WASHINGTON — In President Donald Trump’s estimation, the U.S. border isn’t merely porous, it’s “wide open.” Darkness and danger are everywhere, even Sweden. American infrastructure isn’t just in need of improvement but it’s in “total disrepair and decay.” The health law is not only flawed, but it’s an “absolute and total catastrophe.”
His apocalyptic view of everything he intends to fix leaves no nuance, but that’s where reality often resides. For example, Trump himself actually likes parts of former President Barack Obama’s health overhaul, such as the extended coverage for older children. And the U.S. remains an economic powerhouse able to transport goods in a stressed system of roads, bridges and ports that are not in total decay.
But the president is one to overreach for superlatives, whether describing the state of things as he found them or what he plans to do about them — or claims to have done already.
Some statements from the past week:
TRUMP: “Obamacare covers very few people.”
THE FACTS: That’s only true if you consider more than 20 million people to be “very few.” That’s how many are covered by the two major components of the law: expanded Medicaid and subsidized private health insurance.
The Medicaid expansion, adopted by 31 states and the District of Columbia, covers about 11 million low-income people, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The other, more visible, component is HealthCare.gov. The federal website and state-run online insurance markets have signed up 12.2 million people for this year, according to an Associated Press count this month, based on federal and state reports.
Altogether, since Obama’s law passed in 2010, the number of uninsured people has dropped by about 20 million and the uninsured rate has declined below 9 percent, a historic low.
TRUMP, repeating a week-old assertion that Sweden is an example of violence and extremism due to immigration: “Take a look at what happened in Sweden. I love Sweden, great country, great people, I love Sweden. But they understand. The people over there understand I’m right.”
THE FACTS: Trump was ridiculed in Sweden after he warned at a rally in Florida that terrorism was growing in Europe and something terrible had happened in Sweden the previous night. But there had been no extraordinary trouble that night in Sweden, a country welcoming to immigrants.
Two days later, though, a riot broke out after police arrested a drug crime suspect. Cars were set on fire and shops looted, but no one was injured. Attacks in the country related to extremism remain rare. The biggest surprise for many Swedes was that a police officer found it necessary to fire his gun.
TRUMP: The U.S. is providing security to other nations “while leaving our own border wide open. Anybody can come in. But don’t worry, we’re getting a wall. … We’re getting bad people out of this country.”
THE FACTS: His wide-open border claim is bogus. The number of arrests of illegal border crossers — the best measure of how many people are trying to cross illegally — remains at a 40-year low. The U.S. government under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama roughly doubled the ranks of the Border Patrol in the past decade or so.
In addition, the number of people expelled from the country since Trump took office Jan. 20 has not been disclosed. No available data support his claim, made Thursday, that immigrants in the country illegally are being expelled at a rate “nobody has ever seen before.” Deportations were brisk when Obama was president.
Altogether in January, 16,643 people were deported, a drop from December (20,395) but a number that is similar to monthly deportations in early 2015 and 2016.
This month, Homeland Security officials have said 680 people were arrested in a weeklong effort to find and arrest criminal immigrants living in the United States illegally. Three-quarters of those people had been convicted of crimes, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said. The remaining 25 percent were not.
The government has not provided information about who was arrested in that roundup, so it’s impossible to determine how many gang members or drug lords were in that group. It is also unclear how many of those “bad people” have actually been deported.
That roundup was largely planned before Trump took office and was alternately described by the Trump administration as a routine enforcement effort and a signal of his pledge to take a harder line on illegal immigration. During the Obama administration, similar operations were carried out that yielded thousands of arrests.
TRUMP: “We have authorized the construction, one day, of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines. And issued a new rule — this took place while I was getting ready to sign. I said who makes the pipes for the pipeline? Well, sir, it comes from all over the world, isn’t that wonderful? I said nope, comes from the United States, or we’re not building it. American steel. If they want a pipeline in the United States, they’re going to use pipe that’s made in the United States.”
THE FACTS: It’s not that straightforward. Trump’s executive order leaves lots of wiggle room on how much U.S. steel is actually used. The order states new, expanded or repaired pipelines in the U.S. must use U.S. steel “to the maximum extent possible” and allowed by law. That’s not an all-USA mandate.
What’s judged possible in the Keystone XL project remains to be seen. Pipes are already purchased. Contrary to his statement, Trump has not approved the project. Rather, he revived it by asking TransCanada to resubmit its application.
TransCanada did so in late January while saying it needs time to review how any buy-American plan would affect the company. It has said the majority of steel would be from North America, but that includes Canada and Mexico.
Trump’s Jan. 24 order on U.S. steel has little effect on the Dakota Access project because it is nearly complete.
TRUMP on arrests of people in the country illegally: “It’s a military operation because what has been allowed to come into our country, when you see gang violence that you’ve read about like never before and all of the things, much of that is people who are here illegally. And they’re rough and they’re tough, but they’re not tough like our people. So we’re getting them out.”
THE FACTS: He was wrong in calling immigration enforcement a military operation.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, responsible for finding and deporting immigrants in the country illegally, is a civilian law enforcement agency. Military personnel were not responsible for recent raids that resulted in the arrests of 680 people. Planning for that roundup had been underway during the previous administration and was in step with large, periodic raids when Obama was president.
Kelly contradicted Trump on the nature of plans to step up border enforcement: “There will be no use of military forces in immigration,” Kelly said. “There will be no — repeat, no — mass deportations.”
TRUMP again claimed credit for a $700 million savings in the military’s contract with Lockheed for the F-35 fighter jet. Speaking to the defense contractor’s CEO Marillyn Hewson, he said: “Over $700 million. Do you think Hillary would have cost you $700 million? I assume you wanted her to win” — referring to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
THE FACTS: Cost savings for the F-35 began before Trump’s inauguration and predate his complaints about the price tag.
The head of the Air Force program announced significant price reductions Dec. 19 — after Trump had tweeted about the cost but weeks before Trump met about the issue on Jan. 13 with Hewson.
“There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of additional F-35 cost savings as a result of President Trump’s intervention,” said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the aerospace consulting firm Teal Group. He said Trump appears to be taking credit for prior-year budget decisions and for work already done by managers at the Pentagon who took action before the presidential election to reduce costs.
Associated Press writers Alicia A. Caldwell, Matthew Daly and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.
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EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures