AP FACT CHECK: Trump team warps Omar words on 9/11, al Qaida
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump attributed statements to a Democratic congresswoman that she didn’t make as he set off an incendiary week of vilification with accusations that she and three other lawmakers of color hate America.
One of his top White House advisers, Stephen Miller, reinforced the charges Sunday, pointing to their remarks about terrorism and Trump’s handling of border policy and saying the lawmakers “detest America as it exists.”
The comments have roiled the capital and excited Trump’s North Carolina rally , overshadowing distortions in rhetoric that came from many quarters and from both parties on a variety of matters over the last week-plus – the Democratic presidential campaign among them.
A look at the claims and reality:
MILLER, on Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.: “You saw the quotes from Representative Omar saying some people did something at 9/11. And yes, if you watch it in context, it’s worse.” – interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
TRUMP: “When she talked about the World Trade Center being knocked down, ‘some people.’ You remember the famous ‘some people.’ These are people that, in my opinion, hate our country.” – remarks on July 15 at a manufacturing event.
THE FACTS: It’s true that plenty of critics thought Omar sounded dismissive about the 2001 terrorist attacks in a comment in a speech in March . Those remarks, though, did not express love “for enemies like al-Qaida,” as Trump put it, or any proof of hatred or detesting America.
Speaking to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Omar said the group “was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.” Her phrasing – “some people did something” – struck many people as a tone-deaf way to refer to the catastrophic attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The American-Islamic group actually was founded in 1994, according to its website. Its membership skyrocketed after the 2001 attacks.
In the speech, Omar said many Muslims saw their civil liberties eroded after the attacks, and she advocated for activism. “For far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it,” she said.
But she also noted that “what we know, and what Islam teaches us, and what I always say, is that love trumps hate.”
After being criticized for her remarks, Omar noted that President George W. Bush had stood at Ground Zero days after the attacks and also referred somewhat generically to “the people who knocked these buildings down,” while vowing they “will hear all of us soon.”
Trump is continuing to assail Omar and three other liberal Democratic women of color, challenging their loyalty to the U.S. They are Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. The House rebuked him Tuesday for his “racist comments” after he said they should “go back” to their countries. All four are Americans; Omar was born in Somalia; the others in the U.S.
Omar said Trump is a “fascist” and she and the other women he’s going after will “continue to be a nightmare to this president because his policies are a nightmare to us.”
TRUMP quotes Omar as saying: “You don’t say ‘America’ with this intensity. You say ‘al-Qaida,’ it makes you proud. Al-Qaida makes you proud. You don’t speak that way about America.” – North Carolina rally on Wednesday.
TRUMP: “I hear the way she talks about al-Qaida. Al-Qaida has killed many Americans. She said, ‘You can hold your chest out, you can – when I think of America – uhh – when I think of al-Qaida, I can hold my chest out.’” – remarks Monday at a manufacturing event at the White House.
THE FACTS: This is a wholly distorted account of what the Omar said. She did not voice pride in the terrorist group.
Trump is referring to an interview Omar gave in 2013. In it, she talked about studying terrorism history or theory under a professor who dramatically pronounced the names of terrorist groups, as if to emphasize their evil nature.
“The thing that was interesting in the class was every time the professor said ‘al-Qaida,’ he sort of like – his shoulders went up” and he used a menacing, intense tone, she said. Her point was that the professor was subtly rousing suspicions of Muslims with his theatrical presentation, while pronouncing “America” without the intensity he afforded the names of terrorist groups.
At no point did she say “al-Qaida” should be uttered with intensity or pride and that “America” shouldn’t.
TRUMP, on Ocasio-Cortez: “Cortez said that illegal immigrants are more American than any person who seeks to keep them out ever will be. Can you believe that? That’s what she is saying.” – North Carolina rally.
THE FACTS: True, except that people who come to the border and ask for refugee status can’t be described as “illegal immigrants.” They commit no crime by applying for that status. Ocasio-Cortez, speaking of women and children who show up seeking refuge or opportunity, said: “They’re acting more American than any person who seeks to keep them out ever will be.” This was from an MSNBC interview in January.
At the rally, Trump refused to call the New York congresswoman by her full hyphenated surname.
TRUMP: “Economic numbers reach an all time high, the best in our Country’s history.” – tweet Saturday.
TRUMP: “We have the strongest economy in history.” – North Carolina rally.
THE FACTS: The economy is not the strongest in the country’s history. It expanded at an annual rate of 3.1% in the first quarter of this year. That growth was the highest in just four years for the first quarter.
In the late 1990s, growth topped 4% for four straight years, a level it has not yet reached on an annual basis under Trump. Growth even reached 7.2% in 1984.
The economy is now in its 121st month of growth, making it the longest expansion in history. Most of that took place under Obama.
The economy grew 2.9% in 2018 – the same pace it reached in 2015 under Obama – and simply hasn’t hit historically high growth rates.
TRUMP: “I think a number that makes me the happiest is that, proportionately, the biggest gainer in this entire stock market – when you hear about how much has gone up – blue-collar workers, the biggest proportionate gainer.” – Cabinet meeting Tuesday.
THE FACTS: Wealthier Americans have largely benefited from the stock market gains, not blue-collar workers.
The problem with the president claiming the stock market has helped working-class Americans is that the richest 10% of the country controls 84% of stock market value, according to a Federal Reserve survey. Because they hold more stocks, wealthier Americans have inherently benefited more from the 19% gain in the Standard & Poor’s index of 500 stocks so far this year. Only about half of U.S. families hold stocks, so plenty of people are getting little to no benefit from the stock market gains.
TRUMP: “The lowest unemployment numbers ever.” – North Carolina rally.
THE FACTS: Not so.
The 3.7% unemployment rate in the latest report is not the best in history. It’s near the lowest level in 50 years, when it was 3.5%. The U.S. also had lower rates than now in the early 1950s. And during three years of World War II, the annual rate was under 2%.
TRUMP: “The best unemployment in our history. And likewise, women, 74 years. … I’m sorry, women, I let you down, it’s not in our history but we’re going to be there very soon.” – North Carolina rally.
THE FACTS: No, the jobless rate for women of 3.1% in April was the lowest in 66 years, not 74, and it has since increased to 3.3% in June. The data only go back 71 years, so 74 years isn’t a possibility.
TRUMP: “The Obama Administration built the Cages, not the Trump Administration!” – tweet on July 15.
THE FACTS: He is right.
The same facilities that Democrats characterize as cages for migrant children were used by the Obama administration. They are sectioned-off, chain-link indoor pens where children who come to the border without adults or who are separated from adults in detention are temporarily housed. The children are divided by age and sex. When Vice President Mike Pence recently visited detention facilities at the border, journalists accompanying him witnessed migrant men crowded into fetid chain-link quarters.
A year ago, Associated Press photographs showing young people in such enclosures were misrepresented online as depicting child detentions by Trump and denounced by some Democrats and activists as illustrating Trump’s cruelty. In fact, the photos were taken in 2014 during the Obama administration.
Many Democrats in the presidential campaign and Congress continue to exploit the “kids in cages” imagery without acknowledging Obama used the facilities, too. His administration built the McAllen, Texas, facility with chain-link holding areas in 2014.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS of Vermont, Democratic presidential candidate: “‘Medicare for All’ would reduce overall health care spending in our country.” – speech Wednesday.
THE FACTS: That remains to be seen. Savings from Medicare for All are not a slam dunk.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in a report this year that total spending under a single-payer system, such as the one proposed by Sanders, “might be higher or lower than under the current system depending on the key features of the new system.”
Those features involve payment rates for hospitals and doctors, which are not fully spelled out by Sanders, as well as the estimated cost of generous benefits that include long-term care services and no copays and deductibles.
Sanders’ figure of $5 trillion over 10 years in health cost savings comes from a study by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. The lead author has been a political supporter of Sanders’.
Sanders also cites a savings estimate of $2 trillion over 10 years taken from a study from the libertarian Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia. But the author of that study says that Medicare for All advocates are mischaracterizing his conclusions.
A report this year by the nonprofit Rand think tank estimated that Medicare for All would do the opposite of what Sanders is promising, modestly raising national health spending.
Part of the reason is the generous benefits. Virtually free comprehensive medical care would lead to big increases in demand.
The Rand study modeled a hypothetical scenario in which a plan similar to Sanders’ legislation had taken effect this year.
TRUMP: “We are offering plans up to 60 percent cheaper than Obamacare.” – North Carolina rally.
THE FACTS: The bargain health insurance plans Trump talks about are cheaper because they skimp on benefits such as maternity or prescription drug coverage and do not guarantee coverage of preexisting conditions.
The short-term plans that his administration began offering last year on the federal insurance marketplace provide up to 12 months of coverage and can be renewed for up to 36 months.
Premiums for the plans are about one-third the cost of fuller insurance coverage. The health plan offerings are intended for people who want an individual health insurance policy but make too much money to qualify for subsides under the Affordable Care Act.
The administration introduced the short-term plans, which undermine how the Obama health law is supposed to work, after failing to repeal much of that law.
TRUMP: “Patients with preexisting conditions are protected by Republicans much more so than protected by Democrats, who will never be able to pull it off.” – North Carolina rally.
THE FACTS: But Democrats did pull it off. Obama’s health care law, the Affordable Care Act, requires insurers to take all applicants, regardless of medical history, and charge the same standard premiums to healthy people and those who had medical problems before or when they signed up.
The Trump administration is pressing in court for full repeal of that law.
Trump and other Republicans say they’ll have a plan to preserve protections for people with preexisting conditions. The White House has provided no details.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS of California, Democratic presidential candidate: “Some estimate that as many as 700,000 autoworkers are going to lose their job before the end of the year.” – remarks in July 12 radio interview.
THE FACTS: This isn’t happening. Harris mischaracterized the findings of a study that is also outdated.
In July 2018 the Center for Automotive Research laid out a variety of scenarios for potential job losses across all U.S. industries touched by the auto business – not just autoworkers – if a number of new tariffs and policies that Trump threatened were enacted. The worst case was 750,000. But those hypothetical losses went well beyond autoworkers, to include workers at restaurants, retail stores and any business that benefits from the auto industry.
In any event, the center revised its study in February 2019, with a worst-case scenario down to 367,000 job losses across all industries. And since then, the administration lifted tariffs on steel and aluminum products coming from Canada and Mexico, further minimizing the impact on the auto industry.
The auto industry has grown under Obama and Trump both. Although it’s facing a leveling off in demand, it still posts strong numbers. It is not at risk of the catastrophe Harris raises as a possibility – the loss of 3 in 4 autoworkers in the remainder of this year.
TRUMP: “They’re coming in at a level that we haven’t seen for decades. Car companies are coming in – Japanese car companies, in particular. … Japan has 12 different companies building plants in Michigan, in Ohio, in North Carolina, in Pennsylvania. One is going to be announced in Florida. We are doing things that nobody thought were possible.” – Cabinet meeting Tuesday.
THE FACTS: There’s no evidence that car companies are coming to the U.S. at a rate faster than in previous decades. Industry observers know of only a few Japanese automotive companies building or expanding factories in Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina or Pennsylvania – nowhere near a dozen.
Federal statistics show that jobs in auto and parts manufacturing grew at a slower rate in the two-plus years since Trump took office than in Obama’s last two years.
Between January 2017, when Trump was inaugurated, and June of this year, the latest figures available, U.S. auto and parts makers added 41,900 jobs, or a 4.4% increase, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But in the two years before Trump took office, the industry added 63,600 manufacturing jobs, a 7.1% increase.
In Ohio, Honda has filed paperwork for a small expansion of its engine plant in Anna, Ohio, near Dayton, but also has announced production cuts without layoffs. A parts supplier announced plans last year to expand in Springfield, Ohio. In North Carolina, transmission maker Aisin in April announced plans to bolster manufacturing operations with 900 jobs by 2021, but gave few details.
The only Japanese automakers building a new U.S. assembly plant are Toyota and Mazda, which are jointly constructing a factory in Alabama that will build SUVs. At least three parts companies have announced plans to build factories in Alabama to serve that facility.
Also, spokesmen for German automakers Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG and BMW AG say they haven’t been told of any coming new factory announcements.
— Associated Press writers Tom Krisher in Detroit, Colleen Long, Josh Boak, Christopher Rugaber and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington, and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.