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Fact Check: Trump’s messy case that he inherited a mess

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

EDITOR’S NOTE – A look at the veracity of claims by political figures

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Thursday made a messy case that he “inherited a mess” from former President Barack Obama. Economic stats and territorial losses of Islamic State insurgents don’t support his assertions about the problems handed to him on those fronts.

A look at some of his claims in a news conference Thursday and how they compare with the facts:

TRUMP: “To be honest I inherited a mess. It’s a mess. At home and abroad, a mess.”

THE FACTS: A mess is in the eye of the beholder. But by almost every economic measure, Barack Obama inherited a far worse situation when he became president in 2009 than he left for Trump. He had to deal with the worst downturn since the Depression.

Unemployment was spiking, the stock market crashing, the auto industry failing and millions of Americans risked losing their homes to foreclosure when Obama took the oath of office. None of those statistics is as dire for Trump.

Unemployment is 4.8 percent, compared with a peak of 10 percent during Obama’s first year as president. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was cratering until March 2009, only to rebound roughly 200 percent over the rest of Obama’s term– gains that have continued under Trump on the promise of tax and regulatory cuts.

When Trump assumed office last month, a greater percentage of the country had health insurance, incomes were rising and the country was adding jobs.

The Trump administration has noted that a smaller proportion of the population is working or looking for jobs. But even this measure began to turn around toward the end of the Obama era.

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TRUMP: “ISIS has spread like cancer, another mess I inherited.”

THE FACTS: The Islamic State group began to lose ground before Trump took office, not just in Iraq and Syria but also in Libya. The gradual military progress achieved in Iraq during Obama’s final two years has pushed IS to the point of collapse in Mosul, its main Iraqi stronghold.

It remains a potent danger beyond its shrunken territory, encouraging adherents to stage acts of terrorism. The analogy with cancer is an echo of Obama’s last defense secretary, Ash Carter, who repeatedly cast Obama’s counter-IS campaign as an effort to reverse the extremists’ “metastasis” beyond the “parent tumor” in Iraq and Syria.


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