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Category Archives: politricks


It seems that politics is about owing and paying debts. Who do we the voters owe? Voters are assailed daily by political fights about issues that are fabricated and true. The truth is always readily available but the fabrications more often than not take center stage. The possible reason for this upside-downness is our aversion to pursuing the truth when we hear something that sounds wrong or perhaps the laziness caused by the entertainment value of ridicule. We are in the grip of a political clique that has violated their own oath of office which demands allegiance to the United States ergo the voters. This clique has defiled the offices they hold to the extent that a “Samson” like effort will be required to make it clean. Our Senate is decidedly one-sided and pursuing the agenda of their own and the right-leaning conservatives who under the guise of  “American Values” has installed extreme and sometimes unqualified judges in the lower courts who will certainly shift our democracy away from any sort of  fair hearings on many issues that will affect us for years to come. Some issues that will surely come about: Abortion rights, right to work and Firearm laws. It is legal to bring these issues to these courts as necessary but the Judges in place can surely slant the outcomes. We (voters) need to be aware of the harm already done by our Congress particularly by the Senate lead by Botch McConnell. Mr. McConnell has quietly installed these judges while not bringing attention to his actions. His own home constituents are recipients of his poor legislation and it apparently does not matter to him. It is our duty (voters) to have proper representation and the way we get it is to vote and know who we are voting for, so far our Congress,( in general) has failed to give us what we deserve. Who do we owe? We owe ourselves the best possible representation and the way to get it is to educate ourselves on currently serving representatives and aspiring candidates, then vote on facts, not rhetoric.

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Illinois Has Had:

3 Presidents who were honest

several Governors who went to jail

1 city with a high crime rate (above the National average or near it)

1 city that is literally underwater

Huge pension problems due to poor management and deals with and by the legislators.

 

Now we have Congressman Rodney Davis: Apparently, Congressman Davis works for the President and the party, not the people in Illinois who elected him. I have always thought or hoped that the people elected by the people actually work for the people. Mr. Davis as he has done all along takes the side of the party and the White House resident. This recent statement regarding the impeachment hearings points out the reluctance of the elected officials to just do their jobs regardless of party. This issue is too important for politics and we ( the voters) need to hold all of them no matter the party to a higher standard of responsibility. We as a country are in the grip of an unqualified leader seeking only to raise his personage above the country. This all will be born out in these hearings. The sheer amount of resistance to Congressional subpoenas speaks volumes. If there was no wrongdoing then appearing before a panel, to tell the Truth, should not be a problem. I hope Mr. Davis (the peoples representative) will opt for the good of the people, not the party.

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Thanks to the GOP spending money and capital on repealing and picking the ACA apart, we have citizens in some states with minimal to no healthcare coverage, their go-to care is emergency rooms where they HAVE to be treated regardless of their ability to pay. This creates a financial burden on all of us in higher costs and sometimes lower quality of care. Unfortunately, many Americans never understood the ACA since it was labeled “Obamacare” and the GOP’s followers never bought into it. A political mistake that will haunt us all until someone with half a brain decides to really look into how “so-called free health care works- It is not free- (this just a snapshot) how it works is the residents of the country pay in their national tax the cost of healthcare, schooling and other public needs without any additional taxes. It must be noted that everyone in those countries, including politicians, pay the same money in their taxes and receive the same general healthcare.  I am not sure if there is a sliding scale of what people pay but that may be part of it.MA

Phil McCausland 2 hrs ago NBC news
HOLLY SPRINGS, Miss. — Darlene Velasco can’t afford to treat her Type 2 diabetes. She doesn’t make enough money at her job selling college sports memorabilia to pay for medication or private health insurance and, at $13.50 an hour, earns too much to qualify for Medicaid.

That’s been the case for years and without treatment, Velasco, 45, was declared legally blind in May. The disease built up cataracts in her eyes and when her vision began to blur and disappear, she found herself driving to her job that carries no health benefits steered only by the memory of the backcountry roads that surround her home.
“I reached out to everybody I could, asking about programs for people who can’t afford medical insurance — hardworking people,” she said late one October night, deep in this Mississippi hill country. “Not everyone has that financial stability with benefits. Some of us get our paycheck biweekly, struggle to make ends meet, pay rent and raise kids. It’s not easy.”

Mississippi is one of 14 states that chose not to expand Medicaid, forgoing about $1 billion from the federal government each year since 2012 when the Affordable Care Act offered states the opportunity to expand care.
The states that choose to go along with the program, first rolled out under the ACA, will eventually have to provide a 10 percent match of the funds by 2020. That would cost Mississippi about $100 million a year, and Republican lawmakers insisted it would be detrimental to the state economy.
In Mississippi, a state that has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country — currently ranked at 45 out of 50 — about 100,000 people fall in the same coverage gap as Velasco, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In total, 2.5 million poor adults fall into that same gap in the 14 states that did not expand Medicaid.
Meanwhile, health care costs continue to grow, creating a core campaign issue in Mississippi’s contentious gubernatorial election that will be decided Tuesday. State Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, supports expansion to address costs, while Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves opposes it.
A review by NBC News of the Medicaid budgets for all 14 states that refused expansion showed their expenses increased dramatically after 2012 — despite state lawmakers’ objections that accepting expansion would cost too much. Mississippi’s budget grew by about $173 million — a 20 percent increase — since 2012, while enrollment only grew by 10,000 over the same period.
Jesse Cross-Call, a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, studied Medicaid expansion and state budgets and testified before the Mississippi Legislature near the end of October on the topic.
He said there was a growth in Medicaid spending in nonexpansion states initially because enrollment briefly grew after the passage of the ACA, but Mississippi and the other states’ budgets remain inflated because of rising health care costs.
“State Medicaid spending is increasing and the primary driver is prescription drugs, an aging population, disabilities and other health care costs, but it’s not Medicaid expansion,” Cross-Call said. “There are greater health care forces acting on states right now, but many states have made it so Medicaid expansion has been a net saver.”
Louisiana, which passed expansion in 2016, reported savings of $199 million in 2017 and $350 million in 2018. Virginia, where expansion went into effect in January, predicted $152 million in savings in 2019 and $270 million in 2020. Numerous other states have also experienced savings through the program, as well.
A 2017 Health Affairs study found “expansion states did not experience any significant increase in state-funded expenditures, and there is no evidence that expansion crowded out funding for other state priorities.”
Mississippi has yet to see any savings, and though Velasco didn’t get health insurance through the state to treat her diabetes and avoid becoming legally blind, Mississippi taxpayers still paid through the state’s department of rehabilitation services to treat her vision at a cost of more than $20,000.
It also meant Velasco had to undergo cataract surgery in October, a procedure that terrified her and could have been prevented if she had been able receive coverage through Medicaid or somehow pay about $500 a month for her medication or the several hundred dollars needed monthly to afford private insurance.
“They knocked me out because I was that scared,” she said. “I had tears coming out of my eyes. I was crying.”
‘I can’t just go to the doctor’
The lack of health insurance has left millions of Americans in those states that chose to go without Medicaid expansion to carry the burden of medical debt when they need to receive health care.
Velasco said she socks away a few dollars out of each biweekly paycheck to save up to go to the doctor. She’s losing hearing in one ear and doctors told her she had a cyst on an ovary when she visited the emergency room for stomach pain two years ago.
Eventually, Velasco hopes to be able to afford to have them examine it.
“It hasn’t caused cramps or anything. I’m hoping it melted away,” she said. “But I can’t just go to the doctor. I have to pay out of pocket. Every time I go when I’m sick, I have to pay $160 when I get seen.”
In the state that has the highest percentage of its residents with past-due medical debt in the country, it appears that many people choose to go without, according to a study done by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Investor Education Foundation.
More than half in Mississippi said the cost of health care led them to not fill a prescription, avoid the doctor or skip a medical test, according to the study.
“In a sense, the people of Mississippi are saying the cost of health care is driving them away from medical services, and we see that nationally in the data as well,” Gary Mottola, the research director for the FINRA Foundation, said.
When the foundation began the study in 2012, 41 percent of Mississippians said they held past-due medical debt. That number dipped to 31 percent in 2015 with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, but has since grown again to lead the nation at 41 percent in 2018 after funding and advertising for the ACA was cut.
For many, the dollar numbers attached to accidents or unexpected illnesses are so large that they become abstract and unapproachable.
Samantha Mechell, 59, broke her hip three months ago when she tripped over her cat. A visit to the hospital and the ensuing surgery needed so that the longtime waitress could walk again cost her $140,000. Without insurance, she said her bill was sent to collections before she completed physical therapy.
“I wanted to go back to work early but my doctor said I couldn’t without my walker,” she said, still limping heavily minutes after her midweek lunch shift ended. “I have bills. Nobody pays those but me. There’s only me.”
She earns $900 monthly, which goes to rent and utilities, while the $20 or $30 she makes in tips each day help pay for food and gas.
When she couldn’t work, she said she used loose change she collected and some of the tax returns that she saved for a rainy day to pay for meals of ramen noodles or hot dogs.
“They want all this money, but I don’t have much,” she said. “It’s just rough. I know there’s a lot of people out there like me.”
Are lives at risk?
Advocates for expansion and health care experts argue that the lack of access to health insurance coverage could be putting people’s lives at risk, especially in rural areas, in part because hospitals are having to provide uncompensated care that is endangering their economic viability and causing some to close their doors.
That’s a problem in Mississippi, where almost half of the state’s rural hospitals are at “high financial risk,” according to the independent consulting firm Navigant.
A 2018 study from the University of Colorado found these issues are exacerbated in the 14 states that refused Medicaid expansion, finding that states that did not expand Medicaid saw a sharp increase of hospital closings, while states that expanded Medicaid saw closure rates decrease.
There is now a clear number tied to those life and death stakes, according to a report published this year by the National Bureau of Economic Research. It found the states’ decision over Medicaid expansion has had a cumulative impact on mortality among older adults, leading to 19,200 fewer deaths in Medicaid expansion states between 2014 and 2017, while states that decided against expansion “likely resulted in 15,600 additional deaths” that could have been avoided.
“It’s one thing not to have health insurance, but not to have access to any health care is a whole different thing and that’s where we are,” said State Rep. Robert Johnson, a Democrat who represents the impoverished Mississippi Delta town of Natchez. The hospital in that town is at risk of closing and considered “critically essential” to the community by Navigant.
“What do we do if the emergency room isn’t there anymore?” he added.
Roy Mitchell, the executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, and his organization work to help families obtain and maintain health care coverage in the state. He said that the push to expand Medicaid consistently hits roadblocks because of the political perception that it would be too expensive for the state.
“I’ve been working in public health advocacy in Mississippi for 25 years. The equity arguments in Mississippi fall on deaf ears,” Mitchell said. “Unfortunately, we always look at the financial side here. I’m surprised there hasn’t been a greater reaction by the faith-based community because the equity arguments for Medicaid expansion are so overwhelming — and it saves lives.”
The politics of expansion
Drawn by potential savings and the benefits of health care coverage, voters in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah — typically conservative states — supported the expansion of Medicaid at the ballot box during the 2018 election. Similar battles are occurring in North Carolina and Georgia.
Now, even Republicans in deeply red Mississippi are beginning to find expansion attractive.
Bill Waller, Jr., the former chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court who ran against Reeves in the Republican primary for governor, advocated for a form of expansion similar to a plan supported by the Mississippi Hospital Association, which would have beneficiaries pay a $20 monthly fee and a $100 copay for hospital visits.
Waller lost to Reeves by 8 points after the lieutenant governor cast him as sympathetic to national liberals and compared him to Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Months after the brutal primary, Waller still called the expansion issue existential for the state and pointed to the success seen in Arkansas, which expanded Medicaid in 2013 and provided coverage to about 250,000 people.
“It’s critical for the advancement of the state, both economically and socially,” Waller said, sitting in his wood-paneled office in downtown Jackson, just a few blocks from the governor’s mansion.
Waller declined to endorse Reeves and would not say if he is voting Tuesday for the Republican nominee or Jim Hood, Mississippi’s attorney general and the lone Democrat to hold statewide office, whom he called a “credible political figure” who could push through expansion.
Reeves, meanwhile, maintains opposition to the expansion, though he has provided few policy solutions to address the state’s growing health insurance crisis.
Reeves’ campaign did not respond to multiple interview requests made by NBC News. Campaign spokesman Parker Briden also declined to provide NBC News an interview with Reeves after the lieutenant governor briefly spoke at a press event in Jackson, Mississippi, where he discussed his opposition to Medicaid expansion in late October.
He mainly insisted at the event that his opponent would raise taxes, which Hood denies, but still did not provide an alternative.
“We believe you know how to spend your money better than any government entity ever will,” Reeves said at the time.
Cost is always an issue in Mississippi and it was exacerbated when Reeves and the state Legislature passed the largest tax cut in Mississippi history in July 2017. Now, a state with already low revenue is seeing its assets shrink even further.
The state is projected to lose $46.5 million this year and $415 million per year once the tax cut hits its full level in 2028, according to Mississippi’s Department of Revenue and Legislative Budget Office.
In an interview, Hood lamented that Reeves and state Republicans passed the tax cut, calling it “a corporate tax give away.” He pointed to that as a reason Mississippi is struggling to pay for Medicaid, as well as fund increases to a beleaguered education system and much-needed fixes to thousands of damaged roads and bridges.
Hood said that makes it more difficult to ignore that the state’s proposed general fund budget for financial year 2019 was $5.6 billion — less than the $6 billion the state would have already banked from the federal government had it chosen to pursue expansion in 2012.
But when asked how he planned to pay for his policy proposals considering that tax cut was still in place and he would likely work with the same Republican Legislature that passed the cut, Hood did not have a clear answer and said he would likely renegotiate private government contracts.
As for Medicaid expansion, Hood said he felt confident he could get it passed if he followed the same route advocated by the Mississippi Hospital Association and Waller, though he noted he wasn’t “sure of every detail” and didn’t “know the answer to how exactly that happens.”
But he insisted that Mississippi taxpayers wouldn’t foot the bill.
“That one doesn’t cost anything,” he said. “It generates $100 million a year, creates 10,000 jobs. It’s an economic driver.”
In the meantime, however, people like Velasco continue to hope that the politicians arguing almost 200 miles south of her home will find some solution.
For her, time is of the essence.
“I’ve gone years without medication, and it’s gotten to a point where you hit rock bottom,” Velasco said, folding her hands in her lap. “And it’s just like, ‘Okay, if I go, I go.’ That’s just how I have to see it.”

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Non Sequitur Comic Strip for November 03, 2019

 

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“There is not much progress being made in Washington these days and contrary to what my Republican colleagues might tell you, it’s not impeachment and it’s not House Democrats who are holding things up.”

It’s Senator Mitch McConnell.

During the 116th Congress, the House of Representatives has passed more than 150 pieces of legislation under the steady leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Legislation to lower prescription drug prices, expand gun background checks, and fight climate change.
On February 27, the House passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act. As of today, eight months and many mass shootings later, Senator McConnell has still not brought it up for a vote in the Senate.

On April 4, the House passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. As we wait to vote on this bill in the Senate, survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence wait for critical updates to this landmark law.

On May 2, the House passed the Climate Action Now Act to recommit the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement. The clock is ticking on saving our planet, but the Senate Majority Leader won’t bring this bill to the floor for a vote.

On June 4, the House passed the American Dream and Promise Act to protect the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers living in the U.S. and provide them with a path to citizenship. We still have not voted on this bill in the Senate.

On July 27, the House passed the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act, or SAFE Act, to push back against foreign interference in our elections and protect our democracy. This bill, like so many others, has not been brought up for a vote by Senator McConnell.
Unfortunately, so many important bills have languished on the desk of Senator McConnell, buried in his legislative graveyard.

Regardless, Democrats will continue working for the American people. We will keep pushing Senator McConnell to do his job, end the legislative graveyard, and at the very least, take up votes on bills that have passed the House.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)

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The GOP apparently has been conned and is willing to still drink the “kool aid” that TOTUS is providing or is the party using TOTUS as a “hat” to cover their own misdeeds? MA.

By Caroline Kelly, CNN 7 hrs ago

All three Republican primary challengers lambasted state GOP leaders — and President Donald Trump — for opting to cancel their 2020 presidential primary elections in a show of support for the President.

“In the United States, citizens choose their leaders,” former Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, former Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld said in a Washington Post op-ed on Friday.
“The primary nomination process is the only opportunity for Republicans to have a voice in deciding who will represent our party,” they added. “Let those voices be heard.”

Their pushback comes after party leaders in Kansas, South Carolina and Nevada canceled their Republican primaries, with Arizona expected to make it official over the weekend. The scrapped primaries pose a further obstacle for the long-shot challengers, already fighting the incumbent President, who, according to a CNN/SSRS Poll, has an 88% approval rating among Republicans.
It is not unprecedented for state Republicans or Democrats to decide not to hold a presidential primary when an incumbent is running essentially uncontested. In South Carolina, a key early primary state, Republicans decided to nix their presidential primaries in 1984 and 2004, when Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were up for their second terms, while state Democrats skipped their contests in 1996 and 2012, with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama running for reelection.
“Each of us believes we can best lead the party. So does the incumbent. Let us each take our case to the public,” the three GOP candidates wrote on Friday. “The saying ‘may the best man win’ is a quintessential value that the Republican Party must honor if we are to command the respect of the American people.”
“Cowards run from fights,” they added, in a thinly veiled jab at Trump. “Warriors stand and fight for what they believe. The United States respects warriors. Only the weak fear competition.”
The trio pointed to the roiling Democratic primary underway in arguing that ideological challenges are a focal point of not only American government, but also the Republican Party.
“Do Republicans really want to be the party with a nominating process that more resembles Russia or China than our American tradition?” the group writes. “Under this President, the meaning of truth has been challenged as never before. … Do we as Republicans accept all this as inevitable? Are we to leave it to the Democrats to make the case for principles and values that, a few years ago, every Republican would have agreed formed the foundations of our party?”
The three candidates also cited the risk of costly legal challenges to the states, predicting that they would likely exceed the costs of hosting the primaries. Walsh told CNN after South Carolina’s decision on Saturday that he would “fight legally and all other options” to challenge the states.
“Let us spend the next six months attempting to draw new voters to our party instead of demanding fealty to a preordained choice,” the three wrote. “If we believe our party represents the best hope for the United States’ future, let us take our message to the public and prove we are right.”

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After having a conversation with an acquaintance this morning, I am claiming a minor political victory. The conversation was with an avid Trumper and dyed in the wool GOP (Dupublicans) member. The conversation began with the statement that “Scamocrats” ( Democrats) were going to jail based on ludicrous information derived from the Mueller report (odd connection). I then explained that for the past 25 to 30 years our politics have been fraught with poor representation from both major parties and we all should abandon party line politics. The exceptions on both sides have been few but effective in several cases. I stated that TOTUS’s election served to lay bare the poor Congressional representation we currently have and have had.  This conversation has reinforced my thinking that we are being entertained into poor voting choices. Mass media has given us many ways to get information and misinformation. Unfortunately, in entertainment, the truth is rarely found as it is an art form and not required to be entirely truthful. Our politics have become art in its lowest form while entertaining to some inspires no honest thought provocation on behalf of the recipient. Remember that “Botch” McConnell is turtle slow walking all legislation that he doesn’t halt altogether. It is evident to anyone of reasonable intelligence that our Congress is brought to its knees by the leaders who we apparently side with through our silence and ignorance.

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Continuing drama from our “Government” is more “entertainment” than substance. The current 1600 resident is so far out of his depth that a stepladder is required to keep the nose above water. The reason TOTUS is in place is lack of voters will to exercise their privilege of voting. Low voter turnout is the primary reason for this Presidency and its subsequent poor decisions. The stable genius has brought the wrong people into a respected office to do his bidding which is informed by misinformation and prejudice. This perfect storm of intolerance and mismanagement is aided by a neer do well congress who are looking out for themselves, not the voters who put them in office. What DJT has shown us (if you are paying attention) is that our long-serving Congress is essentially as prolific in misinformation and misrepresentation as our 1600 Pennsylvania resident. Staring with the first election cycle voters need to start replacing the longtime seat fillers with new people and be willing to replace them when needed. WE will never achieve better government until we vote for people who will do the work. We need to keep an eye on the lies and know the difference between them and the truth.

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Tim Eagan Comic Strip for May 30, 2019 Stuart Carlson Comic Strip for May 29, 2019 Mike Luckovich Comic Strip for May 30, 2019 Tom Toles Comic Strip for May 30, 2019 Phil Hands Comic Strip for May 30, 2019


FactChecking Trump’s Fox News Interview
By Eugene Kiely
Posted on May 22, 2019

President Donald Trump, in a lengthy interview on Fox News, made several statements that were false, misleading or not supported by the evidence:
Trump claimed Joe Biden, as vice president, pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who “was after his son,” Hunter Biden. There’s no evidence that Biden was under investigation, although he was a board member for a company whose owner was under investigation.
Trump said of North Korea: “They haven’t had any tests over the last two years — zero.” It’s true that they haven’t had any nuclear tests or long-range missile tests, but North Korea has tested short-range missiles twice this month.
The president said he will provide $15 billion in assistance to U.S. farmers hurt by the trade war, because that’s “the most money that China has ever paid” for U.S. agricultural goods. But federal data show that China purchased nearly $27.2 billion in U.S. agricultural goods in 2012.
Trump boasted that Honda is “coming in [to the U.S.] with $14.5 billion” in investments. A Michigan-based automotive research group says that Honda has announced $1.7 billion in U.S. vehicle manufacturing investments over the last five years.
The president said he has “tremendous poll numbers now.” Trump’s average approval rating is currently below 43 percent.
In a wide-ranging interview that aired May 19 on “The Next Revolution,” Trump and the show’s host, Steve Hilton, discussed foreign policy, international trade, the economy, politics and more.
Hunter Biden and Ukraine
At one point, Hilton raised Trump’s campaign promise to “drain the swamp,” asking the president whether former White House aides should be allowed to lobby for foreign companies. The president pivoted to 2020 — implying that a potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden, intervened while he was vice president to halt an investigation in Ukraine of his son, Hunter.
Trump twisted the facts when he said that the then-vice president threatened to withhold $2 billion in U.S. loan guarantees unless Ukraine dropped its investigation into Hunter and fired the prosecutor. There’s no evidence that Hunter was under investigation.
Trump: Biden, he calls them and says, “Don’t you dare prosecute, if you don’t fire this prosecutor” — the prosecutor was after his son. Then he said, “If you fire the prosecutor, you’ll be OK. And if you don’t fire the prosecutor, we’re not giving you $2 billion in loan guarantees,” or whatever he was supposed to give. Can you imagine if I did that?
Let’s review what we know — and don’t know — about the Bidens and Ukraine.
In March 2016, Biden went to Ukraine and told the government that the U.S. would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees if Ukraine failed to address corruption and remove its prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin. We know this because Biden boasted about it last year during an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations.
The former vice president, who is now running for president, said the incident occurred during a visit to Kiev.
Biden, Jan. 23, 2018: I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from [then-Ukraine President Petro] Poroshenko and from [then-Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy] Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. And they didn’t.
So they said they had — they were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, I’m not going to — or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said — I said, call him. I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. He got fired.
The U.S. wasn’t the only one critical of Ukraine’s anti-corruption efforts. A month earlier, the International Monetary Fund threatened to withhold $40 billion unless Ukraine undertook “a substantial new effort” to fight corruption.
At the time, Hunter Biden was a board member for the Burisma Group, one of the biggest private gas companies in Ukraine. He joined the board in May 2014, instantly raising concerns about a potential conflict of interest. An Associated Press article called Biden’s hiring “politically awkward.”
“Hunter Biden’s employment means he will be working as a director and top lawyer for a Ukrainian energy company during the period when his father and others in the Obama administration attempt to influence the policies of Ukraine’s new government, especially on energy issues,” the AP wrote.
However, there is no evidence that Hunter Biden was under investigation or that his father pressured Ukraine on his behalf.
A few days before Fox News aired the Trump interview, Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s current prosecutor general, gave his own interview to Bloomberg News and said: “Hunter Biden did not violate any Ukrainian laws at least as of now, we do not see any wrongdoing.”
Lutsenko told Bloomberg that the prosecutor general’s office in 2014 — before Shokin took office — opened a corruption investigation against Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma, and numerous others. He said the probe’s focus was Serghi Kurchenko, who owned a number of gas companies, and a transaction that occurred in November 2013, months before Biden joined Burisma.
Bloomberg News, May 16: As part of the 5-year-old inquiry, the prosecutor general’s office has been looking at whether Kurchenko’s purchase of an oil storage terminal in southern Ukraine from Zlochevksy in November 2013 helped Kurchenko launder money. Lutsenko said the transaction under scrutiny came months before Hunter Biden joined the Burisma board.
“Biden was definitely not involved,” Lutsenko said. “We do not have any grounds to think that there was any wrongdoing starting from 2014.”
The investigation is still active, he said.
North Korea and Nuclear Tests
The president also spoke about North Korea and its nuclear weapons program. Trump met with North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un in June of last year, and the two leaders agreed to “promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
During Kim’s reign, North Korea has conducted numerous nuclear tests and missile launches — including four nuclear weapons tests and three test launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs.
Trump: But, they haven’t had any tests over the last two years — zero. There’s a chart and it shows 24 tests, 22 tests, 18 tests. Then I come, and once I’m there for a little while you know, we went through a pretty rough rhetorical period. Once I’m there for a little while, no tests, no tests, no tests.
It’s true that North Korea has not conducted a nuclear test since Sept. 3, 2017, and it hasn’t launched an ICBM since Nov. 29, 2017. (See details in the Arms Control Association timeline.) But North Korea has conducted short-range missile tests twice this month, and it continues to actively pursue a nuclear weapons program.
The U.S. intelligence community released a threat assessment report in January that said, “We continue to observe activity inconsistent with full denuclearization.”
The report didn’t detail what kind of activity. But a week earlier, the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington issued a report that said it found “approximately 20 undeclared missile operating bases,” including one that serves as a missile headquarters.
A month later, three Stanford University researchers issued a report that said North Korea “continued to operate and, in some cases, expand the nuclear weapons complex infrastructure. It continued to operate its nuclear facilities to produce plutonium and highly enriched uranium that may allow it to increase the number of nuclear weapons in its arsenal from roughly 30 in 2017 to 35-37.”
China and Trade
Another subject that the president addressed was the ongoing trade war with China.
The Trump administration last year imposed tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods, and China responded with tariffs on $110 billion of U.S. goods. The trade dispute escalated this month. First, the Trump administration on May 10 raised tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on about $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. China responded three days later when it announced that it would increase tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on roughly $60 billion worth of U.S. goods, beginning June 1.
The dispute has hurt U.S. agricultural exports in particular, and the administration responded by authorizing up to $12 billion in aid to U.S. farmers. Trump said he would increase financial assistance to $15 billion and explained how he arrived at that number.
Trump: I said to Sonny Perdue, Department of Agriculture — secretary of Agriculture – “Sonny, what’s the most money that China has ever paid toward agriculture, toward buying food product?” He said $15 billion a number of years ago. I said “Is that the most?” He said “Yes.” Some people will say close to (inaudible) but $15 billion was about the most. I said “Good. I’m going to take $15 billion out of the $100 billion, and I’m going to give that to our farmers.”
Trump told a similar story in a recent speech to the National Association of Realtors.
Trump, May 17: So I called Sonny Perdue, our great Secretary of Agriculture, and I said, “Sonny…” — (applause) — I said, “Sonny, what’s the biggest amount they’ve ever spent in this country?” He said, “About $15 billion. People could say 18, 19. But basically $15 billion.” And I said, “So let’s take $15 billion, set it aside out of the 100 or 125 billion [in annual tariffs imposed on all imports].”
We asked the White House and the Department of Agriculture about this conversation. Neither responded. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative referred us to the White House.
But this much we know based on available data and emails from two federal agencies: $15 billion isn’t “the biggest amount” that China has spent on U.S. agricultural exports.
In its annual reports on shifts in U.S. merchandise trade, the United States International Trade Commission reported that China purchased $27.2 billion in U.S. agricultural products in 2012 – the most in one year from 2010 to 2017.
The most recent USITC report covers 2013 to 2017, and a commission spokeswoman told us a new report covering 2018 would not be released until November. However, according to the Department of Agriculture, agricultural exports to China fell dramatically to $9.2 billion in 2018. That was “almost all due to retaliatory tariffs” imposed by China, Wallace E. Tyner, who teaches agricultural economics at Purdue University, told us in an email.
We also know that, as of the morning of May 20, the U.S. has paid $8.54 billion to farmers through three aid programs, a USDA spokesperson said.
The Market Facilitation Program — the largest of the three programs — can provide up to $10 billion to producers of corn, cotton, sorghum, soybean, wheat, dairy, hogs, almonds and sweet cherries, according to a December report by the Congressional Research Service on the trade aid programs. The top five commodities that received assistance through the program were soybeans, corn, wheat, cotton and sorghum, the USDA spokesperson told us.
We found that, from 2009 through 2018, the most that China imported of those five commodities in any one year totaled nearly $20 billion, according to Census Bureau export data. That occurred in 2012, when China’s agricultural purchases included nearly $14.9 billion in soybeans, $3.4 billion in raw cotton and $1.3 billion in corn, according to Census data.
As we said, we don’t know what the president meant when he said that $15 billion was “the biggest amount they’ve ever spent in this country.” We will update this item if the White House responds.
Honda and U.S. Investments
In talking about the U.S. economy, Trump boasted about companies coming to the United States — singling out one car company in particular.
Trump: Well, really very simply, we have companies coming in here, as you know, by the dozens and by the hundreds and big ones, car companies, Honda’s coming in with $14.5 billion.
We don’t know how many companies have relocated to the U.S. or have left the U.S. But the president overestimates Honda’s future investment in the U.S.
On its website, Honda said that its total capital investment in the U.S. (not just auto manufacturing) has been $21 billion over the last 60 years, including $5.6 billion in the last five years. We could not find any new automotive investments that would equal $14.5 billion, so we reached out to the Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research Group, which tracks new investments in the United States.
Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics, told us that she, too, could not match the $14.5 billion figure cited by Trump, and “we try to keep very close tabs on these things.” She said Honda has announced auto manufacturing investments totaling $1.7 billion over the last five years.
In February, Honda announced that it would close a manufacturing plant in Swindon, England, in 2121, when it stops production of its current Civic model. Honda Chief Executive Officer Takahiro Hachigo told Automotive News that the next generation Civic will be manufactured in North America, but the company has yet to say where the plant or plants will be located.
Honda currently has five vehicle manufacturing plants in the United States, including one in Indiana that builds the current Civic models. It also manufactures Civic models in Ontario, Canada.
We reached out to Honda, but did not hear back. We will update this article if we do.
Trump’s Approval Rating
The president also boasted that he has “tremendous poll numbers now.”
It’s subjective, of course, to describe one’s poll numbers as “tremendous.” But Trump’s average job approval rating — based on polling data assembled from dozens of polls by Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight — is currently below 43 percent.
As of May 22, Trump’s average job approval rating on Real Clear Politics was 42.5 percent, and FiveThirtyEight put it at 41.1 percent. By contrast, those who disapproved of Trump’s job performance averaged 53.7 percent, according to Real Clear Politics, and 53.8 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight.
As for individual polls taken this month, Trump’s job approval rating reached a peak of 51 percent in the Zogby Poll, which was conducted May 2 to May 9 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percent. The low point was a Morning Consult poll, which showed the president at 37 percent. That poll was taken May 17 to 19, and had an error margin of plus or minus 2 percent.
Trump Repeats
As we often find, the president also repeated some false claims that we have previously debunked:
China Trade Deficit: The president said, “We have a trade deficit with China of $500 billion.” That’s false. As we have written before, the U.S. trade deficit with China in goods and services was a record $378.7 billion in 2018, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (see table 3). The U.S. had a $419.3 billion deficit with China in goods (table 6) and a $40.5 billion surplus in services (table 9).
Tariff Revenue: Trump said that, as a result of tariffs he has placed on Chinese goods, “we are going to be taking in possibly $100 billion, possibly more than that in tariffs. We never took in 10 cents from China.” It’s not true, as we have previously said, that the U.S. has never collected tariffs on Chinese goods. The amount of tariff revenue has increased, but the U.S. did collect billions of dollars each year since at least 2000. For example, the U.S. collected about $13.4 billion in 2016, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission database. As we also wrote, tariffs are taxes paid by U.S. importers in the form of customs duties, not by the Chinese government or its companies.
Liquefied Natural Gas Exporting. The president said, “I was in Louisiana opening up a $10 billion LNG plant that would’ve never been approved under another type of administration, never,” and, “They’ve been trying for years to get it built, but we got approvals very quickly for the big LNG.” That’s false. As we wrote before, the plant in question, Sempra Energy’s Cameron LNG plant, was approved in 2014 by the Obama administration, a fact Sempra Energy confirmed.

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