WASHINGTON (AP) — The weeklong drama over the hourslong government shutdown set loose overblown rhetoric from both parties while President Donald Trump wrestled inartfully with turmoil in the stock market, one of his favorite bragging points until it tanked.
On the sidelines of the budget battle, Trump pitched his campaign against the MS-13 gang. He seemed to overstate the reach of the violent organization in his determination to link immigrants with criminal behavior and to justify money for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Meantime his EPA chief misrepresented the science on global warming, some of it coming from his own agency.
A review of some statements by Trump and other public figures during a week of turbulence on multiple fronts:
TRUMP: “We’re here to discuss the tremendous threat of MS-13, one of the most violent and vicious gangs anywhere in the world. We’ve really never seen anything quite like this.” — remarks Tuesday at a law enforcement meeting.
THE FACTS: The group is unquestionably violent but its overall numbers are somewhat limited. Federal prosecutors believe MS-13 now has thousands of members across the country, yet statistics show they account for less than 1 percent of total U.S. gang membership.
Formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s by El Salvador refugees and more recently expanded in Central America, the group is indeed linked to big number of homicides in certain parts of the U.S., including 25 killings on New York’s Long Island in the past two years. Even so, an FBI report put the group well behind other gangs for crimes on the southwest border — seventh of 12 — with the Surenos, Barrio Azteca and Tango Blast ranked in the top three.
Despite Trump’s contention that “MS-13 recruits through our broken immigration system, violating our borders, and it just comes right through,” the gang has many U.S.-born members at this point — people who by virtue of U.S. citizenship can’t be denied entry based on their nationality, or deported. The government has not said recently how many members it thinks are citizens and immigrants. In notable raids on MS-13 in 2015 and 2016, most of the people caught were found to be U.S. citizens.
TRUMP: “In the ‘old days,’ when good news was reported, the Stock Market would go up. Today, when good news is reported, the Stock Market goes down. Big mistake, and we have so much good (great) news about the economy!” — tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: It’s not that simple, and it’s not true that a positive economic indicator necessarily means a rise in stocks. The opposite can happen, depending on what sort of chain reaction is anticipated by investors.
The market dive was prompted in part by the news that wages are rising at the best pace in eight years after a prolonged bout of sluggish gains. Higher wages can lead to more inflation. The Federal Reserve could try to restrain inflation by raising interest rates, which would hurt corporate profits and limit the pace of economic growth. That’s how good news for workers can come with a downside for investors.
Likewise, bad news can make the market rise. In 2016, for example, the Labor Department initially reported that employers added a mere 38,000 jobs in May. After slipping that day, the Dow Jones industrial average climbed the next trading day. A weak jobs report can cause stocks to dip briefly, then surge the following days on the belief that the Fed will hold off on rate increases.
TRUMP: “The ones that don’t want security at the Southern border, or any other border, are the Democrats. They don’t care about the security of our country. They don’t care about MS-13 killers pouring into our country. … Nobody was bringing them out before us.” — speech Monday in Ohio.
THE FACTS: Recent history does not show such indifference. The U.S. carried out record deportations during the Obama administration and, on MS-13 specifically, conducted raids of the group and announced a freeze on its U.S. assets.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at the meeting Tuesday that MS-13 is “the first gang dangerous enough to be classified as a transnational criminal organization.” That’s true, but it was the Obama administration that took that unprecedented action.
Trump’s Justice Department has indirectly credited the Obama administration, in its early years, with putting heavy pressure on the gang. It said, “Through the combined efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement, great progress was made diminishing or severely (disrupting) the gang within certain targeted areas of the U.S. by 2009 and 2010.” That was not enough to crush MS-13 and Trump is taking extra steps toward that goal. But he is not the first to go after the gang.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, Democratic House leader: “What it accomplished was to say, we have our beliefs and we are willing to fight for them, and we are willing to fight for them on the floor of the House. It was a simple question to the speaker, why can’t we have a vote in the House of Representatives?” — telling reporters Thursday why she staged an eight-hour speech to press House Republicans to allow a vote on protecting those young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and are living here illegally.
THE FACTS: Her speech generated headlines for its record length, but was it really a fight for her party’s beliefs? Despite her rhetoric, many House Democrats said they weren’t pushed by Pelosi’s leadership team to oppose the Senate budget deal without the immigration protections. Her performance also had no immediate impact on Republican leaders, who declined to schedule a vote on the young immigrants even though they needed Democratic support for the budget pact to end a second government shutdown.
Ultimately, 73 House Democrats voted in favor of the budget bill, allowing it to pass 240-186.
Pelosi’s speech seemed more aimed at liberals in the Democratic Party who were furious that Senate Democrats cut a budget deal without the protections for about 800,000 young people brought to the U.S. as children and now living in the country illegally. Pelosi has been stressing since late last year that those protections should be tied to spending bills as a way to force action on the issue. Her reference to fighting for “our beliefs” glosses over her party’s divisions on the matter.
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA administrator: “I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing.” — interview with KSNV-TV in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
THE FACTS: It is a bad thing, with destructive consequences far outweighing scattered benefits, according to broad scientific consensus. That consensus reaches into Pruitt’s own department, which helped write a federal draft report last year that estimates heat from global warming will cause 4,500 to 9,000 extra deaths a year by the end of the century and impose extra costs of billion to billion a year.
Global warming could bring milder winters and longer growing seasons to a few areas of the U.S. but most of the country faces heatwaves and droughts of greater severity, stronger tropical storms and increased coastal flooding.
As well, said Dr. Howard Frumkin, a professor appointed by Republican President George W. Bush to lead the National Center for Environmental Health, hot weather “promotes the spread of infectious diseases, reduces work capacity, increases rates of injuries and violent crimes, impairs sleep, reduces agricultural production, worsens air quality, and prolongs the allergy season.”
Earth now is as warm as it’s been for about 11,000 years, several studies have found.
PRUITT: “Our activity contributes to the climate changing to a certain degree. Now, measuring that with precision … is more challenging than is let on at times.” — KSNV-TV interview.
THE FACTS: A “certain degree” vastly understates the science. Recent studies leave little doubt that human activity is the overwhelming cause of climate change.
The National Climate Assessment’s Climate Science Special Report, published in November from a consortium of government agencies that included EPA, calculated that human contribution to global warming since 1950 amount to 92 percent to 123 percent of it.
It’s more than 100 percent on the higher end because some natural forces — such as volcanoes and the Earth’s orbital cycle — are working to cool the planet but are being overwhelmed by the effects of greenhouse gases, said study co-author Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University.
Associated Press writers Josh Boak, Jill Colvin, Eric Tucker, Michael Biesecker, Seth Borenstein, Alan Fram and Elliot Spagat contributed to this report.
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EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures