Democracy Dies in Darkness

Fact Checker | Analysis

Fact-checking President Trump's Pinocchio-laden Associated Press interview

By Glenn Kessler, Michelle Ye Hee Lee

April 25, 2017 at 3:00 AM

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President Trump's interview with the AP's Julie Pace on April 21, was full of falsehoods and misleading statements. Here's a look at five of his worst whoppers. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

In a wide-ranging interview with Julie Pace of the Associated Press on April 21, President Trump yet again made many false or misleading statements. Here's a roundup of 14 claims. As is our practice, we don't award Pinocchios in roundups.

"I saved $725 million on the 90 planes. Just 90. Now there are 3,000 planes that are going to be ordered. On 90 planes I saved $725 million. It's actually a little bit more than that, but it's $725 million."

Trump keeps claiming he saved hundreds of millions of dollars on the cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter planes by intervening in negotiations with Lockheed Martin. But Lockheed already had planned cost reductions, and Trump overstates his role.

In a Dec. 19 briefing — before Trump began meeting with Lockheed's chief executive Marillyn Hewson — the head of the Defense Department's F-35 Joint Program Office announced costs would come down "significantly." The average unit price for the planes has been declining for years, and the Pentagon had wanted to reduce costs further. The cost savings for the latest batch of planes was projected to be between $549 million and $630 million for a full lot of 90 planes.  The Pentagon announced that the total savings from the program will be $728 million.

This marks the 14th time Trump has made this false claim, which earned him Four Pinocchios.

"President Xi [of China], from the time I took office, they have not been currency manipulators."

Trump falsely claims China stopped devaluing its currency since he took office. China had not devalued its currency for about two years prior to his election.

China artificially kept the value of the yuan, or renminbi, low for many years. But now, China is selling foreign currency to prop up its own in an effort to prevent the yuan from depreciating further and destabilizing the Chinese and global economies. From August 2015 through August 2016, China sold more than $570 billion in foreign currency to prevent more rapid depreciation of its currency, according to estimates by the Treasury Department.

Yet throughout the campaign, Trump repeatedly accused China of being a "world champion" of devaluing the yuan. We gave that outdated claim Four Pinocchios. As president, Trump flip-flopped on this matter and decided he would no longer label China a currency manipulator. We rated this key economic campaign promise "Broken" in our Trump Promise Tracker.

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During his presidential campaign Trump talked tough on China, accusing them of undervaluing the yuan. The International Monetary Fund has said that Chinese currency is “no longer undervalued”. Does China still deserve to be called a “currency manipulator"? (Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

"You live by the sword, you die by the sword, to a certain extent. But we create a lot of jobs, 500,000 jobs as of two months ago, and plenty created since. Five hundred thousand. … As an example, Ford, General Motors. I've had cases where the gentleman from China, Ma, Jack Ma (chairman of Alibaba Group), he comes up, he says, 'Only because of you am I making this massive investment.' Intel, only because of you. … The press never writes that."

Trump likes to claim undue credit for corporate decisions that were made before he was elected president. We keep a running list of such claims here. And Trump exaggerates the number of jobs created since he became president; the number of net new jobs since January 2017 is 317,000.

Ford's decision to expand in Michigan rather than in Mexico had more to do with the company's long-term goals than with the administration. Ford outlined these goals in a contract it negotiated with the United Auto Workers in 2015.

General Motors announced job plans in January and March 2017, but the company did not credit Trump or his election. Intel announced it would create at least 10,000 jobs at a "new" plant in Arizona. The company announced its investment in this factory in 2011 with President Barack Obama, but it never opened. Intel is resuming its factory project because it anticipates a demand in computer chips that will be created there.

As for the Chinese e-company Alibaba, its founder Jack Ma has been pitching his company as a U.S. job creator since as early as 2015.

"It will be bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever. Maybe the biggest tax cut we've ever had."

This is doubtful. The biggest tax cut since World War II appears to have been Ronald Reagan's 1981 tax cut, which was valued at 2.89 percent of the gross domestic product, according to the Treasury Department. Assuming a $20 trillion GDP in 2018, Trump's tax cut would need to be valued at least $580 billion a year in order to exceed the size of the Reagan tax cut.

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President Trump unveiled his tax plan on April 26, after months of pledging to make drastic changes to the tax code. The Post's Damian Paletta explains why tax reform is so complicated. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

"When WikiLeaks came out … never heard of WikiLeaks, never heard of it. When WikiLeaks came out, all I was just saying is, 'Well, look at all this information here. This is pretty good stuff.'"

Trump falsely claims he had not heard of WikiLeaks prior to the 2016 campaign. As CNN's Andrew Kaczynski found, Trump denounced WikiLeaks as early as 2010.

"Oh, I'm seeing numbers — $24 billion [for a border wall], I think I'll do it for $10 billion or less. That's not a lot of money relative to what we're talking about. If we stop 1 percent of the drugs from coming in — and we'll stop all of it."

During the presidential campaign, Trump used to claim that he could build a 1,000-mile-long wall, made of precast concrete slabs 40 feet high, for $8 billion. The Fact Checker checked with construction experts and instead received estimates as high as $25 billion. A report issued by Senate Democrats in April came up with an even higher estimate: nearly $70 billion, before paying for land acquisition. The report said that maintenance costs would run about $150 million a year.

Trump's claim that the wall would halt the flow of drugs is dubious. Experts say that drugs are actually shipped through the border on the underside of vehicles that have permits to cross the border in a special lane. "As long as the U.S. remains the world's largest consumer of coke, and as long as Mexico continues to provide it, no wall will ever be able to stop the trade," wrote Roberto Saviano in Newsweek.

"Because the hundred days is just an artificial barrier. The press keeps talking about the hundred days."

In a speech on Oct. 22, Trump issued an unusually detailed 100-day plan of action, which he called the "Contract with the American Voter." The Fact Checker has used the plan as a template for tracking in campaign promises. Trump told the AP that "somebody put out the concept of a hundred-day plan" — but that was Trump himself.

On NATO: "It's not fair that we're paying close to 4 percent and other countries that are more directly affected are paying 1 percent when they're supposed to be paying 2 percent. And I'm very strong on it, and I'm going to be very strong on it when I go there in a month."

The United States spends about 3.6 percent of gross domestic product on defense, far more that NATO's guideline of 2 percent. The median spending level in 2016 for the 28 NATO countries is 1.53 percent of GDP, according to NATO, though NATO members are not expected to reach the 2 percent level until 2024.

Meanwhile, the United States has defense responsibilities around the world, especially in Asia, which accounts for why U.S. spending is higher. In fact, U.S. bases in Europe are often used to redeploy forces in other theaters, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa.

"You know, back when they did NATO there was no such thing as terrorism."

When NATO was founded in 1949, terrorism had long existed in Europe, often carried out by separatist groups (such as Irish Republicans) or anarchists. A bombing in 1867 in London by the Irish Republican Brotherhood killed 12 people and injured 120.

"The electoral college is so skewed in favor of a Democrat that it's very, very hard."

Trump certainly deserves credit for breaching the so-called blue wall — the Midwestern states that have backed Democrats in recent presidential elections. But Republicans have an advantage because they have an edge in small, rural states, which in the electoral college system require fewer votes per elector. In Wyoming, for instance, there are 143,000 people for each electoral vote, compared to 500,000 in a state such as California. Since Democrats tend to be concentrated in large cities, the impact of those votes is dissipated. This is one reason that in two recent elections — 2000 and 2016 — the Democrat won the popular vote but lost the electoral college to the Republican.

"On any, on air, [CBS 'Face the Nation' host John] Dickerson had 5.2 million people. It's the highest for 'Face the Nation' or as I call it, 'Deface the Nation.' It's the highest for 'Deface the Nation' since the World Trade Center. Since the World Trade Center came down. It's a tremendous advantage."

Trump is slightly off on the numbers. Then-presidential candidate Trump's Jan. 3, 2016, interview with host John Dickerson on CBS's "Face the Nation" had an audience of 4.6 million. Of the total audience, about 1 million were adults aged 25 to 54, the coveted demographic among advertisers. The overall audience was the largest since Sept. 16, 2001, and the rating among adults 25 to 54 years old was the best since Nov. 17, 2013, according to CBS News.

"I am very upset with NAFTA. I think NAFTA has been a catastrophic trade deal for the United States, trading agreement for the United States. It hurts us with Canada, and it hurts us with Mexico. Most people don't even think of NAFTA in terms of Canada. You saw what happened yesterday in my statements, because if you look at the dairy farmers in Wisconsin and upstate New York, they are getting killed by NAFTA."

Trump's attack on NAFTA is over the top. It is often difficult to separate out the impact of trade agreements on jobs, compared to other, broader economic trends. But the nonpartisan 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," though it noted "there were worker and firm adjustment costs as the three countries adjusted to more open trade and investment among their economies."

As for farmers in Wisconsin being "killed" by NAFTA, Canadian dairy products are actually not covered by NAFTA, as that industry is protected from U.S. exports and remains under "supply management" (price controls) which results in high retail prices in Canada. Canadian consumers basically subsidize farmers; by contrast, American dairy producers receive subsidies from the U.S. government.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) "said you will be the greatest president. He said you will be, in front of five, six people, he said you will be the greatest president in the history of this country."

Cummings has disputed this account, as the AP noted to Trump. Cummings told CNN that he said Trump he could become a good president "if . . . IF . . . he took steps to truly represent ALL Americans rather than continuing on the divisive and harmful path he is currently on."

"So we are moving criminals out of our country and we are getting them out in record numbers, and those are the people we are after. We are not after the dreamers, we are after the criminals."

Immigration advocates and lawyers say a "dreamer" (beneficiary of Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) has been deported under Trump's broadened enforcement guidelines. The government disputes that the dreamer was deported.

In any case, Immigration and Customs Enforcement under Trump is arresting an increasing number of people with no criminal records, indicating that not only criminals have been targeted by his administration. According to The Washington Post's analysis, the biggest spike in arrests of undocumented immigrants from Jan. 20 to March 13 was of immigrants with no criminal records.

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Glenn Kessler has reported on domestic and foreign policy for more than three decades. Send him statements to fact check by emailing him, tweeting at him, or sending him a message on Facebook.

Michelle Ye Hee Lee is a reporter on The Washington Post's national political enterprise and accountability team, covering money and influence in politics.

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Fact Checker | Analysis

Fact-checking President Trump's Pinocchio-laden Associated Press interview

By Glenn Kessler, Michelle Ye Hee Lee

April 25, 2017 at 3:00 AM

Watch more!
President Trump's interview with the AP's Julie Pace on April 21, was full of falsehoods and misleading statements. Here's a look at five of his worst whoppers. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

In a wide-ranging interview with Julie Pace of the Associated Press on April 21, President Trump yet again made many false or misleading statements. Here's a roundup of 14 claims. As is our practice, we don't award Pinocchios in roundups.

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