Fact checking Trump's El Paso speech
Posted February 12, 2019 3:09 p.m. EST
Updated February 12, 2019 3:39 p.m. EST
CNN — President Donald Trump repeated a few hits from his State of the Union address to an El Paso, Texas, audience on Monday night -- in a much more lively and rambunctious setting. He also poked fun at the Green New Deal and prattled off his old line that China is paying "billions" into the US Treasury.
Let's take a facts-first look at some claims in the President's speech.
Green New Deal
"I really don't like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane flights, of 'Let's hop a train to California,' of you're not allowed to own cows anymore. Lot of problems."
Trump is taking aim at the Green New Deal, a resolution introduced by Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York to fight climate change through drastic economic and regulatory means.
While Trump is extrapolating extreme outcomes like eliminating people's cars, he's not entirely off base in his characterization, given some of its stated objectives.
The resolution looks to overhaul transportation in the US by removing "pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible." When it comes to cows and farming the language is similar, looking to "remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible."
It's unclear what would constitute "technologically feasible" in these circumstances. The bigger consideration would likely be how economically feasible any of these goals would be. More of a mission statement than a fully baked piece of legislation, the Green New Deal is long on aspiration and short on specifics. For example, while it lays out its goals and objectives, it doesn't get into many details on how it would achieve them.
An initial FAQ rolled out by Ocasio-Cortez's office, which the congresswoman has since disavowed and replaced, was a bit more detailed. According to a New York Times report, Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, has since called the FAQ "clearly unfinished" and said it had been published to the website by mistake.
Cows and airplanes are mentioned in the FAQ in a section on why the bill chose "100% clean and renewable" as opposed to "100% renewable." Part of the answer? "We aren't sure that we'll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast."
When it comes to cars, the FAQ set a "goal to replace every combustion-engine vehicle."
That FAQ, however, has been removed from Ocasio-Cortez's website.
One of the clearest points to emerge from Trump's El Paso speech is that as he pivots to the 2020 election he seems inclined to paint the Democrats as socialists. To that end, the President will likely continue to bring up the Green New Deal and try to use it to his political advantage.
El Paso crime
"I heard the same thing from the fake news, they said, 'Oh, crime actually stayed the same.' Didn't stay the same. Went way down."
Previously, Trump has made this claim about violent crime specifically -- a false claim that CNN has fact checked over and over and over again. According to data from the FBI, violent crime in El Paso peaked in 1993 and has been largely decreasing ever since. 2006 to 2011 saw a bit of an increase in violent crime, with the border wall finished in 2008.
Looking at all crime reported by the El Paso police department, we see a similar trend. Most crimes saw their peak in 1993, with a gradual decline since. Between 2007 and 2009 there were no dramatic decreases in reported crimes.
During his speech, Trump reiterated his criticism of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's comments in a radio interview on third trimester abortion. The President also attacked "extreme late-term abortion" and continued his call for legislation prohibiting those cases.
Trump made similar comments during his State of the Union address, here's the context and facts we found then:
Virginia Democratic Delegate Kathy Tran recently sponsored legislation that would have relaxed certain requirements around third-trimester abortions in the state.
Under current state law, third-trimester abortions can be performed only if three doctors agree the "pregnancy is likely to result in the death of the woman or substantially and irremediably impair the mental or physical health of the woman." The failed bill would have reduced the number of physicians needed to approve the abortion to one and removed "substantially and irremediably" from the language of justification for the abortion.
During a committee hearing on the now-defunct bill, Tran was asked, "How late in the third trimester could a physician perform an abortion if he indicated it would impair the mental health of the woman?" "Through the third trimester," Tran responded, clarifying that there was no limit in the proposed bill for when an abortion could be performed prior to birth.
Northam was asked about Tran's comments in a Jan. 30 interview with the radio station WTOP. He began to explain what he thought occurs in such an instance. His comments sparked confusion and controversy among abortion opponents.
"The infant would be delivered," Northam said. "The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that's what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother."
Later, a spokesperson for Northam said his "comments were limited to the actions physicians would take in the event that a woman in those circumstances (i.e. nonviable pregnancy and severe fetal abnormalities) went into labor."
This clarification, however, does not address the statement made by Northam that "the infant would be delivered."
The Reproductive Health Act, signed into law last month in New York, allows for abortion after 24 weeks if an authorized health care practitioner determines that "the abortion is necessary to protect the patient's life or health" or if "there is an absence of fetal viability."
New York's new law expands access to abortions into the third trimester by loosening restrictions on when the procedure is permitted. Previously, an abortion could be performed after 24 weeks only if the physician deemed it necessary to preserve the woman's life. Under the new law, the requirement has been expanded to include the woman's general health.
By the numbers
According to the Guttmacher Institute -- an organization focused on sexual and reproductive health -- "slightly more than 1% of abortions are performed at 21 weeks or later." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a total of 638,169 abortions were performed in the US during 2015.
The battle over abortion legislation continues to rage in state capitols around the country. Nothing is expected to come from the currently divided Congress, and all eyes were on the Supreme Court last week when it blocked Louisiana's Unsafe Abortion Protection Act from taking effect.
Billions from trade
"Those tariffs are costing (China) a lot of money and they're going into our Treasury. Remember that. We're filling up with billions of dollars."
No matter how many times he says it, (and he's said it a lot over the past few months) Trump's line that China is paying billions of dollars in tariffs into the US Treasury is blatantly, unequivocally wrong. When he said it last fall, we called him out, just as we did in the reader's guide we wrote leading up to the State of Union address last week. Here's what we wrote then:
When Trump talks about tariffs, he often talks about the amount of money that is now pouring into the US Treasury. He tends to give the impression that money is being paid by foreign companies. But that's not really what's happening. Instead, most of those tariffs are being paid by US companies that import those foreign goods. The real question is who bears the cost. Often, US companies will pass it on to the consumer by raising prices, while other times a company will reduce compensation or employment internally to offset these higher costs. In some instances, the Chinese supplier might take on the burden of the tariff by reducing its prices in order to maintain its price advantage in the US.
Trump is trying to realign trade so that US products become more competitive with their cheaper Chinese alternatives. That will likely require a long-term adjustment of the US industrial base. In the short term, US consumers and companies will most likely end up bearing the cost of the tariffs. The Tax Foundation said last year that it expects the tariffs to lower the gross domestic product and wages, and cost American jobs, hitting lower- and middle-income households the hardest.
Oil and gas
"The United States is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas on earth."
Trump touted this number during his State of the Union address last week. Here's what CNN found at the time:
It's true, but could use some context.
The US became the world's largest crude oil producer in August, when it surpassed Russia for the first time since 1999 in terms of total daily crude production, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Earlier in the year, the US surpassed Saudi Arabia's crude oil production for the first time since 1973. It has been the largest producer of natural gas since 2011.
The rise in US oil and gas production is due in large part to advances in fracking technology that allowed drillers to access reserves socked away in shale formations buried deep underground. Production dipped in 2015 and 2016 as a result of overproduction and a collapse in oil prices, but recovered quickly once supply stabilized and prices increased, just as Trump was coming into office.
The Trump administration often touts its moves to relax Obama-era rules on oil and gas production, such as one restricting the flaring of methane from fracking sites. He has also opened public lands to more drilling. It's unclear though, given the decade of increased energy production in the US, how much of an impact any of those moves have had.