Fact-checking Donald Trump’s news conference
President-elect Trump finally held a news conference, but as is typical, he often made claims that have been repeatedly debunked or discredited.
Here’s a guide to 15 of his more notable statements, in the order in which he made them.
- ‘‘It’s very familiar territory, news conferences, because we used to give them on a almost daily basis.’’
Trump is exaggerating. During the primaries, he was a near-constant presence on television because he frequently called into interview shows. But he generally only held news conferences after primary contests were held. He last held a news conference on July 27.
- ‘‘You saw yesterday Fiat Chrysler; big, big factory going to be built in this country as opposed to another country. Ford just announced that they stopped plans for a billion dollar plant in Mexico and they’re going to be moving into Michigan and expanding, very substantially, an existing plant.’’
Trump claims credit for these announcements, but that’s wrong.
Sergio Marchionne, the Fiat Chrysler chief executive, said the plan had been in the works for more than a year and had nothing to do with Trump; he credited instead talks with the United Auto Workers.
With regards to Ford, analysts say Ford’s decision to expand in Michigan rather than in Mexico has more to do with the company’s long-term goal - particularly, its plans to invest in electric vehicles - than the administration. It’s easier for companies to find highly skilled workers to build new products, such as electric cars, in the United States than in Mexico.
- ‘‘When we lost 22 million names and everything else that was hacked recently, they didn’t make a big deal out of that. That was something that was extraordinary. That was probably China.’’
Actually, the Chinese hack of 22 million accounts at the Office of Personnel Management was front page news.
The Russian hacking of the presidential election and the OPM hack are not directly comparable. The Russian campaign, as described by U.S. intelligence, involved more than just hacking, with the aim of disrupting and possibly influencing the political process. The Chinese hack had a more isolated goal - espionage. China appears to have wanted the material in order to engage in possible blackmail.
Obama administration officials say the China case is different because it was purely a case of spying - something the United States does as well. U.S. officials also say that China responded to U.S. pressure after the hack was discovered, and there are signs its espionage activities have been reduced. China may have been receptive to U.S. pressure at the time because President Xi Jinping was about to visit the United States, and he did not want the hack to mar the visit.
- ‘‘The Democratic National Committee was totally open to be hacked. They did a very poor job….And they tried to hack the Republican National Committee and they were unable to break through.’’
This is an example of attacking one of the victims, the Democratic National Committee. But FBI Director James Comey says there is evidence that older Republican National Committee domains were also targeted but none of the information that may have been obtained was leaked. Comey said that the Russians ‘‘got far deeper and wider into the [DNC] than the RNC,’’ adding that ‘‘similar techniques were used in both cases.’’
But Trump’s remarks also ignore the broader implications of the unclassified intelligence report released on Jan. 5 - how the Russian government used Internet trolls and RT (Russia’s state-owned international news channel) to amplify negative reports on Clinton and U.S. democracy.
The Internet trolls started to advocate for Trump as early as December 2015, well before the WikiLeaks revelations began to be released on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.
Meanwhile, ‘‘RT’s coverage of Secretary Clinton throughout the presidential campaign was consistently negative and focused on her leaked e-mails and accused her of corruption, poor physical and mental health, and ties to Islamic extremism,’’ the report said. (It does not mention that these attack lines mirrored attacks made by the Trump campaign.)
- ‘‘Look at the things that were hacked, look at what was learned from that hacking.That Hillary Clinton got the questions to the debate and didn’t report it? That’s a horrible thing.’’
Trump overstates the disclosure about Clinton getting a debate question. During the Democratic primaries, a debate was held in Flint, Mich. to focus on the water crisis. Donna Brazile, then an analyst with CNN, sent an email to the Clinton campaign saying that a woman with a rash from lead poisoning was going to ask what Clinton as president could do the help the people of Flint.
There’s no indication Clinton was told this information but in any case it’s a pretty obvious question for a debate being held in Flint. In her answer, Clinton committed to remove lead from water systems across the country within five years. Lee-Anne Waters, who asked the question, later said Clinton’s answer ‘‘made me vomit in my mouth’’ because that was too long to wait in Flint.
- ‘‘This administration created ISIS by leaving at the wrong time. The void was created, ISIS was formed.’’
Trump greatly simplifies a complex situation.
The Islamic State terror group arose in response to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, but it began to fade after the Bush administration surge in 2008. The civil war in Syria breathed new life into what had become a moribund organization. The conflict in Syria created a perfect vacuum in terms of governance, and so the civil war became an opportunity for the restoration of the organization.
ISIS then saw opportunity to rebound in Iraq. One factor was the withdrawal of U.S. troops order by President Obama. But there was also rampant mismanagement by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which greatly degraded the Iraqi military and exacerbated tensions between Sunnis and Shiites.
- ‘‘I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia.’’
Trump is being misleading when he says he has stayed away from Russia. Trump repeatedly sought deals in Russia. In 1987, he went to Moscow to find a site for luxury hotel; no deal emerged. In 1996, he sought to build a condominium complex in Russia; that also did not succeed. In 2005, Trump signed a one-year deal with a New York development company to explore a Trump Tower in Moscow, but the effort fizzled.
In a 2008 speech, Trump’s son, Donald Jr., made it clear that the Trumps want to do business in Russia, but were finding it difficult. ‘‘Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,’’ Trump’s son told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. ‘‘We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.’’
Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, told The Washington Post in May: ‘‘I have no doubt, as a company, I know we’ve looked at deals in Russia. And many of the former Russian Republics.’’
- ‘‘I have a no-conflict situation because I’m president.’’
This is basically correct. The law doesn’t say the president can’t have a conflict of interest. But Congress, under Title 18 Section 208 of the U.S. code, did exempt the president and vice president from conflict-of-interest laws on the theory that the presidency has so much power that any possible executive action might pose a potential conflict.
- ‘‘The only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters….You learn very little to a tax return.’’
Trump is wrong on both counts. A Pew Research Center poll conducted Jan. 4-9 found that 60 percent of Americans believed Trump has a responsibility to release his tax returns.
Meanwhile, tax experts say that tax returns provide insight about a person’s finances in several key areas.
First, the tax return reveals a person’s annual income. A person’s net worth is not disclosed, but voters would gain an understanding of a person’s cash flow. Second, voters would understand the sources of a person’s income, such as how much comes from certain businesses, speeches, dividends, capital gains and so forth.
Third, a tax return would disclose how much a person gives to charity. Mitt Romney gave almost $2.3 million to charity in 2011, while Bill and Hillary Clinton gave $3 million to charity in 2014. We know these figures because of information in their tax returns.
Trump claims he has given $102 million to charity in the past five years, but a Washington Post investigation found not a cent in actual cash - mostly just free rounds of golf, given away by his courses for charity auctions and raffles. Trump’s tax return would clear up exactly how much he has really given to charity - indeed, whether he has given anything at all.
Fourth, a tax return would reveal how aggressive Trump has been on his taxes. There is no black-and-white approach to taxes; there are many gray areas subject to interpretation, especially regarding deductions. Trump frequently suggests that he knows how to game the system, so voters would learn whether he takes the same approach to his taxes.
Finally, the tax returns would disclose what percentage of Trump’s income actually goes to taxes.
- ‘‘We have hundreds of billions of dollars of losses on a yearly basis -- hundreds of billions with China on trade and trade imbalance, with Japan, with Mexico, with just about everybody.’’
A trade deficit simply means that people in one country are buying more goods from another country than people in the second country are buying from the first country.
Trump’s comment that there ‘‘billions of dollars of losses’’ in trade reflects a fundamental misunderstanding. Americans want to buy these products from overseas, either because of quality or price. If Trump sparked a trade war and tariffs were increased on Chinese or Mexican goods, then it would raise the cost of those products to Americans. Perhaps that would reduce the purchases of those goods, and thus reduce the trade deficit, but that would not mean the United States would ‘‘gain’’ money that had been lost.
- ‘‘Some states have over a hundred percent [premium] increase.’’
Trump exaggerates here, and appears to misunderstand a fundamental part of the Affordable Care Act. State-by-state weighted average increases range from just 1.3 percent in Rhode Island to as high as 71 percent in Oklahoma. But the most common plans in the marketplace will see an average increase of 9 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. These plans have been used as the benchmark to calculate government subsidies.
The vast majority of marketplace enrollees (about eight in 10) receive government premium subsidies. They are protected from a premium increase (and may even see a decrease) if they stay with a low-cost plan. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, ‘‘anecdotal examples of premium hikes or averages across insurers can provide a skewed picture of the increases marketplace enrollees will actually face.’’
- ‘‘I want to thank United Technologies which owns Carrier, but we saved close to a thousand jobs.’’
Trump keeps counting jobs that were never going to go to Mexico in the first place.
Union officials say the number of jobs saved at Carrier shrank to 730, once the official paperwork was submitted. Meanwhile, 553 jobs, focused on making fan coils, will go to Mexico, as well as 700 jobs from a United Technologies Electronics Controls (UTEC) facility. Another 400 jobs in the two facilities, mostly administrative, were never going to leave.
In effect, Trump saved 37 percent of the jobs slated to depart. But Greg Hayes, chief executive of United Technologies, told CNN that even more jobs at Carrier eventually would be lost through automation.
- ‘‘96 million really wanting a job and they can’t get. You know that story. The real number -- that’s the real number.’’
This is an absurd claim, based on a real number. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, relying on a monthly survey known as the Current Population Survey (CPS), shows that, as of December 2016, 95.1 million Americans 16 years and older were ‘‘not in labor force.’’
How is this number developed? Well, there is a civilian noninstitutional population of 253.9 million people, and 159.5 million are in the labor force. The difference yields the 95.1 million figure.
But the unemployment rate is only 4.7 percent because just 7.5 million people actively are looking for a job and cannot find one. They are considered part of the overall labor force. In other words, you have to be seeking a job to be counted in the labor force.
Who are the 95 million not in the labor force? The BLS has data for the year 2015. It turns out that 93 percent do not want a job at all. The picture that emerges from a study of the data shows that the 95 million consists mostly of people who are retired, students, stay-at-home parents or disabled.
Trump is doing a real disservice by claiming 96 million really want a job that ‘‘they can’t get.’’
- ‘‘I think it’s a disgrace that information that was false and fake and never happened got released to the public.’’
We cannot resist noting that Trump was the leading purveyor of false ‘‘birther’’ claims questions, based on no evidence, that President Obama was not born in the United States. He frequently claimed that Obama had spent $2 million to cover this up - a number he plucked out of World Net Daily, which promotes conservative-leaning conspiracy theories.