Trump’s speech: Exaggerations, omissions, facts

Donald Trump

WASHINGTON, Mar 1: President Trump has been pilloried repeatedly for having a somewhat tenuous relationship with the truth as fact-checkers have blasted most every exaggeration or wrongheaded assertion he has made, whether as a candidate or now, as leader of the free world.

Here’s a check on some of the statements he proffered Tuesday in his first address to a joint session of Congress:


“We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a 5-year ban on lobbying by Executive Branch Officials — and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.”

Trump did issue an executive order with a lifetime ban on appointees in his administration lobbying on behalf of a foreign government. The order barring them from lobbying for five years, though, only prohibits lobbying the agencies they worked for after leaving the administration. And the assertion ignores the ethical questions around his own business situation — failure to divest from or put in a blind trust his personal financial interests in his company — which has raised concerns among specialists, including the head of the federal Office of Government Ethics. A liberal group filed suit against him alleging he is violating the Constitution by accepting payments from foreign governments at his business, now being run by his sons. He also has taken heat from ethics specialists for using the clout of his position to blast a private business, Nordstrom, for dropping his daughter Ivanka’s merchandise. And his counselor Kellyanne Conway waded into that sticky swamp, too. Trump may need to clarify exactly which swamp he is draining.


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

This has been an oft-repeated refrain from the new president but more than one fact-checker has called him on it. One of the key developments this statement relies on is a lower price negotiated with Lockheed Martin for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets. The Washington Post awarded Trump four Pinocchios for taking undue credit for the deal last month, and Politifact revisited the issue earlier this month, rating his assertions about it “mostly false.” The truth is the drop in price is real, but the deal was in the works long before Trump took office. As for savings on a new Air Force One, the Air Force has said it can’t account for the $1 billion in savings for which has Trump has taken credit, as Bloomberg reported.


“We have withdrawn the United States from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

This is true, although a bit misleading. Trump issued a memorandum directing the U.S. Trade Representative to notify other parties to the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal that the United States was formally withdrawing from the pact. But the trade deal was already pretty-much doomed before he took office. It was signed in February 2016 and was not ratified by Congress. Even if Trump had lost the election, Hillary Clinton said she wouldn’t support the agreement as president.


“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.”

“According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.”

Estimates on how much money would be saved vary wildly, as Politifact has reported, and this doesn’t take into account the cost of deporting the estimated 11 million migrants living in the United States illegally. Some studies have suggested losing their labor could actually cost the U.S. economy some $5 trillion over a decade, though it could lead to increased wages for American workers.

The study Trump cited found that first-generation immigrants do end up costing state and local governments about $1,600 each. But the report went on to conclude that the children of those immigrants more than make up for those initial costs. According to the report, first-generation adults cost local governments $57.4 billion a year, but second generation immigrants create a benefit of $30.5 billion a year and third generation immigrants create a benefit of $223.8 billion a year.


“In the last eight years, the past administration has put on more new debt than nearly all of the other presidents combined.”

This is true by the numbers.  By the measure Trump likes to use, total public debt outstanding, all presidents prior to Obama accumulated $10.6 trillion. During his tenure, that amount went up $9.3 trillion. So he did put on more debt than nearly all the other presidents combined. But blaming Obama for all of it may not be fair. As the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget notes, Congress played a role, as did the economic situation and the laws already in place before he took office.USA TODAY