WASHINGTON — At least one thing is known about the meeting between presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin: They met.
But for the first time? Or again? Depends on which accounts from Trump you choose to believe.
At home and abroad over the past week, the U.S. president made a number of assertions at odds with reality, about the stock market, the “blazing” economy, NATO and more. But the curious lack of clarity on his personal history with the Russian leader perhaps stood out.
Here’s a look at his statements on that subject over time, and a variety of other assertions in recent days:
TRUMP, in a chronological mashup of statements from 2013 to 2016 on whether he had met Putin: “I met him once.” “Yes. One time, yes. Long time ago. Got along with him great, by the way.” ”I got to know him very well because we were both on ‘60 Minutes,’ we were stablemates.” ”I never met Putin. I don’t know who Putin is.” ”I don’t think I’ve ever met him. I mean if he’s in the same room or something. But I don’t think so.” ”I didn’t meet him. I haven’t spent time with him. I didn’t have dinner with him. I didn’t go hiking with him. I don’t know — and I wouldn’t know him from Adam except I see his picture and I would know what he looks like.”
PUTIN: “I never met with him.” — June, NBC interview.
PUTIN: “I am very happy to meet you, Mr. President.” — remarks in a brief, public portion of their meeting Friday.
THE FACTS: We don’t know. But there is no public record of a prior private meeting.
Trump initially claimed to have met Putin during business meetings in Russia or when he owned the Miss Universe beauty pageant, which was held in Moscow in 2013. As a foreign policy neophyte, he found it advantageous before his presidential campaign and during the early part of it to claim a relationship with Putin, to show he had the right stuff to deal with a world leader. When he risked appearing too close to Putin later in the campaign, he changed his story.
This much is known: Trump and Putin were only “60 Minutes” ”stablemates” because they were on the same program. Trump’s segment was taped in New York; Putin’s in Russia.
TRUMP, on whether Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections: “Nobody really knows.” He added: “So, it was Russia, and I think it was probably others also.” — news conference in Poland on Thursday.
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. ambassador to the U.N.: “Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections.” — on CNN’s “State of the Union,” taped for broadcast Sunday.
THE FACTS: The weight of evidence supports Haley’s certainty more than her boss’ equivocation. Multiple U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia meddled in the campaign, and for the purpose of giving Trump an advantage over Democrat Hillary Clinton. The full scope of the interference has not been established, nor whether Russian officials colluded with Trump associates in the campaign.
White House officials said Trump confronted Putin about the interference in their private meeting Friday. Kremlin officials had a different account, saying Trump appeared accepting of Putin’s denials that Moscow did anything untoward to shape the election.
In Poland, Trump argued alternately that it could have been Russia, probably was Russia and indeed was Russia, while insisting it could have been other countries, too, and adding: “I won’t be specific.”
TRUMP: “No matter where you look, the economy is blazing. And on every front we’re doing well. And we do have challenges, but we will handle those challenges — believe me.” — remarks at Fourth of July event at White House.
TRUMP: “Really great numbers on jobs & the economy! Things are starting to kick in now, and we have just begun! Don’t like steel & aluminum dumping!” — tweet Monday.
THE FACTS: The economy is not blazing. At best, it’s at a controlled burn.
The performance under Trump has been remarkably close to the relatively tepid growth under President Barack Obama, a record Trump criticized as a candidate. Most economists agree that any president is unlikely to suddenly transform an economy in a matter of months.
The economy grew at a sluggish annual pace of 1.4 percent during the first three months of the year. Growth can be uneven on a quarterly basis. But Federal Reserve officials estimate the economy will grow 2.2 percent this year, 2.1 percent in 2018 and 1.9 percent in 2019. That is pretty close to growth of roughly 2 percent during the recovery under Obama.
Trump can celebrate a 4.4 percent unemployment rate, but that builds on progress made during Obama’s tenure. The lower unemployment rate has also translated into smaller job gains under Trump.
Monthly job growth has averaged 180,000 during the first six months of 2017, compared with an average of more than 186,000 last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
TRUMP: “Dow hit a new intraday all-time high! I wonder whether or not the Fake News Media will so report?” — tweet Monday.
THE FACTS: Peaks and valleys during the day generally don’t make for screaming headlines. Investors generally pay more attention to where stock market indexes stand when trading ends at 4 p.m. Because those markets have been setting records for months, Monday’s intraday peak wasn’t that notable, though the financial media reported on it. The stock market has been rising under Trump’s watch, as it rose under Obama’s since 2013.
TRUMP: “When I say that the stock market is at an all-time high, we’ve picked up in market value almost $4 trillion since Nov. 8, which was the election. $4 trillion — it’s a lot of money. Personally, I picked up nothing, but that’s all right. Everyone else is getting rich. That’s OK. I’m very happy. ” — Energy meeting with European leaders in Warsaw on Thursday.
THE FACTS: Everyone else is not getting rich. Most Americans lack meaningful stock market investments. Research by New York University economist Edward Wolff found that just 10 percent of the U.S. population owns 80 percent of stock market wealth.
Also, it’s likely the rising stock market has indeed benefited him personally. Financial disclosures show the president has multiple brokerage accounts and extensive stock holdings. He owns shares in Apple Inc. (up 24 percent year-to-date), Caterpillar Inc. (up 15 percent) and Microsoft Corp. (up nearly 12 percent) among other companies. Even if Trump didn’t buy into the recent stock market gains, his existing shares probably received a boost.
TRUMP, on NATO’s core pledge: “To those who would criticize our tough stance, I would point out that the United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment.” — speech in Warsaw on Thursday.
THE FACTS: Rather than showing a commitment with his actions, Trump has sown confusion with his words. Article 5 has only been used once — by other NATO members, to come to the defense of the U.S. after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Trump suggested during the campaign that NATO members lagging on their own military spending might not be able to count on the U.S. to come to their aid if attacked. And he pointedly did not endorse Article 5 at a NATO meeting in May, unnerving some allies. In June, though, he said: “I’m committing the United States to Article 5.” Those words won’t be tested with action until or unless a NATO member is attacked.
TRUMP: “We just approved a big pipeline also — the Keystone Pipeline. It was under consideration for many, many years, and it was dead, and I approved it in my first day of office.” — Warsaw energy meeting.
THE FACTS: He did not approve it on his first day in office. During his first week, on Jan. 24, Trump signed an order asking TransCanada to re-submit its application to build Keystone XL, which had been blocked by Obama. Trump suggested at the time that more negotiations would be required with TransCanada before he would approve the project. The project actually got the go-ahead in late March.
TRUMP: “Americans know that a strong alliance of free, sovereign and independent nations is the best defense for our freedoms and for our interests. That is why my administration has demanded that all members of NATO finally meet their full and fair financial obligation. As a result of this insistence, billions of dollars more have begun to pour into NATO. In fact, people are shocked. But billions and billions of dollars more coming in from countries that, in my opinion, would not have been paying so quickly.” — Warsaw speech.
THE FACTS: The notion of money pouring into NATO because of his tough talk is one of Trump’s most frequent fictions. The actual issue is how much NATO countries spend on their own military budgets. They agreed in 2014, well before he became president, to stop cutting military spending, and have honored that. They also agreed then to a goal of moving “toward” spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on their own defense by 2024. Most are short of that and the target is not ironclad. His tough talk is aimed at nudging them toward that goal.
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Lolita C. Baldor, Nancy Benac and Lynn Berry contributed to this report.
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