AP FACT CHECK: Trump takes falsehoods to a youth audience
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday told young people a number of falsehoods he’s been relating to adults for months and took a misleading swipe at the female Democratic lawmakers he’s trying to turn into foils.
A sampling of his remarks at a Turning Point USA gathering of conservative youth:
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?”
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.”
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 economy in history.”
THE FACTS: No matter how often he repeats this claim, 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 President Barack 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: “The best employment numbers in history.”
THE FACTS: They are not the best ever.
The 3.7% unemployment rate in the latest report is not a record low. It’s near the lowest level in 50 years, when it was 3.5%. 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: “The most people working, almost 160 million, in the history of our country.”
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, on his efforts to help veterans: “I got Choice.”
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.”
THE FACTS: The U.S. is not “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.
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