AP FACT CHECK: Trump botches murder rate

Published: Wednesday, February 08, 2017 @ 3:27 AM
Updated: Wednesday, February 08, 2017 @ 3:26 AM

            AP FACT CHECK: Trump botches murder rate

President Donald Trump's dark view of violent crime in America rests largely on a bogus claim: that the murder rate is higher than it's been in nearly half a century. Actually, the murder rate is down sharply in that time, despite a recent spike.

On Tuesday, he told a meeting of sheriffs: "The murder rate in our country is the highest it's been in 47 years, right? Did you know that? Forty-seven years. I used to use that — I'd say that in a speech and everybody was surprised because the press doesn't tell it like it is." He circled back to add: "The murder rate is the highest it's been in, I guess, from 45 to 47 years."

THE FACTS: The murder rate in 2015, the latest year for which figures are available, is actually among the lowest in half a century. It stood at 4.9 murders per 100,000 people, a far cry from the rates in the 1970s, 1980s and most of the 1990s, when they were typically over 6 per 100,000, peaking at over 10 in 1980.

It's true that 2015 saw one of the largest increases in decades, up 10 percent from 4.4 murders per 100,000 people in 2014, but even with that rise homicides are not on the order of what the country experienced in previous decades.

Trump has misrepresented crime statistics on several occasions. He stated last month that Philadelphia's murder rate has been "terribly increasing" even though it dropped slightly last year. The city's murder rate rose in the previous two years but remained substantially lower than in past decades.

He also incorrectly claimed that two people "were shot and killed" in Chicago during then-President Barack Obama's farewell speech on Jan. 10. Although Chicago has experienced a surge in murders compared with previous decades, no one was fatally shot in Chicago that day, police records show, much less during Obama's speech.

EDITOR'S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by public figures

How Trump's Twitter use could help bring down NC sex offender law

Published: Monday, February 27, 2017 @ 1:17 PM
Updated: Monday, February 27, 2017 @ 1:17 PM

            How Trump's Twitter use could help bring down NC sex offender law

A Supreme Court justice pointed to President Trump's use of Twitter during arguments in a challenge to a North Carolina law that forbids registered sex offenders from using social media.

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The law, Justice Elena Kagan said, makes it illegal for a group of people to communicate with the president using his favored form of communication

"This has become a crucially important channel of communication," Kagan said.

The justices heard oral arguments Monday in Packingham v. North Carolina.

Lester Packingham is a registered sex offender who posted a statement on Facebook celebrating the dismissal of a traffic ticket.

Police in Durham, N.C., indicted him for breaking the state's 2008 law that bans sex offenders from using social media that allows children to be members, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Packingham is challenging the law as too broad and a violation of his First Amendment rights.

Questions from Kagan and the three other liberal justices suggested they are concerned the law overly restricts free speech.

It "forecloses some of the most important channels of communication in our society," Justice Sonia Sotomayor said. 

Kagan said in addition to blocking a channel of communication with President Trump, the ban also restricts how sex offenders interact with lawmakers and with religious groups.

"These sites have become embedded in our culture as a way to exercise constitutional rights," Kagan said.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Robert Montgomery for North Carolina said sex offenders have alternative ways to express their first amendment rights.

The law, he said, is a protection for children against sex offenders who have a high rate of repeat offenses.

"Our goal is was to protect children from sex offenders and I think that's what I think we were working at doing today," Montgomery told reporters after the hearing.

Conservatives on the court asked few questions.

Chief Justice John Roberts noted the lack of precedent in a case dealing with social media.

Justice Samuel Alito said perhaps the law could be narrowed to impact fewer websites.


Supreme Court Feb 27, 2017 - 1:28 PM

'We all need answers' on Trump-Russia ties, George W. Bush says

Published: Monday, February 27, 2017 @ 11:16 AM
Updated: Monday, February 27, 2017 @ 11:16 AM

            'We all need answers' on Trump-Russia ties, George W. Bush says

Former President George W. Bush said on Monday that an investigation might be needed to parse the depth of ties between Russian government officials and President Donald Trump's team in the run-up to November's election.

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"I think we all need answers," Bush said on "The Today Show." "I'm not sure the right avenue to take. I am sure, though, that that question needs to be answered."

He emphasized that he has "never been a lawyer" and that the decision on whether the case called for the appointment of a special prosecutor would best be decided by Senate Intelligence panel Chairman Richard Burr.

>> Related: George W. Bush: Media 'indispensable to democracy'

Democrats have consistently called for an investigation into ties between Russia and Trump, citing the intelligence community's determination that the Russian government interfered in the U.S. elections in Trump's favor and calls that were made between Russian officials and Trump's team before he took office in January.

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, a prominent Republican who represents California's 49th Congressional District, said Friday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from the investigation. Instead, he said on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," a special prosecutor should appointed to examine the ties.

"We're going to have to do it," Issa said. "There may or may not be fault, but the American people ... are beginning to understand that Putin murders his enemies."

>> Related: Trump blasts media over reports of campaign contacts with Russia

Authorities have not found evidence to suggest that Trump or his team colluded with Russian officials.

George W. Bush: Media 'indispensable to democracy'

Published: Monday, February 27, 2017 @ 10:24 AM
Updated: Monday, February 27, 2017 @ 10:24 AM

            George W. Bush: Media 'indispensable to democracy'

Former President George W. Bush said Monday that an independent press is vital to a functioning democracy and crucial to holding those in power accountable for their actions.

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"I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy," the 43rd president said on "The Today Show." "Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it's important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power."

Bush's comments come amid high tension between President Donald Trump and the news media. The president has branded multiple outlets as "fake news" and enemies of the people.

"A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are," Trump said Friday, addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference. "They are the enemy of the people because they have no sources, they just make them up when there are none. … They're very dishonest people."

>> Related: Full Transcript: Read Donald Trump's remarks at CPAC

The White House on Friday barred several news outlets from attending a briefing with press secretary Sean Spicer. Among the banned outlets were CNN and The New York Times, two frequent targets of Trump's ire.

Bush said on Monday that he encouraged other world leaders, including Russian President Vladmir Putin, to support an independent press.

>> Related: CNN, New York Times barred from White House press briefing

"It's kind of hard to tell others to have an independent free press when we're not willing to have one ourselves," he said.


CNN, New York Times barred from White House press briefing

Published: Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 3:00 PM
Updated: Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 6:35 PM

            CNN, New York Times barred from White House press briefing

Several news organizations were barred Friday from attending a White House press briefing, including CNN, The New York Times, Politico and The Hill.

The Hill reported that the blocked organizations also included the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed News, the Daily Mail, BBC News and the New York Daily News.

>> Read more trending stories

White House press secretary Sean Spicer decided against holding a traditional press briefing on Friday afternoon in favor of a smaller question-and-answer session known as a "gaggle," according to The Hill.

Spicer allowed several conservative-leaning news outlets to attend the gaggle, along with the major television news networks. Among the groups granted entry to the question-and-answer session were Breitbart News, the One America News Network and the Washington Times, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Also included were reporters from major television networks, including ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, and national wire services like Reuters and Bloomberg, The Hill reported. The Associated Press and Time were allowed in but boycotted it "because of the way it was handled," BuzzFeed reported.

During a panel discussion last December, Spicer said that open access for the media is "what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship."

In a statement, White House Correspondents' Association president Jeff Mason condemned the decision to include some organizations while excluding others.

"The WHCA Board is protesting strongly against how today's gaggle is being handled by the White House," Mason said. "The board will be discussing this further with White House staff."

CNN called the decision "unacceptable" in a statement and blamed the administration's anger over recent news stories for the situation.

"Apparently, this is how they retaliate when you report facts they don't like," the statement said. "We'll keep reporting regardless."

News organizations were blocked from the gaggle just hours after President Donald Trump took to the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference and denounced what he deemed to be irresponsible news reporting.

>> Related: Full Transcript: Read Donald Trump's remarks at CPAC

"We are fighting the fake news. It's fake. Phony. Fake," he said. "A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are. They are the enemy of the people. … They make up sources. They're very dishonest people."

The Associated Press contributed to this report