the vehicle in the United States.

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ECONOMY

TRUMP: “We are breaking all Jobs and Economic Records.” — tweet Saturday.

TRUMP: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs.” — tweet Thursday.

THE FACTS: The economy, though healthy, has been in better shape at many times in the past.

Growth reached 4.2 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter. That’s the best in the past four years. So far, the economy is growing at a modest rate compared with previous economic expansions. In the late 1990s, growth topped 4 percent for four straight years, from 1997 through 2000. In the 1980s expansion, growth even reached 7.2 percent in 1984.

The unemployment rate of 3.9 percent is strong but it’s not at the best point ever. It is near an 18-year low. The all-time low came in 1953, when unemployment fell to 2.5 percent during the Korean War. Meanwhile, a greater percentage of Americans held jobs in 2000 than now.

As a whole, the economy is in its 10th year of growth, a recovery that began under President Barack Obama, who inherited the Great Recession. The data show that the falling unemployment rate and gains in home values reflect the duration of the recovery, rather than any major changes made since 2017 by the Trump administration.

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2016 ELECTION

TRUMP: “The Dems have tried every trick in the playbook-call me everything under the sun. But if I’m all of those terrible things, how come I beat them so badly, 306-223?” — tweet Saturday.

THE FACTS: For the record, Trump misstates the Electoral College vote in his 2016 presidential race against Democrat Hillary Clinton. The official count was 304 to 227, according to an Associated Press tally of the electoral votes in every state.

Clinton won the popular vote, receiving nearly 2.9 million more votes than Trump after racking up more lopsided victories in big states such as New York and California, according to election data compiled by AP. But she lost the presidency due to Trump’s winning margin in the Electoral College, which came after he narrowly won less populous Midwestern states including Michigan and Wisconsin.

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‘FAKE NEWS’ MEDIA

TRUMP: “Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost. Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?” — tweet Wednesday.

TRUMP, addressing GOP Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds of South Dakota: “We have lousy libel laws… ‘Hey Mike and John, could you do me a favor? Create some libel laws, that when people say stuff bad about you, you can sue them and if you’re right, you win.’” — remarks Friday at fundraising event in South Dakota.

THE FACTS: He misstates libel law in claiming that someone can “totally make up stories” or freely write “fake news” without penalty.

Under defamation laws, people can bring a lawsuit for slander or libel if they believe someone’s statements have injured their reputation. For public officials such as Trump, they must meet a higher legal bar than ordinary people due to First Amendment guarantees of a free press and show the statements were made with “actual malice.” That means a publication is at risk by acting with reckless disregard for the truth.

Trump often pledges to make it easier for people to sue for defamation, typically after the publication of books or news articles that present an unflattering portrait of the White House. But he has little influence to change the laws.

Libel laws are set at the state level, which the president and Congress do not have authority to change. Any attempt to loosen the laws would likely run afoul of the First Amendment, barring a successful Supreme Court challenge or constitutional amendment.

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TREASON

TRUMP, questioning whether one of his senior officials acted illegally about an administration effort to thwart his agenda: “TREASON?” — tweet Wednesday.

THE FACTS: Not treason. The official who wrote anonymously in The New York Times about the “quiet resistance” against Trump is surely disloyal to the president but not a traitor in the legal sense.

Treason occurs when a U.S. citizen, or a noncitizen on U.S. territory, wages war against the country or provides material support, not just sympathy, to a declared enemy of the United States.

For instance, in the Cold War case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed for giving atomic secrets to Russia, the Rosenbergs were convicted of espionage, not treason, because the U.S. and Russia were not officially at war. No one has been convicted of treason since the aftermath of World War II, few have been through history and no one has been executed for that crime, says Carlton F.W. Larson, a University of California law professor who has a book coming on treason.

In 2006, the Bush administration brought a treason indictment against Adam Gadahn, an American who authorities say became an operative and spokesman for al-Qaida abroad. The Obama administration said he was killed in a 2015 counterterrorism operation in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.

Treason is addressed in the Constitution as part of an effort by the framers to prevent the government from using it as a reason to suppress political speech, said J. Richard Broughton, associate dean at University of Detroit Mercy and a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association. Congress has little if any power to change the definition and the executive branch can only bring charges in extremely limited cases.

Trump’s opponents have used “treason” loosely as the special counsel investigates contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, and it is thrown around widely in the public discourse by all sides.

Trump is using the word loosely now.

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KAVANAUGH HEARINGS

DEMOCRATIC SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR of Minnesota, asking about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s views on the scope of a president’s executive power: “I’m asking about your position that you stated in this law review article that a president should be not subject to investigations while in office. You’re only saying that they should be subject to investigation as part of an impeachment (proceeding by Congress) and that there’s no other investigation that could occur? Is that fair?” — Senate hearing Wednesday.

KAVANAUGH: “No. … On criminal investigation and prosecution, I did not take a position on the constitutionality. Period.”

THE FACTS: His claim is highly questionable, based on his past writings.

In a 2009 Minnesota Law Review article, Kavanaugh cast doubt on whether a president should be subject to what he described as “time-consuming” criminal investigations, cautioning that it could distract the nation’s chief executive from doing the job. He wrote in a footnote that “a serious constitutional question exists regarding whether a President can be criminally indicted and tried while in office.”

A decade earlier, Kavanaugh wrote that the Constitution seems to dictate that “congressional investigation must take place in lieu of criminal investigation when the President is the subject of investigation, and that criminal prosecution can occur only after the President has left office.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 campaign to tip the election in his favor, and whether Trump obstructed justice such as by firing FBI director James Comey.

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DEMOCRATIC SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN of California: “In the 1950s and 60s, the two decades before Roe, deaths from illegal abortions in this country ran between 200,000 and 1.2 million. That’s according to the Guttmacher Institute.” — Senate hearing Wednesday.

THE FACTS: That’s wrong, and she corrected herself Friday. Known deaths from illegal abortion were much smaller. The California senator conflated the estimated number of women who had an illegal abortion with the number who died from it, according to the research she cites.

The Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, cites estimates in a 2003 report that 200,000 to 1.2 million illegal abortions were performed in the 1950s and 1960s in the U.S. The report says the number of deaths from illegal abortion dropped from just under 1,700 in 1940 to just over 300 by 1950 and a little under 200 by 1965. The Supreme Court established a constitutional right to abortion in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

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RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

TRUMP ATTORNEY RUDY GIULIANI, citing a “60 day run-up to 2018 elections”: “If Mueller wants to show he’s not partisan, then issue a report on collusion and obstruction. They will show President Trump did nothing wrong.” — tweet Aug. 25.

THE FACTS: He’s wrong in suggesting there is a 60-day cutoff date before the Nov. 6 midterm elections, which came Friday, for Mueller to wrap up the Russia investigation.

Trump and his allies including Giulani often cite a Justice Department policy on the issue. But in fact, no written policy setting a deadline exists and Mueller can continue the probe and issue new indictments. He also has no time constraints regarding finishing or releasing the findings of his investigation.

The only thing that’s changed is that Labor Day kicked off high election season in the battle for control of the House and Senate. So any action by Mueller between now and the Nov. 6 voting risks being seen as an effort to affect the outcome.

The Justice Department does have guidelines about investigations in advance of an election, which have been interpreted over the past decade to mean that investigators, if possible, should avoid taking specific actions — such as indicting candidates or raiding their office — in the run-up to an election.

“Law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party,” one such memo from 2012 states.

But the policy does not impose a specific cutoff date for investigations before an election.

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Associated Press writers Paul Wiseman, Christopher Rugaber, Josh Boak, Cal Woodward, Eric Tucker and Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.

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Fact Check: Trump lies about economy, treason

President Donald Trump responds to a reporter’s question during an event with sheriffs in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump inaccurately claimed the strongest economic record ever as he capped a week featuring varied misrepresentations from the White House and in hearings for his Supreme Court nominee.

A look at recent rhetoric and how it compares with the facts:

ECONOMY

TRUMP: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs.” — tweet Thursday.

THE FACTS: The economy, though healthy, has been in better shape at many times in the past.

Growth reached 4.2 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter. That’s the best in the past four years. So far, the economy is growing at a modest rate compared with previous economic expansions. In the late 1990s, growth topped 4 percent for four straight years, from 1997 through 2000. In the 1980s expansion, growth even reached 7.2 percent in 1984.

The unemployment rate of 3.9 percent is strong but it’s not at the best point ever. It is near an 18-year low. The all-time low came in 1953, when unemployment fell to 2.5 percent during the Korean War. Meanwhile, a greater percentage of Americans held jobs in 2000 than now.

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‘FAKE NEWS’ MEDIA

TRUMP: “Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost. Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?” — tweet Wednesday.

TRUMP, addressing GOP Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds of South Dakota: “We have lousy libel laws… ‘Hey Mike and John, could you do me a favor? Create some libel laws, that when people say stuff bad about you, you can sue them and if you’re right, you win.’” — remarks Friday at fundraising event in South Dakota.

THE FACTS: He misstates libel law in claiming that someone can “totally make up stories” or freely write “fake news” without penalty.

Under defamation laws, people can bring a lawsuit for slander or libel if they believe someone’s statements have injured their reputation. For public officials such as Trump, they must meet a higher legal bar than ordinary people due to First Amendment guarantees of a free press and show the statements were made with “actual malice.” That means a publication is at risk by acting with reckless disregard for the truth.

Trump often pledges to make it easier for people to sue for defamation, typically after the publication of books or news articles that present an unflattering portrait of the White House. But he has little influence to change the laws.

Libel laws are set at the state level, which the president and Congress do not have authority to change. Any attempt to loosen the laws would likely run afoul of the First Amendment, barring a successful Supreme Court challenge or constitutional amendment.

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TREASON

TRUMP, questioning whether one of his senior officials acted illegally about an administration effort to thwart his agenda: “TREASON?” — tweet Wednesday.

THE FACTS: Not treason. The official who wrote anonymously in The New York Times about the “quiet resistance” against Trump is surely disloyal to the president but not a traitor in the legal sense.

Treason occurs when a U.S. citizen, or a noncitizen on U.S. territory, wages war against the country or provides material support, not just sympathy, to a declared enemy of the United States.

For instance, in the Cold War case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed for giving atomic secrets to Russia, the Rosenbergs were convicted of espionage, not treason, because the U.S. and Russia were not officially at war. No one has been convicted of treason since the aftermath of World War II, few have been through history and no one has been executed for that crime, says Carlton F.W. Larson, a University of California law professor who has a book coming on treason.

In 2006, the Bush administration brought a treason indictment against Adam Gadahn, an American who authorities say became an operative and spokesman for al-Qaida abroad. The Obama administration said he was killed in a 2015 counterterrorism operation in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.

Treason is addressed in the Constitution as part of an effort by the framers to prevent the government from using it as a reason to suppress political speech, said J. Richard Broughton, associate dean at University of Detroit Mercy and a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association. Congress has little if any power to change the definition and the executive branch can only bring charges in extremely limited cases.

Trump’s opponents have used “treason” loosely as the special counsel investigates contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, and it is thrown around widely in the public discourse by all sides.

Trump is using the word loosely now.

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KAVANAUGH HEARINGS

DEMOCRATIC SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR of Minnesota, asking about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s views on the scope of a president’s executive power: “I’m asking about your position that you stated in this law review article that a president should be not subject to investigations while in office. You’re only saying that they should be subject to investigation as part of an impeachment (proceeding by Congress) and that there’s no other investigation that could occur? Is that fair?” — Senate hearing Wednesday.

KAVANAUGH: “No. … On criminal investigation and prosecution, I did not take a position on the constitutionality. Period.”

THE FACTS: His claim is highly questionable, based on his past writings.

In a 2009 Minnesota Law Review article, Kavanaugh cast doubt on whether a president should be subject to what he described as “time-consuming” criminal investigations, cautioning that it could distract the nation’s chief executive from doing the job. He wrote in a footnote that “a serious constitutional question exists regarding whether a President can be criminally indicted and tried while in office.”

A decade earlier, Kavanaugh wrote that the Constitution seems to dictate that “congressional investigation must take place in lieu of criminal investigation when the President is the subject of investigation, and that criminal prosecution can occur only after the President has left office.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 campaign to tip the election in his favor, and whether Trump obstructed justice such as by firing FBI director James Comey.

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DEMOCRATIC SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN of California: “In the 1950s and 60s, the two decades before Roe, deaths from illegal abortions in this country ran between 200,000 and 1.2 million. That’s according to the Guttmacher Institute.” — Senate hearing Wednesday.

THE FACTS: That’s wrong, and she corrected herself Friday. Known deaths from illegal abortion were much smaller. The California senator conflated the estimated number of women who had an illegal abortion with the number who died from it, according to the research she cites.

The Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, cites estimates in a 2003 report that 200,000 to 1.2 million illegal abortions were performed in the 1950s and 1960s in the U.S. The report says the number of deaths from illegal abortion dropped from just under 1,700 in 1940 to just over 300 by 1950 and a little under 200 by 1965. The Supreme Court established a constitutional right to abortion in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

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RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

TRUMP ATTORNEY RUDY GIULIANI, citing a “60 day run-up to 2018 elections”: “If Mueller wants to show he’s not partisan, then issue a report on collusion and obstruction. They will show President Trump did nothing wrong.” — tweet Aug. 25.

THE FACTS: He’s wrong in suggesting there is a 60-day cutoff date before the Nov. 6 midterm elections, which came Friday, for Mueller to wrap up the Russia investigation.

Trump and his allies including Giulani often cite a Justice Department policy on the issue. But in fact, no written policy setting a deadline exists and Mueller can continue the probe and issue new indictments. He also has no time constraints regarding finishing or releasing the findings of his investigation.

The only thing that’s changed is that Labor Day kicked off high election season in the battle for control of the House and Senate. So any action by Mueller between now and the Nov. 6 voting risks being seen as an effort to affect the outcome.

The Justice Department does have guidelines about investigations in advance of an election, which have been interpreted over the past decade to mean that investigators, if possible, should avoid taking specific actions — such as indicting candidates or raiding their office — in the run-up to an election.

“Law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party,” one such memo from 2012 states.

But the policy does not impose a specific cutoff date for investigations before an election.

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Associated Press writers Christopher Rugaber, Josh Boak, Cal Woodward, Eric Tucker and Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.

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Find AP Fact Checks at http://apne.ws/2kbx8bd

Follow @APFactCheck on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APFactCheck

_______________________________________________________

Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Trump lies about polls on his performance

President Donald Trump boasts that 52 percent of Americans approve of his job performance, but no known poll exists showing such high numbers. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump is exaggerating the numbers when citing his overall job approval ratings.

In a tweet Sunday, Trump boasted of poll numbers that showed 52 percent of all Americans approved of his performance in office, in spite of the “fake news media.”

No known poll exists showing such high ratings.

A look at the claim:

TRUMP: “Over 90% approval rating for your all time favorite (I hope) President within the Republican Party and 52% overall. This despite all of the made up stories by the Fake News Media trying endlessly to make me look as bad and evil as possible. Look at the real villains please!” — tweet Sunday.

THE FACTS: He’s wrong in regard to polls citing his overall job ratings.

The Associated Press couldn’t find any evidence of a recent poll that put Trump’s approval at 52 percent, and the White House and his re-election campaign didn’t immediately respond to requests for specifics.

Polls are a snapshot of public opinion at the moment they are taken, and job approval can — and has in recent history — vary during a president’s term. George W. Bush, for example, had approval ratings that reached into the high 80s and low 90s in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, and dropped into the high 20s and low 30s toward the end of his time in office.

Since his inauguration, however, Trump’s job approval has been remarkably consistent — in the high 30s and low 40s — in polls from various media organizations and other pollsters.

The latest AP-NORC poll, taken this month, finds Trump’s approval among American adults at 38 percent. Some other recent polls measure his approval in the low to mid-40s.

On his level of support among Republicans, Trump is correct that they broadly approve of his work as president. In the same AP-NORC poll that found 38 percent of adults approving of the president, 76 percent of Republicans and those who lean toward the GOP said they approved of Trump.

That fits with the pattern of his presidency, in which Trump has generally had widespread support from Republicans. Some polls have put that level of support as high as 90 percent.

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Associated Press writer Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this report.

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Find AP Fact Checks at http://apne.ws/2kbx8bd

Follow @APFactCheck on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APFactCheck
_______________________________________________________

Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved