Back from holiday break, President Trump tweeted on a variety of issues Jan. 2. Per his usual practices, some of his assertions were factually questionable. Here’s a quick tour through his tweets.
Trump was a fierce critic of the international agreement on limiting Iran’s nuclear ambition, led by the Obama administration, although he has not yet terminated American participation. But in commenting on the unrest in Iran, Trump goes too far to claim “all of the money” went to terrorism or to line politicians’ pockets.
Concurrent with the negotiations, the United States settled a dispute over undelivered weapons systems purchased by the deposed shah for $1.7 billion, most of which was accrued interest. That was delivered in cash, and the Congressional Research Service in a recent report says “most of the $1.7 billion” was used “to augment its 2017 defense budget, although it is not clear how much, if any, of these funds might have contributed to Iran’s regional activities versus other programs.”
The nuclear agreement also unlocked an estimated $115 billion of Iranian funds that were trapped overseas. But at least $60 billion was already owed to creditors.
Trump’s shorthand may be confusing to people, so here’s an explanation. He appears to be referring to a Daily Caller article about emails from Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, that were found on the laptop of her then-husband, former representative Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). The article, based on documents obtained by Judicial Watch, was headlined, “Abedin Forwarded State Passwords To Yahoo Before It Was Hacked By Foreign Agents.”
The gist of the article was that Abedin used a Yahoo email account to print out documents and emails that she had forwarded from her unclassified State Department email account. She had explained to the FBI that it was easier to do so than rely on the often-clunky State Department system. In 2013 and 2014, Yahoo accounts were hacked, including by a Russian intelligence agent. One email sent to Yahoo highlighted by the article was dated Aug. 24, 2009, and indicated that an aide sent Abedin a password for access to her computer, as well as a PIN for use of a key fob, which then generates a random password for secure access. Thus it was a two-step process.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said it is unknown whether the laptop or the passwords contained in the email are classified. But he said emails showed Clinton and her aides ignored numerous warnings about computer security. While Abedin transferred information from an unclassified account, investigators later redacted significant portions of the emails before public release after deciding the emails contained classified information. Few of the emails have classified markings, but then-FBI Director James B. Comey in 2016 said Clinton and aides such as Abedin had been “extremely careless” and should have known the emails should have been handled with more care.
Trump’s reference to “sailors pictures on submarine” refers to the case of Kristian Saucier, a Navy machinist’s mate who pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information after taking photos with his cellphone of relatively low-classification spaces on a nuclear-powered submarine. Saucier was sentenced to a year in prison, and his family and supporters said he was being held to a higher standard than Clinton. When Trump wrote “jail!” he may have been referring to the prison time received by Saucier, not advocating jail for Abedin.
But he also said the “Deep State Justice Dept” must act, presumably urging either an investigation or prosecution. “Obviously the facts of that case are very disturbing, and I think the president wants to make clear that he doesn’t feel that anyone should be above the law in terms of any investigation,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.
Trump still has not secured funding from Congress for the wall he wants to build along the border with Mexico. During the campaign, of course, he had insisted that Mexico would pay for the wall. In fiscal 2017, the total number of apprehensions and people “deemed inadmissible” at the Southwest border declined about 50 percent compared with the same February-to-November period in 2016, during the height of the flow of Central American migrants illegally crossing the border.
Still, Southwest border apprehensions have steadily declined since their peak at more than 1.6 million in fiscal 2000, with the exception of temporary spikes.
The House Majority Whip’s office has a list of about 50 companies — many of them banks — in the United States that have announced plans to provide one-time bonuses, raise wages or make investments in the United States after passage of a corporate tax cut. The bonuses range from $150 to $1,200, with most about $1,000. About 15 of the companies would raise the minimum wage, often to $15 an hour, which over the long-term is more significant than a one-time bonus.
This is an odd one. Trump apparently saw a news report saying that there were no aviation deaths worldwide in 2017, but the U.S. skies have been extraordinarily safe for years. Government data shows the last fatal commercial plane crash in the United States took place in early 2009, shortly after Barack Obama became president, so he could have laid claim to seven straight years of safe flying. But, even before then, the last major U.S. airline fatal crash took place in 2001, in the Bush administration.
Sanders told reporters that “the president has raised the bar for our nation’s aviation safety and security,” including “enhanced security measures to ensure safer commercial air travel.” But a U.S. president actually has very little to do with ensuring the safety of commercial aviation, although certainly his choice of regulators is important. The decline in air crashes over the past decade to nil is mostly the result of better training and oversight of pilots and air traffic controllers and improvements made by jet and engine manufacturers.
In claiming credit for safe skies, Trump could be tempting fate. During the Clinton administration, Transportation Secretary Federico Peña assured the public that Valujet was safe after a crash that killed 110 people — and then weeks later the Federal Aviation Administration grounded the airline.
The New York Times did not apologize to its readers about the 2016 election, although Trump frequently makes this claim. Obviously, mainstream news organizations such as the Times or The Washington Post make mistakes, but they do not rely on “nonexistent” sources. That would be a firing offense, as has been proved time and again.
Trump appears to have forgotten that in September he terminated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was launched in 2012 by President Obama and halted deportation efforts against 800,000 young people who had entered the country illegally as children with their parents. The program also made “dreamers” eligible for work permits. Trump’s action meant that unless Congress acts to make the program permanent, enrollees would begin to become eligible for deportation in March. That has infuriated DACA activists.
“The president wants to have responsible immigration reform,” Sanders said. “He said before that he’s — that he would like to include a DACA resolution in that process, and we hope to be able to work with members of Congress to get that done, and that’s certainly a big priority for the administration in 2018.”
We assume the president was speaking rhetorically — and mirroring Kim’s claim that he has a nuclear button on his desk — but for the record there is no button on Trump’s desk, except for one to signal for a valet. Instead, there is a 45-pound leather-clad aluminum briefcase, which is carried by a military aide who always accompanies the president. The briefcase contains a manual of sorts with various attack options. To authorize an attack, the president would use a card of verification codes that he is expected to carry at all times.
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