Wednesday, April 03, 2019 12:10 pm
Fact-checking President Trump's latest tweetstorm
Salvador Rizzo and Glenn Kessler | The Washington Post
President Donald Trump's Twitter feed is like a fact-checking buffet sometimes, with all different kinds of false or misleading claims from which to choose.
But instead of choosing, we're rounding up a bunch of different tweets.
Over the past two days, Trump tweeted a slew of suspect claims on immigration, Obamacare, the census, disaster relief for Puerto Rico and the Russia investigation. Each of them is worth a closer look.
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"Puerto Rico got 91 Billion Dollars for the hurricane, more money than has ever been gotten for a hurricane before, & all their local politicians do is complain & ask for more money. The pols are grossly incompetent, spend the money foolishly or corruptly, & only take from USA . . .. The best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico is President Donald J. Trump. So many wonderful people, but with such bad Island leadership and with so much money wasted. Cannot continue to hurt our Farmers and States with these massive payments, and so little appreciation!"( Pair of tweets , April 2)
The president gets many things wrong in this pair of tweets. Puerto Rico so far has only received over $11 billion out of nearly $41 billion in funds that have been appropriated. As we have detailed before, Trump's $91 billion figure includes $50 billion in additional estimated liabilities that could emerge over the next 20 years, but that's a figure subject to change. Trump suggests that the money has already been received but that's simply wrong. By the end of 2019, the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates, Puerto Rico will have received about $21 billion.
The federal aid after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 amounted to $120 billion, though Louisiana's share of that amounts to $76 billion. Hurricane Maria was Puerto Rico's worst natural disaster in nearly a century, and the government there was already grappling with near insolvency.
With phrases such as "only take from the USA" and "our farmers," Trump appears to suggest Puerto Ricans are not full U.S. citizens. They are citizens, though they generally do not pay federal income tax unless they work for the federal government; they pay other federal taxes, such as Social Security and Medicare.
Trump also suggests that relief money has been misspent, a point echoed by spokesman Hogan Gidley on MSNBC: "He gave them a lot of money. They mismanaged and misused that money. It hurts their people. That is what he is upset about." Gidley did not respond to a request for an explanation, but in another part of the interview, he referred to "food rotting in the ports."
But those reports concerned food, water and baby supplies donated by private entities and nonprofit groups, some of which arrived after the end of a National Guard mission. Those supplies were discovered at a state elections office, but the incident did not involve federal aid. We could locate no reports concerning malfeasance in the use of federal aid money in connection with Hurricane Maria.
Axios reported in November that Trump became furious after reading an article in the Wall Street Journal that said "Puerto Rico bond prices soared . . . after the federal oversight board that runs the U.S. territory's finances released a revised fiscal plan that raises expectations for disaster funding and economic growth." Aides suggested that the president misinterpreted the article and concluded that island officials were using disaster funds to pay down debt. But neither Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló nor a federal board that oversees the territory's finances have argued that federal disaster relief funds should be used to directly pay off debts. Rosselló and other local leaders have actively advocated against such a move.
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"After many years (decades), Mexico is apprehending large numbers of people at their Southern Border, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. They have ALL been taking U.S. money for years, and doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for us, just like the Democrats in Congress!" ( April 2 tweet )
Trump often accuses Mexico and Central American countries of doing little or nothing to stem the flow of immigration to the United States. But that's wrong.
Mexico deported 436,125 individuals from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras between January 2015 and September 2018, according to the Mexican newspaper El Universal. From fiscal years 2015 to 2018, the United States deported 321,468 individuals from those same three countries, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement statistics.
Mexican authorities have announced plans to deploy security forces to a "containment" belt north of the Guatemalan border. Mexico in 2018 also agreed to host migrants who are applying for asylum in the United States while their cases are pending in U.S. courts, as The Washington Post reported.
El Salvador, meanwhile, has been praised by top U.S. immigration officials for effective use of aid money.
El Salvador halved its murder rate, from 102.67 per 100,000 in 2015 to 50.28 per 100,000 last year. There were more than 72,000 apprehensions of Salvadorans trying to cross the U.S. border in 2016, but the number fell by more than half in 2018, to fewer than 32,000, as The Post's Kevin Sieff reported.
"What [El Salvador is] doing is working, both on the security front and on the economic opportunity front," U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said in July.
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"Everybody agrees that ObamaCare doesn't work. Premiums & deductibles are far too high - Really bad HealthCare! Even the Dems want to replace it, but with Medicare for all, which would cause 180 million Americans to lose their beloved private health insurance."(Tweet, April 1 )
Democrats would firmly disagree that the Affordable Care Act does not work, given that the number of people without health insurance has sharply declined since it was passed in 2010. Some Democrats have proposed ways to reduce out-of-pocket costs, mainly by bolstering subsidies and extending the pool of people who would qualify for them.
Democrats running for president have proposed Medicare-for-all, essentially a single-payer plan, or making Medicare (a government plan for people over 65) available to people younger than retirement age. The version proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., would eliminate private insurance and offer insurance instead through the federal government.
Trump's numbers for private insurance are a little off. The Census Bureau says that in 2017, 217 million Americans had private insurance, with 181 million covered through an employer and 52 million directly purchasing it. Meanwhile, 123 million Americans are covered already through a government plan, such as Medicare, Medicaid or the military health system.
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"Can you believe that the Radical Left Democrats want to do our new and very important Census Report without the all important Citizenship Question. Report would be meaningless and a waste of the $Billions (ridiculous) that it costs to put together!" ( April 1 tweet )
The Trump administration wants to add a question to the 2020 Census asking whether respondents are U.S. citizens. Trump claims the census would be "meaningless" without this "all-important question." But numerous experts - including those in the Census Bureau - say that adding a citizenship question would depress response rates by intimidating immigrants fearing potential deportation. (The census is supposed to count all residents, not just citizens.)
More than a dozen states and cities and a range of groups sued in 2018 to block the question, calling it a ruse by the Trump administration to weaken the political power of heavily Democratic states with large immigrant populations. Census data is used to allocate federal funds, draw legislative districts and reapportion congressional seats.
The citizenship question has been blocked by two federal judges and is pending before the Supreme Court. The lower-court judges listed serious concerns about Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross's decision-making process. Ross oversees the Census Bureau and overruled career officials who had recommended against adding the question.
The judges said Ross's decision to add the question was based on a false premise. Ross testified in Congress that the Justice Department "initiated the request" for the citizenship question to gather better data to protect voting rights for minorities.
But it was later revealed in court proceedings that Ross was behind the question all along and pressured the Justice Department to make a formal request.
The two judges also mentioned violations of the Administrative Procedures Act and the potential for an undercount, according to career Census Bureau officials and other experts. One judge found that the question violated the Constitution.
The census has not had a citizenship question since 1950.
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"In 1998, Rep. Jerry Nadler strongly opposed the release of the Starr Report on Bill Clinton. No information whatsoever would or could be legally released. But with the NO COLLUSION Mueller Report, which the Dems hate, he wants it all. NOTHING WILL EVER SATISFY THEM!" ( April 2 tweet )
Trump goes back and forth on whether special counsel Robert Mueller's nearly 400-page report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential obstruction of justice by the president should be released to the public.
On March 16, after the House voted 420 to 0 to release the report, Trump tweeted: "I told leadership to let all Republicans vote for transparency. Makes us all look good and doesn't matter." On March 20, he said "I don't mind" when asked whether the public has a right to see the Mueller report. "I mean, frankly, I told the House, 'If you want, let them see it,' " Trump said.
But maybe he does mind. On April 2, Trump brought up old comments from Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who opposed the full release of independent counsel Kenneth Starr's report on President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. "It's grand jury material. It represents statements which may or may not be true by various witnesses. Salacious material. All kinds of material that it would be unfair to release," Nadler said in 1998, as The Post's Colby Itkowitz reported.
Now Trump is in the White House, and Nadler has changed his tune, the president suggests.
But there are some key differences here. Starr delivered his full, unredacted report to Congress in 1998, complete with grand jury testimony. Congress debated how much of the report to release to the public.
Attorney General William Barr plans to redact some information from Mueller's report, such as grand jury material, before turning it over to Congress. Democrats are seeking access to all of Mueller's findings and underlying evidence.
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"Robert Mueller was a God-like figure to the Democrats, until he ruled No Collusion in the long awaited $30,000,000 Mueller Report." (April 2 tweet)
Mueller is careful to break down direct and indirect costs from his investigation, as we've reported, and is far below what independent counsels spent investigating Clinton.
Mueller through September 2018 had reported $25.2 million in costs. Presumably, this figure will rise when the final costs are released. But Mueller also made money for the government, namely by seizing properties owned by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Independent journalist Marcy Wheeler has estimated the value of Manafort's seized assets at $46 million.