AP fact check: How did Trump statements for week measure up?
WASHINGTON (AP) — It was a week of sound and fury from President Donald Trump, the commander in tweets. A look at how some of his statements fit with the facts:
TRUMP made an unsupported assertion Feb. 4 that terrorist acts in Europe are going unreported: “All over Europe it’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.”
THE FACTS: Trump and his team cited one example of a deadly terrorist attack going unreported: the one that didn’t happen in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Adviser Kellyanne Conway spoke a week earlier about a Bowling Green “massacre” that didn’t take place, correcting herself when called on the error.
As for Trump’s claim about Europe, it’s probably true that you haven’t heard of every attack on the continent that can be tied to terrorism. Scores if not hundreds happen every year. Many don’t rise to the level of an international audience because they cause no casualties, or little or no property damage.
One exhaustive list is the Global Terrorism Database, maintained by the University of Maryland. It lists 321 episodes of suspected or known terrorism in Western Europe alone in 2015. Many are anti-Muslim attacks against mosques, not the brand of terrorism Trump has expressed concern about. Many are attacks undertaken for right-wing or left-wing causes that have nothing to do with Islamic extremism or xenophobic attacks on mosques.
The devastating attacks by Islamic extremists in 2015 are also on the list, among them the murderous assault on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and the even bloodier attack at Paris’ Bataclan concert hall, the worst in a series of killings in one day. Those attacks and other deadly ones in Europe received saturation coverage for days.
But even the smaller, nonlethal acts of terrorism received coverage: The database itself is built from media reports.
Trump made his claim before a broad audience on live television, while speaking at Central Command headquarters in Florida. On Air Force One, before a smaller audience, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump did not really mean that terrorist attacks received no coverage. Trump’s actual complaint, he said, was that such acts don’t get enough attention.
The White House later released a list of 78 worldwide attacks it described as “executed or inspired by” IS. Most on the list did not get sufficient media attention, the White House said.
Attacks on the list that had high death tolls were given blanket coverage, such as the Brussels bombings in March, the San Bernardino, California, shootings in December 2015, and the Paris attacks in November 2015. Some with a smaller death toll, such as two attacks in Canada that killed one soldier each, were covered at the time and well known.
TRUMP, speaking to sheriffs Tuesday: “The murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years, right? Did you know that? Forty-seven years. I used to use that — I’d say that in a speech and everybody was surprised because the press doesn’t tell it like it is.”
THE FACTS: The murder rate in 2015, the latest year for which figures are available, is actually among the lowest in half a century. It stood at 4.9 murders per 100,000 people, a far cry from the rates in the 1970s, 1980s and most of the 1990s, when they were typically over 6 per 100,000, peaking at over 10 in 1980.
It’s true that 2015 saw one of the largest increases in decades, up 10 percent from 4.4 murders per 100,000 people in 2014. But even with that rise, homicides are not on the order of what the country had in previous decades.
TRUMP in a tweet Thursday: “It is a disgrace that my full Cabinet is still not in place, the longest such delay in the history of our country. Obstruction by Democrats!”
THE FACTS: Obama did not have all his Cabinet vacancies filled until late April 2009 or President Bill Clinton until mid-March 1993.
Looking at the far broader range of people throughout government who must be confirmed by the Senate, it’s true that the process has lagged this time. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price this past week became the ninth member of Trump’s administration to be confirmed. At this point eight years ago Obama had more than 20 officials confirmed, including department heads and deputies.
Democratic resistance is partly responsible. So is the fact Trump has been slower than his predecessor in submitting vetting information and paperwork for his nominees, even though he was unusually fast in putting his Cabinet picks into play.
TRUMP on Thursday disputed statements by at least three senators that his nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, voiced complaints to them about the president’s recent attacks on the judiciary. Tweet: “Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie), now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?” At a lunch with senators: “His comments were misrepresented.”
THE FACTS: Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut who falsely claimed in years past that he had served in Vietnam, offered an account of his meeting with Gorsuch that was corroborated by Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist serving as communications director for the team working to get Gorsuch confirmed by the Senate.
The senator said Gorsuch told him it was “disheartening” and “demoralizing” to see Trump disparage the judge who temporarily blocked the president’s restrictions on visitors from seven mainly Muslim countries and on refugees. Trump has called U.S. District Judge James Robart a “so-called judge” and accused the judiciary of being political. Robart’s decision was upheld Thursday in a unanimous decision by an appeals court panel that includes a Republican appointee.
A Republican senator said Gorsuch also objected to Trump’s comments about Robart during their meeting.
“He got pretty passionate about him, about it,” Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska told MSNBC on Thursday. “I asked him about the ‘so-called judges’ comment, because we don’t have so-called judges or so-called presidents or so-called senators, and this was a guy who kind of welled up with some energy and he said any attack on any of — I think his term to me was, brothers or sisters of the robe — is an attack on all judges, and he believes in an independent judiciary.”