WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is again playing loose with the facts, claiming a drop in illegal border crossings that no longer exists while blasting a source in a news story who does.
He is also assailing investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election, falsely suggesting the probes have failed to yield any meaningful results and distorting reality in asserting they are simply intended to justify why Democrat Hillary Clinton did not win the presidency.
Among other questionable claims in the past week, he also said he’s provided the first big military pay increase in a decade and had “finally” delivered on improved care for veterans.
Here’s a look:
TRUMP, on a possible summit with North Korea: “The Failing @nytimes quotes ‘a senior White House official,’ who doesn’t exist, as saying ‘even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.’ WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phony sources.” — tweet Saturday.
THE FACTS: Actually, the source does exist. The White House official addressed a group of reporters as part of a background briefing arranged by the White House press office.
While Trump has criticized the use of unidentified sources and labeled information related by anonymous officials “fake news,” his White House regularly arranges briefings with officials who demand anonymity before relaying information. An Associated Press reporter in attendance at last week’s briefing questioned why it was not on the record — meaning that the official’s name could be used. The official said Trump had been talking publicly that day and so the briefing was intended to provide “background context.”
TRUMP: “This whole Russia Probe is Rigged. Just an excuse as to why the Dems and Crooked Hillary lost the Election and States that haven’t been lost in decades. 13 Angry Democrats, and all Dems if you include the people who worked for Obama for 8 years. #SPYGATE & CONFLICTS OF INTEREST!” — tweet Saturday.
TRUMP: “Who’s going to give back the young and beautiful lives (and others) that have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt? …”— tweet Saturday.
TRUMP: “Why didn’t the 13 Angry Democrats investigate the campaign of Crooked Hillary Clinton, many crimes, much Collusion with Russia? Why didn’t the FBI take the Server from the DNC? Rigged Investigation!” — tweet Sunday.
THE FACTS: Trump’s suggestion that the investigations into Russia meddling are “phony” and have yielded nothing is incorrect. So far, four Trump associates have been charged in Mueller’s investigation, of whom three have pleaded guilty to lying to the authorities. Among them are Michael Flynn, former White House national security adviser, and Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign aide. Overall, 19 people, including 13 Russians, have been charged.
Trump’s claim of “rigged” investigations that are biased and intended simply to justify “why the Dems and Crooked Hillary lost the Election” also falls short.
He refers to Mueller’s team as “13 angry Democrats,” but Mueller is a Republican and some others on his team owe their jobs largely to Republican presidents. Some have indeed 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 reports to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a Trump appointee.
Mueller did not work for President Barack Obama for eight years, as Trump states, but was FBI chief for less than six years under Obama, leaving in September 2013. He was nominated to be FBI director by Republican President George W. Bush in 2001.
In addition to the special counsel, several congressional committees have been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. The Republican-led Senate intelligence committee has made clear a key goal in its review is to improve security in future U.S. elections.
TRUMP: “We’ve done a lot of work on the wall. We’re doing a lot of work on security, generally speaking, security and border — border security. The border’s down over 40 percent, and don’t forget, we have a great economy, probably the best economy the country’s ever had. So people come across, but we’re going to get the rest.” — interview broadcast Thursday with “Fox & Friends.”
TRUMP: “We’re down on immigration crossing the border — more than 40 percent.” — forum Wednesday in Bethpage, New York.
THE FACTS: Illegal crossings actually are up 20 percent since he became president, according to the yardstick he uses to measure them — the number of Border Patrol arrests.
There is no precise measure of illegal crossings because some people don’t get caught. The Trump administration uses arrests as the best gauge of whether crossings are going up or down. The Obama administration did likewise.
Border Patrol arrests did fall last year to the lowest level since 1971. But since April of last year, arrests have climbed steadily. One factor in that increase may be that people are now taking their chances to cross into the U.S. illegally after an initial wait-and-see attitude about Trump’s tough-talking approach to people sneaking into the country.
Last month, there were more than 50,000 overall border arrests, which are made up of people who are stopped at land crossings and other official points of entry, according to federal data. That was more than triple the number from April 2017, which was the lowest tally on record since the Homeland Security Department was created in 2003.
Overall, border arrests have increased 20 percent since January 2017, from 42,463 in January 2017 to 50,924 in April.
TRUMP: “This week, we passed a new landmark legislation to give more choice and better care to our great veterans. We’re going to take care of our veterans. We’re doing a great job with them. We are taking care, finally after decades, we’re taking care of our veterans.” — speech Friday.
THE FACTS: Not so fast. Congress passed a wide-ranging plan last week to expand private care for veterans as an alternative to the Veterans Affairs health system, but it’ll take at least a year to implement and its actual scope in expanding choice to veterans will depend on the next VA secretary, who has yet to be confirmed. A successful expansion of private care will also depend on an overhaul of electronic health records at VA to allow for a seamless sharing of records with private physicians.
That overhaul will take at least 10 years to be fully complete.
The legislation would also expand a VA caregivers program to cover families of veterans of all eras, not just the families of veterans who were seriously injured in the line of duty since Sept. 11, 2001. Implementation of that program won’t begin until after the VA secretary can provide assurances to Congress that the department’s IT systems can handle a surge in new applicants. A phased rollout of benefits won’t be fully finished until more than two years afterward.
TRUMP, to U.S. Naval Academy graduates: “Going to have new equipment and well-deserved pay raises. We just got you a big pay raise. First time in 10 years. We got you a big pay increase. First time in over 10 years. I fought for you. That was the hardest one to get, but you never had a chance of losing.” — speech Friday.
THE FACTS: That’s not right. U.S. military members have gotten a pay raise every year for the past 10 years and several have been larger than this year’s 2.6 percent increase. Pay increases in 2008, 2009 and 2010, for example, were all 3.4 percent or more.
TRUMP: “We have now the lowest number of ships that we’ve had since World War I, and very soon you’re going to get to 355 beautiful ships. 355. That’s almost a couple of hundred more ships.” — speech to academy graduates Friday.
THE FACTS: No it isn’t. The Navy now has 283 ships.
TRUMP on former CIA Director John Brennan: “Brennan started this entire debacle about President Trump. We now know that Brennan had detailed knowledge of the (phony) Dossier…he knows about the Dossier, he denies knowledge of the Dossier, he briefs the Gang of 8 on the Hill about the Dossier, which…….they then used to start an investigation about Trump…” — tweets May 21.
THE FACTS: Trump quotes conservative commentator Dan Bongino to falsely claim the Russia probe is based on a “phony dossier.” In fact, the FBI’s investigation began months before it received a dossier of anti-Trump research financed by the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The FBI probe’s origins were based on other evidence — not the existence of the dossier.
The Republican-controlled House intelligence committee found the Russia probe was initiated after the FBI received information related to Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, not the dossier. The committee’s final report released in March was praised by Trump, who pointed to it as evidence that the investigation was nothing but a “witch hunt.”
RICHARD GRENELL, Trump’s ambassador to Germany, on German Chancellor Angela Merkel never getting a tour of the private residence floor of the White House: “The president took the chancellor up to the residence with the vice president and myself and gave a personal tour of the vice president — of the residence, the presidential residence at the White House. That was the first time that the chancellor had been up there. It was shocking to hear that she had never been able to see the Lincoln Bedroom. Never been able to see the Gettysburg Address. And President Trump took her there.” — to Fox News, April 30.
THE FACTS: Actually, Merkel’s office told AP this past week that she was given a tour of the private residence, including the Lincoln Bedroom, when she visited Washington in 2011 to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to her by Obama.
TRUMP, on Obama’s national intelligence director, James Clapper: “Clapper has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign. Large dollars were paid to the Spy, far beyond normal. Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. SPYGATE – a terrible thing!” — tweet Thursday.
THE FACTS: That’s a distortion of Clapper’s statements on ABC’s “The View” on Tuesday when he was asked about recent reports that an FBI informant spoke with several members of the Trump campaign.
“They were spying on — a term I don’t particularly like but — what the Russians were doing,” Clapper said. “Trying to understand, were the Russians infiltrating? Trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage and influence? Which is what they do.”
He did not say a spy was implanted “in” the campaign and he denied the FBI was spying “on” the campaign. The effort was focused on Russians, he said, and was meant to “protect the campaign” and the U.S. political system.