AP FACT CHECK: Trump on border stats -- and a Merkel mystery

Calvin Woodward and Hope Yen
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Illegal border crossings, as President Donald Trump measures them, have gone up since he took office, even as he speaks to audiences about a drop of more than 40 percent.

That disconnect was among several that stood out over the past week as Trump opened up on the Russia investigation via Twitter, forsaking accuracy in the process, and made the false claim that he’s delivering the first big military pay increase in a decade.

Meantime it turns out that Richard Grenell, Trump’s ambassador to Germany, got it wrong when he delivered the “shocking” news last month that Trump’s predecessors had never given German Chancellor Angela Merkel the courtesy of a tour of the private residence floor of the White House when she visited Washington.

A look at some of Trump’s statements and Grenell’s erroneous claim:

TRUMP: “We’ve done a lot of work on the wall. We’re doing a lot of work on security, generally speaking, security and border – border security. The border’s down over 40 percent, and don’t forget, we have a great economy, probably the best economy the country’s ever had. So people come across, but we’re going to get the rest.” – interview broadcast Thursday with “Fox & Friends.”

TRUMP: “We’re down on immigration crossing the border – more than 40 percent.” – forum Wednesday in Bethpage, New York.

THE FACTS: Illegal crossings actually are up 20 percent since he became president, according to the yardstick he uses to measure them – the number of Border Patrol arrests.

There is no precise measure of illegal crossings because some people don’t get caught. The Trump administration uses arrests as the best gauge of whether crossings are going up or down. The Obama administration did likewise.

Border Patrol arrests did fall last year to the lowest level since 1971. But since April of last year, arrests have climbed steadily. One factor in that increase may be that people are now taking their chances to cross into the U.S. illegally after an initial wait-and-see attitude about Trump’s tough-talking approach to people sneaking into the country.

Last month, there were more than 50,000 overall border arrests, which are made up of people who are stopped at land crossings and other official points of entry, according to federal data. That was more than triple the number from April 2017, which was the lowest tally on record since the Homeland Security Department was created in 2003.

Overall, border arrests have increased 20 percent since January 2017, from 42,463 in January 2017 to 50,924 in April.


TRUMP, to U.S. Naval Academy graduates: “Going to have new equipment and well-deserved pay raises. We just got you a big pay raise. First time in 10 years. We got you a big pay increase. First time in over 10 years. I fought for you. That was the hardest one to get, but you never had a chance of losing.” – speech Friday.

THE FACTS: That’s not right. U.S. military members have gotten a pay raise every year for the past 10 years and several have been larger than this year’s 2.6 percent increase. Pay increases in 2008, 2009 and 2010, for example, were all 3.4 percent or more.


TRUMP: “We have now the lowest number of ships that we’ve had since World War I, and very soon you’re going to get to 355 beautiful ships. 355. That’s almost a couple of hundred more ships.” – speech to academy graduates Friday.

THE FACTS: No it isn’t. The Navy now has 283 ships.


TRUMP on former CIA Director John Brennan: “Brennan started this entire debacle about President Trump. We now know that Brennan had detailed knowledge of the (phony) Dossier…he knows about the Dossier, he denies knowledge of the Dossier, he briefs the Gang of 8 on the Hill about the Dossier, which…….they then used to start an investigation about Trump…” – tweets Monday.

THE FACTS: Trump quotes conservative commentator Dan Bongino to falsely claim the Russia probe is based on a “phony dossier.” In fact, the FBI’s investigation began months before it received a dossier of anti-Trump research financed by the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The FBI probe’s origins were based on other evidence – not the existence of the dossier.

The Republican-controlled House intelligence committee found the Russia probe was initiated after the FBI received information related to Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, not the dossier. The committee’s final report released in March was praised by Trump, who pointed to it as evidence that the investigation was nothing but a “witch hunt.”


GRENELL: “The president took the chancellor up to the residence with the vice president and myself and gave a personal tour of the vice president – of the residence, the presidential residence at the White House. That was the first time that the chancellor had been up there. It was shocking to hear that she had never been able to see the Lincoln Bedroom. Never been able to see the Gettysburg Address. And President Trump took her there.” – to Fox News, April 30.

THE FACTS: Actually, Merkel’s office told AP this past week that she was given a tour of the private residence, including the Lincoln Bedroom, when she visited Washington in 2011 to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to her by President Barack Obama. Grenell did not respond to a request for comment.


TRUMP, on President Barack Obama’s national intelligence director, James Clapper: “Clapper has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign. Large dollars were paid to the Spy, far beyond normal. Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. SPYGATE - a terrible thing!” – tweet Thursday

THE FACTS: That’s a distortion of Clapper’s statements on ABC’s “The View” on Tuesday when he was asked about recent reports that an FBI informant spoke with several members of the Trump campaign.

“They were spying on – a term I don’t particularly like but – what the Russians were doing,” Clapper said. “Trying to understand, were the Russians infiltrating? Trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage and influence? Which is what they do.”

He did not say a spy was implanted “in” the campaign and he denied the FBI was spying “on” the campaign. The effort was focused on Russians, he said, and was meant to “protect the campaign” and the U.S. political system.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is looking into Russian interference in the election, any collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, possible obstruction of justice and whatever associated criminal activity might be uncovered. The probe has produced several criminal convictions of Trump campaign officials. Those charges do not implicate the president directly.



Border patrol arrests: https://tinyurl.com/l5p7rgq

Military pay: https://tinyurl.com/y8wvomxe


Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Jill Colvin, Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns in Washington and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.


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EDITOR’S NOTE – A look at the veracity of claims by political figures