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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Groundhog Friday

This week’s Groundhog Friday — a wrap-up of political claims we’ve debunked before — includes assertions about illegal immigration, tax returns, jobs, wages, the Iraq War and the trade deficit. Click on the links to our original stories for more information about each claim.

Groundhog2New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on illegal immigration and crimes, Sept. 4 interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation”: “Donald Trump is going to get rid of very early on the two to three million criminals that are here illegally in this country. That will be priority number one.”

Trump on illegal immigration and crimes, Sept. 5 interview with ABC News: “And at the time, because you’re talking about building a wall, securing our border, getting all of the criminals out — because we have perhaps millions of people who have records, criminals.”

Christie and Trump exaggerate the number of immigrants who are in the country illegally and have been convicted of other crimes.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “estimates that 1.9 million removable criminal aliens are in the United States today,” according to a Department of Homeland Security report for fiscal year 2013. But, as the Congressional Research Service explained in a 2012 report, those “criminal aliens” include immigrants in the U.S. legally and illegally who have been convicted of a crime.

While ICE did not say how many of the 1.9 million were living in the U.S. illegally, the Migration Policy Institute estimates in a July 2015 report that less than half of them — 820,000 — are here illegally.

“Trump Still Off on Immigration,” Sept. 1


Trump on Clinton’s plan on illegal immigration, Sept. 5 ABC News interview: “Basically her definition of illegal immigrant is: come on in, folks, welcome to the country. She doesn’t get who they are, where they come from, what their record is. If they’re killers, they’re killers. Doesn’t make any difference to her. It’s open borders, it’s take everybody’s jobs, and it’s a disaster.”

Trump has repeatedly twisted Clinton’s plan on illegal immigration to wrongly claim that she would welcome “killers” or other violent criminals and establish “open borders.” In fact, Clinton has said she would deport “violent criminals, terrorists, and anyone who threatens our safety,” and the plan on her website also says she would “focus resources on detaining and deporting those individuals who pose a violent threat to public safety.”

Instead of “open borders,” Clinton has supported border security measures. The 2013 Senate immigration bill she backed would have made large investments in border security, including additional border fencing.

“Twisting Clinton’s Immigration Plan,” Aug. 23

“Trump’s Attack on Clinton’s Character,” June 22



Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine on presidential candidates’ tax returns, Sept. 5 speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: “Donald Trump is now looking at us and saying … ‘I’m not going to give you my tax returns like everybody else has done.’ Even Richard Nixon produced his tax returns.”

Nixon never publicly released his tax returns as a presidential candidate. He didn’t release his tax returns from 1969 to 1972 until near the end of his presidency in 1973, amid speculation about tax improprieties. During the 1968 Republican presidential primary, Nixon would only allow a reporter for Look magazine to inspect photocopies of three years worth of his tax returns.

“Kaine Muffs Trump-Nixon Comparison,” Sept. 2



Trump on releasing his tax returns, Sept. 5 interview with ABC News: “You don’t learn much in a tax return.”

Every major party nominee since the late 1970s has released tax returns before Election Day. Trump hasn’t released his and says he won’t until a government audit is finished. In the meantime, he has claimed that “there’s nothing to learn” from his tax returns. But tax experts say there’s plenty to learn — including sources of income, effective tax rates, charitable giving habits, whether there are overseas investments or bank accounts, conflicts of interest, and how a candidate’s policy proposals square with his or her individual tax situation.

“Trump’s Tax Returns,” May 12



Kaine on Clinton’s and Trump’s economic proposals, Sept. 5 speech in Pittsburgh: “There was a study done of the Hillary Clinton plan … and the Donald Trump plan by a nonpartisan firm, Moody’s [Analytics], and here’s what they said. If the Hillary Clinton plan that I described goes into effect, at the end of four years, our economy will have grown by 10 and a half million jobs. And if the Donald Trump plan goes into effect, by the end of a first term, we will have lost three and a half million jobs. … The difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is 14 million jobs.”

Kaine correctly cites the Moody’s Analytics reports, but there are a few caveats. For one, Moody’s concluded that if Clinton were able to fully implement the plans she has outlined in her campaign, the economy would add 10.4 million jobs during her presidency — but that’s just 3.2 million more than what would be added under current law. However, Moody’s determined that Trump’s policies, implemented at face value, would result in 3.4 million job losses over the course of Trump’s presidency.

Also, Moody’s doesn’t expect that Clinton or Trump would likely be able to get all of their proposals through Congress. Under its “most-likely scenario,” a Clinton presidency would result in employment increasing by 1.5 million jobs over 10 years, beyond what is expected under current law. And the “most-likely scenario” under Trump would lead to an increase in jobs, not a loss, but not as much of an increase as would occur under current law.

“Clinton’s Economic Speech,” Sept. 1



Vice President Joe Biden on Trump and wages, Sept. 1 speech in Parma, Ohio: “[Trump] said the American worker is making too much money.”

Trump said that a $15 minimum wage would be “too high,” not that wages overall were too high, or that the “American worker is making too much money,” as Biden claims here. In fact, Trump has falsely claimed that wages haven’t gone up in 18 years — they have gone up, as we wrote in last week’s “Groundhog Friday.”

Democrats have been taking Trump’s words out of context. At a Nov. 10, 2015, GOP debate, Trump was asked about raising the federal minimum wage to $15, and he said he was opposed to that. “[T]axes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is,” he said. When he was asked about that “wages too high” comment two days later, he told Fox News, “And they said should we increase the minimum wage? And I’m saying that if we’re going to compete with other countries, we can’t do that because the wages would be too high. … The question was about the minimum wage. I’m not talking about wages being too high, I’m talking about minimum wage.”

For the record, in August, Trump supported raising the minimum wage to $10, but added that “states should really call the shots.”

“Democratic Convention Day 1,” July 26



Trump on the Iraq War, Sept. 8 speech in Cleveland: “I opposed going in – and I did oppose it – despite the media saying, ‘Oh, yes, no.’ I opposed going in. … But three months before the Iraq War started, I said in an interview with Neil Cavuto that, ‘Perhaps we shouldn’t be doing it yet.’ And that ‘the economy’ – these are quotes – that ‘the economy’ – this was on live television – ‘the economy is a much bigger problem as far as the president is concerned.'”

A day after the NBC “commander-in-chief” forum, Trump doubled down yet again on a talking point that has been repeatedly and thoroughly debunked by us and others. The fact is, there is no evidence that he opposed the Iraq War before it started, and the interview with Cavuto on Fox Business doesn’t offer any evidence.

On the day of President Bush’s State of the Union address on Jan. 28, 2003, Cavuto asked Trump how much of Bush’s speech should be devoted to the economy and how much to Iraq. Trump said the American public is “much more focused now on the economy,” and he criticized the Bush administration for dragging out the decision on whether to invade Iraq. “Either you attack or you don’t attack,” Trump said. He did not say that Bush should not attack.

The interview occurred a week before then Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the United Nations to make the Bush administration’s case for war. Cavuto asked if Trump was saying that Bush’s indecision “could ultimately hurt us,” and Trump gave the response that he now cites as evidence he was against the war.

“Well, he has either got to do something or not do something, perhaps, because perhaps [we] shouldn’t be doing it yet and perhaps we should be waiting for the United Nations, you know,” Trump responds. “He’s under a lot of pressure. He’s — I think he’s doing a very good job.” Trump was, in fact, defending the president’s decision to wait for the U.N.

“Donald Trump and the Iraq War,” Feb. 19

“Trump’s Terrorism Speech,” Aug. 15



Trump on the trade deficit, Sept. 8 speech in Cleveland: “We have a nearly $800 billion, think of that, $800 billion annual trade deficit with the world. … We have a trade deficit of $800 billion. Who’s negotiating these deals?”

The U.S. trade deficit was $531.5 billion in 2015. Trump’s “nearly $800 billion” number involves a generous rounding-up and pertains to the trade deficit for goods only, which was $758.9 billion in 2015. The U.S. exports a lot in services, so leaving that out doesn’t provide the whole story on the trade deficit, as we’ve written before.

In the past, Trump has specified that he was talking about the trade deficit for goods, but here he neglects to add that stipulation. That makes this claim false. The overall trade deficit peaked a decade ago in 2006, and last year’s figure was 34 percent lower.

FactChecking the 11th GOP Debate,” March 4