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Fact Checker

Recidivism Watch: Trump's eight repeated falsehoods in 16 hours

By Michelle Ye Hee Lee

April 28, 2016 at 3:00 AM

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump outlined his stance on foreign policy on April 27. He said his strategy involves the use of diplomacy and "new people" outside the foreign policy establishment. (Reuters)

Donald Trump is now closer than ever to clinching the Republican nomination on the first ballot. But what hasn't changed since he entered the presidential race is his propensity for Pinocchios and Pinocchio recidivism.

We know politicians repeat falsehoods — on purpose or by mistake. So last year, we launched a feature to track politicians who repeat claims that we previously found to be incorrect. The Fact Checker Recidivism Watch columns are usually short summaries of previous findings, with links to original fact-checks. (Suggestions are always welcome.)

Tracking every repeated falsehood by Trump would be a full-time job. But we couldn't help but notice that in a roughly 16-hour period after his sweeping victories in the I-95 primaries, Trump repeated numerous untruths, like a "Best of" citation of his Pinocchio ratings. (Our running list of Trump's Four-Pinocchio ratings can be found at: wapo.st/Trumps4Ps)

For the first time, we have compiled a mega-roundup Recidivism Watch of eight claims Trump repeated on April 26 and April 27, 2016. Each summary includes links to the full fact-check.

"As soon as Kasich gets hit with the first negative ad — he's had none — bing, that's the end of that."

— primary night speech, April 26, 2016

It's fine to say far more ads have aired attacking Trump than Ohio Gov. John Kasich, but Trump goes further to say that no ads have attacked Kasich. That's just not true. In fact, his own campaign has run a Four-Pinocchio ad attacking Kasich. 

Outside groups have spent nearly $5 million opposing Kasich in direct mail pieces, digital ads and TV ads, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Attack ads sponsored by candidate committees and outside groups were fairly consistent earlier in the primary cycle, especially ones contrasting Kasich's record with those of other governors in the race. We fact-checked some of them — here, here and here. We awarded this claim Four Pinocchios.

"I was asked a question recently by Wolf Blitzer on CNN, and he talked about NATO. I gave a great answer. I gave an answer that at first people didn't like, and then they said, 'You know what, Trump is right,' experts said. I said it's obsolete and too many people are getting a free ride because we're funding 72, 73 percent of NATO."

— primary night speech, April 26, 2016

Actually, the United States pays just 22 percent of the cost of NATO in direct funding. He begins to have a point when talking about indirect spending on NATO: The U.S. defense expenditure represents about 72 percent of the spending on defense by all countries that are NATO members. U.S. defense spending far exceeds the spending of other NATO members, and that imbalance is driven by America's role as a world power. It makes little sense to count defense spending in Asia as part of "NATO funding." We awarded this claim Three Pinocchios

To his credit, Trump more precisely described NATO spending in his prepared foreign policy speech the next day: "In NATO, for instance, only four of 28 other member countries besides America are spending the minimum required 2 percent of GDP [gross domestic product] on defense."

NATO documents show that the majority of members fail to meet the guideline. The United States and four other countries currently exceed the guideline, established in 2006.  

"I'll stick with my feelings on immigration. If you look at what's going on with immigration, and just look at the record numbers of people right now that are pouring across the borders of this country."

— primary night speech, April 26, 2016

He can stick with his feelings all he wants. But the illegal immigration flow across the U.S.-Mexico border has been declining for years, as we've repeatedly noted.

The flood of undocumented immigrants from Mexico peaked in 2000, when more than 1.6 million people were apprehended, according to Department of Homeland Security data. Those numbers have steadily decreased since then. In fiscal 2015, there were 337,117 apprehensions — the lowest since fiscal 2000. Apprehensions of people from Mexico have decreased to 188,122 in fiscal 2015, from 1.6 million in fiscal 2000.

Apprehensions in fiscal 2015 were the lowest since 1972 (321,326), with the exception of fiscal 2011, when the number of undocumented immigrant apprehensions along the southern border dipped to 327,577. 

George Stephanopoulos: "You were for it [the Iraq War], though, before you were against it."

Trump: "No, I wasn't. I was never for it. I was against it — before it ever started, I was against it. And I was against it from before 2004. I was against the war in Iraq, and I was against it for years. And [President George W.] Bush used to hate me for being so against it, and they sent people from the White House to try and convince me. All I'd say is, 'It will destabilize the Middle East, and Iran will take over the Middle East.' And that's exactly what happened."

— exchange on "Good Morning America," April 27, 2016 

This is blatantly false.

Trump did not oppose the Iraq War before 2004, as we and countless other media outlets have found. We compiled a complete timeline of all his public statements in 2002 and 2003 relating to the Iraq invasion and found no evidence to support this. In fact, in a September 2002 interview, Trump gave lukewarm support for the war. 

Trump has said since October 2015 that the White House tried to hush his (nonexistent) opposition ahead of the invasion. Trump never answered our request for the names of White House officials he supposedly met with. We checked with a dozen former Bush White House officials, and none could recall a meeting with Trump, concerns about his opposition, or even Trump's views being on their radar prior to 2004. We awarded this claim Four Pinocchios.

"I don't play by the traditional rules. I'm self-funding my campaign, which maybe has an impact on them [the media]."

— MSNBC's "Morning Joe," April 27, 2016

While Trump has provided the majority of funds raised by the campaign committee so far, he has raised money from individual donations, as we've written. Of the $48.4 million raised as of April 16, 2016, 75 percent ($36 million) was money from Trump. The rest came from mostly individual donations, according to FEC data maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics. As of April 16, 2016, outside groups contributed $2.8 million to the Trump campaign.

"Clinton blames it all on a video, an excuse that was a total lie, proven to be absolutely a total lie. Our ambassador was murdered, and our secretary of state misled the nation."

— foreign policy speech, April 27, 2016

The Fact Checker has written 20 fact-checks about the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, were killed.

We looked into allegations that Hillary Clinton had told two stories after the attacks — a private one that it was a terrorist attack and the public one that blamed Muslim outrage over a YouTube video. The evidence was mixed, open to interpretation, but we concluded that there was not enough for GOP rivals to make definitive judgments that she lied.

We also reached out to family members to get their side of the story. Their recollections fell into three camps: Clinton talked about the video; Clinton said something odd; Clinton never mentioned the video. This is difficult to fact-check, since the conversations weren't recorded and memories can evolve over time. Most family members interviewed said she did not mention a video — but we'll leave it up to readers to draw their own conclusions.

"And now ISIS is making millions and millions of dollars a week selling Libya oil."

— foreign policy speech, April 27, 2016

The terror group known as the Islamic State has, at times, disrupted the flow of oil. But the Islamic State does not control any oil fields and is not "making millions" from Libyan oil. Not a single expert or news article we consulted said that the Islamic State has grabbed an oil field in Libya.

A review of recent news articles confirms that while some fields have been temporarily closed in response to Islamic State attacks, not a single field has been taken by the terrorist group. We awarded this claim Four Pinocchios.

"NAFTA, as an example, has been a total disaster for the United States and has emptied our states — literally emptied our states of our manufacturing and our jobs."

— foreign policy speech, April 27, 2016

Trump was not as specific as usual in terms of claiming that 900,000 jobs have been lost to Mexico because of the North American Free Trade Agreement. But in some ways, he was more sweeping, claiming states have been "literally emptied" because of the 1993 trade pact.

As we have noted before, economists generally have been skeptical of such claims, as it is difficult to separate out the impact of trade agreements on jobs, compared with other, broader economic trends.  The Congressional Research Service in 2015 concluded that the "net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest, primarily because trade with Canada and Mexico accounts for a small percentage of U.S. GDP."  The report, however, noted that there were "worker and adjustment costs" as the three countries established a single market. That means there were some losers — but also winners.

Nearly a quarter-century later, as a result of NAFTA, the United States, Canada and Mexico constitute an economically integrated market, especially for the auto industry. Auto parts and vehicles produced in each country freely flow over the borders, without tariffs or other restrictions, as thousands of part suppliers serve the automakers that build the vehicles. This is known as the "motor vehicle supply chain." In fact, a prospective Ford plant in Mexico that Trump often complains about appears to be intended to produce cars for export from Mexico — and thus would free up production to produce more trucks in the United States.

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Michelle Ye Hee Lee is a national political enterprise and investigations reporter for The Washington Post.

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