Fact Check Friday: Trump's parade of mistruths

Tracking presidential falsehoods every Friday.

August 17, 2018, 1:27 PM

Good news: it sounds like the president is reading media fact checks. The bad news: he doesn't think such fact checks are right, or fair. Here's what he had to say about media fact checking during a campaign fundraiser in Utica, NY on Monday for Representative Claudia Tenney.

"The one thing with them – they fact check, but even their fact checking is wrong. If I'm right- or if I'm 97.3 percent right, they will say he's got a 'Pinocchio,' or he is lying. Oh, they are bad people."

That's not exactly how it works. Facts are facts. When he gets significant facts wrong, it's our job as journalists to point that out.

ABC's Fact Check Friday is focused on the false or misleading statements from the president and the White House.

So here we go. We begin this fact check with Omarosa Manigault Newman and the president's demands for silence.

NDA's are common practice

When the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders found herself on the defensive this week, trying to explain why former staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman would have been made to sign a non-disclosure agreement that prevented her from badmouthing the president, she falsely suggested that such arrangements were common practice in past administrations.

"Why do people need to be contractually obligated to forever after in perpetuity never say anything negative about the President, any member of his family, any product they should produce? Why is that necessary?, Sanders was asked at Tuesday's White House briefing.

PHOTO: Donald Trump and Omarosa attend "The Ultimate Merger" premiere at Trump Tower on June 14, 2010 in New York City.
Donald Trump and Omarosa attend "The Ultimate Merger" premiere at Trump Tower on June 14, 2010 in New York City.
Mike Coppola/WireImage via Getty Images

"Despite contrary opinion, it's actually very normal in every administration prior to the Trump administration has had NDA's, particularly specific for anyone that had a security clearance," Sanders said. "This White House is certainly no different."

It’s extremely unusual, if not unprecedented, to ask employees to sign non-disclosure agreements like the one that President Trump appears to be enforcing following the publication of Manigault Newman's new book, "Unhinged."

Sanders is right that everyone who gets a security clearances signs non-disclosure agreements, but that's an entirely separate issue.

Those agreements are between the government and the individual, not the individual and the president. And they're about keeping the lid on the nation's secrets – not about promising to never tell (allegedly) that the president had a tanning bed installed in the White House residence.

Sanders was asked if she had signed an NDA of her own. She wouldn't answer.

Frack check

President Trump's frustration with New York state's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing is an economically justifiable stance to take, but the "science" he uses to back his position is just wrong.

He told donors in Utica, NY Monday that they could have been living in a "boom town," but instead surrounding states like Ohio and Pennsylvania are depleting New York's natural gas deposits with underground drills that take turns and cross state lines.

"Think of it," he told Tenney supporters at the Hotel Utica. "If they would’ve allowed a little bit of fracking, and taken some of the richness out of the land, which by the way is being sucked away by other states — you know they don’t have state lines underground. You know what that means. That means it just goes down down down. We don't get it. You look at what's happened in Pennsylvania with the money they've taken in. You look at what happened in Ohio with the money they've taken in. They're fracking, they're drilling a little bit. They're creating jobs. And this place it's just so sad to see it. And we had the potential to do it better than anybody and it's now – it's dissipating. It's dissipating. Because that stuff flows. Do you understand that? It flows. And they probably have those little turns [gesturing with hands] you know they make the turns at the border -- it goes like this right? [again gesturing with hands]. And all of the sudden someday you're not going to have that underground maybe so much. And it's a shame. Because you could have had no taxes."

Actually, the natural gas extracted during the fracking process does not "flow." Fracking stands for fracturing.

Energy companies drill thousands of feet underground and fracture shale in order to extract trapped gas. There is no flowing river of gas in this case. It's rock.

However, Trump is right that the drills turn.

The fracturing actually occurs in man-made horizontal wells that can be nearly a mile long. But to suggest that somehow Pennsylvania could extract large portions of New York's gas is false. New York's Department of Environmental Conservation estimates there may be as much as 7.1 trillion cubic feet of untapped natural gas in the state, much of it in the Appalachian Basin, and area that spans northern Pennsylvania and southern New York state. Meanwhile, the City of Utica (which is in the Basin), sits about 80 miles from the Pennsylvania border. The drills don't reach that far. Their rock is safe.

Black unemployment

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders made a wildly inaccurate claim earlier this week about black employment figures under the Obama administration that she later corrected over twitter.

"This President, since he took office, in the year and a half that he's been here, has created 700,000 new jobs for African Americans," Sanders said. "When President Obama left, after eight years in office – eight years in office, he had only created 800 – or 195,000 jobs for African Americans."

The Obama figure was off by about 2.8 million.

Yet in her correction, where she said she was "sorry for the mistake", she stated the numbers for Obama were correct, only the time frame was off. But even her correction led many to question the fairness of comparing job numbers in a time of a recession to an economic boom. More on that here.

Marching orders

After news broke Thursday that President Trump's military parade would cost an estimated $92 million, the American Legion warned that so much money would be better spent on caring for veterans.

Others noted the latest estimate is six-times the cost of the Korean war games Trump canceled earlier this year due to the potentially hefty price tag.

PHOTO: US servicemen sit on a M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank before the official opening ceremony of the joint multinational military exercise 'Noble Partner 2018' at the military base of Vaziani, outside Tbilisi, Georgia, Aug. 1, 2018.
US servicemen sit on a M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank before the official opening ceremony of the joint multinational military exercise 'Noble Partner 2018' at the military base of Vaziani, outside Tbilisi, Georgia, Aug. 1, 2018. This time Noble Partner 2018 is larger-scale with engagement of in total, more than 3000 military servicemen of NATO member and partner countries: Georgia, USA, UK, Germany, Estonia, France, Lithuania, Poland, Norway, Turkey, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia, reports Georgia's Ministry of Defense.
Zurab Kurtsikidze/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

It soon became clear the ballooning cost for the parade, which the president had planned to take place just four days after the midterm elections, was also becoming a political problem. So on Friday morning he cancelled it, casting illegitimate blame for the inflated cost on government officials from the District of Columbia.

"The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it. When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it. Never let someone hold you up!," the president tweeted.

He went on to announce that he would instead attend the big parade at "Andrews Air Force Base." ABC News called Joint Base Andrews (they changed the name years ago) and officials there said they weren’t sure what parade he is referring to.

The bottom line is that it was completely disingenuous to blame the cost of the parade on Washington D.C. The bulk of the estimate, roughly $50 million, came from the Pentagon and the logistics of relocating military assets.

Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security wanted $42 million, which included the demands from the District of Columbia. D.C. wanted a total $21.6 million for police, fire and the department of transportation among other things. A breakdown of the city's cost estimate can be found here. For comparison, the city spent $27.3 million on President Trump's 2017 inauguration. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser explained it this way:

US steel is opening eight plants

And finally, an update to a fact check we brought you a few weeks ago on U.S. Steel. That week we told you how President Trump claimed U.S. Steel was opening six new production plants thanks to his new tariffs and economic revitalization.

Later that week he said it was seven plants. Now, this week he says it's eight!

"The steel industry is one of the hottest industries... There are steel guys in the room that can tell you what's going on... where U.S. Steel is opening up, I think, eight plants." One of the donors in the room could be heard saying "Wow!"

If President Trump is right about this, he's one of the only people who knows about it. U.S. Steel has not announced the construction of any new plants and a spokesman for the company would not answer questions about the claim.

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