After hearing so many complaints, President Donald Trump made his first visit to U.S. troops in a conflict zone. He basked in the cheers when he told troops he won them their first raise in 10 years and suggested it was a whopping one. Not true.
He also spent the holiday talking about his wall as that talk is distracting from the Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen news that has been haunting the president the past few weeks. With the government shutdown nearing its seventh day, Trump is keeping the shiny objects moving as it continues keeping the media off Robert Mueller and the Southern District of New York.
We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with. Hard to believe there was a Congress & President who would approve!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2018
Here’s Donald Trump’s latest claims fact checked:
TROOPS PAY RAISE
TRUMP: “You just got one of the biggest pay raises you ever received. Unless you don’t want it. Does anybody here? Is anybody here willing to give up the big pay raise you just got? I don’t see too many hands. Ah, OK. don’t give it up. It’s great. You know what? Nobody deserves it more. You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years. More than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one.” — remarks prompting cheers Wednesday at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq.
THE FACTS: He’s wrong about there being no pay increase for service members in more than 10 years and about their raise being especially large.
U.S. military members have gotten a pay raise every year for decades. As well, several in the last 10 years have been larger than service members are getting now — 2.4 percent this year and 2.6 percent in 2019. Raises in 2008, 2009 and 2010, for example, were all 3.4 percent or more.
Pay increases shrank during the following years as the administration struggled with congressionally mandated budget caps. Trump, aided by congressional action, did reverse the subsequent six-year trend that began in 2011 of pay raises that hovered between 1 and 2 percent. In 2017, service members got a 2.1 percent raise.
Trump has repeatedly told service members that they’re getting the biggest or only pay raise that they have received in 10 years or more. In May, for example, he told graduates of the United States Naval Academy: “We just got you a big pay raise. First time in 10 years.”
10 vs 2.6 PERCENT
TRUMP: “You had plenty of people, they came up, they said, you know we could make it smaller. We could make it 3 percent, we could make it 2 percent, we could make it 4 percent. I said, ‘no, make it 10 percent — make it more than 10 percent.’” — remarks Wednesday at al-Asad base.
THE FACTS: Whatever he might have said at the time, the 2.6 percent for 2019 obviously falls far short of the 10 percent or more that he implied was achieved.
President Donald Trump’s claims over Christmas that he had awarded 115 miles of new border wall construction in Texas appear to confuse work that’s already funded and underway.
Trump tweeted on Monday, “I am in the Oval Office & just gave out a 115-mile long contract for another large section of the Wall in Texas.”
He reiterated on Tuesday that he’s moving forward on construction, even as the government remains partially shutdown over his insistence that Congress approve more money for a border wall.
Neither the White House nor the Department of Homeland Security responded to follow-up questions on Monday or Tuesday, but here’s what’s known about contracts and construction of the wall.
TRUMP, asked Tuesday morning about the wall and his Christmas Eve tweet: “Yesterday, I gave out 115 miles’ worth of wall, 115 miles in Texas. It’s going to be built, hopefully rapidly. I’m going there at the end of January for the start of construction.”
THE FACTS: Trump can’t award construction contracts. U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers award contracts for border wall construction after Congress approves funding and months have gone into planning.
In March, Congress approved funding for 33 miles (53 kilometers) of construction in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal border crossings.
CBP announced in November that construction in the Rio Grande Valley would begin in February. Targeted areas include the nonprofit National Butterfly Center, a state park and privately owned ranches and farmland.
Trump’s statement that he plans to visit the site at the end of January suggests he may be referring to this previously announced construction.
TRUMP, speaking Tuesday: “We gave out 115 yesterday, and we gave it out at a great price.”
THE FACTS: It’s unclear where the figure of 115 miles is coming from.
According to DHS, the March funding from Congress will pay for 84 miles (135 kilometers) along the southern border, including the 33 miles (53 kilometers) for Texas. And if the Trump administration gets the $5 billion it’s requested, DHS says it would build 215 miles (346 kilometers) that it considers the “highest priority,”includes 159 miles (256 kilometers) in Texas.
Whether DHS got a “great price” on the 33 miles is up for debate. Two contracts announced by CBP to build 14 of those miles (23 kilometers) total $313 million, or roughly $22 million per mile ($14 million per kilometer).
There’s already 653 miles (1,051 kilometers) of border fence in place, built under the Secure Fence Act passed in 2006. CBP estimated in 2015 that the total cost to build that mileage was $2.3 billion, or roughly $3.5 million a mile ($2.2 million per kilometer). Many of those miles were built with less complicated design or on easier terrain than where CBP wants to build now.
WHO WON THE CONTRACTS?
TRUMP, asked Tuesday who received the contracts: “Different people. Highly bid.”
THE FACTS: CBP announced in November that Galveston, Texas-based company SLSCO won the two contracts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for projects in the Rio Grande Valley. Contract notices posted online say that three bids were solicited online and received for each contract. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working with CBP to plan and build the wall.