US President Donald Trump held forth on all manner of things this past week, opining for more than 90 minutes to the White House press at the top of a Cabinet meeting and capping off the week with a news conference that stretched for an hour.
And he’s been tweeting a lot.
Many of Mr Trump’s claims were only thinly masquerading as truths. Here’s a sampling of falsehoods he made, from his approval rating to the US government shutdown — paired with a reality check.
“WE’VE ALREADY BUILT A LOT OF THE WALL”
THE FACTS: He hasn’t. Mr Trump’s claim is only supported when counting work done under past presidents and ignoring the fact that fences from prior administrations are not the towering walls he promised. The 2006 Secure Fence Act has resulted in about 1,050 kilometres of border barrier. Money approved by Congress in March 2018 is to pay for 135 kilometres, but that work is not done. Mr Trump has achieved some renovation of existing barrier.
“THE DRUGS ARE POURING INTO THIS COUNTRY. THEY DON’T GO THROUGH THE PORTS OF ENTRY”
THE FACTS: He’s wrong in saying drug smugglers don’t or only rarely use official border crossings for their trafficking. Land ports of entry are their primary means for getting drugs into the country, not stretches of the border without barriers, says the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
The agency said in a November report that the most common trafficking technique by transnational criminal organisations is to hide drugs in passenger vehicles or tractor-trailers as they drive into the US though entry ports, where they are stopped and subject to inspection. They also employ buses, cargo trains and tunnels, the report says, citing smuggling methods that would not be choked off by a border wall.
“RUSSIA IS NOT HAPPY WE’VE PULLED OUT OF SYRIA BECAUSE WE’VE BEEN KILLING ISIS FOR THEM”
THE FACTS: Russia says it’s happy. A US withdrawal opens opportunities for Moscow and Tehran to increase their influence and may help the Syrian government survive as a Kurdish-led opposition force loses its military ally on the ground. Russian President Vladimir Putin says the US “has done the right thing” in planning to pull out.
“DO YOU THINK IT’S LUCK THAT GAS PRICES ARE FALLING? “IT’S NOT LUCK … I CALLED UP CERTAIN PEOPLE”
THE FACTS: It’s not all about him, or even mostly about him. While Americans may end up paying somewhat less for gasoline this year, Mr Trump’s suggestion that he deserves all the credit and averted a US economic depression is an exaggeration. Oil prices, which peaked on October 3, have been generally falling on the realisation that US sanctions against Iran would not create a shortage and on fear that a global oversupply of oil will spill into 2019 if slower international economic growth depresses energy demand. The president’s supposed “let it flow” edict did not stop OPEC and its Russia- led allies from agreeing last month to cut oil production. That initially failed to stop oil prices from sliding further; they have since rebounded a few dollars in the past week. Continued OPEC production cuts would push prices higher. Mr Trump has pointed to his positive relations with Saudi Arabia, which remains the biggest oil exporter. As a so-called swing producer with the ability to adjust production up or down relatively quickly, it can indeed influence the price of crude. But the market is complex: Canada, for example, is actually the top source of US oil imports, with Saudi Arabia second.
“I THINK YOU’RE GOING TO SEE A TREMENDOUS REDUCTION IN DRUG PRICES”
THE FACTS: Prices continue to rise. Administration policies announced last year and currently being completed don’t seem to have shifted that trend. Figures on US prescription drug price changes compiled by health data company Elsevier show that from December 20 through January 2, there were 1,179 product price changes. Of those, 30 were price cuts and the remaining 1,149 were price increases, with 328 of them between nine per cent and 10 per cent. All but one of the rest were by lower percentages. Elsevier spokesman Chris Capot said more companies will be announcing price increases this month.
Separately, a data firm whose software can help patients find the most cost- effective medications says its information shows price increases on many commonly used drugs for conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. “In the first two days of January, prices have increased on more than 250 different products,” said Michael Rea, CEO of Rx Savings Solutions. The average increase is about six per cent, he added.
“PROBABLY 30, 35 MILLION [PEOPLE ARE LIVING IN THE US ILLEGALLY]”
THE FACTS: It’s nowhere close to 30 million to 35 million, according to his own Homeland Security secretary as well as independent estimates. The nonpartisan Pew Research Center estimates there were 10.7 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally in 2016, the most recent data available. Advocacy groups on both sides of the immigration issue have similar estimates. At a House hearing last month, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen acknowledged the number was “somewhere” between 11 million and 22 million, significantly lower than Trump’s claim of 35 million.
According to Pew, the number of immigrants in the U.S. illegally had reached a height of 12.2 million in 2007, representing about four per cent of the U.S. population, before declining in part because of a weakening U.S. economy.
“I’M THE MOST POPULAR REPUBLICAN IN PARTY HISTORY”
This is easily shown to be false by checking readily available figures published by CNN.
President George H.W. Bush had a Republican party approval rating of 94% in January 1990, at the exact same point in his presidency as Mr Trump is now.
Even higher was George W. Bush’s Republican party approval rating 18 months into his presidency. In July 2002, he had a 96% approval rating.