AP FACT CHECK: Trump misfires on economy, Syria, impeachment
WASHINGTON (AP) — Battling an impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump is misrepresenting facts as he blasts his investigators and seeks to highlight the administration’s efforts to fulfill campaign pledges on the economy and war in the Middle East .
In tweets and public remarks, the president minimized the risk of withdrawing U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in Syria, suggesting that most of the foreign fighters captured in the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State group and being held by the Kurds are from European countries that can reclaim them. That’s incorrect; only a small portion of the fighters are from Europe.
Trump made a groundless assertion that the Democratic leaders heading the impeachment inquiry , House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff, should be impeached, not him. There are no provisions in the Constitution for the impeachment of lawmakers and no grounds for doing so based on what he alleges.
The president and his GOP allies also exaggerated median income growth for U.S. households as well as the U.S. investments made by Japanese automakers while unveiling a limited trade agreement with Japan. Trump said that Japanese companies are building many car plants in the U.S., which is not true.
A look at the claims:
SYRIA and TURKEY
TRUMP: “So many people conveniently forget that Turkey is a big trading partner of the United States, in fact they make the structural steel frame for our F-35 Fighter Jet.” — tweet Tuesday.
THE FACTS: Actually, Turkey won’t be providing the steel for U.S. F-35 fighter jets much longer.
The Trump administration removed Turkey from the F-35 program in July because the Turks refused to cancel the purchase of a Russian S-400 air defense system that is incompatible with NATO forces. At the time, the White House said the S-400 would compromise the F-35 program and aid Russian intelligence.
As part of that process, the U.S. will stop using any Turkish supplies and parts by March.
TRUMP: “We quickly defeated 100% of the ISIS Caliphate, …including capturing thousands of ISIS fighters, mostly from Europe. But Europe did not want them back, they said you keep them USA!” — tweet Monday.
THE FACTS: The foreign fighters captured are not “mostly” from Europe.
The U.S.-backed Kurdish forces have custody of thousands of captured Islamic State militants. They include about 2,500 highly dangerous foreign fighters from Europe and elsewhere whose native countries have been reluctant to take them back. An additional 10,000 or so captured fighters are from Syria and Iraq.
Trump has said it will now be up to countries in the region to decide what to do with captured fighters, and he warned of retribution in response to any future attacks.
TRUMP: “Adam should be Impeached!” — tweet Tuesday.
TRUMP: “Nancy Pelosi knew of all of the many Shifty Adam Schiff lies and massive frauds perpetrated upon Congress and the American people, in the form of a fraudulent speech …This makes Nervous Nancy every bit as guilty as Liddle’ Adam Schiff for High Crimes and Misdemeanors … I guess that means that they, along with all of those that evilly ‘Colluded’ with them, must all be immediately Impeached!” — tweet Sunday.
THE FACTS: There’s no danger that either Schiff or Pelosi, who last month launched impeachment proceedings against Trump, will be impeached themselves. That’s because House members cannot be impeached under the Constitution.
The House does have the power to expel one of its members by a two-thirds vote, but there are little grounds for it based on what Trump alleges.
Trump is overstating Schiff’s exaggerations, which the president describes as “lies and massive frauds.” The California Democrat, in what he said was a parody during a committee hearing last month, was mocking the president’s pleas in his July call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, as Trump does with his critics routinely.
Schiff made clear he was providing an account that was in “essence” what he believed Trump was conveying to Zelenskiy, when “shorn of its rambling character.”
The House has expelled only five of its own , based on charges of members supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War or bribery and corruption.
RONNA MCDANIEL, Republican National Committee chair: “New data is out on median income growth: Under Barack Obama, incomes rose $11 a month. Under @realDonaldTrump, incomes are rising at $161 a month. That’s huge!” — tweet Monday, retweeted by Trump.
THE FACTS: This comparison is misleading.
McDaniel didn’t provide her data source. But her statement obscures the track records of both presidents and the economic conditions that their administrations inherited.
For the first two full years of Trump’s presidency, the Census Bureau shows that median household income has been growing by a monthly average of $58, to $63,179 in 2018. That’s almost a third of the rate claimed in McDaniel’s tweet.
Under President Barack Obama, incomes rose at a monthly average of only $31. But that average includes Obama’s first term, when the economy was dealing with the ravages from the Great Recession that began before he became president. Trump took office at a moment when the economy was relatively healthy.
Obama’s track record improved sharply after 2012, as the recovery took hold. Median incomes during that period rose at a monthly average of $122. That is more than double the income growth during Trump’s first two years.
TRUMP: “As you know, in addition to what we’re talking about today, they’re building — Japan — many car plants in the United States, which they weren’t doing for a long time. And they’re building in Michigan, Ohio, lots of different states. And we just appreciate it very much. Been a tremendous investment.” — remarks Monday on trade.
THE FACTS: Japanese automakers are not building “many” car plants in the U.S. No Japanese automakers are building assembly plants in Michigan, and Honda is making only a small investment at an existing facility in Anna, Ohio, near Dayton. Last year, Honda announced it would build a hybrid SUV at a factory in Greensburg, Indiana, but that investment was a modest $4.2 million and added only 34 new jobs.
The only major assembly plant being built now by Japanese automakers in the U.S. is the Toyota-Mazda factory in Alabama, which is expected to employ 4,000 people and will start producing vehicles in 2021. In 2017, when the companies announced plans to build the $1.6 billion factory, Toyota’s president said Trump did not influence the decision to build in the U.S.
Normally, parts-making companies set up operations in or near the main assembly plant, and that’s happening in Huntsville. Six companies are investing about $491 million in the area, creating an expected 1,765 jobs, according to Toyota.
Earlier this year, Japanese truck maker Hino opened a new assembly plant in Mineral Wells, West Virginia, investing $100 million and creating 250 jobs. It replaced an older facility that also was in West Virginia.
The White House didn’t respond to a message left Tuesday seeking clarification on what factories Trump was referring to.
Japanese automakers have been building in the U.S. since the 1970s and have expanded manufacturing over the years. The companies have announced millions in investments to retool existing plants to make new models. But these investments usually are routine and don’t create a lot of new jobs. Toyota, for instance, announced earlier this year that it would put $750 million into five U.S. plants and create nearly 600 new jobs. It was part of nearly $13 billion Toyota plans to spend by 2021.
Krisher reported from Detroit.
Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Christopher Rugaber contributed to this report.
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EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures