AP FACT CHECK: Trump off the mark on Puerto Rico hurricane

Published: Friday, October 06, 2017 @ 3:30 AM
Updated: Friday, October 06, 2017 @ 3:27 AM

President Donald Trump struck false notes in addressing Puerto Rico's crisis in recent days, exaggerating both the ferocity of a truly ferocious hurricane and the pace of recovery. He also seemed to raise false hope that the territory's staggering debt would go away.

A look at his remarks during and after his visit to the hurricane-ravaged island:

TRUMP: "This has been the toughest one. This has been a Category 5, which — few people have ever even heard of a Category 5 hitting land. But it hit land and, boy, did it hit land." — remarks Tuesday in Puerto Rico.

THE FACTS: As terrible as it was, Maria actually made landfall on Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane, not 5. Winds were at 155 mph (249 kph), not 157 (253), the minimum for Category 5. It's a distinction no doubt lost on Puerto Ricans — the storm was even stronger than Harvey and Irma upon landfall, said National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen. But, "operationally it was a Category 4 hurricane."

Trump has repeatedly misstated the record. A week earlier, he said: "It actually touched down as a Category 5. People have never seen anything like that, and it was dead center." And: "The second one hit Puerto Rico as a Category 5. I don't believe anybody's ever seen that happen before, hit land with that kind of velocity."

Trump also said at one point that Maria had winds of 200 mph (322 kph). No official reports put the winds that strong.

His supposition that no other hurricane has made landfall with such velocity is wrong, even when limiting the scope of the comparison to the United States. Maria's winds at landfall were exceeded by three Category 5 hurricanes that came ashore on the U.S. mainland: in the Florida Keys in 1935, Camille in 1969 and Andrew in 1992. And Maria wasn't the strongest recorded hurricane to hit Puerto Rico. Hurricane San Felipe was. It made landfall in 1928 as a Category 5.

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TRUMP on Puerto Rico's debt: "We're going to have to wipe that out. ... I don't know if it's Goldman Sachs, but whoever it is, you can wave goodbye to that." — to Fox News on Tuesday.

THE FACTS: Washington doesn't have the authority to force investors to take massive losses, if that's what he meant. And Trump's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said afterward: "We are not going to be offering a bailout for Puerto Rico or for its current bondholders."

Much of the $74 billion debt is tied up in court-supervised restructuring since Puerto Rico sought a form of bankruptcy protection last year. Brian Setser, a former Treasury official who worked on Puerto Rico's debt crisis, said the court process is likely to yield significant debt reduction, but "it is not something that the president can make happen."

Trump's remark contributed to a plunge in Puerto Rico's bond prices. Falling bond prices are a sign that investors may be less likely to be repaid — something that usually makes it more expensive for governments and companies to borrow.

Although the type of federal hurricane recovery aid that Puerto Rico receives could influence how debt repayment unfolds, that's not a bailout and creditors won't be paid anytime soon.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that Puerto Rico will "have to go through that process" set up during the Obama administration "to have a lasting recovery and growth." There was no hint in her comments that Trump plans an initiative to make the debt disappear.

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TRUMP: "Who needs a flashlight? ... Flashlights, you don't need 'em anymore. You don't need 'em anymore." — while handing out flashlights and tossing rolls of paper towels to a crowd in Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

THE FACTS: It's possible his particular audience did not need flashlights, but many Puerto Ricans do. He was visiting the upscale Guaynabo neighborhood, one of the fastest to recover. But more than 90 percent of the island's electricity customers remained without power at the time, nearly two weeks after the hurricane. And those who have it back are experiencing periodic blackouts.

Trump called the recovery "nothing short of a miracle." But the tour showed him a small slice of the island and exposed him to few critics of the relief effort. Visits to homes hammered by the storm were pre-arranged. Water shortages and despair continue in much of the island even as relief supplies have started to move faster and more gas stations start pumping again.

Even in the heart of San Juan, a few miles from Trump's path, people were hauling clothes fouled with sewage and wet mattresses out of homes still without electricity as he issued his upbeat report. They said no one has come to help them since the storm hit.

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Associated Press writers Danica Coto and Jill Colvin in San Juan, Alexandra Olson in New York and Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report.

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

Trump physical results: 6 things to know

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 5:16 PM

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16:  U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he stops by a Conversations with the Women of America panel at the South Court Auditorium of Eisenhower Executive Office Building January 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. The three-part panel features ÒAmerican women from various backgrounds and experiences who will speak with high-level women within the Trump Administration, about what has been accomplished to date to advance women at home, and in the workplace.Ó  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he stops by a Conversations with the Women of America panel at the South Court Auditorium of Eisenhower Executive Office Building January 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. The three-part panel features ÒAmerican women from various backgrounds and experiences who will speak with high-level women within the Trump Administration, about what has been accomplished to date to advance women at home, and in the workplace.Ó (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump is in excellent health and likely to finish his term in office without any medical issues, a presidential doctor said Tuesday at a news conference, four days after the president underwent a physical exam.

>> Read more trending news

“The president's overall health is excellent," White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson said Tuesday.

Here are six things to know about the results of the president’s physical:

Jackson: ‘He had great findings across the board’

Trump is in “very, very good health,” Jackson said Tuesday. 

“(I have) no concerns for his heart health,” the presidential physician said. “There are many good things that came from his exam, I think he had great findings across the board. “

>> White House physician releases official report

Jackson said Trump’s good health is likely to last through “the remainder of this tern, and even for the remainder of another term, if he’s elected.” He said he based his assessment on the president’s cardiac results.

“He falls into a category that portends years of event-free living,” Jackson said. “He has incredibly good genes, and that’s just the way God made him.”

Cognitive screening showed no issues

Jackson said he conducted a cognitive screening on Trump at the president’s request, although he felt the test was unnecessary.

“I’ve spent almost every day in the president’s presence,” said Jackson, whose office is near Trump’s. “I’ve got to know him pretty well and I had absolutely no concerns about his cognitive ability or neurological functions.”

He said that in all his conversations with Trump, the president has been “very articulate.”

“I’ve never known him to repeat himself around me,” Jackson said. “He says what he wants to say and speaks his mind.”

Infamous slurred speech incident might have been caused by medication

A December incident in which the president sounded as though he was slurring his speech while announcing a policy shift in Israel was probably due to a medication, Jackson said.

>> Related: Trump’s slurred speech: Is it loose-fitting dentures, dry mouth or something else?

“We evaluated him, we checked everything out and everything was normal,” Jackson said, adding that the incident was likely caused because the president needed water.

He said prior to the Dec. 7 incident, he gave Trump Sudafed, which might have “inadvertently dried up his secretions.”

Why Did President Trump Slur His Words in a Recent Speech?

Trump working to lose 10-15 pounds

At 6-foot-3 and 239 pounds, the president has a body mass index of 29.9, just under the number that would designate him as obese, according to information released Tuesday.

“The president, he and I talked and... I think a reasonable goal over the next year or so is (to lose) 10 or 15 pounds,” Jackson said, adding that a nutritionist would be meeting with White House chefs in the coming weeks and that Trump would be put on an exercise routine.

“He’s more enthusiastic about the diet,” Jackson said.

Jackson not concerned about Trump’s stress levels

Despite concerns from the public and reports that have painted a chaotic White House, Jackson said that he has no concerns about the president’s stress levels.

“I talk to him sometimes about stress just because I think it’s my job as his physician to bring it up on occasion,” he said. “I’ve never seen the president stressed out too much. ... He has a unique ability to push the reset button and he just gets up and he starts a new day. (I think it’s) made him healthier from a stress standpoint.”

Jackson did not test Trump’s hearing

Jackson said he didn’t have enough time to test Trump’s hearing, although he planned to conduct such a test in future physicals.

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Robert Mueller subpoenas Steve Bannon in Russia probe

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 11:57 AM

Who is Steven Bannon

Special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, to testify before a grand jury as part of the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to the Trump campaign, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

>> Read more trending news

>> Related: Steve Bannon to testify before House Intel Committee in Russia probe

Steve Bannon to testify before House Intel Committee in Russia probe

Published: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 11:19 AM

Who is Steven Bannon

Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, will testify before the House Intelligence Committee next week in its probe of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

An unidentified source told Reuters on Thursday that the interview will take place Tuesday behind closed doors. It will focus on Bannon’s time as Trump’s campaign chief and not on his time in the White House, according to Reuters.

In preparation for the interview, Bannon hired Washington attorney Bill Burck to represent him, NBC News reported Friday. Burck was previously hired to represent former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House counsel Donald McGhan in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and its possible ties to the Trump campaign, according to Law360.

Burck is representing Bannon only before the committee and not in Mueller’s probe, NBC News reported.

Trump named Bannon, the former chairman of the conservative news website Breitbart News, as his campaign chief in August 2016. After his inauguration, Trump appointed Bannon to fill the newly created position of White House chief strategist.

He left the Trump administration in August 2017, almost exactly one year after joining Trump’s presidential campaign.

>> Related: Steve Bannon out as White House strategist

Days before his exit, Bannon faced scrutiny for an interview he did with the liberal magazine The American Prospect, contradicting the president's warnings to North Korea of "fire and fury" in response to threats. Tension between the pair intensified last week after Bannon was quoted in journalist Michael Wolff’s controversial tell-all book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”

>> Related: 10 stunning claims about Trump White House from 'Fire and Fury'

Bannon told Wolff he thought a meeting set up by the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and others in June 2016 was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Trump slammed Bannon in a statement after the comments were made public, saying, “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

Bannon later apologized for the comments.

>> Related: Report: Bannon apologizes for comments about Trump family in new book

Bannon announced Tuesday that he would be leaving Breitbart News for the second time in two years.

>> Related: Report: Steve Bannon stepping down as executive chairman at Breitbart News

"You have not heard the last from me," he wrote in a Twitter post announcing his departure.

Federal judge temporarily blocks Trump administration's plan to end DACA

Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2018 @ 5:55 AM

Trump Denies Making Deal on DACA with Democrats

A federal judge in California dealt a blow to the Trump administration’s attempt to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – also known as DACA – on Tuesday by temporarily blocking their ability to do so.

In his ruling, Judge William Alsup said DACA must stay in place until litigation over the program is complete. He also said that the Department of Homeland Security’s “decision to rescind DACA was based on a flawed legal premise.”

The judge’s ruling will allow recipients who didn’t renew by last year’s deadline to submit renewal applications, but no new applications will be allowed to be submitted.

>> Read more trending news 

“Dreamers’ lives were thrown into chaos when the Trump administration tried to terminate the DACA program without obeying the law,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, according to The Hill. “Today’s ruling is a huge step in the right direction.”

“America is and has been home to Dreamers who courageously came forward, applied for DACA and did everything the federal government asked of them,” Becerra continued. “They followed DACA’s rules, they succeeded in school, at work and in business, and they have contributed in building a better America. We will fight at every turn for their rights and opportunities so they may continue to contribute to America.”

The Trump administration announced in September that it was ending the program; however, earlier on Tuesday, during a meeting with Republicans and Democrats to discuss immigration issues, Trump appeared willing to negotiate a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants – a move that stunned both Democrats and Republicans.

“My head is spinning with all the things that were said by the president and others in that room in the course of an hour and a half,” Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said, according to The New York Times.

During the meeting, Trump also appeared to support Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein’s call for a clean DACA bill, which would push off dealing with issues like border security until later.

In a tweet Tuesday evening, though, he did seem to harden his resolve on the border wall, saying that a southern border wall must be part of any “DACA approval.”