Fact Check: Trump Off Base on Vets, Health Payments - NECN
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President Donald Trump

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Fact Check: Trump Off Base on Vets, Health Payments

Over a week dominated by internal strife in the administration, policy was aired on a number of fronts as well. Some of it was factually challenged or just plain wrong

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    Trump Vows to Destroy Gangs in Long Island

    Trump addressed police officers in Long Island, vowing to support law enforcement officials. This is president Trump's first visit to Long Island since taking office. (Published Friday, July 28, 2017)

    President Donald Trump bragged about a mission accomplished in veterans' health care that has not been achieved. He threatened to end health insurers' "bailouts" that actually help consumers. And he cited "tremendous" costs to taxpayers from providing health services to transgender troops without providing evidence of that expense.

    Over a week dominated by internal strife in the administration, a potty-mouthed tirade from the new communications chief and the collapse of health care legislation, policy was aired on a number of fronts as well. Some of it was factually challenged or just plain wrong.

    A look at a sampling of statements from last week.

    TRUMP: "If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!" — tweet Saturday.

    Trump Responds to Putin Summit Criticism

    [NATL] Trump Responds to Putin Summit Criticism

    President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he misspoke during his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland. Trump said he does "accept" the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. Trump also said he needed to clarify that he didn't see a reason why the meddling "wouldn't be Russia." Trump had said the opposite a day earlier, prompting bipartisan backlash.

    (Published Tuesday, July 17, 2018)

    THE FACTS: If you think of a bailout as an infusion of government money to keep an industry in business, that's not what is going on here. He's talking about federal payments to insurance companies that are used to reduce deductibles and co-payments for consumers with modest incomes. Trump has only guaranteed those payments will continue through July.

    Analysts have said that without the payments, more insurers might drop out of the system, limiting options for consumers and clearing the way for the insurers that stay to charge more for coverage.

    Trump's threat to end "bailouts" to members of Congress is something of a mystery. What is clear is that he is upset they did not pass the Republican health care bill and wants them to think he will punish them if they don't get rid of Obamacare.

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    TRUMP: "We've begun to process seamlessly transferring veterans' medical records. Horrible situation. You couldn't get your medical records. And now it's so easy and so good. And the system is fixed, finally, after all of these years."

    THE FACTS: That IT system is not fixed. The multiyear effort has barely begun. The costs are not even accounted for in Trump's proposed 2018 budget. The VA expects its outmoded scheduling system to remain for several more years.

    Did Trump Deny Russia Is Still Targeting US? New Dispute Over ‘No’

    [NATL] Did Trump Deny Russia Is Still Targeting US? New Dispute Over ‘No’

    Asked at the White House if Russia is still targeting the United States, President Donald Trump appeared to say “no.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later that Trump was saying “no” to answering questions.

    (Published Wednesday, July 18, 2018)

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    TRUMP: "We have Choice. ... We have nearly doubled the number of veterans given approvals to see the doctor of their choice."

    THE FACTS: He's exaggerating the progress on this front. Trump is referring to the VA's Choice program, which offers federally paid medical care outside the VA. Put in place after a 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA, the program allows veterans to see outside doctors if they must wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility.

    The department's approvals to veterans to use Choice have grown under Trump, but they haven't nearly doubled. VA Secretary David Shulkin wrote in a recent USA Today editorial that outside care programs for the first half of the year increased 26 percent over the same period last year. The program is also running out of money and will need an emergency replenishment by Congress to head off disruptions in care.

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    TRUMP: "We've published wait times at every VA facility. I used to go around and talk about the veterans and they'd stand on line for nine days, seven days, four days ... 15 days. People that could have been given a prescription and been better right away end up dying waiting on line. That's not happening anymore."

    Obama Delivers Rebuke on Trump Policies at Mandela Celebration

    [NATL] Obama Delivers Rebuke on Trump Policies at Mandela Celebration

    Former President Barack Obama condemned the current state of American politics while not mentioning President Donald Trump by name during a speech to honor the late Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

    (Published Tuesday, July 17, 2018)

    THE FACTS: Problems of delay or substandard care at some of the VA facilities have not disappeared. On access, the VA reported recently that veterans have been waiting more than 60 days for new appointments at about 30 VA facilities nationwide.

    On quality of care, the VA's inspector general issued urgent action reports in April and May warning that patients at Washington's VA medical center were being put at unnecessary risk of harm due to bad inventory practices, like potentially dirty syringes and medical supply shortages.

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    TRUMP: "We've delivered same-day mental health services at every VA medical center."

    THE FACTS: This may be the case, but it happened before Trump took office. By late 2016, the department's blog announced that the goal of providing same-day primary and mental-health care when medically necessary would be achieved at every VA medical center by year's end. Shulkin told Congress in late January the services already were fully in place.

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    Trump on Poor Relations With Russia: ‘I Hold Both Countries Responsible’

    [NATL] Trump on Poor Relations With Russia: ‘I Hold Both Countries Responsible’

    President Trump was asked if he held Russia accountable for a decline in relations with the U.S. He said there is blame on both sides.

    (Published Monday, July 16, 2018)

    TRUMP: "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail." — tweet Wednesday saying transgender troops would be banned from the armed forces.

    THE FACTS: He's offered no substantiation for the assertion that transgender military members represent tremendous medical costs and disruption. A Rand Corp. study found otherwise.

    It estimates that out of about 1.3 million active-duty military personnel, 2,450 are transgender. Only a subset would seek transition-related care, such as hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery. Based on private insurance data, the study estimates a minimal increase in costs from such care for the active-duty armed forces — no more than 0.13 percent, or $8.4 million annually.

    As for disruption, members representing less than 0.1 percent of the total force would seek transition-related care that could affect their deployments, the study says.

    The Pentagon says it is allowing transgender troops to remain in uniform and not changing its policy otherwise until Defense Secretary Jim Mattis receives an authoritative directive on what to do.

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    Trump, Putin News Conference: Watch the Full Q&A

    [NATL] Trump, Putin News Conference: Watch the Full Q&A

    Watch President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin answer questions from reporters following their summit in Helsinki, Finland, on July 17, 2018.

    (Published Monday, July 16, 2018)

    TRUMP: "Problem is that the acting head of the FBI & the person in charge of the Hillary investigation, Andrew McCabe, got $700,000 from H for wife!" — tweet Tuesday.

    THE FACTS: That's wrong. McCabe's wife, Jill McCabe, did not get $700,000 in donations from Hillary Clinton ("H'' in the tweet) for a Virginia state Senate race in 2015. Jill McCabe got the money from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's political action committee and the Virginia Democratic Party. Those donations happened before the FBI says McCabe was promoted to deputy director of the FBI and took a supervisory role in the Clinton email investigation. He became acting director in May after Trump fired James Comey.

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    TRUMP: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!" — tweet Tuesday.

    THE FACTS: Trump is entitled to be dissatisfied with his attorney general but there's a backstory. If Sessions has been quiet about Clinton, it's because the election is over and he promised during his confirmation hearings in January to step aside from any investigation of her. As a Trump campaign loyalist last year, he was a critic of the Democratic nominee and said in January that his objectivity could be in question if he was involved in any Justice Department action concerning her email practices as secretary of state.

    Trump is also upset that Sessions stepped aside from the investigation into possible collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

    Trump Says NATO Allies Will Boost Military Spending

    [NATL] Trump Says NATO Allies Will Boost Military Spending

    Speaking to reporters, President Donald Trump said Thursday after a two-day NATO summit in Brussels that it would be "unnecessary" for the U.S. to withdraw from NATO because his allies agreed to boost their military spending.

    (Published Thursday, July 12, 2018)

    The effect of those recusals is to leave Trump potentially more exposed to Justice Department professionals who do not have political ties to him.

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    ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, White House communications director: "In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony, I will be contacting @FBI and the @JusticeDept" — tweet Wednesday, later deleted.

    THE FACTS: His financial disclosure was not leaked — illegally or otherwise. It is a public record.

    It was released after a public records request by a Politico reporter to the Export-Import Bank, where Scaramucci had been employed at a senior level since mid-June. The Associated Press subsequently obtained the same financial disclosure Thursday. A reporter filled out a publicly available form, turned it in at the bank's office and was emailed a copy of Scaramucci's financial disclosure a half hour later.

    In a feuding White House, Scaramucci appeared to blame chief of staff Reince Priebus for leaking the information, by attaching Priebus' handle to the tweet. Scaramucci then denied he was blaming Priebus. Then The New Yorker published an interview with Scaramucci in which he went on a profane tirade against Priebus, calling him "paranoid schizophrenic" and pledging to get him and others fired. Scaramucci made vulgar comments about White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as well.

    Fiery Hearing From FBI Agent Who Made Anti-Trump Texts

    [NATL] FBI Agent Who Made Anti-Trump Texts Testifies in Fiery Congressional Hearing

    Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who made anti-Trump texts during the 2016 presidential election, rejected claims of bias affecting his work with the Clinton email probe in a fiery speech to Congress. GOP and Democratic lawmakers added to the tense hearing, frequently arguing over Strzok's testimony.

    (Published Thursday, July 12, 2018)

    After all this, Trump announced he was replacing Priebus with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

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    TRUMP: "Lebanon is on the front lines in the fight against ISIS, al-Qaeda and Hezbollah." — at news conference Tuesday with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

    THE FACTS: Not so with Hezbollah. The group is a partner in the Lebanese government, with two Cabinet seats. The Lebanese government is indeed fighting against the Islamic State group and al-Qaida. But so is Hezbollah. Its fighters are leading a military offensive to wipe out Sunni extremists from IS and al-Qaida from areas along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

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    TRUMP: "We're going to be a net exporter of energy very shortly." — Youngstown, Ohio, speech Tuesday.

    'Captive to Russia': Trump Attacks Germany Over Gas Ties

    [NATL] 'Captive to Russia': Trump Attacks Germany Over Russia Gas Ties, NATO Defense Spending

    President Donald Trump criticized Germany for its gas ties to Russia at the start of his NATO visit, calling Germany "captive to Russia" over its Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. Trump, whose campaign is under investigation for possible ties to the Kremlin, claimed the deal was "inappropriate" in an exchange with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

    (Published Wednesday, July 11, 2018)

    THE FACTS: Depends how you define very shortly. The U.S. Energy Information Agency said in January the country could become a net energy exporter by 2026 if trends remain. The White House said in its own report last month it could happen as soon as 2020 but did not substantiate the claim.

    As a net exporter, the U.S. would still import oil, natural gas and other energy sources but send abroad more than it buys.

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    SCARAMUCCI: "The majority of the American people, certainly all the American people that voted for him, either don't care about the tweets, they find them funny. They find them refreshing. They don't overreact ... and micro-analyze them the way you guys do." — CNN on Wednesday.

    THE FACTS: Actually, most Americans frown on Trump's Twitter conduct and most Republicans do not find his tweets refreshing, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll. In all, two-thirds of people find his tweets "inappropriate" and "insulting" and about half said they're "dangerous," the poll found. One-third said they are effective.

    Among Republicans, about 40 percent called his tweets inappropriate and insulting and about the same percentage called them refreshing. Fewer than 3 in 10 Republicans called his tweets dangerous and a majority said they're effective.

    Senate Readies Over Supreme Court Confirmation Fight

    [NATL] Trump Nominates Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court as Senate Readies Over Confirmation Fight

    Focus shifts from President Trump's announcement of Brett Kavanaugh as his Supreme Court nominee, to the Senate's knock-down, drag-out fight over his confirmation. The Republicans' razor-thin majority won't matter if they can work together, but they may need help from red-state Democrats.

    (Published Tuesday, July 10, 2018)

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    TRUMP: "As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal." — tweet Friday.

    THE FACTS: He didn't say that from the beginning. During the 2016 campaign, he promised to "immediately repeal and replace" Barack Obama's health care law, as he put it on one tweet from last year. He did not propose to let the law fail, then follow up with a new package.

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    TRUMP: "Democrats, they win in Youngstown. But not this time. Right? They started to get a little nervous at the beginning of that evening when they said Youngstown seems to be going the other way. That hasn't happened in a lot of decades." — Youngstown speech.

    THE FACTS: Trump errs in claiming that 2016 election victory in Mahoning County, where Youngstown is situated. He did a lot better in the county Mitt Romney did in 2012, but he still lost to Clinton by 3 percentage points — 50-47. Romney lost to Obama by 29 percentage points there in 2012.

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    Associated Press writers Emily Swanson, Eric Tucker, Matthew Daly, Lauran Neergaard and Stephen Ohlemacher in Washington and Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report. Find AP Fact Checks here