President Donald Trump is sticking to his distorted picture of the consequences of his trade war with China, refusing to acknowledge the U.S. is feeling any pain.
His remarks at a rally in North Carolina on Monday night revisited many of his familiar fabrications and exaggerations. A sampling:
TRUMP on China’s economy: “They’ve had now the worst year in 57 years.”
THE FACTS: That’s not true. China is far from the impoverished disaster of a half century ago, when it was reeling from the massive famine caused by Mao Zedong’s radical economic policies and heading into the chaos of the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.
China’s economy is indeed slowing from Trump’s taxes on Chinese imports, as well as its own campaign to constrain runaway debt. The International Monetary Fund expects the Chinese economy to grow 6.2% this year. That’s the slowest growth for China in nearly 30 years. But it’s still markedly faster than U.S. growth.
And since overhauling its economy in the late 1970s, China has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, established a growing middle class and surpassed Japan to become the world’s second-biggest economy.
TRUMP: “Hundreds of billions of dollars have been and are coming into our country in the form of tariffs, and China is eating the cost.”
THE FACTS: Americans are also eating the cost.
As he escalates a trade war with China, Trump refuses to recognize that tariffs are mainly, if not entirely, paid by companies and consumers in the country that imposes them.
In a study in May , the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, with Princeton and Columbia universities, estimated that tariffs from Trump’s trade dispute with China were costing $831 per U.S. household on an annual basis, before tariffs were recently escalated. Analysts also found that the burden of Trump’s tariffs falls entirely on U.S. consumers and businesses that buy imported products.
A report last month by JPMorgan Chase estimated that tariffs would cost the average American household $1,000 per year if tariffs on an additional $300 billion of U.S. imports from China proceed in September and December. Trump has since bumped up the scheduled levies even higher, probably adding to the U.S. burden.
TRUMP: “We passed the largest package of tax cuts and reforms in American history.”
THE FACTS: His tax cuts are nowhere close to the biggest in U.S. history.
It’s a $1.5 trillion tax cut over 10 years. As a share of the total economy, a tax cut of that size ranks 12th, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 cut is the biggest, followed by the 1945 rollback of taxes that financed World War II.
Post-Reagan tax cuts also stand among the historically significant: President George W. Bush’s cuts in the early 2000s and President Barack Obama’s renewal of them a decade later.
TRUMP: “More Americans are working today than ever before in the history of our country.”
THE FACTS: He’s correct, but that’s driven by population growth. A more relevant measure is the proportion of Americans with jobs, and that is still below record highs.
According to Labor Department data , 60.9% of people in the United States 16 years and older were working in August. That’s below the all-time high of 64.7% in April 2000.
TRUMP: “We passed something they wanted to do for half a century: We passed VA Choice.”
THE FACTS: No, it was President Barack Obama who won passage of the Veterans Choice program, which gives veterans the option to see private doctors outside the VA medical system at government expense. Congress approved the program in 2014, and Obama signed it into law. Trump expanded it.
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Campaigning under the stifling August sun, Joe Biden assailed President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, accusing him of squandering a strong economy and putting Americans’ financial security at risk.
But he was quick to add that he was not hoping for the worst.
“I never wish for a recession. Period,” the former vice president and current Democratic presidential candidate told reporters in Prole, Iowa.
Biden’s comments highlight the delicate balance for Democrats as the U.S. economy flashes recession warning signs. In town halls and speeches across the country this week, candidates leveled blame on Trump, arguing that his aggressive and unpredictable tariff policies were prompting gloomy economic forecasts. Yet they also strained to avoid the appearance of cheering for a downturn that would inflict financial pain on millions of Americans, but potentially help their party’s political fortunes in 2020.
For more than two years, the combination of solid growth, low unemployment and a rising stock market has been a bulwark for Trump, helping him maintain the support of many independents and moderate Republicans who are turned off by his incendiary statements and pugnacious personality. According to a new Associated Press-NORC poll, a higher percentage of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the economy than his overall job performance.
“If there is a recession and the economy is doing worse, not better, than when Donald Trump started, it is hard to see how the majority of the American people, even those who have looked the other way on so many of his indiscretions, will decide to give him a shot at another four years,” said Jennifer Psaki, a former White House and campaign adviser to President Barack Obama.
Trump’s advisers privately have the same concern, particularly given that the president’s path to victory is already narrow. Well aware that a sitting president almost always gets the credit or the blame for the state of the American economy, Trump and his team have tried to point the finger elsewhere, namely in the direction of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, accusing him of slowing growth by not lowering interest rates.
“Our Federal Reserve does not allow us to do what we must do. They put us at a disadvantage against our competition,” Trump said Thursday on Twitter.
Shifting blame to others has been a frequent tactic for Trump, even to those within his own administration. (Trump nominated Powell as Fed chair last year.)
Some Democrats said he shouldn’t get away with it this time.
“Do not allow him to escape the accountability that he deserves for what he is doing to this economy,” said Beto O’Rourke, a presidential contender and former Texas congressman. “He’ll try to blame every other person. The blame rests with Donald Trump. Now it’s incumbent on all of us to call this out.”
For months, the strong American economy has posed complications for Democrats trying to unseat Trump. Although Trump inherited an economy on the rise from his predecessor, Barack Obama, gains have indisputably continued under his watch. Unemployment is near a 50-year low at 3.7%. Consumer and business confidence has been strong, fueling record highs on Wall Street, even though the most recent signs show that consumer confidence could be ebbing.
Rather than trying to undercut those markers or predict doom ahead, most Democratic candidates have focused on economic inequalities, arguing that the wealthy were reaping the benefits far more than middle- and working-class Americans. In particular, Candidates have hammered Trump’s 2018 tax law, which gave large-scale tax cuts to the rich and corporations and more moderate benefits to the middle class. And they’ve slammed the tariffs for burdening farmers across the heartland.
One exception has been Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has openly warned about the prospect of another economic decline. In July, she wrote an essay predicting that a rise in consumer and corporate debt was imperiling the longest expansion in U.S. history.
“Whether it’s this year or next year, the odds of another economic downturn are high — and growing,” Warren wrote.
Biden in particular appeared to shift close to Warren’s warnings this week, as analysts said that a slowdown, if not a full-blown recession, could hit before next year’s election. During a two-day campaign swing through Iowa, Biden reminded voters that the Obama administration handed Trump a strong economy that could quickly come undone.
“Donald Trump inherited a growing economy from the Obama-Biden administration, just like he inherited everything in his life. And now he’s squandered it, just like he’s squandered everything he inherited in his life,” said Biden, making sure to remind voters of his own role in revitalizing the economy during the last administration.
Other Democrats were more cautious, particularly about leaving the impression that the party sees a political benefit from an economic decline.
“I just think it’s very important that we be clear as a party that we don’t want a recession,” said John Delaney, the former Maryland congressman who is mired at the bottom of the pack in the crowded Democratic primary field. “I don’t want anything to happen, even if it’s good politics, if it hurts workers.”
President Donald Trump is misrepresenting the facts about his proposal to freeze Obama-era fuel economy requirements at 2021 levels.
In multiple tweets Wednesday, Trump blasted auto executives as “foolish” and weak and accused the companies of being “politically correct” for resisting the plan, which two of his agencies are putting together in a final regulation.
Trump favors a freeze to the standards put in place under former President Barack Obama that gradually rise through 2026. But automakers have repeatedly said they want one national standard with gas mileage increases that give them flexibility because consumers are moving away from more efficient cars to SUVs and trucks. Four automakers, Ford, BMW, Honda and Volkswagen, have signed an agreement with California to back higher standards.
Under the federal Clean Air Act, California has the right to set its own mileage and pollution standards, but the Trump administration wants to challenge that. Automakers fear having two standards will force them to pay more to design different models for California — and any other states that opt to impose higher standards — and the rest of the nation. Companies also fear a long court battle that would make the standards uncertain.
A look at Trump’s claims and reality:
TRUMP: “My proposal to the politically correct Automobile Companies would lower the average price of a car to consumers by more than $3000, while at the same time making the cars substantially safer. Engines would run smoother. Very little impact on the environment! Foolish executives!”
TRUMP: “The Legendary Henry Ford and Alfred P. Sloan, the Founders of Ford Motor Company and General Motors, are ‘rolling over’ at the weakness of current car company executives willing to spend more money on a car that is not as safe or good, and cost $3,000 more to consumers. Crazy!”
THE FACTS: Trump is inflating the projected savings to consumers under his plan, minimizing the potential environmental harm and may be exaggerating the safety benefits. He’s also incorrect that Sloan founded General Motors; in fact, it was William Durant who founded the company in 1908, combining several companies that produced Buick, Oldsmobile, Cadillac and other vehicles. Sloan was a longtime president, CEO and chairman of GM, leading the company from the 1920s to the 1950s.
Trump’s own administration, in documents proposing to freeze the standards, puts the cost of meeting the Obama-era requirements at around $2,700 per vehicle. It claims buyers would save that much by 2025, over standards in place in 2016. But that number is disputed by environmental groups and is more than double the estimates from the Obama administration.
Trump’s tweet also is ignoring money that consumers would save at the gas pump if cars get better mileage. A study released Aug. 7 by Consumer Reports found that the owner of a 2026 vehicle will pay over $3,300 more for gasoline during the life of a vehicle if the standards are frozen at 2021 levels. The administration’s proposed freeze would hold the average fuel economy for the new-vehicle fleet at 29.1 mpg in real-world driving, while the Obama-era standards would raise it to 37.5 mpg by 2026, according to Consumer Reports.
A White House spokesman had no immediate comment on how Trump came up with his claims.
In regards to the environment, Trump claims his proposal would cause little harm, but documents from his own administration say that U.S. fuel consumption would increase by about 500,000 barrels per day, a 2% to 3% increase. Environmental groups predict even more fuel consumed, resulting in higher pollution.
Trump’s statement that cars would be substantially safer also is in dispute. His administration argues that lower-cost vehicles would allow more people to buy new ones that are safer, cutting roadway deaths by 12,700 lives through the 2029 model year. But Consumer Reports says any safety impact from changes in gas mileage standards are small and won’t vary much from zero.
There’s little basis for Trump’s claim that engines would run more smoothly. Early versions of cars with more fuel-efficient transmissions, turbochargers and technology that stops engines at red lights were rough, but those have been refined.
“The automakers have figured out how to use this technology and make the cars smoother driving, too,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports director of auto testing.
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It was a week of exaggeration and outright fiction for President Donald Trump as he confronted the aftermath of two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.
Trump twisted science in seeking to assign blame on video games for the shootings, rather than on his own words that critics say contributed to a combustible racial climate spawning violence. He pointed to an imminent magic solution in the form of legislation on background checks that was far from certain and misrepresented his record on gun control.
Escalating a potentially devastating trade war with China, Trump exaggerated the benefits of tariffs and sought unfairly to fault the Federal Reserve for any weakness in the U.S. economy.
Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden claimed Trump did nothing on gun control, but in fact Trump banned bump stocks, a gun attachment deemed legal during the Obama-Biden administration.
TRUMP: “We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence.” — remarks Monday on the mass shootings.
THE FACTS: There is no scientific link between video games and mass violence.
Some studies show a short-term increase in aggressive thoughts and feelings after playing video games, but nothing that rises to the level of violence.
In 2006, a small study by Indiana University researchers found that teenagers who played violent video games showed higher levels of emotional arousal but less activity in the parts of the brain associated with the ability to plan, control and direct thoughts and behavior.
“Plenty of gamers and get upset when they lose or feel the game was ‘cheating,’ but it doesn’t lead to violent outputs,” said Benjamin Burroughs, a professor of emerging media at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Patrick Markey, a psychology professor at Villanova University who focuses on video games, found in his research that men who commit severe acts of violence actually play violent video games less than the average male. About 20% were interested in violent video games, compared with 70% of the general population, he said.
Another study by Markey and his colleagues showed that violence tends to dip when a new violent movie or video game comes out, possibly because people are at home playing the game or in theaters watching the movie.
Trump’s statements this past week assigning blame to the video game industry were more reserved compared with his last brush with the subject in 2018, when he called video games “vicious” and summoned game-industry executives to meet at the White House, to little lasting effect.
TRUMP, on prospects for gun control legislation: “There’s a great appetite — and I mean a very strong appetite — for background checks. And I think we can bring up background checks like we’ve never had before. I think both Republican and Democrat are getting close to a bill on — they’re doing something on background checks.” — remarks to reporters Wednesday before departing for Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas.
THE FACTS: He’s overstating the level of political will for gun control measures.
Passage of a background checks bill in the Senate remains far from certain. Support for a bipartisan background checks measure co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia reached a high point with a 2013 vote after the Sandy Hook shooting, but it fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance. Both senators spoke to Trump on Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, under pressure to call senators back to Washington from their summer recess to work on gun measures, said Thursday that he hopes to consider legislation to expand federal background checks when Congress returns in the fall. He said he wants to spend the August recess talking with senators to see what’s possible.
Two other gun bills have passed the House this year but languished in the Republican-controlled Senate. One of them would require federal background checks for all firearms sales and transfers, including those online or at gun shows. The second bill allows an expanded 10-day review for gun purchases.
With gun control legislation stalled, some senators have pushed for a bipartisan proposal to create a federal grant program to encourage states to adopt “red flag” laws to take guns away from people believed to be a danger to themselves or others. But it remains to be seen if such a law could pass Congress.
BIDEN, Democratic presidential candidate: Trump is “doing nothing — nothing about the endemic and epidemic of guns that is fueling a literal carnage in America.” — remarks Wednesday in Burlington, Iowa.
THE FACTS: He’s wrong that Trump did absolutely nothing on gun control
A nationwide ban took effect in March on bump stocks, the attachment used by the gunman in the 2017 Las Vegas massacre to make his weapons fire rapidly like machine guns.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives outlawed the attachments at Trump’s direction after the shootings killed more than 50 people in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. It is the only major gun restriction imposed by the federal government in the past few years.
The Trump administration’s move was an about-face for the bureau. In 2010, under the Obama-Biden administration, it found that the devices were legal. But under the Trump administration, officials revisited that determination and found it incorrect.
After the Las Vegas shootings, the National Rifle Association initially said “devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.” After the bureau’s ruling banning the devices, however, the gun lobby called it “disappointing” and said it should have provided amnesty for gun owners who already have bump stocks.
The government estimates that more than 500,000 bump stocks were sold after they were legalized in 2010.
TRUMP, on gun restrictions: “We have done much more than most administrations. …We’ve done, actually, a lot.” — remarks on Aug. 4 to reporters.
THE FACTS: Trump’s record on gun control is not groundbreaking.
Congress has proved unable to pass substantial gun violence legislation, despite the frequency of mass shootings, in large part because of resistance from Republicans, particularly in the GOP-controlled Senate. That political dynamic seems difficult to change.
It’s true that after other mass shootings Trump called for strengthening the federal background check system, and in 2018, he signed legislation to increase federal agency data sharing. In December 2018, the Trump administration also banned bump stocks.
But he has rolled back restrictions, reneged on pledges and resisted Democratic calls to toughen other gun control laws.
Within weeks of taking office, Trump scrapped a federal rule imposed by Obama that could have made it harder for some mentally ill people to own guns. Under the rule, the Social Security Administration was supposed to provide information to the gun-buying background check system on recipients with a mental disorder so severe they cannot work or handle their own benefit checks. The rule didn’t make certain people ineligible to buy a firearm but was designed to ensure the background check system was comprehensive.
In February, the House approved bipartisan legislation to require federal background checks for all gun sales and transfers and approved legislation to allow a review period of up to 10 days for background checks on firearms purchases. The White House threatened a presidential veto if those measures passed Congress.
At a February meeting with survivors and family members of the 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting in which 17 people died, Trump promised to be “very strong on background checks.” Trump claimed he would stand up to the gun lobby and finally get results in quelling gun violence. But he later retreated, expressing support for modest changes to the federal background check system and for arming teachers.
Some Democrats have called for stronger measures such as renewing a federal ban on assault weapons, which was put in place during the Clinton administration before it expired under President George W. Bush. Trump has shown no interest in embracing that issue.
TRUMP: “We must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people not only get treatment, but, when necessary, involuntary confinement.” — remarks Monday on the mass shootings.
THE FACTS: His words don’t match his past actions.
Trump’s budgets would have slashed the federal-state Medicaid program, which provides health insurance for more than 70 million low-income and disabled people and is also the major source of public funds for mental health treatment.
Such proposals failed to advance in Congress, even when both chambers were under Republican control.
The president’s 2020 budget does call for some spending increases on smaller mental health programs, including an increase of $15 million, for a total of $107 million, to expand school-based programs. The Parkland shootings last year at a Florida high school heightened sensitivity to the mental health needs of students.
But such increases for specific programs pale in comparison with the impact of Medicaid cuts. This year Trump again proposed to turn the program over to the states, limiting future federal financing. That would have led to a cut of about $1.4 trillion over 10 years from currently projected levels of federal spending.
The administration says that’s not really a cut, since spending would have continued to grow, just more slowly. But limits on federal financing would have forced states to confront hard choices over competing priorities like mental health or addiction treatment, nursing home costs or prenatal care for low-income women.
As a candidate, Trump had originally promised that he would not cut Medicaid.
TRUMP: “As your President, one would think that I would be thrilled with our very strong dollar. I am not!” — tweet Thursday.
TRUMP: “The Fed’s high interest rate level, in comparison to other countries, is keeping the dollar high, making it more difficult for our great manufacturers like Caterpillar, Boeing …. John Deere, our car companies, & others, to compete on a level playing field. With substantial Fed Cuts (there is no inflation) and no quantitative tightening, the dollar will make it possible for our companies to win against competition.” — tweet Thursday.
THE FACTS: The president is oversimplifying the Fed’s role in determining the dollar’s value and failing to take into account possible threats to the country from a weaker dollar.
Trump is correct that U.S. interest rates play a role in determining the value of the dollar against other currencies. Higher U.S. rates tend to attract foreign investors who want to earn higher rates of return on dollar-denominated investments and this does push the dollar’s value higher.
The Fed cut its key short-term rate by a quarter-point last week, its first reduction in more than a decade. But the Fed’s action in setting its short-term rate is only one factor influencing the dollar’s value.
U.S. economic growth also plays a major role. Investors have pushed up the value of the dollar because they are attracted to U.S. assets since America’s economy is growing faster than most other major economies.
And Trump’s drumbeat for a lower dollar ignores the threats that could be posed if the dollar were to weaken significantly. That could spark higher inflation in this country and push interest rates up as foreign buyers of Treasury bonds to fund the government’s $22 trillion debt demand a higher return to guard against the devaluation of the dollar.
TRUMP: “China is losing so many — they’re losing — thousands and thousands of companies are leaving China now because of the tariffs.” — remarks to reporters Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Not so fast. It’s true that many companies are rethinking their supply chains in an effort to dodge Trump’s tariffs on goods from China. Some are moving production to other countries such as Vietnam and Mexico. But there’s no evidence of a mass exodus. For one thing, relocating factories takes time — often 12 to 18 months. For another, it will be hard for multinationals to duplicate what they have in China — long-standing relationships with Chinese contractors and access to a vast array of specialized suppliers who can quickly deliver niche components.
Trump last week sought to intensify pressure on China to reach a trade deal by saying he will impose 10% tariffs Sept. 1 on the remaining $300 billion in Chinese imports he hasn’t already taxed. U.S. consumers will likely feel the pain if Trump proceeds with the new tariffs.
TRUMP: “China dropped the price of their currency to an almost a historic low. It’s called ‘currency manipulation.’ Are you listening Federal Reserve? This is a major violation which will greatly weaken China over time!” — tweet Monday.
TRUMP: “China is intent on continuing to receive the hundreds of Billions of Dollars they have been taking from the U.S. with unfair trade practices and currency manipulation. So one-sided, it should have been stopped many years ago!” — tweet Monday.
THE FACTS: He’s misrepresenting the facts.
Trump is correct to be worried that China may decide to use its currency as a weapon in its ongoing trade war with the United States. But it is Trump’s own Treasury Department that had failed to cite China as a currency manipulator in five reports it had issued since Trump took office in January 2017, even though Trump promised in the 2016 campaign to do so right away. Treasury’s surprise move to formally label China a currency manipulator late Monday came after China allowed its currency, the yuan, to fall below the seven yuan-to-$1 level for the first time in 11 years. In the following days, China continued to lower the trading range for the yuan, showing the potential to use its currency as a weapon in the trade war with the United States.
A weaker yuan would make Chinese goods less expensive in the United States, potentially offsetting some of the impact of the tariffs Trump has already imposed on $250 billion in Chinese goods and is threatening to widen to an additional $300 billion in goods next month. Those U.S. tariffs drive up the cost of Chinese imports to American consumers.
Trump appeared to blame the Federal Reserve for not taking action against China in the currency area. In reality, the Treasury’s previous reports had repeatedly said that China did not meet the requirements established in U.S. law to be branded a currency manipulator. Under U.S. law, the Federal Reserve plays no role in deciding whether countries are unfairly manipulating their currencies.
In its announcement Monday, the Treasury Department contended that the real purpose of “China’s currency devaluation is to gain unfair competitive advantage in international trade.” It was the first time Treasury put China on the currency blacklist since 1994.
The administration’s surprise announcement raised questions about what exactly had changed from the Treasury’s last report issued in May that said China did not meet the criteria to be labeled a currency manipulator.
TRUMP: “I am the least racist person. Black … Unemployment is the lowest (BEST) in the history of the United States!” — tweet Tuesday.
THE FACTS: Trump is seeking credit he doesn’t deserve for black job growth.
It’s true that black unemployment did reach a record low during the Trump administration: 5.9% in May 2018. It currently stands at 6%.
But many economists view the continued economic growth since the middle of 2009, when Obama was in office, as the primary explanation for hiring. More important, there are multiple signs that the racial wealth gap is now worsening and the administration appears to have done little, if anything, to specifically address this challenge.
The most dramatic drop in black unemployment came under Obama, when it fell from a recession high of 16.8% in March 2010 to 7.8% in January 2017.
Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Colleen Long, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Paul Wiseman in Washington, Lisa Marie Pane in Boise, Idaho, and Mae Anderson in New York contributed to this report.
President Donald Trump listened to Robert Mueller testify to Congress this past week, then misrepresented what the former special counsel said. Some partisans on both sides did much the same, whether to defend or condemn the president.
Trump seized on Mueller’s testimony to claim anew that he was exonerated by the Russia investigation, which the president wasn’t. He capped the week by wishing aloud that President Barack Obama had received some of the congressional scrutiny he’s endured, ignoring the boatload of investigations, subpoenas and insults visited on the Democrat and his team.
Highlights from a week in review:
TRUMP on Democrats: “All they want to do is impede, they want to investigate. They want to go fishing. … We want to find out what happened with the last Democrat president. Let’s look into Obama the way they’ve looked at me. Let’s subpoena all of the records having to do with Hillary Clinton and all of the nonsense that went on with Clinton and her foundation and everything else. Could do that all day long. Frankly, the Republicans were gentlemen and women when we had the majority in the House. They didn’t do subpoenas all day long. They didn’t do what these people are doing. What they’ve done is a disgrace.” — Oval Office remarks Friday.
THE FACTS: He’s distorting recent history. Republicans made aggressive use of their investigative powers when they controlled one chamber or the other during the Obama years. Moreover, matters involving Hillary Clinton, her use of email as secretary of state, her conduct of foreign policy and the Clinton Foundation were very much part of their scrutiny. And they weren’t notably polite about it.
Over a few months in 2016, House Republicans unleashed a barrage of subpoenas in what minority Democrats called a “desperate onslaught of frivolous attacks” against Clinton. In addition, Clinton was investigated by the FBI.
Earlier, a half-dozen GOP-led House committees conducted protracted investigations of the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya. Republican-led investigations of the 2009-2011 Operation Fast and Furious episode — a botched initiative against drug cartels that ended up putting guns in the hands of violent criminals — lasted into the Trump administration.
On the notion that Obama was treated with courtesy by GOP “gentlemen and women,” Trump ignored an episode at Obama’s 2013 speech to Congress that was shocking at the time.
“You lie!” Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina hollered at Obama. His outburst came when Obama attempted to assure lawmakers that his health care initiative would not provide coverage to people in the U.S. illegally.
Obama also faced persistent innuendo over the country of his birth. Trump himself was a leading voice raising baseless suspicions that Obama was born outside the U.S.
TRUMP: “We’re getting the remains back.” — Fox News interview Thursday.
THE FACTS: No remains of U.S. service members have been returned since last summer and the U.S. suspended efforts in May to get negotiations on the remains back on track in time to have more repatriated this year. It hopes more remains may be brought home next year.
The Pentagon’s Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency, which is responsible for recovering U.S. war remains and returning them to families, “has not received any new information from (North Korean) officials regarding the turn over or recovery of remains,” spokesman Charles Prichard said this month.
He said his agency is “still working to communicate” with the North Korean army “as it is our intent to find common ground on resuming recovery missions” in 2020.
Last summer, in line with the first summit between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un that June, the North turned over 55 boxes of what it said were the remains of an undetermined number of U.S. service members killed in the North during the 1950-53 war. So far, six Americans have been identified from the 55 boxes.
U.S. officials have said the North has suggested in recent years that it holds perhaps 200 sets of American war remains. Thousands more are unrecovered from battlefields and former POW camps.
The Pentagon estimates that 5,300 Americans were lost in North Korea.
TRUMP to his critics, in a fundraising letter from his 2020 campaign: “How many times do I have to be exonerated before they stop?” — during Mueller’s testimony Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Trump has not been exonerated by Mueller at all. “No,” Mueller said when asked during his Capitol Hill questioning whether he had cleared the president of criminal wrongdoing in the investigation that looked into the 2016 Trump campaign’s relations with Russians and Russia’s interference in the U.S. election.
In his report, Mueller said his team declined to make a prosecutorial judgment on whether to charge Trump, partly because of a Justice Department legal opinion that said sitting presidents shouldn’t be indicted.
As a result, his detailed report factually laid out instances in which Trump might have obstructed justice, leaving it up to Congress to take up the matter.
As well, Mueller looked into a potential criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign and said the investigation did not collect sufficient evidence to establish criminal charges on that front.
Following Mueller’s testimony, Trump abruptly took a different stance on the special counsel’s report. After months of claiming exoneration, and only hours after stating as much in the fundraising letter while the hearing unfolded, Trump incongruously flipped, saying “He didn’t have the right to exonerate.”
TRUMP, on why Mueller did not recommend charges: “He made his decision based on the facts, not based on some rule.” — remarks to reporters Wednesday after the hearings.
THE FACTS: Mueller did not say that.
The special counsel said his team never reached a determination on charging Trump. At no point has he suggested that he made that decision because the facts themselves did not support charges.
The rule Trump refers to is the Justice Department legal opinion that says sitting presidents are immune from indictment — and that guidance did restrain the investigators, though it was not the only factor in play.
JOE BIDEN, Democratic presidential contender: “Mueller said there was enough evidence to bring charges against the president after he is president of the United States, when he is a private citizen … that’s a pretty compelling thing.” — speaking to reporters in Dearborn, Michigan.
THE FACTS: Mueller did not say that, either. He deliberately drew no conclusions about whether he collected sufficient evidence to charge Trump with a crime.
Mueller said that if prosecutors want to charge Trump once he is out of office, they would have that ability because obstacles to indicting a sitting president would be gone.
Even that came with a caveat, though. Mueller did not answer whether the statute of limitations might put Trump off limits to an indictment should he win re-election.
Biden spoke after being briefed on the hearings and prefaced his remark with a request to “correct me if I’m wrong.”
Rep. JOHN RATCLIFFE, R-Texas, to Mueller: “You didn’t follow the special counsel regulations. It clearly says, write a confidential report about decisions reached. Nowhere in here does it say write a report about decisions that weren’t reached. You wrote 180 pages — 180 pages — about decisions that weren’t reached, about potential crimes that weren’t charged or decided. …This report was not authorized under the law to be written.” — hearing Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Mueller’s report is lawful. Nothing in Justice Department regulations governing special counsels prevents Mueller from saying what he did in the report.
It is true that the regulations provide for the special counsel to submit a “confidential report” to the attorney general explaining his decisions to recommend for or against a prosecution. But it was Attorney General William Barr who made the decision to make the report public, which is his right.
Special counsels have wide latitude, and are not directed to avoid writing about “potential crimes that weren’t charged or decided,” as Ratcliffe put it.
Mueller felt constrained from bringing charges because of the apparent restriction on indicting sitting presidents. But his report left open the possibility that Congress could use the information in an impeachment proceeding or that Trump could be charged after he leaves office.
The factual investigation was conducted “in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available,” the report said.
In a tweet, Neal Katyal, who drafted the Justice Department regulations, wrote: “Ratcliffe dead wrong about the Special Counsel regs. I drafted them in 1999. They absolutely don’t forbid the Mueller Report. And they recognize the need for a Report ‘both for historical purposes and to enhance accountability.’”
Rep. MIKE JOHNSON, R-La., addressing Mueller: “Millions of Americans today maintain genuine concerns about your work in large part because of the infamous and widely publicized bias of your investigating team members, which we now know included 14 Democrats and zero Republicans.” — hearing Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Johnson echoes a widely repeated false claim by Trump that the Mueller probe was biased because the investigators were all a bunch of “angry Democrats.” In fact, Mueller himself is a Republican.
Some have 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 reported to Barr, and before him, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who were both Trump appointees.
TRUMP, on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York: “She called our country and our people garbage. She said garbage. That’s worse than deplorable. Remember deplorable?” — remarks Tuesday at gathering of conservative youth.
THE FACTS: Ocasio-Cortez did not label people “garbage.” She did use that term, somewhat indirectly, to describe the state of the country.
Arguing for a liberal agenda at a South by Southwest event in March, she said the U.S. shouldn’t settle for centrist policies because they would produce only marginal improvement — “10% better” than the “garbage” of where the country is now.
Trump has been assailing Ocasio-Cortez and three other liberal Democratic women of color in the House for more than a week, ever since he posted tweets saying they should “go back” to their countries, though all are U.S. citizens and all but one was born in the U.S.
TRUMP: “And when they’re saying all of this stuff, and then those illegals get out and vote — because they vote anyway. Don’t kid yourself, those numbers in California and numerous other states, they’re rigged. You got people voting that shouldn’t be voting. They vote many times, not just twice, not just three times. They vote — it’s like a circle. They come back, they put a new hat on. They come back, they put a new shirt. And in many cases, they don’t even do that. You know what’s going on. It’s a rigged deal.” — remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: Trump has produced no evidence of widespread voting fraud by people in the country illegally or by any group of people.
He tried, but the commission he appointed on voting fraud collapsed from infighting and from the refusal of states to cooperate when tapped for reams of personal voter data, like names, partial Social Security numbers and voting histories. Studies have found only isolated cases of voter fraud in recent U.S. elections and no evidence that election results were affected. Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt found 31 cases of impersonation fraud, for example, in about 1 billion votes cast in elections from 2000 to 2014.
Trump has falsely claimed that 1 million fraudulent votes were cast in California and cited a Texas state government report that suggested 58,000 people in the country illegally may have cast a ballot at least once since 1996. But state elections officials subsequently acknowledged serious problems with the report, as tens of thousands on the list were actually U.S. citizens.
TRUMP: “We have the best stock market numbers we’ve ever had … Blue-collar workers went up proportionately more than anybody.” — Fox News interview Thursday.
THE FACTS: Wealthier Americans have largely benefited from the stock market gains, not blue-collar workers.
The problem with Trump claiming the stock market has helped working-class Americans is that the richest 10% of the country controls 84% of stock market value, according to a Federal Reserve survey. Because they hold more stocks, wealthier Americans have inherently benefited more from the 19% gain in the Standard & Poor’s index of 500 stocks so far this year. Only about half of U.S. families hold stocks, so plenty of people are getting little to no benefit from the stock market gains.
What Trump may be claiming with regard to the stock market is that working Americans are disproportionately benefiting in their 401(k) retirement savings.
Trump has said that 401(k) plans are up more than 50%. His data source is vague. But 401(k) balances have increased in large part due to routine contributions by workers and employers, not just stock market gains.
The Employee Benefit Research Institute shows that only one group of Americans has gotten an average annual 401(k) gain in excess of 50% during Trump’s presidency. These are workers age 25 to 34 who have fewer than five years at their current employer. At that age, the gains largely came from the regular contributions instead of the stock market. And the percentage gains look large because the account levels are relatively small.
TRUMP: “We have the best economy we’ve ever had.” — Fox News interview Thursday.
TRUMP: “We have the best economy in history.” — remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: No matter how often he repeats this claim, which is a lot, the economy is nowhere near the best in the country’s history.
In fact, in the late 1990s, growth topped 4% for four straight years, a level it has not reached on an annual basis under Trump. Growth reached 7.2% in 1984. The economy grew 2.9% in 2018 — the same pace it reached in 2015 under Obama — and simply hasn’t hit historically high growth rates.
The economy is now in its 121st month of growth, making it the longest expansion in history. Most of that took place under Obama.
TRUMP: “Most people working within U.S. ever!” — tweet Thursday.
TRUMP: “The most people working, almost 160 million, in the history of our country.” — remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: Yes, but that’s only because of population growth.
A more relevant measure is the proportion of Americans with jobs, and that is still far below record highs.
According to Labor Department data, 60.6% of people in the United States 16 years and older were working in June. That’s below the all-time high of 64.7% in April 2000, though higher than the 59.9% when Trump was inaugurated in January 2017.
TRUMP: “The best employment numbers in history.” — remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: They are not the best ever.
The 3.7% unemployment rate in the latest report is not a record low. It’s the lowest in 50 years. The rate was 3.5% in 1969 and 3.4% in 1968.
The U.S. also had lower rates than now in the early 1950s. And during three years of World War II, the annual rate was under 2%.
TRUMP, on his efforts to help veterans: “I got Choice.” — remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: He is not the president who “got” the Veterans Choice program, which gives veterans the option to see private doctors outside the Department of Veterans Affairs medical system at government expense.
Obama got it. Congress approved the program in 2014, and Obama signed it into law. Trump expanded it.
TRUMP: “We’re paying close to 100% on NATO.” — remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: The U.S. isn’t “paying close to 100%” of the price of protecting Europe.
NATO has a shared budget to which each member makes contributions based on the size of its economy. The United States, with the biggest economy, pays the biggest share, about 22%.
Four European members — Germany, France, Britain and Italy — combined pay nearly 44% of the total. The money, about $3 billion, runs NATO’s headquarters and covers certain other civilian and military costs.
Defending Europe involves far more than that fund. The primary cost of doing so would come from each member country’s military budget, as the alliance operates under a mutual defense treaty.
The U.S. is the largest military spender, but others in the alliance have armed forces, too. The notion that almost all costs would fall to the U.S. is false. In fact, NATO’s Article 5, calling for allies to act if one is attacked, has only been invoked once, and it was on behalf of the U.S., after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington and Corey Williams in Dearborn, Michigan, contributed to this report.
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The solid economy is doing little to bolster support for President Donald Trump.
Americans give Trump mixed reviews for his economic stewardship despite the growth achieved during this presidency, according to a new survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Nearly two-thirds describe as “good” an economy that appears to have set a record for the longest expansion in U.S. history, with decade-long growth that began under Barack Obama. More people consider the economy to be good today than did at the start of the year.
But significantly fewer approve of Trump’s handling of the economy, even as it remains a relative strength compared with other issues. The survey indicates that most Americans do not believe they’re personally benefiting from his trade policies. And only 17% said they received a tax cut, despite government and private sector figures showing that a clear majority of taxpayers owed less after the president’s tax overhaul passed in 2017.
These doubts create a possible vulnerability as Trump highlights the economy’s solid performance in his campaign for re-election in 2020. During two nights of debates last week, almost every Democratic presidential candidate found ways to criticize the president by decrying the wealth gap .
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said it was evidence of “corruption.” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders railed against the concentration of wealth in the three richest Americans, while former Vice President Joe Biden said Trump thinks Wall Street, not the middle class, built America.
Christel Bastida, 39, a neuroscience researcher, was active in Democratic politics last year during the Senate race in Texas and plans to run for Houston City Council.
“I personally don’t feel more secure financially and I think that’s the case for a lot of people who are middle class,” she said. “A lot of working-class people are not comfortable now. I know there were tax breaks that were supposed to be helpful to people, but it turns out they’re helpful to billionaires and corporations and I’m neither.”
Nearly half of Americans, 47%, approve of Trump’s handling of the economy, but his overall approval rating — 38% — is low compared with what past presidents have enjoyed in strong economic conditions. Only about 4 in 10 Americans approve of his handling of taxes and trade negotiations.
The public skepticism has persisted even as the president routinely congratulates himself on the economy, including the 3.6% unemployment rate and stock market gains.
He tweeted last week: “The Stock Market went up massively from the day after I won the Election, all the way up to the day that I took office, because of the enthusiasm for the fact that I was going to be President. That big Stock Market increase must be credited to me.”
The 2017 tax overhaul was sold by the administration as a way to return more income to everyday Americans. But the poll shows nearly half say they think their taxes stayed the same or are unsure; 33% said they increased. This suggests the tax cuts may have been too modest to notice or were eaten up by daily expenses, or that people were disappointed with their refunds.
That feeling of being left behind has energized Democrats seeking to turn out the vote next year. The tax overhaul disproportionately favored corporations and the wealthy, allowing Democrats to say the tax cuts were fundamentally unfair.
Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say the amount they paid in taxes increased in the last year, 42% versus 25%, while more Republicans say their taxes decreased, 25% versus 10%.
Nor are tariffs popular.
Trump has imposed a tax on roughly $250 billion worth of Chinese imports, part of an effort to force the world’s second-largest economy to trade on more favorable terms with the United States. China retaliated with their own tariffs that hit the U.S. agricultural sector, causing the Trump administration to provide aid to farmers with lost profits.
The president has also threatened tariffs on Mexico in order to get that country to reduce the border-crossings into the United States and has mused about hitting European autos with import taxes as well.
A mere 15% of Americans said the tariffs will help them and their family.
With regards to the national economy, just 26% said the tariffs will help, a sharp decline from 40% who said that last August. About half said the tariffs will be harmful.
Republicans, in particular, are less optimistic: Half think Trump’s tariffs will help the economy, down from 7 in 10 in August.
Ryan Brueggemann, 37, of New Berlin, Wisconsin, runs a dairy farm with his brother. He supports Trump but dislikes the tariffs, though he understands why the president has deployed them so frequently.
“I don’t believe it’s a great business practice to use them,” Brueggemann said. “But it came down to the point where our country is being taken advantage of unfairly and that the only way other nations were going to listen to what we wanted to renegotiate and even get them to the table to think about it was to get their attention by putting some tariffs on products.”
Paul Miller, 81, a retired shoe factory foreman from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, said he still intends to vote for Trump, since he hasn’t seen anyone better yet in the Democratic field.
Living off his pension and Social Security, Miller said the tax cuts were basically irrelevant for him. And he doesn’t agree with the president’s claim that China is paying for the tariffs, rather than U.S. consumers and companies.
“I sort of have mixed feelings about the tariffs,” he said. “Of course, I don’t believe it when Trump says we won’t have to pay them. We will.”
Associated Press reporters Carrie Antlfinger in New Berlin, Wisconsin, and John L. Mone in Houston contributed.
The AP-NORC poll of 1,116 adults was conducted June 13-17 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4 percentage points. Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods and were interviewed later online or by phone.
Straining for deals on trade and nukes in Asia, President Donald Trump hailed a meeting with North Korea’s leader that he falsely claimed President Barack Obama coveted, asserted a U.S. auto renaissance that isn’t and wrongly stated air in the U.S. is the cleanest ever as he dismissed climate change.
He also ignored the reality in suggesting that nobody had implicated Saudi’s crown prince in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Trump’s own intelligence agencies and a U.N. investigator, in fact, have pointed a finger at the prince.
The president’s misstatements over the weekend capped several days of extraordinary claims, including a false one accusing special counsel Robert Mueller of a crime and misrepresenting trade in multiple dimensions.
Democratic presidential candidates, meantime, stepped forward for their first debates and tripped at times on issues dear to them: climate change, health care and immigration among them.
A look at the misstatements:
TRUMP: “President Obama wanted to meet, and Chairman Kim would not meet him. The Obama administration was begging for a meeting. They were begging for meetings constantly. And Chairman Kim would not meet with him.” — joint news conference Sunday with South Korea’s president in Seoul.
THE FACTS: That’s not the case.
While Obama came into his presidency saying he’d be willing to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and other U.S. adversaries “without preconditions,” he never publicly sought a meeting with Kim. Obama eventually met Cuba’s President Raul Castro and spoke to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani by phone but took a different stance with Kim in 2009 as North Korea was escalating missile and nuclear tests.
“This is the same kind of pattern that we saw his father engage in, and his grandfather before that,” Obama said in 2013. “Since I came into office, the one thing I was clear about was, we’re not going to reward this kind of provocative behavior. You don’t get to bang your — your spoon on the table and somehow you get your way.”
Ben Rhodes, who was on Obama’s national security team for both terms, tweeted: ?“Obama never sought a meeting with Kim Jong Un.”
Trump has portrayed his diplomacy with Kim as happening due to a special personal chemistry and friendship, saying he’s in “no rush” to get Kim to commit fully to denuclearization.
TRUMP: “Blue-collar workers are doing fantastic. They’re the biggest beneficiary of the tax cuts, the blue collar.” — news conference Saturday at G-20 summit in Japan.
THE FACTS: Wrong.
While most middle-income taxpayers did see a tax cut this year, Trump’s tax cut clearly skewed to the wealthy rather than lower-income groups such as manufacturing workers, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center . It found that taxpayers making $308,000 to $733,000 stood to benefit the most.
The Joint Committee on Taxation separately found the tax cuts were particularly helpful to businesses and people making more than $100,000 annually.
LARRY KUDLOW, White House economic adviser: “The United States economy is booming. It’s running at roughly 3 percent average since President Trump took office two and a half years ago. On this business about bad distribution, the blue-collar workers, the nonsupervisory workers have done the best. They’re the ones running wages at 3-1/2 percent. Their growth and incomes and wages is exceeding the growth of their supervisors.” — interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
THE FACTS: There’s some truth to the claim that low-income workers have seen better wage gains than others in the workforce. This trend predates Trump’s presidency and has continued. But the blue-collar workforce has lagged behind lower-wage workers in pay gains.
Some of the gains reflect higher minimum wages passed at the state and local level, not just the rate of economic growth. The Trump administration opposes an increase to the federal minimum wage.
With the unemployment rate at 3.6%, the lowest since December 1969, employers are struggling to fill jobs. They have pushed up pay for the lowest-paid one-quarter of workers more quickly than for everyone else since 2015. In April, the poorest 25% saw their paychecks increase 4.4% from a year earlier, compared with 3.1% for the richest one-quarter.
But when measured by industry, wages are rising more quickly for lower-paid service workers. Hourly pay for retail workers has risen 4.1% in the past year and 3.8% for hotel and restaurant employees. Manufacturing workers — the blue collars — have seen pay rise just 2.2% and construction workers, 3.2%.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: “Eighty-three percent of your tax benefits go to the top 1%.”— Democratic presidential debate Thursday.
THE FACTS: That statistic is not close to true now. The Vermont senator is referring to 2027, not the present day. He didn’t include that critical context in his statement.
His figures come from an analysis by the Tax Policy Center. That analysis found that in 2027 the top 1% of earners would get 83% of the savings from the tax overhaul signed into law by Trump. Why is that? Most of the tax cuts for individuals are set to expire after 2025, so their benefits go away while cuts for corporations continue. The 2017 tax overhaul does disproportionately favor the wealthy and corporations, but just 20.5% of the benefits went to the top 1% last year.
REP. TIM RYAN: “The bottom 60% haven’t seen a raise since 1980. The top 1% control 90% of the wealth.” — Democratic presidential debate Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Those figures exaggerate the state of income and wealth inequality. While few studies single out the bottom 60%, the Congressional Budget Office calculates that the bottom 80% of Americans have seen their incomes rise 32% since 1979. That is certainly lower than the doubling of income enjoyed by the top one-fifth of income earners. And the richest 1% possess 32% of the nation’s wealth, according to data from the Federal Reserve, not 90%.
BETO O’ROURKE, former U.S. representative from Texas: “That’s how you explain an economy that is rigged to corporations and the very wealthiest. A $2 trillion tax cut that favored corporations while they were sitting on record piles of cash and the very wealthiest in this country at a time of historic wealth inequality.” — debate Wednesday.
THE FACTS: The tax cut wasn’t quite that big: The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that it will reduce tax revenues by $1.5 trillion over the next decade. And individuals, not corporations, will actually receive the bulk of those cuts — they’re getting $1.1 trillion while businesses get $654 billion, offset by higher tax revenues from changes to international tax law.
The tax cuts did mostly favor richer Americans: The top one-fifth of income earners got 65% of the benefit from the tax cuts in 2018 with just 1% going to the poorest one-fifth, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
TRUMP: “Many, many companies — including South Korea — but many companies are coming into the United States. … Car companies, in particular. They’re going to Michigan. They’re going to Ohio and North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Florida. … We hadn’t had a plant built in years — in decades, actually. And now we have many plants being built all throughout the United States — cars.” — remarks Sunday to Korean business leaders in Seoul.
THE FACTS: Car companies are not pouring into the U.S. as Trump suggests, nor does he deserve all the credit for those that have moved here. He’s also wrong in saying that auto plants haven’t been built in decades. A number of automakers — Toyota, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen among them — opened plants in recent decades, mostly in the South.
The only automaker announcing plans to reopen a plant in Michigan is Fiat Chrysler, which is restarting an old engine plant to build three-row SUVs. It’s been planning to do so since before Trump was elected. GM is even closing two Detroit-area factories: one that builds cars and another that builds transmissions. Toyota is building a new factory in Alabama with Mazda, and Volvo opened a plant in South Carolina last year, but in each case, that was in the works before Trump took office.
Automakers have made announcements about new models being built in Michigan, but no other factories have been reopened. Ford stopped building the Focus compact car in the Detroit suburb of Wayne last year, but it’s being replaced by the manufacture of a small pickup and a new SUV. That announcement was made in December 2016, before Trump took office.
GM, meantime, is closing factories in Ohio and Maryland.
Trump can plausibly claim that his policies have encouraged some activity in the domestic auto industry. Corporate tax cuts freed more money for investment, and potential tariff increases on imported vehicles are an incentive to build in the U.S. But when expansion does happen, it’s not all because of him.
Fiat Chrysler has been planning the SUVs for several years and has been looking at expansion in the Detroit area, where it has unused building space and an abundant, trainable automotive labor force.
Normally it takes at least three years for an automaker to plan a new vehicle, which is the case with the three-row Jeep Grand Cherokee and the larger Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer SUVs that will fill the restarting Detroit-area plant and an existing one. Several years ago then-CEO Sergio Marchionne said the Wagoneer would be built in the Detroit area.
TRUMP, on the murder of Khashoggi: “Nobody, so far, has pointed directly a finger at the future King of Saudi Arabia.” — news conference Saturday at G-20 summit in Japan.
THE FACTS: In fact, U.S. intelligence agencies and a U.N. investigator have pointed a finger at him.
U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman must have at least been aware of a plot to kill Khashoggi when the journalist went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to pick up documents to marry his Turkish fiancee. Last month, an independent U.N. report into the killing of Khashoggi said there was “credible evidence” to warrant further investigation into the possible role of the crown prince, and suggested sanctions on his personal assets.
Khashoggi, who had been living in the U.S., criticized the Saudi royal family in his writings.
TRUMP, playing down the need to address climate change: “We have the cleanest air we’ve ever had.” — news conference Saturday at G-20 summit in Japan.
THE FACTS: That’s false, and air quality hasn’t improved under the Trump administration. Dozens of nations having less smoggy air than the U.S.
After decades of improvement, progress in air quality has stalled. Over the last two years the U.S. had more polluted air days than just a few years earlier, federal data show.
There were 15% more days with unhealthy air in America both last year and the year before than there were on average from 2013 through 2016, the four years when the U.S had its fewest number of those days since at least 1980.
The Obama administration set records for the fewest air polluted days.
The non-profit Health Effects Institute’s “State of Global Air 2019” report ranked the United States 37th dirtiest out of 195 countries for ozone, also known as smog, worse than the global average for population-weighted pollution. Countries such as Britain, Japan, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Albania, Cuba, Russia, Vietnam, New Zealand and Canada have less smoggy air. The U.S. ranks 8th cleanest on the more deadly category of fine particles in the air. It’s still behind countries such as Canada and New Zealand but better than the global average.
JOE BIDEN, on Obama’s record: “He is the first man to bring together the entire world — 196 nations — to commit to deal with climate change.” — debate Thursday.
THE FACTS: Not really. The former vice president is minimizing a major climate deal from 22 years ago, a decade before Obama became president.
In 1997, nations across the world met in Japan and hammered out the Kyoto Protocol to limit climate change in a treaty that involved more than 190 countries at different points in time. That treaty itself stemmed from the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Biden is referring to an agreement that came out of a 2015 meeting in Paris that was the 21st climate change convention meeting.
The Kyoto Protocol only required specific greenhouse gas emission cuts of developed nations, fewer than half the countries in the world. The Paris agreement, where several world leaders pushed hard, including France’s president, has every country agreeing to do something. But each country proposed its own goals.
JAY INSLEE, Washington’s governor: “We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change and we are the last that can do something about it. … It is our last chance in an administration, next one, to do something about it.” — debate Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Not quite. This answer implies that after 2025 or 2029, when whoever is elected in 2020 leaves office, it will be too late to fight or limit climate change.
That’s a common misconception that stemmed from a U.N. scientific report that came out last fall, which talked about 2030, mostly because that’s a key date in the Paris climate agreement. The report states that with every half a degree Celsius and with every year, global warming and its dangers get worse. However, it does not say at some point it is too late.
“The hotter it gets the worse it gets but there is no cliff edge,” James Skea, co-chairman of the report and professor of sustainable energy at Imperial College London, told The Associated Press.
The report co-author, Swiss climate scientist Sonia I. Seneviratne this month tweeted, “Many scientists point – rightfully – to the fact that we cannot state with certainty that climate would suddenly go berserk in 12 years if we weren’t doing any climate mitigation. But who can state with certainty that we would be safe beyond that stage or even before that?”
O’ROURKE, referring to the international climate goal: “If all of us does all that we can, then we’re going to be able to keep this planet from warming another 2 degrees Celsius and ensure that we match what this country can do and live up to our promise and our potential.” — debate Wednesday.
THE FACTS: O’Rourke gets the climate goal wrong.
Since 2009, international summits and the Paris climate agreement list the overarching goal as limiting climate change to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial times. That’s somewhere between 1850 and 1880, depending on who is calculating.
There’s a big difference because since pre-industrial times, Earth has already warmed 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit). So the world community is talking about 1 degree Celsius from now and O’Rourke is talking about twice that.
TRUMP, on communications between two FBI employees: “Mueller terminated them illegally. He terminated the emails, he terminated all of the stuff between Strzok and Page, you know they sung like you’ve never seen. Robert Mueller terminated their text messages together. He would – he terminated them. They’re gone. And that’s illegal, he — that’s a crime.” — interview Wednesday on Fox Business Network.
THE FACTS: Not true. Mueller had no role in deleting anti-Trump text messages traded by former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and ex-FBI lawyer Lisa Page, and there’s no basis for saying he was involved in anything illegal. Also, the communications didn’t vanish.
Once Mueller learned of the existence of the texts, which were sent before his appointment as special counsel, he removed Strzok from his team investigating potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
The FBI, for technical reasons, was initially unable to retrieve months of text messages between the two officials. But the FBI was ultimately able to recover them and there’s never been any allegation that Mueller had anything to do with that process.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: “Vice President Biden, do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America, then?”
BIDEN: “I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That’s what I opposed.” — debate Thursday.
THE FACTS: That’s hairsplitting.
Biden is claiming that he only opposed the U.S. Education Department’s push for busing to integrate schools because he didn’t want federal mandates forced on local school boards. But in the early and mid-1970s, those were the fault lines in almost every U.S. community, from New Orleans to Boston, where there was stiff opposition to busing. If you were a politician opposing federally enforced busing, you were enabling any local school board or city government that was fighting against it.
As a senator in the late 1970s, Biden supported several measures, including one signed by President Jimmy Carter, that restricted the federal government’s authority in forced busing.
Biden told NPR in 1975 that he would support a constitutional amendment to ban court-ordered busing “if it can’t be done through a piece of legislation.”
BIDEN, on Trump’s treatment of migrant children at the border: “The idea that he’s in court with his Justice Department saying, children in cages do not need a bed, do not need a blanket, do not need a toothbrush — that is outrageous.”
HARRIS: “I will release children from cages.”
JOHN HICKENLOOPER, former Colorado governor: “If you would have ever told me any time in my life that this country would sanction federal agents to take children from the arms of their parents, put them in cages, actually put them up for adoption — in Colorado we call that kidnapping — I would have told you it was unbelievable.” — debate Thursday.
THE FACTS: They are tapping into a misleading and common insinuation by Democrats about Trump placing “children in cages.”
The cages are chain-link fences and the Obama-Biden administration used them, too.
Children and adults are held behind them, inside holding Border Patrol facilities, under the Trump administration as well.
President Barack Obama’s administration detained large numbers of unaccompanied children inside chain link fences in 2014. Images that circulated online of children in cages during the height of Trump’s family separations controversy were actually from 2014 when Obama was in office.
Children are placed in such areas by age and sex for safety reasons and are supposed to be held for no longer than 72 hours by the Border Patrol. But as the number of migrants continues to grow under the Trump administration, the system is clogged at every end, so Health and Human Services, which manages the care of children in custody, can’t come get the children in time. Officials say they are increasingly holding children for 5 days or longer.
HHS facilities are better equipped to manage the care of children. But, facing budget concerns, officials cut activities such as soccer, English classes and legal aid for children in their care.
As for Hickenlooper’s claim about the government forcing those children into unwanted adoption, that is not federal policy.
SANDERS: Under “Medicare for All,” ″the vast majority of the people in this country will be paying significantly less for health care than they are now.” — debate Thursday.
THE FACTS: Probably true, but that’s only part of the equation for a family. Sanders’ plan for a government-run health care system to replace private insurance calls for no premiums, and no copays and deductibles. But taxes would have to go up significantly as the government takes on trillions of dollars in health care costs now covered by employers and individuals. Independent studies estimate the government would be spending an additional $28 trillion to $36 trillion over 10 years, although Medicare for All supporters say that’s overstating it.
How those tax increases would be divvied up remains to be seen, as Sanders has not released a blueprint for how to finance his plan.
TRUMP ON ECONOMY
TRUMP on his tariffs on Chinese goods: “Don’t let anyone tell you that we’re paying. We’re not paying, China’s paying for it.” — Fox Business Network interview.
THE FACTS: Americans are paying for it.
Trump refuses to recognize a reality that his own chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, has acknowledged. Tariffs are mainly if not entirely paid by companies and consumers in the country that imposes them. China is not sending billions of dollars to the U.S. treasury.
In a study in May , the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, with Princeton and Columbia universities, estimated that tariffs from Trump’s trade dispute with China were costing $831 per U.S. household on an annual basis. And that was based on the situation in 2018, before tariffs escalated. Analysts also found that the burden of Trump’s tariffs falls entirely on U.S. consumers and businesses that buy imported products.
Trump persistently mischaracterizes trade in all its dimensions, giving the wrong numbers for trade deficits, asserting that tariffs did not exist before him, and portraying them inaccurately as a windfall for the government and taxpayers. In that respect, he was correct when he said in the interview, “I view tariffs differently than a lot of other people.”
TRUMP: “The poverty index is also best number EVER.” — tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Not true. The current poverty rate of 12.3% is not the lowest ever; it’s fallen below that several times over the last half-century, according to the Census Bureau’s official count.
The poverty rate dropped only modestly under Trump’s watch, to 12.3 percent in 2017 — the latest figure available — from 12.7 percent in 2016. At the same time, nearly 40 million Americans remained poor by the Census Bureau’s count, statistically unchanged from 2016.
The poverty rate previously has stood at 12.3% as recently as 2006, and was 11.3% in 2000.
The U.S. poverty rate hit a record low of 11.1% in 1973.
Associated Press writers Josh Boak, Christopher Rugaber, Colleen Long, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Stephen Braun, Eric Tucker, and Paul Wiseman in Washington, Tom Krisher in Detroit, Foster Klug in Tokyo, and Amanda Seitz in Chicago contributed to this report.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren raised her hand as one of the only Democratic presidential contenders willing to abolish her own private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan, demanding “structural change” in the economy and the government as Democrats met on the debate stage for the first time in the 2020 presidential season.
Warren’s position highlighted a rift within her party’s most ambitious contenders over how to approach inequality in America in a prime-time meeting that marked the unofficial starting line for the Democratic Party’s quest to wrest the White House from Donald Trump and deny him a second term.
The debate marked a new phase in the 2020 presidential season as Democrats seek to break out from the crowded field. While the candidates have been courting voters in key states for several months already, the vast majority of the nation has yet to pay close attention to the diverse field.
On immigration, the Democratic presidential hopefuls were united in blaming Trump for the deaths of a migrant father and his toddler daughter whose bodies were seen in searing photographs after they drowned in the Rio Grande on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Former Obama administration housing chief Julian Castro said, “Watching that image of Oscar and his daughter Valeria was heartbreaking. It should also piss us all off.”
But the candidates didn’t agree on everything. Castro assailed fellow Texan and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke for not calling for fully decriminalizing crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.
O’Rourke said he doesn’t support fully decriminalizing such border crossings because of fears about smugglers of drugs and people.. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker also sided with Castro, arguing for full decriminalization
Most of Warren’s rivals Wednesday night, including former O’Rourke and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, called for universal health care, but also favored preserving the private insurance market. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who will be in a second debate group Thursday night, has proposed a “Medicare for All” system without private insurance, and Warren said she agreed with him.
On economic fairness in general, Warren declared, “Who is this economy really working for? It’s doing great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top. … That is corruption pure and simple … and we need to make structural change.”
One of the few voices for the moderate wing of the Democratic Party on stage, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, pushed back: “We should be the party that keeps what’s working and fixes what’s broken,” he said. “Why do we have to stand for taking away something from people.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who joined Warren in raising his hand on health insurance, cast the debate as part of “the battle for the heart and soul of our party.”
Wednesday night featured a collection of 10 candidates, led by Warren, on national television for two hours. The overall field is so large that a second group of 10 Democrats, led by early front-runner Joe Biden, are to debate 24 hours later.
The groupings were chosen at random by debate host NBC.
Democrats are unified in their deep desire to beat Trump but divided on what kind of candidate is best positioned to do so.
On one side: candidates like Warren who are demanding dramatic change that includes embracing liberal policy priorities like free universal health care, debt-free college, a forgiving immigration policy and higher taxes on the rich. On the other: pragmatic-minded Democrats like Biden — and little-known former Maryland Rep. John Delaney — who are calling for modest policy solutions that could ultimately attract bipartisan support.
Wednesday’s slate also featured Reps. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Tim Ryan of Ohio, along with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
Trump, the elephant not in the room, was in the air traveling to Japan for a round of trade talks as Democrats faced the nation for the first time in the 2020 campaign.
Earlier in the day, he confirmed that he would watch the debate from Air Force One.
His first tweet of the night: “BORING!”
Peoples reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman and Elana Schor in Washington, Sara Burnett in Chicago, David Bauder in New York, Alexandra Jaffe in Miami and Elana Schor in Washington contributed to this report.
An eye toward his 2020 campaign, President Donald Trump is turning to a familiar playbook of exaggerated boasts about economic performance and overdrawn complaints about a race tilted against him.
He insisted the Electoral College gives Democrats a “big advantage” in U.S. presidential elections, making it difficult for Republicans like himself to win. That’s wrong. Though in 2016 he often described the election as “rigged” against him, Trump, in fact, wouldn’t have won the presidency without the Electoral College system in which the votes of smaller rural states that tend to vote Republican are weighted more heavily than big, Democratic-leaning states like New York and California.
Trump also claimed over the weekend that he’s presided over one of the best U.S. economies ever. He’s wrong about that, too.
The misleading rhetoric over the past week came as the president prepared to kick off his re-election campaign Tuesday in Florida.
In Trump’s reckoning, an Iran tamed by him no longer cries “death to America,” the border wall with Mexico is proceeding apace, the estate tax has been lifted off the backs of farmers, the remains of U.S. soldiers from North Korea are coming home and China is opening its wallet to the U.S. Treasury for the first time in history. These claims range from flatly false to mostly so.
President Donald Trump’s assertion that he would be open to accepting a foreign power’s help in his 2020 campaign is ricocheting through Washington. AP Washington bureau chief Julie Pace talks about the implications and the reactions. (June 13)
Here’s a look:
TRUMP, in part addressing polls finding him lagging some of the 2020 Democratic candidates: “It’s always tougher for the Republican because, you know, I don’t know, people — people never cover this, but the Electoral College is very much steered to the Democrats. It’s a big advantage for the Democrats. It’s very much harder for the Republicans to win.” — Fox News interview Friday.
THE FACTS: Actually, the Electoral College’s unique system of electing presidents is a big reason why Trump won the presidency. Four candidates in history, including Al Gore in 2000, have won a majority of the popular vote only to be denied the presidency by the Electoral College. All were Democrats.
In the 2016 election, Democrat Hillary Clinton received 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 The Associated Press. 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 such as Michigan and Wisconsin.
Unlike the popular vote, Electoral College votes are set equal to the number of U.S. representatives in each state plus its two senators. That means more weight is given to a single vote in a small state than the vote of someone in a large state.
ECONOMY and TAXES
TRUMP: “No President has done what I have in … the first 2 1/2 years of his Presidency, including the fact that we have one of the best Economies in the history of our Country.” — tweets Saturday.
THE FACTS: This is one of Trump’s most frequent falsehoods. The economy is solid but it’s not one of the best in the country’s history. Trump is also claiming full credit for an economic expansion that began under President Barack Obama in mid-2009.
The economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the first quarter of this year. That growth was the highest in just four years for the first quarter.
In the late 1990s, growth topped 4 percent for four straight years, a level it has not yet reached on an annual basis under Trump. Growth even reached 7.2 percent in 1984.
While the economy has shown strength, it grew 2.9% in 2018 — the same pace it reached in 2015 — and simply hasn’t hit historically high growth rates.
TRUMP: “Wages are growing, and they are growing at the fastest rate for — this is something so wonderful — for blue-collar workers. The biggest percentage increase — blue-collar workers.” — remarks Tuesday in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
THE FACTS: He’s claiming credit for a trend of rising wages for lower-income blue-collar workers that predates his presidency.
Some of the gains also reflect higher minimum wages passed at the state and local level; the Trump administration opposes an increase to the federal minimum wage.
With the unemployment rate at 3.6%, the lowest since December 1969, employers are struggling to fill jobs. Despite all the talk of robots and automation, thousands of restaurants, warehouses, and retail stores still need workers.
They are offering higher wages and have pushed up pay for the lowest-paid one-quarter of workers more quickly than for everyone else since 2015. In April, the poorest 25% saw their paychecks increase 4.4% from a year earlier, compared with 3.1% for the richest one-quarter.
Those gains are not necessarily flowing to the “blue collar” workers Trump cited. Instead, when measured by industry, wages are rising more quickly for lower-paid service workers. Hourly pay for retail workers has risen 4.1% in the past year and 3.8% for hotel and restaurant employees. Manufacturing workers — the blue collars — have seen pay rise just 2.2% and construction workers, 3.2%.
TRUMP: “And to keep your family farms and ranches in the family, we eliminated the estate tax, also known as the ‘death tax,’ on the small farms and ranches and other businesses. That was a big one. … People were having a farm, they loved their children, and they want to leave it to their children. … And the estate tax was so much, the children would have to go out and borrow a lot of money from unfriendly bankers, in many cases. And they’d end up losing the farm, and it was a horrible situation.” — remarks in Council Bluffs.
THE FACTS: There still is an estate tax. More small farms may be off the hook for it as a result of changes by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2017 but very few farms or small businesses were subject to the tax even before that happened.
Congress increased the tax exemption — temporarily — so fewer people will be subject to those taxes.
Previously, any assets from estates valued at more than $5.49 million, or nearly $11 million for couples, were subject to the estate tax in 2017. The new law doubled that minimum for 2018 to $11.2 million, or $22.4 million for couples. For 2019, the minimums rose to $11.4 million, or $22.8 million for couples. Those increased minimums will expire at the end of 2025.
According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, only about 80 small farms and closely held businesses were subject to the estate tax in 2017. Those estates represent about 1 percent of all taxable estate tax returns.
TRUMP, on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report: “He said no collusion. … The report said no collusion.” — ABC News interview aired Sunday.
TRUMP: “The Mueller report spoke. … It said, ‘No collusion and no obstruction and no nothing.’ And, in fact, it said we actually rebuffed your friends from Russia; that we actually pushed them back — we rebuffed them.” — remarks Wednesday in Oval Office.
THE FACTS: He’s wrong to repeat the claim that the Mueller report found no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign; it’s also false that his campaign in 2016 denied all access to Russians. Nor did the special counsel’s report exonerate Trump on the question of whether he obstructed justice.
Mueller’s two-year investigation and other scrutiny revealed a multitude of meetings with Russians. Among them: Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer who had promised dirt on Clinton.
On collusion, Mueller said he did not assess whether that occurred because it is not a legal term.
He looked into a potential criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign and said the investigation did not collect sufficient evidence to establish criminal charges on that front.
Mueller noted some Trump campaign officials had declined to testify under the Fifth Amendment or had provided false or incomplete testimony, making it difficult to get a complete picture of what happened during the 2016 campaign. The special counsel wrote that he “cannot rule out the possibility” that unavailable information could have cast a different light on the investigation’s findings.
In his interview with ABC News, Trump said if a foreign power offered dirt on his 2020 opponent, he’d be open to accepting it and that he’d have no obligation to call in the FBI. “I think I’d want to hear it,” Trump said. “There’s nothing wrong with listening.”
REPUBLICAN SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, Judiciary Committee chairman, in response to Trump’s comments that he’d be open to accepting political dirt from foreign adversaries like Russia: “The outrage some of my Democratic colleagues are raising about President Trump’s comments will hopefully be met with equal outrage that their own party hired a foreign national to do opposition research on President Trump’s campaign.” — tweet Thursday.
THE FACTS: Graham is making an unequal comparison.
He seeks to turn the tables on Democrats by pointing to their use of a dossier of anti-Trump research produced by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, that was financed by the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Graham also insists on “equal outrage” over Democrats using that information from a former intelligence officer of Britain, an ally with a history of shared intelligence with the U.S. That’s a different story from a foreign adversary such as Russia, which the Mueller report concluded had engaged in “sweeping and systematic” interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Moreover, Steele was hired as a private citizen, though one with intelligence contacts.
The Mueller report found multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, and the report said it established that “the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”
Trump and his GOP allies typically point to the Steele dossier as the basis for the Russia probe. But the FBI’s investigation began months before it received the dossier.
TRUMP: “What kind of a rigged deal is this? And then on top of it, after two years and after being the most transparent in history…” — ABC News interview aired Sunday.
TRUMP: “The Democrats were very unhappy with the Mueller report. So now they’re trying to do a do-over or a redo. And we’re not doing that. We gave them everything. We were the most transparent presidency in history.” — Oval Office remarks Wednesday.
THE FACTS: It’s highly dubious to say Trump was fully cooperative in the Russia investigation.
Trump declined to sit for an interview with Mueller’s team, gave written answers that investigators described as “inadequate” and “incomplete,” said more than 30 times that he could not remember something he was asked about in writing, and — according to the report — tried to get aides to fire Mueller or otherwise shut or limit the inquiry.
In the end, the Mueller report found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia but left open the question of whether Trump obstructed justice.
According to the report, Mueller’s team declined to make a prosecutorial judgment on whether to charge partly because of a Justice Department legal opinion that said sitting presidents shouldn’t be indicted. The report instead factually laid out instances in which Trump might have obstructed justice, specifically leaving it open for Congress to take up the matter.
TRUMP, speaking about Iranians “screaming ‘death to America’” when Barack Obama was in the White House: “They haven’t screamed ‘death to America’ lately.” — Fox News interview Friday.
THE FACTS: Yes they have. The death-to-America chant is heard routinely.
The chant, “marg bar Amreeka” in Farsi, dates back even before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Once used by communists, it was popularized by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the revolution’s figurehead and Iran’s first supreme leader after the U.S. Embassy takeover by militants.
It remains a staple of hard-line demonstrations, meetings with current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, official ceremonies, parliamentary sessions and main Friday prayer services in Tehran and across the country. Some masters of ceremonies ask audiences to tone it down. But it was heard, for example, from the crowd this month when Khamenei exhorted thousands to stand up against U.S. “bullying.”
In one variation, a demonstrator at Tehran’s Quds rally last month held a sign with three versions of the slogan: “Death to America” in Farsi, “Death to America” in Arabic,” ″Down with U.S.A.” in English.
TRUMP: “I think we’re going to do very well with North Korea over a period of time. I’m in no rush. … Our remains are coming back; you saw the beautiful ceremony in Hawaii with Mike Pence. We’re getting the remains back.” — joint news conference Wednesday with Poland’s president.
THE FACTS: The U.S. is not currently getting additional remains of American service members killed during the Korean War.
With U.S.-North Korea relations souring, the Pentagon said last month it had suspended its efforts to arrange negotiations this year on recovering additional remains of American service members. The Pentagon said it hoped to reach agreement for recovery operations in 2020.
The Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency said it has had no communication with North Korean authorities since the Vietnam summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in February. That meeting focused on the North’s nuclear weapons and followed a June 2018 summit where Kim committed to permitting a resumption of U.S. remains recovery; that effort had been suspended by the U.S. in 2005.
The agency said it had “reached the point where we can no longer effectively plan, coordinate, and conduct field operations” with the North during this budget year, which ends Sept. 30.
Last summer, in line with the first Trump-Kim summit in June, the North turned over 55 boxes of what it said were the remains of an undetermined number of U.S service members killed in the North during the 1950-53 war. So far, six Americans have been identified from the 55 boxes.
U.S. officials have said the North has suggested in recent years that it holds perhaps 200 sets of American war remains. Thousands more are unrecovered from battlefields and former POW camps.
The Pentagon estimates that about 5,300 Americans were lost in North Korea.
TRUMP: “The wall is going up. It’s going up rapidly. We’re going to have over 400 miles of wall built by the end of next year … And we just won the lawsuit on the wall.” — Fox News interview Friday.
TRUMP: “By next year, at the end of the year, we’re going to have close to 500 miles of wall.” — remarks Tuesday at the Republican Party of Iowa annual dinner.
THE FACTS: He’s being overly optimistic. It’s unclear how Trump arrives at 400 to 500 miles (800 km), but he would have to prevail in legal challenges to his declaration of a national emergency or get Congress to cough up more money to get anywhere close. Those are big assumptions. And by far the majority of the wall he’s talking about is replacement barrier, not new miles of construction.
So far, the administration has awarded contracts for 247 miles (395 km) of wall construction, but more than half comes from Defense Department money available under Trump’s Feb. 15 emergency declaration. On May 24, a federal judge in California who was appointed by Obama blocked Trump from building key sections of the wall with that money. In a separate case, a federal judge in the nation’s capital who was appointed by Trump sided with the administration , but that ruling has no effect while the California injunction is in place.
Even if Trump prevails in court, all but 17 miles (27 km) of his awarded contracts replace existing barriers.
The White House says it has identified up to $8.1 billion in potential money under the national emergency, mostly from the Defense Department.
Customs and Border Protection officials say the administration wants Congress to finance 206 miles (330 km) next year. The chances of the Democratic-controlled House backing that are between slim and none.
TRUMP: “Right now, we’re getting 25% on $250 billion worth of goods. That’s a lot of money that’s pouring into our treasury. We’ve never gotten 10 cents from China. Now we’re getting a lot of money from China.” — remarks on June 10 with Indianapolis 500 champions.
TRUMP: “We’re taking in, right now, billions and billions of dollars in tariffs, and they’re subsidizing product.” — remarks Tuesday in Council Bluffs.
THE FACTS: He’s incorrect. The tariffs he’s raised on imports from China are primarily if not entirely a tax on U.S. consumers and businesses, not a source of significant revenue coming into the country.
A study in March by economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Columbia University and Princeton University, before the latest escalation, found that the public and U.S. companies were paying $3 billion a month in higher taxes from the trade dispute with China, suffering $1.4 billion a month in lost efficiency and absorbing the entire impact.
It’s also false that the U.S. never collected a dime in tariffs before he took action. Tariffs on goods from China are not remotely new. They are simply higher in some cases than they were before. Tariffs go back to the beginning of the U.S. and were once a leading source of revenue for the government. Not in modern times. They equate to less than 1% of federal spending.
TRUMP: “Look, without tariffs, we would be captive to every country, and we have been for many years. That’s why we have an $800 billion trading deficit for years. We lose a fortune with virtually every country. They take advantage of us in every way possible.” — CNBC interview on June 10.
THE FACTS: Trump isn’t telling the whole story about trade deficits.
When he refers to $800 billion trade gaps, he’s only talking about the deficit in goods such as cars and aircraft. He leaves out services — such as banking, tourism and education — in which the U.S. runs substantial trade surpluses that partially offset persistent deficits in goods. The goods and services deficit peaked at $762 billion in 2006. Last year, the United States ran a record $887 billion deficit in goods and a $260 billion surplus in services, which added up to an overall deficit of more than $627 billion.
The U.S. does tend to run trade deficits with most other major economies. But there are exceptions, such as Canada (a nearly $4 billion surplus last year), Singapore ($18 billion) and Britain ($19 billion).
Mainstream economists reject Trump’s argument that the deficits arise from other countries taking advantage of the United States. They see the trade gaps as the result of an economic reality that probably won’t bend to tariffs and other changes in trade policy: Americans buy more than they produce, and imports fill the gap.
U.S. exports are also hurt by the American dollar’s status as the world’s currency. The dollar is usually in high demand because it is used in so many global transactions. That means the dollar is persistently strong, raising prices of U.S. products and putting American companies at a disadvantage in foreign markets.
TRUMP: “We have people on the Fed that really weren’t, you know, they’re not my people, but they certainly didn’t listen to me because they made a big mistake.” — CNBC interview on June 10.
THE FACTS: Actually, most of the members on the Fed’s Board of Governors owe their jobs to Trump.
In addition to choosing Jerome Powell, a Republican whom Obama had named to the Fed board, to be chairman, Trump has filled three other vacancies on the board in his first two years in office. Lael Brainard is the only Democrat on the board.
There are still two vacancies on the seven-member board. Trump had earlier intended to nominate two political allies — Herman Cain and Stephen Moore — but both later withdrew in the face of sharp opposition from critics.
TRUMP: “All of the car companies — you know, long before I got here, we lost 32 percent of our car industry, our automobile manufacturing business, to Mexico.” — Fox News interview Friday.
TRUMP: “Tariffs are a great negotiating tool, a great revenue producer and, most importantly, a powerful way to get … companies to come to the U.S.A., and to get companies that have left us for other lands to come back home. We stupidly lost 30% of our auto business to Mexico.” — tweets Tuesday.
THE FACTS: He’s incorrect that Mexico took 30% of the U.S. automobile business in the years since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994.
In 2017, 14% of the vehicles sold in the U.S. were imported from Mexico, according to the Center for Automotive Research, a think tank in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Parts imported from Mexico exceed 30%.
TRUMP: “If I put tariffs on, as an example, Mexico, you know what would happen? 25%. All the car companies would move back to the United States because they don’t want to pay the 25%.” — Fox News interview Friday.
TRUMP: “If the Tariffs went on at the higher level, they would all come back.” — tweet Tuesday.
THE FACTS: He’s wrong to assume that auto companies in Mexico would immediately move back to the U.S. if there were a 25% tariff on Mexican-made vehicles and parts.
It takes three years or four years minimum to plan, equip and build an auto assembly plant, so there would be little immediate impact on production or jobs. Auto and parts makers are global companies, and they would also look to countries without tariffs as a place to move their factories. The companies could also just wait until after the 2020 election, hoping that if Trump is defeated, the next president would get rid of the tariffs.
“They’re not going to invest in duplicative capacity in response to short-term policy incentives,” said Kristen Dziczek, a vice president at the Center for Automotive Research.
It is possible that some production could be shifted back to the United States. General Motors, for instance, makes about 39% of its full-size pickup trucks at a factory in Silao, Mexico, mainly light-duty versions, according to analysts at Morningstar. If the U.S. imposed a 25% tariff on assembled automobiles, GM could shift some production to a factory in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that also makes light-duty pickups. But there are limits. That plant already is running on three shifts and is almost near its maximum capacity.
Tariffs on Mexico probably would cost auto jobs in the U.S., too, because Mexico would almost certainly retaliate with tariffs of its own. Tariffs on both sides would raise prices of vehicles, because automakers probably would pass the charges onto their customers.
Industry experts say higher prices would cause more buyers to shift into the used-vehicle market, cutting into new-vehicle sales. Tariffs could be higher than 25% because parts go back and forth across the border multiple times in a highly integrated supply chain.
Vehicles built in Mexico get 20% to 30% of their parts from the U.S., so the tariffs would drive up prices there. That would hit lower-income people hard because automakers produce many lower-priced new vehicles in Mexico to take advantage of cheaper labor. About 62% of U.S. vehicle and parts exports go to Canada and Mexico, according to the Center for Automotive Research.
Tariffs would add $1,300 to $4,500 to the price of vehicles based just on the cost of parts, the center estimated.
Associated Press writers Christopher Rugaber, Eric Tucker, Martin Crutsinger and Paul Wiseman in Washington, Elliot Spagat in San Diego, Tom Krisher in Detroit and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
President Donald Trump brought his enduring fiction about hurricane aid for Puerto Rico to a rally crowd in Florida on Wednesday.
Pledging unstinting support for more hurricane recovery money for Floridians, he vastly exaggerated how much Puerto Rico has received.
Trump laced his speech in Panama City Beach with a recitation of falsehoods that never quit, touching on veterans’ health care, the economy, visas and more. A sampling:
TRUMP: “We gave to Puerto Rico $91 billion” — and that’s more, he said, than any U.S. state or entity has received for hurricane aid.
THE FACTS: His number is wrong, as is his assertion that the U.S. territory has set some record for federal disaster aid. Congress has so far distributed only about $11 billion for Puerto Rico, not $91 billion.
He’s stuck to his figure for some time. The White House has said the estimate includes about $50 billion in expected future disaster disbursements that could span decades, along with $41 billion approved.
That $50 billion in additional money is speculative. It is based on Puerto Rico’s eligibility for federal emergency disaster funds for years ahead, involving calamities that haven’t happened.
That money would require future appropriations by Congress.
Even if correct, $91 billion would not be the most ever provided for hurricane rebuilding efforts. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 cost the U.S government more than $120 billion — the bulk of it going to Louisiana.
TRUMP, boasting that his economic record has delivered the “highest income ever in history for the different groups — highest income.”
THE FACTS: Not so. He did not achieve the best income numbers for all the racial groups. Both African Americans and Asian Americans had higher income prior to the Trump administration.
The median income last year for a black household was $40,258, according to the Census Bureau. That’s below a 2000 peak of $42,348 and also statistically no better than 2016, President Barack Obama’s last year in office.
Many economists view the continued economic growth since the middle of 2009, in Obama’s first term, as the primary explanation for recent hiring and income gains. More important, there are multiple signs that the racial wealth gap is now worsening even as unemployment rates have come down.
As for Asian Americans, the median income for a typical household last year was $81,331. It was $83,182 in 2016.
TRUMP, claiming countries are taking advantage of the U.S. diversity visa lottery program: “They’re giving us some rough people.”
THE FACTS: A perpetual falsehood from the president. Countries don’t nominate their citizens for the program. They don’t get to select people they’d like to get rid of.
Foreigners apply for the visas on their own. Under the program, citizens of countries named by the U.S. can bid for visas if they have enough education or work experience in desired fields. Out of that pool of qualified applicants, the State Department randomly selects a much smaller pool of tentative winners. Not all winners will have visas approved because they still must compete for a smaller number of slots by getting their applications in quickly.
Those who are ultimately offered visas still need to go through background checks, like other immigrants.
TRUMP, describing how veterans used to wait weeks and months for a VA appointment: “For the veterans, we passed VA Choice. … (Now) they immediately go outside, find a good local doctor, get themselves fixed up and we pay the bill.”
THE FACTS: No, veterans still must wait for weeks for a medical appointment.
While it’s true the VA recently announced plans to expand eligibility for veterans in the Veterans Choice program, it remains limited due in part to uncertain money and longer waits.
The program currently allows veterans to see doctors outside the VA system if they must wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility. Under new rules to take effect in June, veterans will have that option for a private doctor if their VA wait is only 20 days (28 for specialty care) or their drive is only 30 minutes.
But the expanded Choice eligibility may do little to provide immediate help.
That’s because veterans often must wait even longer for an appointment in the private sector. In 2018, 34 percent of all VA appointments were with outside physicians, down from 36 percent in 2017. Then-Secretary David Shulkin said VA care was “often 40 percent better in terms of wait times” compared with the private sector.
Choice came into effect after some veterans died while waiting months for appointments at the Phoenix VA medical center.
TRUMP, on the Choice program: “That’s a great thing for our veterans. They’ve been trying to get it passed for 44 years. We got it passed.”
THE FACTS: He’s incorrect. Congress approved the private-sector Veterans Choice health program in 2014 and President Barack Obama signed it into law. Trump is expanding it.
TRUMP, on Democrat Beto O’Rourke’s crowd size at a Texas rally before he launched his presidential campaign: “He had like 502 people.”
THE FACTS: Trump sells short O’Rourke’s crowd, though it has grown in his mind since he claimed the Democrat only got 200-300 at his El Paso gathering in February. Trump had a rally there the same day.
O’Rourke’s march and rally drew thousands. Police did not give an estimate, but his crowd filled nearly all of a baseball field from the stage at the infield to the edge of outfield and was tightly packed.
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