AP FACT CHECK: Trump and the credit and blame game
WASHINGTON (AP) — The apportioning of credit and blame went awry in President Donald Trump’s remarks over the past week.
He hailed pristine air quality that isn’t, placed responsibility on Mexico for the entire U.S. drug problem and told Puerto Ricans they should love him because he got them hurricane aid that he’s actually been complaining about for months.
In the Democratic presidential campaign, meantime, Trump was accused of breaking a gun-control promise that in reality he kept.
A week in review:
TRUMP, on signing a relief bill for multiple U.S. disasters: “Puerto Rico should love President Trump. Without me, they would have been shut out!” — tweet Thursday.
THE FACTS: That’s not likely.
The $19.1 billion disaster aid bill, passed by the House on Monday and signed into law by Trump on Thursday, ordinarily would have been approved by Congress months ago. But Trump injected himself into the debate, demanding that money for hurricane-rebuilding efforts that was sought by Puerto Rico’s elected officials, Republicans and Democrats both, be kept out.
Trump frequently inflated the amount of aid that Puerto Rico had obtained in previous bills and feuded with the island’s Democratic officials.
Congressional Democrats held firm in demanding that Puerto Rico, a territory whose 3 million people are U.S. citizens, be helped by the measure. The legislation ultimately included more money for Puerto Rico, about $1.4 billion, than Democrats originally sought.
The relief measure delivers money to states in the South suffering from last fall’s hurricanes, Midwestern states deluged with springtime floods and fire-ravaged rural California, among other disasters.
TRUMP: “We were paying so much. I think we were really paying close to 100% of NATO. So we were paying to protect all of these European nations. And it’s just not fair.” — interview Thursday with Fox News.
THE FACTS: It’s not true that the U.S. was paying “close to 100%” of the price of protecting Europe.
NATO does have 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 obviously 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.
TRUMP: “Look, I’m dealing with Mexico right now. They send in $500 billion worth of drugs, they kill 100,000 people, they ruin a million families every year if you look at that. That’s really an invasion without the guns. ... 100,000 people are killed, dead every year, from what comes through our southern border. They shouldn’t be allowing people to come through their country from Central, from Honduras and Guatemala, El Salvador.” — Fox News interview Thursday.
THE FACTS: Trump is inflating the death toll from drug overdoses — more than 70,200 in 2017 — and wrongly blaming all the known deaths on Mexico. Tens of thousands of those deaths have nothing to do with Mexico or Central America. They are from legally made prescription opioids, fentanyl laboratories in China or other sources of international drug smuggling and illicit manufacturing in the U.S. More than 17,000 of the deaths in 2017, for example, were from prescription opioids alone.
Mexico is indeed a significant conduit in the drug trade — it’s a leading source of heroin, for example — but it is hardly the only one.
TRUMP, asked if he believes in climate change: “I believe that there’s a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways.” — interview with Piers Morgan that broadcast Tuesday.
THE FACTS: Trump is once again conflating weather and climate, suggesting that global warming can’t be happening if it gets cold outside. But weather is like mood, which changes daily. Climate is like personality, which is long term.
The data show Trump also is wrong in that there is a clear one-way warming trend. Earth is considerably warmer than it was 30 years ago and especially 100 years ago.
So far in this decade, there have been 301,292 daily heat records set in the contiguous United States, compared with only 141,892 daily cold records set, according to retired Weather Channel meteorologist Guy Walton’s analysis of government temperature records. That’s more than two heat records broken for every cold record, a ratio that is the largest of any decade since these types of records started in the 1920s.
According to Walton’s analysis, each decade since the 1970s has had a higher hot record-to-cold record ratio than the decade before it.
And that’s just the extreme weather. When it comes to global average temperature, April was the 412th consecutive warmer month than the 20th century average, according to records kept by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The last five years — 2014 to 2018 — have been the five hottest years on record globally, according to those records. Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have been in the past 15 years with records going back to 1880.
The White House in November produced the National Climate Assessment by scientists from 13 Trump administration agencies and outside scientists. “Climate change is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us,” the report said.
TRUMP: “We have the cleanest air in the world in the United States, and it’s gotten better since I’m president. We have the cleanest water. It’s crystal clean and I always say I want crystal clean water and air. ... We’re setting records environmentally.” — remarks Wednesday with Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
THE FACTS: The U.S. does not have the cleanest air, and it hasn’t gotten better under the Trump administration.
U.S. drinking water is among the best by one leading measure.
Trump’s own Environmental Protection Agency data show that in 2017, among 35 major U.S. cities, there were 729 cases of “unhealthy days for ozone and fine particle pollution.” That’s up 22% from 2014 and the worst year since 2012.
The Obama administration, in fact, set records for the fewest air polluted days, in 2016. In 2017, after Trump took office, the number of bad air days per metropolitan area went up 20%.
The State of Global Air 2019 report by the Health Effects Institute rated the U.S. as having the eighth cleanest air for particle pollution — which kills 85,000 Americans each year — behind Canada, Scandinavian countries and others.
The U.S. ranks poorly on smog pollution, which kills 24,000 Americans per year. On a scale from the cleanest to the dirtiest, the U.S. is at 123 out of 195 countries measured.
On water, Yale University’s global Environmental Performance Index finds 10 countries tied for the cleanest drinking water, the U.S. among them. On environmental quality overall, the U.S. was 27th, behind a variety of European countries, Canada, Japan, Australia and more. Switzerland was No. 1.
GILLIBRAND ON GUN CONTROL
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, Democratic presidential candidate, on Trump: “Remember after the shooting in Las Vegas, he said, ‘Yeah, yeah, we are going to ban the bump stocks’? Did he ban the bump stocks? No, because the NRA came crashing down and said, ’Don’t you dare do any restrictions on our guns around this country.‴— Fox News town hall on June 2.
THE FACTS: Not true. Trump kept his promise.
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 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 made legal in 2010.
TRUMP, on the late Sen. John McCain: “I was not a fan. I didn’t like what he did with health care. I didn’t like how he handled the veterans. Because I got them Choice. He was always unable. He was on committees and could have done it.” — interview Tuesday with Morgan.
THE FACTS: Not so. McCain did, in fact, get the Veterans Choice program passed in Congress.
Trump repeatedly claims falsely that he was the first president in decades to get such a private-sector health program passed. But what Trump actually got done was an expansion of the Choice program achieved by McCain and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the main lawmakers who advanced the legislation signed by President Barack Obama.
McCain, an Arizona Republican, co-sponsored the legislation following a 2014 scandal at the VA medical center in Phoenix, where some veterans died while waiting months for medical appointments.
Trump signed the law expanding the program in June 2018. It is named after three veterans who were lawmakers — McCain, Daniel K. Akaka and Samuel R. Johnson.
After helping to pass the program, McCain fought to expand it even more in his last months before dying of brain cancer in August.
The original Choice program allowed veterans to see doctors outside the Department of Veterans Affairs system if they must wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles (65 kilometers) to a VA facility. Under the expansion, which took effect Thursday, veterans are to 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.
Still, the VA says it does not expect a major increase in veterans seeking care outside the VA under Trump’s expanded program, partly because wait times in the private sector are now typically longer than at VA.
TRUMP: “I kept hearing that there would be ‘massive’ rallies against me in the UK, but it was quite the opposite. The big crowds, which the Corrupt Media hates to show, were those that gathered in support of the USA and me.” — tweet Wednesday.
TRUMP: “I heard that there were protests. I said: ‘Where are the protests? I don’t see any protests.’ I did see a small protest today when I came, very small, so a lot of it is fake news, I hate to say. ...And I didn’t see the protesters until just a little while ago and it was a very, very small group of people.” — news conference Tuesday with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
THE FACTS: The protests over Trump’s visit were more than just “very, very small,” and some were hard to miss.
Thousands of protesters crowded London’s government district, chanting as he met May nearby. While police erected barricades to stop protesters from marching past the gates of Downing Street, they could be heard as Trump and May emerged from the prime minister’s official residence to pose for photos before their news conference.
The protests included a giant Trump baby balloon and a robotic likeness of Trump sitting on a golden toilet, reciting familiar Trump phrases like “No collusion” and “You are fake news.”
TRUMP, referring to how he stood at his Scottish golf resort, Turnberry, on the eve of the Brexit referendum and predicted the British would vote to leave the European Union: “I really predicted what was going to happen. Some of you remember that prediction. It was a strong prediction, made at a certain location, on a development we were opening the day before it happened.” — news conference Tuesday.
THE FACTS: He often tells this false story.
Trump did not predict Brexit the day before the vote.
Three months before the vote, he did predict accurately that Britain would vote to leave the EU. The day after the 2016 vote — not the day before — he predicted from his Scottish resort that the EU would collapse because of Britain’s withdrawal. That remains to be seen.
TRUMP, explaining his ban on transgender troops in the military: “In the military, you’re not allowed to take any drugs ...People were going in and then asking for the operation, and the operation is $200,000, $250,000, and getting the operation, the recovery period is long, and they have to take large amounts of drugs after that ...You can’t do that.” — interview Tuesday with Morgan.
THE FACTS: Trump has offered no substantiation for the assertion that transgender military members represent tremendous medical costs and disruption. A Rand Corp. study found otherwise. Nor does the military bar troops from using prescription drugs.
Rand estimates that out of about 1.3 million active-duty military personnel, 2,450 are transgender. Only a subset would seek transition-related care, such as hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery. Based on private insurance data, the study estimates a minimal increase in costs from such care for the active-duty armed forces — no more than 0.13%, or $8.4 million annually.
As for disruption, members representing less than 0.1% of the total force would seek transition-related care that could affect their deployments, the study says.
Associated Press writers Matthew Perrone, Andrew Taylor and Darlene Superville in Washington, Lisa Marie Pane in Boise, Idaho, Nicky Forster in New York, and Jill Lawless and Kevin Freking in London contributed to this report.
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