Fact-checking Donald Trump at CPAC
President Donald Trump spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday, bashing the media, attacking Obamacare, and touting his campaign promises, especially on immigration.
Trump has a point about moving on immigration. Through a flurry of executive orders, Trump has cast a wide net for people who will become deportation priorities. He’s also authorized the construction of a border wall with Mexico. PolitiFact has rated some of his promises on immigration as In the Works. (Read a summary of action on Trump’s immigration promises.)
But what about the facts of what Trump said? Here is some of what we found.
Fake news, dishonest media
Trump referenced one of his most common talking points at the conference: the "dishonest" media, which he has said unfairly covers his administration. He said he wasn’t against all the media, just the organizations that "make up sources."
"A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people and they are, they are the enemy of the people," Trump said. "They have no sources, they just make them up when there are none.
In past criticism, Trump said the media’s dishonesty is so "out of control" that it had a lower approval rate than Congress. There is mistrust of the media and confidence in both groups is low. But while congressional approval just saw a bump up, the most recent Gallup poll in 2016 that compared the media and Congress side-by-side found 40 percent of the public had a negative opinion of television news and about a third of the people surveyed said they had very little or no trust in the printed press. But 55 percent weighed in on the negative side for Congress.
His election victory
The president said "Our win was a victory like nobody has seen before."
Qualitatively, Trump certainly has a point. On the numbers, he’s on less stable footing. In December, he said in a Fox News interview that "We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College."
Historically, that’s off the mark. He took 56.88 percent of the available Electoral College votes. That ranks somewhere between the lowest one-fourth and the lowest one-fifth of all Electoral College victories in history.
As he talked about his successful campaign, Trump described it as a movement and "there’s never been anything like this." He said Bernie Sanders had a movement, but it "petered out."
"It was a little rigged against him," Trump said about the Democratic primary. "Superdelegate. Superdelegate. She had so many delegates before the thing started, I said to my people, how does that happen?"
After Hillary Clinton sealed the nomination, Trump said Sanders would have won if not for the superdelegates. The numbers don’t back that up. Even if those delegates were awarded in proportion to the popular vote in each state, and certainly if they were taken out of the equation entirely, Sanders would not have reached the magical 2,383-threshold of delegates needed to capture the nomination and would have still trailed Clinton.
$6 trillion spent in the Middle East?
Trump said "In the middle east we’ve spent 6 trillion dollars." He said much the same thing Oct. 26 at a rally in Charlotte, N.C., and his version at CPAC was even a bit stronger. In Charlotte, he said $6 trillion has been wasted. At CPAC, he said we’ve already spent it.
The facts are that through this fiscal year, the United States has spent about $3.8 trillion, with another estimated $1 trillion in expected care for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into the middle of the century. If you add in the accumulated interest on the money borrowed to pay for those wars, the total reaches $7.9 trillion by 2053.
Trump resurfaced his concern for a "very depleted" military and reaffirmed his goal to strengthen it so no one "will dare question our military might again."
We’ve found that Trump’s claim of depletion is a stretch. Military spending decreased under Obama, largely due to the administration’s decision to remove troops from Iraq and Afghanistan (a position partly supported by Trump). Still, the United States’ defense budget is larger than the next seven to eight countries’ combined.
Similarly, the number of ground troops and Navy ships have sunk, but experts say, regardless of size, the Army and Navy of today are much more capable than they were decades ago.
A point on Trump’s White House website that "our Navy has shrunk from more than 500 ships in 1991 to 275 in 2016" is correct though. But it’s worth noting that ships today are more powerful than those in 1991 and experts say the United States continues to have the most dominant Navy compared to other countries.
Border wall, open borders
Trump reiterated his goal to put Americans first. "We’ve defended other nations’ borders while leaving ours wide open," Trump said, which led to "build the wall" cries from the crowd.
"We are building the wall," Trump said, assuring construction would start soon and "way ahead of schedule." This is a campaign promise we’ve rated In the Works.
Trump has signed executive orders directing the construction of a border wall with Mexico, and John Kelly, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, has instructed his staff to immediately begin the planning, design, construction and maintenance of a wall.
At his inauguration, Trump said the United States has borders "wide open." But there are border patrol agents monitoring U.S. borders. There’s fencing along hundreds of miles of the nearly 2,000 U.S.-Mexico border. In some strategic areas, walls already exist, Kelly told a House committee Feb. 7.
During the campaign, Trump claimed his opponent, Hillary Clinton called for open borders. We rated that Mostly False.
"We are going to repeal and replace Obamacare," Trump said.
That’s one of Trump’s biggest campaign promises. So far, it rates In the Works.
Trump has signed an executive order giving federal agencies broad authority to defer or delay any part of the Affordable Care Act that costs anybody money. However, experts told us the order itself doesn’t change much or give much guidance toward a legislative repeal.
Trump also didn’t miss the opportunity to highlight former President Barack Obama’s failed promise that under the Affordable Care Act, if people liked their health care plan, they could keep it -- a claim that PolitiFact in 2013 named the Lie of the Year.
Getting ‘bad ones’ out
People that shouldn’t be in the country are already being kicked out, Trump said. "We're getting bad ones out. Those are the ones that go first, and I said it from day one. Basically all I've done is keep my promise," Trump said.
Trump has advanced this campaign promise by signing an executive order directing the removal of immigrants convicted of crimes, and basically anyone else living in the country illegally. Among individuals prioritized for removal in his order are people who engage in terrorist activities and who have been convicted of murder and other crimes. But individuals charged but not yet convicted of a criminal offense are also a priority.
Kelly, the DHS secretary, issued a statement Feb. 13 saying that U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement had recently conducted a series of targeted enforcement operations across the country. Those actions led to more than 680 arrests; about 75 percent had been convicted of crimes that included homicide, aggravated sexual abuse and drug trafficking. Kelly said the targeted operations have been common practice for many years.
Immigrant advocates, though, have raised concerns that under Trump many more people without criminal convictions will also be deported.
• Pipelines: Trump said he had authorized the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines. Trump signed memoranda to advance their construction. On the Trump-O-Meter, the promise to approve the Keystone pipeline and reap the profits rates in In the Works.
• Trade deals: Trump correctly noted that he kept his campaign promise to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Trump also repeated his characterization of NAFTA as one of the "worst" deals ever made. One of his campaign promises is to renegotiate NAFTA.
• Regulations: Trump said they are "crushing" our economy and wants to cut them by 75 percent or more. Trump signed an executive order directing that for every new regulation, two be repealed. This is a campaign promise we rated Promise Kept.
• ICE endorsement: "ICE came and endorsed me. They never endorsed a presidential candidate before, they might not even be allowed to," Trump said. A federal agency, such as ICE, cannot endorse a president, but Trump was endorsed by a union representing ICE employees. Trump has made similar endorsement claims before, which we rated Mostly False.