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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Fact check: Fabrications of Trump and his critics

President Donald Trump speaks at a rally May 29, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. Trump fabricated history when it came to the 2016 election, his achievements on the opioid epidemic and a congressman’s voting record on taxes. (Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)
By Hope Yen and Calvin Woodward Associated Press

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump fabricated history when it came to assessing the 2016 election, his achievements on the opioid epidemic and a congressman’s voting record on taxes. Critics of his immigration policy got it wrong when they accused the Trump administration of taking 1,500 immigrant children from their parents and losing them.

The week in review:

TRUMP: “African-Americans vote for Democrats for the most part. You know, vast majority. They’ve been doing it for over 100 years.” – Nashville rally Tuesday.

THE FACTS: Not 100 years or anything close. Most African-Americans for much of U.S. history were disenfranchised, then prevented from voting until the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which outlawed racial discrimination in voting. Before then, those who could vote mostly backed Republicans until the 1932 election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose New Deal programs of economic relief helped spur a longer-term shift of black support from Republican to Democrat.


TRUMP: “Some of these states, I won by 44 points.” – Nashville rally.

THE FACTS: Not some. One. He won Wyoming with 70 percent of the vote in 2016, exceeding Hillary Clinton’s 22 percent by nearly 48 points, according to Associated Press election data. His next biggest win came in West Virginia, where he won by 42 points.

Nationwide, Trump lost the popular vote. He garnered 46 percent to Clinton’s 48 percent, but ultimately won the election based on an Electoral College system in which the votes of smaller rural states that generally backed Trump are weighted more heavily than big, Democratic-leaning states such as New York and California.

Under the U.S. system of electing presidents, Electoral College votes are set equal to the number of U.S. representatives in each state plus its two senators.


TRUMP: “A.P. has just reported that the Russian Hoax Investigation has now cost our government over $17 million, and going up fast. No Collusion, except by the Democrats!” – tweet Friday.

THE FACTS: The AP did not report the cost is going up fast. It cited a Justice Department finding that the investigation over 10 months has cost $16.7 million, which Trump rounded up to $17 million. Of the costs assigned to the investigation, $9 million would have been spent even absent the investigation, the department said.


TRUMP: “Not that it matters but I never fired James Comey because of Russia! The Corrupt Mainstream Media loves to keep pushing that narrative, but they know it is not true!” – tweet Thursday.

THE FACTS: Trump himself fed that “narrative.” The president has said at least twice that Comey’s firing in May 2017 was related to the FBI’s investigation into whether Trump’s campaign associates coordinated with Russia in an effort to sway the 2016 election. And his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told Fox News in May that Trump fired Comey because the FBI director wouldn’t publicly state that Trump “wasn’t a target” of the Russia investigation. Trump’s public rationale for firing Comey has shifted on multiple occasions.


TRUMP, referring to Robert Iger, CEO of ABC’s parent Walt Disney Co.: “Iger, where is my call of apology? You and ABC have offended millions of people, and they demand a response. How is Brian Ross doing? He tanked the market with an ABC lie, yet no apology. Double Standard!” – tweet Thursday.

THE FACTS: “No apology” is wrong. Trump should know that because he expressed satisfaction in December with ABC’s statement that said, “We deeply regret and apologize for the serious error” by Ross, an investigative reporter.

Ross had reported that Trump, as a candidate, directed aide Michael Flynn to make contact with Russian officials during the campaign, a potentially explosive development. Ross changed his report hours later, saying his source stated that Trump’s outreach actually came after Trump won the election, when presidents-elect might be expected to get to know foreign officials. ABC issued the apology, suspended Ross for four weeks without pay and said he would no longer report on Trump.

At the time, that pleased Trump, who tweeted: “Congratulations to @ABC News for suspending Brian Ross for his horrendously inaccurate and dishonest report on the Russia, Russia, Russia Witch Hunt. More Networks and `papers’ should do the same with their Fake News!”

Trump’s revived wrath at ABC and Iger comes after the network canceled Roseanne Barr’s show because of her racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, who was an aide to President Barack Obama. Iger tweeted that the cancellation was “the right thing” to do.


TRUMP: “There is no one better to represent the people of N.Y. and Staten Island (a place I know very well) than @RepDanDonovan, who is strong on Borders & Crime, loves our Military & our Vets, voted for Tax Cuts and is helping me to Make America Great Again. Dan has my full endorsement!” – tweet Wednesday.

THE FACTS: He’s incorrect about the tax cuts he signed into law in December. Donovan voted against them, one of the few Republicans to do so. He told AP on Thursday that Trump knew that. “The president was well aware,” he said. “We’ve had discussions about my tax vote, the president and I.” Donovan opposed the tax bill because he said it would mean a tax increase for his constituents. “With the state and local tax deduction nearly eliminated, this tax bill doesn’t equal relief for far too many New Yorkers,” he said at the time.


TRUMP, sharing this tweet from broadcaster Rush Limbaugh: “If the FBI was so concerned, and if they weren’t targeting Trump, they should have told Trump. If they were really concerned about the Russians infiltrating a campaign (hoax), then why not try to stop it? Why not tell Trump? Because they were pushing this scam.” – Thursday.

THE FACTS: The FBI did tell the Trump campaign about threats posed by foreign intelligence services. What level of detail it disclosed has not been established. It is now well known that Trump aides had multiple contacts with Russian interests during the campaign and the FBI was investigating those contacts for any evidence of collusion between the campaign and Russia. It is therefore unlikely that the FBI would share specifics that might compromise its criminal investigation.

In August 2016, an FBI counterintelligence agent gave candidate Trump what is known within the bureau as a defensive briefing about the threats from foreign intelligence services. Such briefings are fairly standard and are intended to help campaigns guard against infiltration or hacking by foreign governments, such as Russia and China. Similar briefings were given to Clinton and the two vice presidential picks prior to the election, according to an October 2017 letter from Greg Brower, then the FBI’s head of congressional affairs.


TRUMP: “We got $6 billion for opioid and getting rid of that scourge that’s taking over our country. And the numbers are way down. We’re getting the word out – bad. Bad stuff. You go to the hospital, you have a broken arm, you come out, you’re a drug addict with this crap. It’s way down. We’re doing a good job with it. But we got $6 billion to help us with opioid.” – Nashville rally.

THE FACTS: That’s misleading. One leading indicator of the opioid epidemic is down – painkiller prescriptions. Other indicators are up, such as the number of overdoses and deaths. And none of that has to do with the $6 billion enacted by Congress. The numbers are from 2017; the money is for this year and next.

Prescriptions for opioid painkillers filled in the U.S. fell almost 9 percent last year, the largest drop in 25 years. The total dosage of opioid prescriptions filled in 2017 declined by 12 percent because more prescriptions were for a shorter duration, fewer new patients started on them and high-dose prescriptions dropped. The numbers are from health data firm IQVIA’s Institute for Human Data Science.

But overdose deaths involving opioids rose to about 46,000 for the 12-month period ended October 2017, up about 15 percent from October 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The numbers are preliminary because of continuing cause-of-death investigations later in the reporting period. They could go higher.

As well, the CDC says emergency department visits for overdoses of opioids rose 30 percent in the U.S. from July 2016 to September 2017. Overdoses shot up 70 percent in the Midwest in that time while increasing by 54 percent in large cities in 16 states.


TRUMP: “Democrats mistakenly tweet 2014 pictures from Obama’s term showing children from the Border in steel cages. They thought it was recent pictures in order to make us look bad, but backfires.” – tweet Tuesday.

THE FACTS: He is correct about widespread misrepresentation of the photos on Twitter.

The photos, taken by AP, were from 2014, during the Obama administration, but were presented by liberal activists as if they showed the effects of Trump’s immigration policy now. The photos were taken at a center run by the Customs and Border Protection Agency in Nogales, Arizona. One photo shows two unidentified female detainees sleeping in a holding cell. It’s not clear that many prominent Democrats spread the photos, from a 2016 Arizona Republic story, though some did.

Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, former Los Angeles mayor now running for governor, tweeted that he was: “Speechless. This is not who we are as a nation.” Jon Favreau, ex-speechwriter for Obama, tweeted: “This is happening right now.” They and others deleted their tweets when they realized the mistake.


JIM CARREY, actor: “1500 innocent children ripped from their mothers’ arms at our border. Lost in Trump’s `system’. – tweet May 27.

THE FACTS: This didn’t happen. Many Trump critics, Carrey among them, misrepresented the fate of nearly 1,500 minors who came to the border – without their parents – and were transferred by U.S. authorities to sponsors in the country.

The Health and Human Services Department followed up with such children by calling their households to check on them late last year, getting information on the whereabouts of most, officials said. But they could not account for 1,475 of them, in part because many sponsors didn’t respond to the calls.

On that basis, Trump critics are calling the children “lost.” But in that round of calls, the Trump administration actually had a slightly better rate of confirming such children’s circumstances than the Obama administration did in 2016, according to an inspector general’s report – 86 percent versus 85 percent.

The episode with the unaccompanied children and the 2014 photos distracted from what is actually happening. Under a Trump policy to enforce criminal charges against people crossing the border illegally with few or no previous offenses, separation of parents from children is bound to become more common, and that trend may have started.

A Customs and Border Protection official told lawmakers that 658 children had been separated from their parents at the border from May 6 to May 19, after border agents began referring every illegal entry to criminal prosecutors. This is in addition to hundreds more who were estimated to have been removed from their parents at the border since October.