PolitiFact roundup: Trump on Mexico, freed terrorists, Apple plans

  • PolitiFact
  • For the AJC
12:00 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 Nation & World
President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill. AP

PolitiFact recently checked out three claims by President Donald Trump, on violence in Mexico, U.S. release of terrorists and Apple’s business plans after the new tax cut. Here are summaries of our findings. Full versions can be found at www.politifact.com.

Mexico is “now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world.”

— President Donald Trump on Thursday, Jan. 18th, 2018 in a tweet

While there are multiple ways to measure danger, there is no single ranking for the most dangerous country in the world. The White House did not respond to our inquiry on the record.

The International Press Institute ranked Mexico first in the number of journalists killed in 2017.

Outside of journalism, however,Mexico scores high on danger levels, but not first.

The Institute for Economics and Peace produces an annual Global Peace Index report, which measures the world’s most peaceful countries using 23 qualitative and quantitative measures of safety, security, ongoing domestic and international conflict, and militarization.

Mexico was ranked 22nd from the bottom of that list. Syria was worst.

The main study of intentional homicides is performed by the United Nations’ Office of Drug Control. Mexico was 10th on the list in 2015, and El Salvador was first.

Our ruling

While certainly a cause for concern, homicide statistics and other measures dosn’t make Mexico the “number one most dangerous country.”

We rate this statement Mostly False.

“In the past, we have foolishly released hundreds and hundreds of dangerous terrorists, only to meet them again on the battlefield — including the ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi, who we captured, who we had, who we released.”

— President Donald Trump on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018 in the 2018 State of the Union address

Trump was referring to prisoners released from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay who were confirmed of re-engaging in some type of terrorist activity.

About every six months the Director of National Intelligence releases figures about detainees transferred from Guantanamo and how many are known to have re-engaged in some terrorist activity. The most recent report was published in October 2017 and includes data from 2002, when the prison opened, through July 2017. During that time the U.S. government transferred more than 700 detainees, and 122 were “confirmed of re-engaging” in some sort of terrorist activity.

Eight of those transfers happened during the Obama administration. The remaining 114 — or over 92 percent — happened under George W. Bush.

So Trump’s “hundreds and hundreds” is really 122 combatants spread out over 15 years.

What about the ISIS leader al-Baghdadi he referred to specifically? From early February 2004 until early December 2004, Baghdadi was held at a U.S. detention system, according to the Defense Department. He was not set free; he was handed over to the Iraqis in 2004, who released him some time later.

Our ruling

Trump overstated the number of prisoners released from Guantanamo who were confirmed of re-engaging in some type of terrorist activity. That number is 122, not “hundreds and hundreds.” He is also not entirely right that al-Baghdadi was “released” by the United States.

We rate this claim Mostly False.

“Apple has just announced it plans to invest a total of $350 billion in America, and hire another 20,000 workers.”

— Donald Trump on Tuesday, Jan, 30, 2018 in the 2018 State of the Union address

Apple announced on Jan. 17 a series of initiatives to bolster its position in the United States. “Combining new investments and Apple’s current pace of spending with domestic suppliers and manufacturers — an estimated $55 billion for 2018 — Apple’s direct contribution to the U.S. economy will be more than $350 billion over the next five years,” the statement said.

Apple did not say it plans to invest $350 billion but rather described its “direct contribution to the U.S. economy.”

Charles Lee, accounting professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, told us the distinction is huge. Apple said its purchases from other companies will be large — about $55 billion in 2018. Lee said if that number didn’t grow, Apple would spend about $275 billion over five years. But that’s the cost of doing business and doesn’t represent new investment.

Lee said “My best estimate of the change in Apple’s U.S. investments attributable to the new laws is at most $37 billion.”

Our ruling

Trump got the new-hires figure right, but Apple’s own announcement doesn’t back him up on the investment dollars.

An accounting professor estimated the investment at no more than $37 billion. And based on Apple’s press release, it could be $34 billion.

That’s still a lot of money, but it’s less than 10 percent of what Trump said.

We rate this claim Half True.