President Donald Trump is giving himself too much credit for sending criminal foreigners out of the country and saving money on fighter planes. He’s getting too much credit from one of the few women with a top White House job for elevating women in the administration.
A look at some statements Thursday by Trump and presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway:
TRUMP: “We’re getting gang members out, we’re getting drug lords out, we’re getting really bad dudes out of this country, at a rate nobody has ever seen before. … It’s a military operation because what has been allowed to come into our country, when you see gang violence that you’ve read about like never before and all of the things, much of that is people who are here illegally. And they’re rough and they’re tough, but they’re not tough like our people. So we’re getting them out.”
THE FACTS: Trump is broadly embellishing his brief track record on immigration and wrongly branding the deportation effort a military operation.
The number of people expelled from the country since Trump took office Jan. 20 has not been released. No available data supports his claim that immigrants in the country illegally are being expelled at a rate “nobody has ever seen before.” Deportations were brisk when Barack Obama was president.
Altogether in January, 16,643 people were deported, a drop from December (20,395) but a number that is similar to monthly deportations in early 2015 and 2016.
This month, Homeland Security officials have said 680 people were arrested in a weeklong effort to find and arrest criminal immigrants living in the United States illegally. Three-quarters of those people had been convicted of crimes, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said. The remaining 25 percent were not. The government has not provided information about who was arrested in that roundup, so it’s impossible to determine how many gang members or drug lords were in that group.
That effort was largely planned before Trump took office and was alternately described by the administration as a routine enforcement effort and a signal of Trump’s pledge to take a harder line on illegal immigration. During the Obama administration, similar operations were carried out that yielded thousands of arrests.
The 680 arrests were not carried out in a military operation. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, responsible for finding and deporting immigrants in the country illegally, is a civilian law enforcement agency.
Trump plans to increase enforcement, but Kelly contradicted him Thursday over the nature of that initiative:
“There will be no use of military forces in immigration,” Kelly said while visiting Mexico. “There will be no — repeat, no — mass deportations.”
TRUMP, at a White House meeting with manufacturers, again claimed credit for a $700 million savings in the military’s contract with Lockheed for the F-35 fighter jet. Speaking to the defense contractor’s CEO Marillyn Hewson, he said: “Over $700 million. Do you think Hillary would have cost you $700 million? I assume you wanted her to win.”
THE FACTS: Cost savings for the F-35 began before Trump’s inauguration and predate his complaints about the price tag.
The head of the Air Force program announced significant price reductions Dec. 19 — after Trump had tweeted about the cost but weeks before Trump met about the issue on Jan. 13 with Hewson.
“There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of additional F-35 cost savings as a result of President Trump’s intervention,” said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the aerospace consulting firm Teal Group. He said Trump appears to be taking credit for prior-year budget decisions and for work already done by managers at the Pentagon who took action before the presidential election to reduce costs.
CONWAY, at a conference of the Conservative Political Action Committee: “He has been promoting and elevating women in the Trump Corporation — in the Trump campaign, in the Trump Cabinet, certainly in the Trump White House. It’s just a very natural affinity for him.”
THE FACTS: No such elevation of women has taken place, when Trump’s choices for the Cabinet and top White House aides are compared with those of other presidents in recent decades. Indeed, there’s been backsliding.
Cabinet: Trump has nominated four women for Cabinet or Cabinet-level jobs. That’s fewer than Democrats Barack Obama (seven) and Bill Clinton (six) had for their first Cabinets, and the same number as Republican George W. Bush chose out of the gate.
As well, women chosen by Trump are in less senior positions — both in prominence and in the line of succession to the presidency — than some of the women nominated by his predecessors. For example, Obama’s first secretary of state, a top-tier post, was Hillary Clinton. Bush made Condoleezza Rice his secretary of state in his second term. Clinton’s first Cabinet had a woman as attorney general. Trump’s top four Cabinet positions — secretary of state, attorney general, treasury secretary and defense secretary — are all filled by men.
Looking more broadly, women occupied as much as 35 percent of Obama’s Cabinet at their maximum numbers, compared with the historic high of 41 percent during Clinton’s second term, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. Women make up 17 percent of Trump’s Cabinet choices, the center found. At their height, women comprised 18 percent of Ronald Reagan’s Cabinet, the same percentage under George H.W. Bush and 30 percent under George W. Bush, the center found.
Trump chose Elaine Chao for Labor, Betsy DeVos for Education and Linda McMahon for the Small Business Administration. As for jobs that are not traditionally part of the Cabinet but considered Cabinet-level, Nikki Haley is ambassador to the United Nations and Trump has not named someone to lead the Council of Economic Advisers.
White House: The percentage of women in top White House jobs is shaping up to be lower than during at least five of the last six presidential terms, according to an analysis Monday by USA Today.
The high for women in senior West Wing jobs was 52 percent under Clinton in 2000, the analysis found, while the percentage dipped to 28 percent in 2008, under George W. Bush. For Trump, it’s 23 percent of known staff.
The White House quarreled with USA Today’s findings, saying the percentage is actually 31 percent, but refused to back up its figure by giving names or titles for those it considers senior.
As for White House staff overall, the percentage is “nearly the same” as for past administrations, the White House told the paper.