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AP FACT CHECK: President Trump and his mistold NATO tales

It’s been a muted week for the “real” Donald Trump, the Twitter account where the president normally says a lot of things that are unreal. That respite may have come to a close, though, as he wrapped up his foreign trip with yet another mistold tale about NATO.

In a tweet and a speech before leaving for home Saturday, he said that thanks to him, money is “starting to pour into NATO,” which it isn’t.

Besides going light on provocative tweets, Trump held no news conferences and gave no extended interviews abroad. Those venues are frequent sources of Trump’s off-the-cuff misstatements. Even a more scripted Trump, though, does not always tell it straight, and the release of his proposed budget stirred a fresh round of questionable rhetoric from his stateside aides.

A look at some of the statements under scrutiny over the past week:

TRUMP: “I will tell you, a big difference over the last year, money is actually starting to pour into NATO from countries that would not have been doing what they’re doing now had I not been elected, I can tell you that. Money is starting to pour in.” speech to U.S. troops in Sicily on Saturday

TRUMP tweet: “Many NATO countries have agreed to step up payments considerably, as they should. Money is beginning to pour in.”

THE FACTS: First, no money is pouring in and countries do not pay the U.S. Nor do they pay NATO directly, apart from administrative expenses, which are not the issue.

The issue is how much each NATO member country spends on its own defense.

Although the president is right that many NATO countries have agreed to spend more on their military budgets, that is not a result of the NATO summit this past week at which Trump pressed them to do so. The countries agreed in 2014 to stop cutting their military spending and to start increasing it “toward” 2 percent of their gross domestic product by 2024.

That goal was set during the Obama administration and is less than an ironclad commitment.

TRUMP: “But 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States and many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years, and not paying in those past years.” remarks to NATO on Thursday

THE FACTS: Members of the alliance are not in arrears in their military spending. They are not in debt to the United States, or failing to meet a current standard, and Washington is not trying to collect anything, despite the president’s contention that they “owe massive amounts of money.” They merely committed in 2014 to work toward the goal of 2 percent of GDP by 2024.

TRUMP, in a telephone call to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte[1]: “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.” Philippine government transcript of April 29 phone call, reported by The Washington Post.

THE FACTS: Trump’s own State Department’s human rights report, updated in March, described in harsh terms the more than 6,000 killings by police and vigilantes of suspected Philippine drug dealers and users. The killings, carried out without formal evidence or trials, were to fulfill a Duterte campaign promise to eliminate illegal drug activity in the country by the end of last year.

The report said Duterte released lists of suspected drug criminals on at least two occasions and some on those lists were killed in police or vigilante operations. It says “authorities made promises of immunity from investigation and prosecution for officers involved in drug killings.”

TRUMP, on his Oval Office meeting May 10 with Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador: “Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name ‘Israel,’ never mentioned it in that conversation. And they’re all saying I did. So you have another story wrong.” remarks at a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.

THE FACTS: Trump is denying saying something that he wasn’t alleged to have said in the first place. His comment steers around the issue that emanated from that meeting that he divulged classified information about an Islamic State threat in his conversation with the Russians, perhaps in a compromising way that would enable Russia to trace the source of the intelligence.

Trump is not alleged to have told the Russians specifically that the information came from the Israelis. Israel’s link was established separately, in news reports.

GARY COHN, Trump’s economic adviser: “Coal doesn’t even really make that much sense anymore.” Speaking to reporters on Air Force One en route to Italy on Thursday night, he added that natural gas is “such a cleaner fuel” and the U.S. could become a “manufacturing powerhouse” by spending on wind and solar energy.”

THE FACTS: That’s an accurate assessment of the improbability of reviving the coal industry and a statement at odds with his boss’s vow to make coal king again. Trump and his team blame overregulation for the decline of coal but market forces are the larger problem. Natural gas supplies have surged with the advent of fracking, making coal increasingly uncompetitive as an energy source.

MICK MULVANEY, Trump budget chief, on the president’s proposed budget: “There are no Medicaid cuts in the terms of what ordinary human beings would refer to as a cut. We are not spending less money one year than we spent before.” briefing Tuesday.

THE FACTS: Mulvaney is being artfully evasive about the health care program for families and the poor. By any conventional measure of federal financing, the program is on the chopping block.

First, the Trump-supported rollback of President Barack Obama’s health care law would reduce federal money that 31 states and the District of Columbia[2] have relied on to extend coverage to low-income adults under Medicaid. The Republican health care bill passed by the House would cap the overall federal share of Medicaid spending, meaning it would no longer be an open-ended entitlement.

Second, the Trump budget could compound those restrictions by reducing the rate of growth in federal Medicaid money even more. Under the budget, Medicaid spending would fall from 2 percent of the economy to 1.7 percent in 2027 due to reductions in spending projections by Trump. That slight decrease adds up to more than $600 billion over 10 years.

MULVANEY: “I went back and looked at some of the economic assumptions that the Obama administration made in its first couple of years. And I want to say on a couple of different occasions, their assumed growth rate was more than 4.5 percent. Come on, this is the first administration in history OK? it was the first decade, the first eight-year period in history not to have a 3 percent growth rate. Yet they were promising us 4.5 percent growth.” briefing Tuesday.

THE FACTS: Obama’s expectations for growth were in line with accepted economic views at the time. That’s because accelerated growth often follows a downturn. He took office in a deep recession, and his team figured the economy would naturally rebound at a stronger pace than its average growth rate.

Obama’s first budget in 2009 estimated growth would be above 4 percent in 2011, 2012 and 2013. It would then settle into an average growth rate of 2.6 percent starting in 2015. That isn’t that far from separate estimates by the Congressional Budget Office.

The economy expanded instead at a sluggish pace, closer to 2 percent a year. Trump’s budget is more ambitious than Obama’s, rosy but thin on rationale for the optimism. It anticipates shifting growth above 3 percent, much higher than Obama’s long-term average.

TRUMP, on why the U.S. under Obama should not have agreed to the Iran nuclear deal in 2015: “I think they would have failed, totally failed within six months. We gave them a lifeline and we not only gave them a lifeline, we gave them wealth and prosperity.” Statement in Jerusalem on Monday, standing with Netanyahu.

THE FACTS: What would have happened without the deal is impossible to say, but such an imminent collapse of Iran’s economy was highly improbable.

International penalties on Iran in response to its nuclear program did drive its economy into crisis earlier this decade. But even before the nuclear deal, Iran had cut budget expenditures and fixed its balance of payments. It was still exporting oil and importing products from countries such as Japan and China.

The multinational deal froze Iran’s nuclear program in return for an end to a variety of oil, trade and financial sanctions on Tehran. Iran also regained access to frozen assets held abroad. The deal was conceivably an economic “lifeline” for the state but Iran is not wealthy as a result; ordinary Iranians have seen limited benefits to date.

TRUMP: “I don’t know who the people are that would put us into a NAFTA, which was so one-sided. Both from the Canada standpoint and from the Mexico standpoint. So one-sided. Wilbur (U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross) will tell you that, you know, like, at the court in Canada, we always lose. Well, the judges are three Canadians and two Americans. We always lose.” Economist interview in May.

THE FACTS: Trump mischaracterizes the system for resolving trade disputes under the North American Free Trade Agreement. When the U.S. and Canada are at odds over trade, NAFTA calls for five-person panel to weigh in. Each country picks two panelists, drawn from a list that consists largely of trade lawyers, economists and retired judges. The fifth comes from one of the two countries and usually alternates between them.

The system “does treat all parties the same regardless of what Trump says,” says Fred McMahon, a fellow at the Fraser Institute think-tank in Toronto.

Trump has a stronger case when he complains about America’s losing record against Canada in NAFTA cases, though it’s not true that the Americans “always lose.” A 2007 study found that the NAFTA panels changed or overturned U.S. government decisions two-thirds of the time.

In those cases, the panels are supposed to base their decisions on U.S. law. But “there are a lot of folks in Washington who have felt that sometimes NAFTA panels overstep their bounds” and don’t defer to American laws, says Dean Pinkert, a partner at the Hughes Hubbard & Reed law firm and former member of the U.S. International Trade Commission.

TRUMP told Coast Guard cadets of his “historic investment in our military,” adding: “I’m proud to say that under my administration, as you just heard, we will be building the first new heavy icebreakers the United States has seen in over 40 years.” speech to Coast Guard Academy May 17.

THE FACTS: Although his rousing words earned applause from the cadets, Trump’s budget this past week excludes the Coast Guard from his planned expansion of military spending. He’s proposing to cut the Coast Guard budget by more than $420 million, or 3.8 percent, while increasing military spending overall. The Coast Guard is under the Homeland Security Department, not the Pentagon[3].

The icebreaker project he boasts about started under the Obama administration and Trump’s budget would advance it only incrementally, spending $19 million to continue efforts “toward awarding a contract” for design and construction in 2019. “We all know that doesn’t get us an icebreaker,” Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska told a budget hearing, “but it gets us started.”

Associated Press writers Bradley Klapper, Paul Wiseman, Alicia A. Caldwell, Jim Drinkard, Robert Burns and Ricardo-Alonso Zaldivar contributed to this report.

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

EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures

References

  1. ^ Rodrigo Duterte (abcnews.go.com)
  2. ^ District of Columbia (abcnews.go.com)
  3. ^ the Pentagon (abcnews.go.com)

Fact check: Trump claims on Russia probe aren’t adding up

Some things aren’t adding up in President Donald Trump’s account of the investigation into his campaign’s relationship with Russians, an inquiry he says “I respect” yet considers a “witch hunt.”

The matter vastly overshadowed anything else said and done by the administration over the past week. Yet in the nooks and crannies of Trump’s rhetoric and that of his aides, statements on jobs, foreign policy and more also call for a second look. A review from another wild week in Washington:

President Trump, on his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey: “I actually thought when I made that decision — and I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.” — news conference Thursday with his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos.

The facts: The recommendation he cites came after Trump decided to fire Comey, according to Rosenstein and to Trump’s own previous statement taking sole ownership of the decision. In an interview with NBC two days after the May 9 Comey dismissal, Trump said he had been planning to fire Comey for months, and linked it with the FBI’s Russia investigation. “In fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.'”

On Thursday, Rosenstein told senators in a closed-door briefing that he had been informed of Trump’s decision to fire Comey before he wrote his memo providing a rationale for that act, said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

President Trump: “Even my enemies have said there is no collusion.” — Thursday news conference

The facts: Democrats have not absolved Trump on whether his campaign and Russian officials coordinated efforts last year to disadvantage his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Several have said they have not seen evidence of collusion, but that’s not to say they are satisfied it did not happen.

Trump has cited James Clapper, the director of national intelligence until Trump took office Jan. 20, among others, as being “convinced” there was no collusion. Clapper said this past week that while a report he issued in January did not uncover collusion, he did not know at the time that the FBI was digging deeply into “potential political collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians” and he was unaware of what the bureau might have found. The FBI inquiry continues, as do congressional investigations and, now, one by the special counsel.

President Trump: “I’m proud to say that under my administration, as you just heard, we will be building the first new heavy icebreakers the United States has seen in over 40 years.” — Coast Guard Academy speech Wednesday

The facts: Trump is claiming credit for something that started under his predecessor. President Barack Obama’s Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, spoke about the modernization of the Coast Guard fleet and design work on a new heavy polar ice breaker a year ago in a speech to graduating Coast Guard cadets.

President Trump: “Obamacare is collapsing. It’s dead. It’s gone. There’s nothing to compare anything to because we don’t have health care in this country. You just look at what’s happening. Aetna just pulled out. Other insurance companies are pulling out. We don’t have health care. Obamacare is a fallacy. It’s gone.” — Thursday news conference

The facts: He’s venting and not to be taken literally. Obama’s health care law remains in effect and people are using it. As of last count 12.2 million signed up for private health plans through HealthCare.gov and state markets that offer federally subsidized coverage. Separately another estimated 12 million were made eligible for Medicaid through the law’s expansion of that program. It’s true that many people who buy their own health insurance are facing another year of big premium increases and shrinking choices.

Trump worked with House Republicans to pass a bill that would roll back much of the health law and the Senate is considering the legislation.

President Trump, speaking of the MS-13 gang presence in the U.S.: “A horrible, horrible large group of gangs that have been let into our country over a fairly short period of time. … They’ve literally taken over towns and cities of the United States.” — Thursday news conference.

The facts: His depiction of the gang as a foreign one “let into” the U.S. is not accurate. The gang actually began in Los Angeles, according to a fact sheet from Trump’s own Justice Department, and “spread quickly across the country.” And it started not recently, but in the 1980s according to that same fact sheet. The department indirectly credits the Obama administration, in its early years, with helping to rein in the group, largely made up of first-generation Salvadoran-Americans and Salvadoran nationals. It said: “Through the combined efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement, great progress was made diminishing or severely (disrupting) the gang within certain targeted areas of the U.S. by 2009 and 2010.”

The U.S. carried out record deportations during the Obama administration and, on MS-13 specifically, took the unprecedented action of labeling the street gang a transnational criminal organization and announcing a freeze on its U.S. assets. Such actions were not enough to bring down the group and the Trump administration says it will do more.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin: “I believe that a goal of 3 percent GDP or higher economic growth is achievable if we make historic reforms to both taxes and regulation.” — Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing Thursday

The facts: Several quarters or a year of 3 percent growth may be possible, but few economists expect the changes Mnuchin has proposed would result in sustained growth at that pace. That’s because the U.S. economy is facing long-term constraints. As baby boomers retire, fewer people are working. As well, workers’ productivity is growing at historically weak levels. An economy can only grow as fast as the size and productivity of its workforce. If Trump’s policies reduce immigration, the U.S. workforce would grow even more slowly.

Trump’s goal of cutting corporate taxes could encourage companies to spend more on computers and machinery, making employees more productive, accelerating growth and lifting wages. Liberal economists argue that corporate profits are already high and any tax cut probably would go to shareholders instead of equipment.

President Trump on jobs: –“You look at the tremendous number of jobs that are being announced.” — Thursday news conference — “Jobs are pouring back into our country.” — Coast Guard Academy speech — “I inherited a mess. … Jobs are pouring out of the country.” — February news conference — “Car companies coming back to U.S. JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!” — on Twitter, after Ford took steps to add about 800 jobs in the U.S. in January and March

The facts: Trump’s rhetoric about jobs has changed, but the actual data about hiring haven’t. Job gains have been solid since Trump was inaugurated, averaging 185,000 a month from January through April, according to government figures. But that is the same pace of hiring as occurred in 2016, when Obama was president, and slower than in 2014 and 2015, when more than 225,000 jobs a month were added, on average. As for Ford, context is everything. After hailing the addition of some 800 jobs, Trump was silent after Ford announced Wednesday it plans to cut 1,400 nonfactory jobs in North America and Asia. That will most likely outweigh the jobs added earlier. Overall, presidents typically get far more credit or blame for the state of the economy than they deserve, economists say. And it is particularly unlikely that any president would have an impact after just four months on the job. Trump has taken some steps on deregulation but achieved little on taxes, infrastructure or trade to date. But that hasn’t stopped Trump from taking credit.”

Great jobs report today — it is all beginning to work!” he tweeted May 5, after the government reported that solid hiring in April had pushed the unemployment rate to a 10-year low.

President Trump: “I won’t talk about how much I saved you on the F-35 fighter jet. I won’t even talk about it.” — Coast Guard Academy speech

The facts: He shouldn’t. Trump has repeatedly taken credit for cost savings that began before his presidency on this jet. Pentagon officials took steps before the election to reduce costs on the Lockheed contract and announced savings Dec. 19, a month before Trump was sworn in.

Nikki Haley, ambassador to the U.N.: “I believe the Western Wall is part of Israel and I think that that is how, you know, we’ve always seen it and that’s how we should pursue it … we’ve always thought the Western Wall was part of Israel.” — interview on Christian Broadcasting Network on Wednesday

The facts: That’s a misstatement of U.S. policy and diplomatic history. The wall is in the Old City, a part of east Jerusalem, which the U.S. and most of the world consider to be occupied territory. So the U.S. position is that the wall is part of Jerusalem, not specifically Israel. Since Israel’s founding, the U.S. has maintained that no state has sovereignty over Jerusalem and its ultimate status must be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. That stance has not changed.

In addition to misstating U.S. policy, Haley stepped outside diplomatic norms in asserting a personal view at variance with that policy — that the Western Wall is or should be considered part of Israel.

Former FBI Director Comey to testify before Senate intel committee

It says the president then told Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador that he “faced great pressure because of Russian Federation”. Trump was leaving for his first foreign trip, visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican, and a pair of summits in Brussels and Sicily. Mueller’s former law firm, WilmerHale, represents[1] Kushner – who has been in the spotlight over the president’s decision to fire James Comey from the FBI and for meeting with Russian officials – and Manafort, who is now under federal investigation. If the White House couldn’t get Mueller removed, they’d use the rule to cast doubt on his impartiality, according to Reuters:”Under this strategy, the sources said the administration would raise the issue in press conferences and public statements”, Julia Edwards Ainsley reported[2].

While the White House initially pointed to a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, outlining Comey’s mismanagement of the investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server, as the impetus for his termination, Trump later admitted that the Russian Federation investigation, which the president has called a “hoax”, played a role. Trump has denied[3] any collusion. Trump’s first national-security adviser, Michael Flynn, was sacked over misstatements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. The White House was rocked by a further revelation Friday, when reports[4] emerged that Trump said his sacking of FBI director James Comey has relieved “great pressure” on him caused by the Russian Federation investigation. Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings called Trump’s reported comment “astonishing and extremely troubling”.

The committee’s chairman, Senator Richard Burr, and the ranking Democrat, Senator Mark Warner, announced that Comey will testify in an open setting before the committee.

Wenger’s future at Arsenal will be decided after FA Cup final[5]
A win for Arsenal would put huge pressure on Liverpool . “And I was delighted to see so many of them not turn up the other day”. Liverpool host already-relegated Middlesbrough and Manchester City travel to Watford who languish 16th in the standings. Cummings said the committee’s GOP chairman, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, “should … have his subpoena pen ready” to obtain any White House documents related to Trump’s meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. But the president undercut that argument a day later, telling NBC News, “When I chose to just do it, I said to myself – I said, you know, this Russian Federation thing with Trump and Russian Federation is a made-up story”. The FBI’s investigation has bedeviled the Trump administration, and the president personally. The date of the hearing has not yet been set.

The conversation reinforces the notion that the president dismissed Comey primarily because of the FBI’s inquiry into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives. Comey will certainly be asked about encounters that precipitated his firing, including a January dinner in which, Comey has told associates, Trump asked for his loyalty. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation”.

Comey is known to produce memos documenting especially sensitive or unsettling encounters, such as after the February meeting.

Burr said on Friday the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director would testify in an open setting before the committee which wanted to know from Comey about his role in the assessment Russian Federation interfered in last year’s election and his response to questions that have arisen since his dismissal.

References

  1. ^ represents (twitter.com)
  2. ^ reported (www.npr.org)
  3. ^ denied (www.npr.org)
  4. ^ reports (www.cnbc.com)
  5. ^ Wenger’s future at Arsenal will be decided after FA Cup final (frozenmail.net)
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