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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, April 03, 2018 10:40 am

A guide to President Trump's latest round of fact-challenged tweets

Glenn Kessler and Salvador Rizzo | The Washington Post

President Donald Trump's tweetstorms generally require context. He often appears to be reacting in the moment to something he watched on television. If you are not a cable junkie, some of the president's Twitter comments may appear obscure or puzzling.

Moreover, the source of the president's information - usually opinionated Fox News programming – often has the facts wrong or is confused. That adds yet another layer of complexity to the president's missives. Here's the guide to the president's Monday morning outrage.

Trump tweeted "Mexico has the absolute power not to let these large 'Caravans' of people enter their country. They must stop them at their Northern Border, which they can do because their border laws work, not allow them to pass through into our country, which has no effective border laws. . ..."

On April 1, Fox News broadcast a report about a caravan of migrants apparently headed for the U.S. border. The report was prompted by a BuzzFeed article on March 30 that was titled, "A Huge Caravan Of Central Americans Is Headed For The US, And No One In Mexico Dares To Stop Them."

The article said hundreds of Central Americans, about 80 percent from Honduras, were fleeing violence and unrest, and they had been organized by a group of volunteers called Pueblos Sin Fronteras, or People Without Borders. They were marching in a group to dissuade not only authorities but gangs that might assault them.

The goal for most was to seek asylum, according to BuzzFeed. Contrary to Trump's tweet, there is nothing illegal about seeking asylum; it would be up to U.S. authorities to decide whether the migrants qualify for asylum. Obviously, if the migrants attempted to cross the border without authorization, that would be illegal, and they could be deported.

Mexican authorities have rejected Trump's complaints that they have not acted against migrants. In a tweet on April 1, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray Caso said: "Every day Mexico and the U.S. work together on migration throughout the region. Facts clearly reflect this. An inaccurate news report should not serve to question this strong cooperation. Upholding human dignity and rights is not at odds with the rule of law."

Mexican authorities say they apprehended more than 82,000 Central Americans in 2017, according to the Los Angeles Times, which says that between October 2014 and May 2015, Mexico detained more Central American migrants than the U.S. Border Patrol.

Trump tweeted ". . .Congress must immediately pass Border Legislation, use Nuclear Option if necessary, to stop the massive inflow of Drugs and People. Border Patrol Agents (and ICE) are GREAT, but the weak Dem laws don't allow them to do their job. Act now Congress, our country is being stolen!"

The "nuclear option" refers to the Senate eliminating the filibuster, which requires a supermajority of 60 votes to pass legislation, and simply allowing a majority vote. Republicans have been reluctant to make the switch because that means when Democrats one day regain control, then it would be much easier to pass legislation expanding government, such as universal health care.

In any case, even if the filibuster were eliminated, Trump's immigration proposals would not become law. His proposal was voted down in the Senate on Feb. 15 by a vote of 39 to 60, with 14 Republican senators opposed. In fact, a bipartisan immigration compromise that Trump opposed earned 54 votes, meaning it would have passed if the "nuclear option" were in place.

We've previously fact-checked Trump's repeated claim that a border wall would stop the flow of drugs across the southern border and found it worthy of Four Pinocchios.

The majority of the illicit drugs enter the United States through legal ports of entry, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Traffickers conceal the drugs in hidden compartments within passenger cars or hide them alongside other legal cargo in tractor-trailers and drive the illicit substances right into the United States. Increasingly, traffickers are using more sophisticated methods such as dissolving methamphetamine and cocaine into innocuous liquids.

Trump's wall proposal addresses neither the reality of drug trafficking into the United States nor key facts of the nation's drug crisis. In 2014, prescription drugs killed more than twice as many people as heroin and almost five times as many people as cocaine, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics. Unlike cocaine and heroin, prescription drugs are not as widely trafficked from Mexico.

Trump tweeted "DACA is dead because the Democrats didn't care or act, and now everyone wants to get onto the DACA bandwagon. . . No longer works. Must build Wall and secure our borders with proper Border legislation. Democrats want No Borders, hence drugs and crime!"

Trump rescinded President Barack Obama's executive order protecting undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children with their parents. His action threw the matter to Congress, which has been unable to reach an agreement on how to protect the 700,000 people who had signed up under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA). Another 1.1 million might also qualify.

Contrary to Trump's claim that "Democrats didn't care or didn't act," lawmakers and the White House tried to reach an agreement, with Democrats saying they would accept $25 billion in funding for the wall in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for all 1.8 million "dreamers." Trump would only offer three years of protection for the smaller 700,000 population.

Though Trump claimed that "now everyone wants to get on the DACA bandwagon," the qualification rules means that recent migrants would have no chance. A person needs to have lived continuously in the United States since June 15, 2007, and been present in the country on June 15, 2012.

Trump tweeted "Mexico is making a fortune on NAFTA. . .They have very strong border laws – ours are pathetic. With all of the money they make from the U.S., hopefully they will stop people from coming through their country and into ours, at least until Congress changes our immigration laws!"

As we have repeatedly noted, the president misunderstands the impact of trade deficits, which he blames on the North American Free Trade Agreement. A trade deficit simply means that people in one country are buying more goods from another country than people in the second country are buying from the first country.

Under NAFTA, the supply chain of the auto industry became integrated between the United States and its immediate neighbors. Auto parts and vehicles produced in each country freely flow over the borders, without tariffs or other restrictions, as thousands of part suppliers serve the automakers that build the vehicles. An estimated 40 percent of goods sent to the United States by Mexico incorporate U.S. content, according to the International Trade Administration.

As for Mexico having "very strong border laws," PolitiFact reported that the White House pointed to a 2010 Washington Times article as evidence – but the Mexican law was changed in 2011 to decriminalize the act of entering the country without documentation and to allow undocumented immigrants to use education and health services. Moreover, Mexico's own southern border is much more porous than the U.S. southern border.

Trump tweeted "So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke."

Trump appears to have been reacting to criticism of Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns or operates 193 television stations in 108 markets, after Deadspin put together a viral video of various news anchors who were required by the Trump-friendly company to read the exact same script about the fact that "some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control 'exactly what people think.' This is extremely dangerous to a democracy."

Deadspin tweeted "How America's largest local TV owner turned its news anchors into soldiers in Trump's war on the media:"

At least 16 of the Sinclair stations are NBC affiliates, so it's unclear if Trump fans are supposed to turn off their TVs when the national news is aired.

Trump tweeted "Only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon. THEY LOSE A FORTUNE, and this will be changed. Also, our fully tax paying retailers are closing stores all over the country. . .not a level playing field!"

Trump insists the U.S. Postal Service loses money from shipping Amazon packages, even though officials have explained to him that Amazon's contracts with the Postal Service are profitable for the agency.

Amazon gets bulk shipping rates from the post office. According to Josh Sandbulte, the co-president of a money-management firm that owns FedEx stock, this arrangement gives Amazon below-market rates and effectively subsidizes the online retailer at a rate of $1.46 per box.

However, Amazon says the relationship is mutually beneficial. In 2017, the company noted that the Postal Regulatory Commission "has consistently found that Amazon's contracts with the USPS are profitable."

The Postal Service saw a net loss of $2.7 billion in fiscal 2017, driven by factors such as declining flat-mail volume and pension and health benefit liabilities. But its line of business for shipping and packages has been a bright spot in recent years, with revenue increasing by $2.1 billion, to $19.5 billion, in fiscal 2017.

To comply with federal law, the Postal Service in 2017 had to generate at least $1.6 billion in income from its "competitive products," which includes Amazon package deliveries. Instead, it generated $6.8 billion, according to a 2017 compliance report.

For many but not all deliveries, Amazon uses the Postal Service for the last mile of a package's journey.

The Postal Service could charge Amazon higher rates, but first, Trump would need more appointees on the Postal Service Board of Governors, which lacks a quorum. Three nominees are awaiting hearings in the Senate.

Trump tweeted "So sad that the Department of 'Justice' and the FBI are slow walking, or even not giving, the unredacted documents requested by Congress. An embarrassment to our country!"

Trump tweeted this complaint about his own Justice Department just 11 minutes after former Utah congressman Jason Chaffetz, R, appeared on Fox News and complained that there are 110,000 people in DOJ and they have only 45 people working on producing documents requested by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "They're not serious about it," he said.

Actually, the FBI has 54 staffers working on it, up from 27 initially, according to a March 27 statement by FBI Director Christopher A. Wray. "The actual number of documents responsive to this request is likely in the thousands," Wray said. "Regardless I agree that the current pace of production is too slow."

The documents in question focus on issues often featured on Fox News: the surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, the investigation of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server and the firing of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.