Who Was That Guy?

Trump's New Tone Can't Mask the Alarming Reality of His Presidency to Date

Posted by Dale Eisman on March 1, 2017


So it turns out that President Trump can give a passable speech, free of cheap shots at the media, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic Party, to a joint session of Congress.

But this morning, sifting through the text and video clips, it’s clear that everything about Trump’s presidency that has alarmed millions of Americans remains in place.

Start with Russia. Trump spoke for just over an hour without mentioning Russia or acknowledging the cloud over his presidency and the threat to our democracy created by Russia’s apparent attempt to interfere in last year’s election. There also was no mention of his staff’s campaign to block any serious, independent investigation of Russian cyberespionage and possible contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Trump ducked any mention of the ethical shortcomings of his fledgling administration, including his continuing failure to follow the example set by most of his recent predecessors by releasing his tax returns and his refusal to separate himself from this multi-billion dollar real estate empire by placing his assets in a true blind trust. He took credit for issuing a new, five-year ban on lobbying by former executive branch officials, passing over the fact that in key respects it is less transparent and less stringent than lobbying rules put in place by Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

Also missing was any mention of how Trump’s Justice Department and its leader, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, are moving to cut off the federal government’s support for strong voting rights enforcement and protections for transgender students. This week, the Justice Department reversed course and dropped a longstanding claim that Texas’ strict voter identification law as drafted to make voting more difficult for African- and Latino-Americans in the Lone Star State. Meanwhile the White House, with Sessions’ help, revoked federal guidelines specifying that transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity.

Finally, the speech highlighted Trump’s continuing disregard for facts. Fact-checkers at The Washington Post, The New York Times, PolitiFact and other media outlets are busy today pointing out gaps between Trump’s rhetoric on Tuesday and the truth. Here’s a sampling, drawn from The Post, of what they’re finding:

“We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a five-year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials — and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.”

Trump did sign an order that he said would result in a lifetime ban on administration officials lobbying for foreign governments. But his five-year ban on lobbying is less than advertised. Trump has originally promised to extend the ban to congressional officials, but he did not. Moreover, the five-year ban applies only to lobbying one’s former agency — not becoming a lobbyist. Trump actually weakened some of the language from similar bans under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and reduced the level of transparency.

“We’ve defended the borders of other nations, while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross — and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate.”

The data are mixed on the amount of drugs coming through the borders. The amount of marijuana seized at the border continues to decline — probably a reflection of drug use in the United States, as more states legalize marijuana for medical or recreational use. In fiscal 2016, 1.3 million pounds of marijuana were seized, down from 1.5 million the year before, and lower than the peak of nearly 4 million pounds in 2009, according to Customs and Border Protection data. The amount of cocaine seized at the borders overall in fiscal 2016 (5,473 pounds) was roughly half the amount seized the previous year (11,220 pounds).

But the amount of heroin and methamphetamine seized has increased in recent years. In fiscal year 2016, CBP seized 9,062 pounds of heroin (compared to 8,282 in fiscal 2015) and 8,224 pounds of methamphetamine (compared to 6,443 pounds in fiscal 2015).

Meanwhile, illegal immigration flows across the Southern border in fiscal 2015 were at the lowest levels since 1972, except for in 2011. The apprehensions in fiscal 2016 (408,870) exceeded fiscal 2015 (331,333), but still indicate an overall decline since their peak in 2000 (1.6 million).

“As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak and as I have promised throughout the campaign.”

Trump is referring to the recent arrests of undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes, or the “bad ones.” Trump takes credit for fulfilling his campaign promise of cracking down on illegal immigration, but these arrests are routine. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has always targeted dangerous criminals in enforcement priorities. The recent arrests, however, did include people who would not have fallen under narrowed enforcement priorities under Obama.

Still, 25 percent of the arrests that grabbed headlines in early February were of people who had lesser charges and noncriminal convictions. According to anecdotes of recent arrests, undocumented people with traffic violations were subject to arrest. They are not the “bad ones,” such as drug dealers or gang members, that he describes.

“By finally enforcing our immigration laws we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars and make our communities safer for everyone.”

Trump exaggerates the impact of illegal immigration on crime, taxpayer money and jobs.

Extensive research shows noncitizens are not more prone to criminality than U.S.-born citizens. The vast majority of unauthorized immigrants are not criminal aliens or aggravated felons.

Trump appears to reference the cost of illegal immigration from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports lower levels of legal and illegal immigration. According to the group, the annual cost of illegal immigration at the federal, state and local level were about $113 billion as of 2013.

“We’ve saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by bringing down the price of the fantastic new F-35 jet fighter, and will be saving billions more dollars on contracts all across our government.”

Trump once again takes credit for the lowered cost of the F-35 program. The Pentagon had announced cost reductions of roughly $600 million before Trump began meeting with Lockheed Martin’s chief executive. Sometimes Trump says he saved $600 million, other times $700 million.

We previously awarded Four Pinocchios to this claim.

“We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines — thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs — and I’ve issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel.”

Trump appears to be combining two disputed figures — 28,000 jobs for Keystone XL and 12,000 for the Dakota Access pipeline. We have looked closely at the Keystone numbers, and the same methodological issues appear to apply to the Dakota estimates. The actual number of Keystone construction jobs, for instance, is 3,900 on an annualized basis — and other jobs have already been created (such as for building high-strength line pipe). In the context of the U.S. economy, which just in January added 230,000 jobs, these are not many jobs.

As for the steel, workers in Arkansas have already built about half of the high-strength line pipe needed for the project, some 333,000 tons. TransCanada said in 2013that it had already purchased all of the steel pipe it needed for the Keystone XL, with the rest coming from a Russian-owned plant in Canada, Italy and India. Experts say the plant in Arkansas (owned by an Indian company) is the only one in the U.S. that could build the pipe — and it gets its steel from India.

“As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak and as I have promised throughout the campaign.”

Trump is referring to the recent arrests of undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes, or the “bad ones.” Trump takes credit for fulfilling his campaign promise of cracking down on illegal immigration, but these arrests are routine. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has always targeted dangerous criminals in enforcement priorities. The recent arrests, however, did include people who would not have fallen under narrowed enforcement priorities under Obama.

Still, 25 percent of the arrests that grabbed headlines in early February were of people who had lesser charges and noncriminal convictions. According to anecdotes of recent arrests, undocumented people with traffic violations were subject to arrest. They are not the “bad ones,” such as drug dealers or gang members, that he describes.

“By finally enforcing our immigration laws we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars and make our communities safer for everyone.”

Trump exaggerates the impact of illegal immigration on crime, taxpayer money and jobs.

Extensive research shows noncitizens are not more prone to criminality than U.S.-born citizens. The vast majority of unauthorized immigrants are not criminal aliens or aggravated felons.

Trump appears to reference the cost of illegal immigration from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports lower levels of legal and illegal immigration. According to the group, the annual cost of illegal immigration at the federal, state and local level were about $113 billion as of 2013.

###

 

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Money in Politics, Voting and Elections, Media and Democracy, Ethics

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