AP FACT CHECK: Trump's trouble with numbers

AP News
Posted: Mar 12, 2018 12:23 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has a creative approach to numbers. Whether he's talking about a half dozen or a half trillion, he tends to make them what he wants them to be.

So it was at a political rally on the weekend following days of rhetoric on many fronts. A look at a selection of his statements over the past week:

TRUMP: "Women! We love you! We love you. Hey, didn't we surprise them with women during the election? Remember? 'Women won't like Donald Trump.' I said, have I really had that kind of a problem? I don't think so. But, 'Women won't like Donald Trump. It will be a rough night for Donald Trump because the women won't come out.' We got 52 percent, right? 52." — Pennsylvania rally Saturday night for Republican House candidate Rick Saccone.

THE FACTS: 52 percent is wrong. Exit polls found he got 41 percent of the votes from women in the 2016 election. The figure he cited applies only to white women. The surveys of voters found that only 4 percent of black women and 25 percent of Hispanic women voted for him.


TRUMP: "The Republicans are 5-0 in recent Congressional races, a point which the Fake News Media continuously fails to mention. I backed and campaigned for all of the winners. They give me credit for one. Hopefully, Rick Saccone will be another big win on Tuesday." — tweet Sunday.

THE FACTS: 5-0 is wrong. The actual score in congressional races last year — meaning for the House — is 5-1 for the Republicans. The GOP won in Utah, Montana, Kansas, South Carolina and Georgia. Democrats won in California. In every case, the party that had held the seat kept it.

Add the Senate race in Alabama won by a Democrat in August and the score is 5-2. That was the only turnover from one party to the other.

Trump has been misrepresenting the results of special elections at least since June, when he led an Iowa rally in a chant of "Five and 0." At the time, the score was 4-1.


TRUMP: "Spoke to Prime Minister Abe of Japan, who is very enthusiastic about talks with North Korea. Also discussing opening up Japan to much better trade with the U.S. Currently have a massive $100 Billion Trade Deficit. Not fair or sustainable. It will all work out!" — tweet Saturday.

THE FACTS: Trump routinely inflates trade deficits, as he's done here. He leaves out trade in services, an area where the U.S. is strong, and cites only trade in goods. In this case, he got that wrong, too. Goods and services both make up the trade balance.

In 2016, the overall trade deficit with Japan was $55 billion, not $100 billion, says the U.S. trade representative's office. In 2017, says the Census Bureau, the trade deficit with Japan in goods alone was $68.8 billion, again a far cry from Trump's figure. The overall 2017 trade deficit with Japan can be expected to come in lower still once trade in services is factored in. The U.S. typically runs a trade surplus with Japan when it comes to services, with travel, transportation and intellectual property sectors leading the way in 2016.


TRUMP, on NATO countries: "Some owe billions and billions of dollars of money. They owe billions and billions from past years. Never paid it, and that's not fair. They want us to protect, and they want us to be a good partner. And then they're delinquent on payment or they haven't made payments. Or they haven't made payments which are fair." — Cabinet meeting Thursday.

THE FACTS: Most of that is flat wrong. NATO countries do not owe anything to the alliance. They're not delinquent on payments. There's no dispute about "payments."

The issue is how much NATO countries spend on their own armed forces. Trump wants them to increase their military budgets to relieve some of the burden of collective defense borne by the U.S., which spends more on its armed forces than other NATO members combined. So a case can be made that those countries have not contributed a "fair" share.

Although he takes credit for persuading NATO partners to spend more, the results are not yet clear.

They agreed in 2014, well before he became president, to stop cutting military spending, and have honored that. They also agreed then to a goal of moving "toward" spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on their own defense by 2024. Most are short of that and the target is not ironclad.


TRUMP: "You know, I read where, 'Oh, gee, maybe people don't want to work for Trump.' And believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House. They all want a piece of that Oval Office; they want a piece of the West Wing. And not only in terms of it looks great on their resume; it's just a great place to work. ...I have a choice of anybody." — remarks Tuesday in news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.

THE FACTS: No, not compared with previous presidents. In Trump's first year, the turnover rate among his administration's upper-level officials was 34 percent. That's higher than any other president in the past 40 years, according to an analysis by Kathryn Dunn-Tenpas of the Brookings Institution. The turnover rate in the first year for the top staff of Presidents Bill Clinton and Obama, for instance, were three times lower than Trump's, at 11 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

Trump's turnover rate for top staff has since gone up from his one-year mark because of recent departures. It's 43 percent as of Wednesday, according to Brookings. Among the latest departures: economic adviser Gary Cohn, deputy communications director Josh Raffel and communications director Hope Hicks, the third person to hold that post in the Trump administration.


TRUMP: "You see it — the other day, Chrysler announced they're leaving Mexico, they're coming back into Michigan with a big plant. You haven't seen that in a long time, folks." — remarks Thursday announcing steep new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to U.S.

THE FACTS: This oft-repeated claim by Trump to suggest he is bringing jobs back to the U.S. is not entirely true. Chrysler did announce it will move production of heavy-duty pickup trucks from Mexico to Michigan, but the plant is not closing in Mexico. That plant will start producing other commercial vehicles for global sales and no change in its workforce is anticipated.


TRUMP: "From Bush 1 to present, our Country has lost more than 55,000 factories, 6,000,000 manufacturing jobs and accumulated Trade Deficits of more than 12 Trillion Dollars. Last year we had a Trade Deficit of almost 800 Billion Dollars. Bad Policies & Leadership. Must WIN again!" — tweet Wednesday.

THE FACTS: Trump again misrepresents the trade balance. The U.S. trade deficit last year was $566 billion, not almost $800 billion. He cites only the deficit in goods, ignoring the surplus in services.

As for manufacturing, Trump leaves out what is widely regarded as the main reason for the decline in factory jobs — automation and other efficiencies. Trade is certainly a factor as well.

He's in the ballpark when referring to how many factory jobs have been lost since January 1989, when George H.W. Bush became president: 5.5 million, according to the Labor Department. What he doesn't say is that despite the loss of those 5.5 million factory jobs, the U.S. economy overall has added a net total of about 40.6 million jobs in that time.


TRUMP: "If the E.U. wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on U.S. companies doing business there, we will simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the U.S. They make it impossible for our cars (and more) to sell there. Big trade imbalance!" — tweet March 3.

THE FACTS: He's wrong that automakers can't sell U.S.-made cars in Europe while European cars come into the U.S. "freely." He's right about a big imbalance, but exaggerating. The EU applies a 10 percent duty on cars made in the U.S. The U.S. applies a 2.5 percent duty on cars made in Europe. The U.S. Census Bureau shows $13.8 billion in U.S. auto and parts exports last year to four leading markets in Europe while the U.S. imported $51.3 billion in vehicles and from five countries in Europe.


Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Christopher Rugaber and Josh Boak in Washington and Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this report.


Auto trade: https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/Press-Release/current_press_release/ft900.pdf

Brookings report on Trump staff departures: http://brook.gs/2DY9ghE

Trade with Japan: https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c5880.html and https://ustr.gov/countries-regions/japan-korea-apec/japan


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