comscore Reviewing a year of fact checks before Trump’s first State of the Union | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Reviewing a year of fact checks before Trump’s first State of the Union


    President Donald Trump arrives onstage to speak at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Jan. 26.

WASHINGTON >> In his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Donald Trump is expected to tick off accomplishments from his first year in office and present his policy vision — and The New York Times will fact-check him as he speaks.

There is no guarantee that Trump will stick to the script. While his impromptu tweets and remarks are more prone to be inaccurate or unfounded, the president’s prepared speeches tend to be more tempered, even if they have taken facts out of context, included overstated or undue self-praise or offered bleak and exaggerated diagnoses.

Here are some lessons and themes drawn from a year of fact-checking Trump’s public remarks, interviews and social media posts as president.

>> Policy Achievements: Trump has been unable to fulfill one of his central campaign pledges — repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act — but it hasn’t stopped him from falsely declaring otherwise. In some remarks, Trump has been accurate, describing the end of the health care law’s individual mandate as “partial repeal.” Virtually all other parts of the law remain intact.

It is also not accurate for Trump to claim full credit for the collapse of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq. A significant amount of territory has been recaptured and major battles have been won in the last year, but Trump has largely overseen a strategy started under President Barack Obama.

The $1.5 trillion tax cut signed by Trump in December is his first major legislative achievement in office. But he is wrong to characterize it — as he has done at least four times this year — as the largest in history (at least three are bigger) or the first since President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cut (most presidents since Reagan have cut taxes).

>> The ‘Trump Bump’ in the Economy: Trump is likely to boast about a roaring U.S. economy and healthy job growth, though his claims should be viewed in context.

He has, for example, boasted at least seven times in the past two weeks that the black unemployment rate, 6.8 percent in December, is the lowest ever recorded. While true, it is the culmination of a longer-term trend. It is also an open question how much credit a president, especially in his first year, can take for the economy.

The same can be said of Trump’s repeated claim that nearly 2.4 million jobs have been added since his election in November 2016. The number is accurate, but appears less groundbreaking with the appropriate context: More jobs were added in the 14 months before his election than in the 14 months since.

Trump has also misrepresented the tax cut’s effect on the decisions of U.S. businesses.

Contrary to his claims that Chrysler is “leaving Mexico and coming back to the United States,” the automaker continues to operate several plants in Mexico even as it shifts production of some pickup trucks to Michigan. Similarly, he has trumpeted Apple’s announcement of a $350 billion, five-year investment as a boon for manufacturing, but the company was already on track to spend $275 billion over the next five years.

>> International Deals: Trump often talks up his deal-making prowess. But he has taken credit for agreements that were drawn up before he was involved or relies on fuzzy math to promote the most impressive dollar figure possible.

Trump claimed to have signed $250 billion worth of deals with China, Japan and South Korea in November and $350 billion of deals in Saudi Arabia that would add “hundreds of thousands of jobs” in June. Both packages include plans made before his trips and rely on verbal agreements.

Trump has also made inaccurate statements about international deals he dislikes.

As his trade team negotiates revamping the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Trump has erroneously said the United States has a trade deficit with Canada, when it actually has a surplus. He has also exaggerated the trade deficit totals with China and Mexico.

Trump mischaracterized the Iran nuclear deal, alleging that Obama “so foolishly gave” money to the Islamic republic’s leaders to fund terrorism. The diplomatic agreement did not cut Iran a check, but it did release about $100 billion in previously Iranian frozen assets, much of which is tied up in debt obligations.

>> The Immigration Debate: In pushing Congress to approve a new immigration policy, Trump has made several erroneous statements.

He has falsely accused other countries of “sending their worst” through the diversity visa lottery. Applicants enter of their own volition and are denied a visa if they have a criminal record or would rely on public assistance.

His repeated claim that Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in the Manhattan truck attack, brought in dozens of relatives through what he calls “chain migration,” or family-based immigration, is implausible. As a green card holder, Saipov is not allowed to sponsor extended family.

Finally, Trump is right that illegal border crossings “are way, way down” under his watch, but he has exaggerated the extent of that decline.

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