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A Week of @realdonaldtrump Shows the Challenge of Policing His Tweets

2020-06-03 14:19:00

Mr. Trump’s declaration that “it was me who shattered 100% of the ISIS Caliphate” was also not true. About a third to a half of the territory formerly held by the Islamic State was regained under Mr. Obama’s administration, according to military and independent estimates. And officials and experts had always anticipated that the campaign, started in 2014, long before Mr. Trump took office, would result in pushing the extremist group out of its self-declared caliphate.

Three dozen tweets from the president occupied a factual gray zone. Some were typical examples of political spin, neither completely true nor totally wrong.

Twice, he claimed to have banned travel from China and to have done so “before anybody thought necessary” to contain the spread of the coronavirus. These were exaggerations. The restrictions did not amount to full ban. They did not apply to American citizens or green card holders, and they contained other exemptions. Numerous other countries had taken similar actions before Mr. Trump did.

He misleadingly boasted of the United States having carried out 15 million coronavirus tests, “by far the most in the World,” and the number of cases and deaths “going down all over the Country.” The raw number of tests, while accurate, did not reflect that the United States continues to lag other countries in testing per capita. Cases and deaths were decreasing across the country as a whole, but not in some states.

Ten tweets were devoted to the announcement of grants to local transit agencies from the Department of Transportation. Left unsaid was that these grants have been routinely awarded since the 2013 federal fiscal year and in the first two years of his presidency, Mr. Trump’s proposed budgets called for the grants to be phased out.

Other tweets were ambiguously worded, making them difficult to fact check even as they hint at nefarious activity.

Mr. Trump twice said that social media companies “attempted”and “failed” to do something in the 2016 election, but never specified what exactly the companies attempted. (In the past, he has mischaracterized research to mount a baseless suggestion that Google “manipulated” votes.)

Perhaps there’s no better example of how Mr. Trump trades in vague claims than his repeated allegations of the “greatest political crime” or scandal in history, committed by the Obama administration to undercut his 2016 campaign and the start of his presidency. In four tweets, the president echoed this but never specified what that crime was. In others, he simply referred to “Obamagate.”

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