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AP FACT CHECK: Trump revives false claim on wall at CPAC

February 29, 2020 GMT
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President Donald Trump waves to the crowd after speaking at Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2020, at the National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Md., Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
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President Donald Trump waves to the crowd after speaking at Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2020, at the National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Md., Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump asserted anew on Saturday that Mexico is paying for his border wall, even as his administration shifts billions from the Pentagon to cover some construction costs and Mexico pitches in nothing.

A look at some of his claims from his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference:

TRUMP, on Mexico and his border wall: “Yes they are. They’re paying for it. And they’re OK with it. Mexico’s paying for it.”

THE FACTS: That’s false. Mexico is not paying for the wall. And far from being “OK with it,” Mexican leaders flatly rejected the idea when Trump pressed them early on.

“NO,” Enrique Peña Nieto, then Mexico’s president, tweeted in May 2018. “Mexico will NEVER pay for a wall. Not now, not ever. Sincerely, Mexico (all of us).”

The money is coming from today’s U.S. taxpayers and the future ones who will inherit the federal debt. In February, the Pentagon announced that it was slashing billions of dollars for Navy and Air Force aircraft and other military programs to divert money to the construction of the wall. More such military cuts are coming, officials said.

The president has come up with several creative formulations to argue that Mexico is in some way paying.

Among them: He has projected that his updated trade agreement with Mexico and Canada will stimulate enough extra growth over the years to cover the cost. Even if that happens, which analysts widely doubt, the wall will have cost the U.S. money that it could have used for something else. It’s not a payment from Mexico. He’s talked about taxing or blocking money that immigrants in the U.S. send to their countries of origin, often to family members. But that is not happening.

Trump has also credited Mexico with stepped-up enforcement against migrants and asylum seekers who come from other countries and try to get to the U.S. from Mexican soil.

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TRUMP: “America has declared energy independence. I declared it.”

THE FACTS: He may have declared it but he hasn’t earned it.

The U.S. still needs plenty of oil from around the world. It imported a daily average of roughly 6.5 million barrels of crude oil last year, according to the Census Bureau. That is down from the 2018 average, though it does not mean independence.

Technological advances like fracking and horizontal drilling have allowed the U.S. to greatly increase production, but the country still imports millions of barrels of oil from Saudi Arabia, Canada, Iraq and other countries. Moreover, much of what the U.S. produces is hard for domestic refiners to convert to practical use. So the U.S. exports that production and imports oil that is more suitable for American refineries to handle.

On energy more broadly, the U.S. is indeed close to parity on how much energy it produces and how much it consumes. In some months, it produces more than it consumes. But it has not achieved self-sufficiency. In the first nine months of last year, it imported about as much energy as it exported.

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TRUMP, on the situation before he became president: “American energy was under siege.”

THE FACTS: That’s a stretch, given how energy production was unleashed in past administrations, particularly Barack Obama’s.

As he has repeatedly, Trump took credit for a U.S. oil and gas production boom that he inherited and has continued under his watch. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says the U.S. has been the world’s top natural gas producer since 2009, top petroleum hydrocarbon producer since 2013, and top crude oil producer since 2018.

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Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Josh Boak contributed to this report.

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

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