Fact-checking the news: January 10


Image by kkirugi, posted under Creative Commons license

The flood of news and propaganda continues, and so I’m occasionally drawn into fact checking. Here are some of my fact checks for the past 24 hours.

Did Trump fire top nuclear security officials?

Gizmodo reported January 9 that the Trump team told the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration and his deputy to “clean out their desks” and leave on Inauguration Day. This news item appeared several times on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. It is not true.

I started by searching for other reports yesterday, after I saw the Gizmodo article posted on Facebook. No other new organization said anything about it, which seemed suspicious. Today, January 10, Gizmodo “updated” their article to correct this misstatement:

“After speaking to our source for clarification, we have updated the story and headline to reflect that, while Klotz and Creedon have submitted their resignations, intend to depart on January 20, and have not been asked by the Trump transition to stay past that date, the Trump team has not explicitly instructed them to leave or “clean out their desks,” as we reported. According to our source, both officials “have expressed [to the Trump team] that they would likely be willing to stay to facilitate a smooth transition, if asked,” as is the tradition for key officials, and have received no response.”

Something called Defense News also posted on January10:

“However, an NNSA official, speaking on background, denied such discussions have occurred.
“’The story is not accurate,’ the official said. ‘There have been no discussions between the president-elect’s transition team and any of NNSA’s political appointees on extending their public service past Jan. 20.’”

I’m not sure about the political alignment of Defense News, but, based on a quick perusal of some of its current articles, it seems to have expertise in military and defense matters.

Six terrible things the Republicans are doing

This list of alarming GOP actions kept showing up on my Facebook feed, posted by numerous people. It’s mostly true – but it’s important to be accurate, and also MOST important to remember that we are not powerless to resist. Here’s the text with my notes on accuracy, on places to look for detailed information, and, most importantly, on WHAT WE NEED TO DO NOW.

1. Trump fires all Ambassadors and Special Envoys, ordering them out by inauguration day.

NOTE: Partially true – he directed all political appointees to leave by inauguration day. But that is not all ambassadors and special envoys. Many are career Foreign Service and they were not fired. Trump’s action is tone-deaf in demanding that all leave immediately, without exception, but keep in mind that political appointees routinely resign when a new administration comes in, though new administrations usually give some case-by-case extensions past January 20. For full discussion, see Snopes.

2. House brings back the Holman rule allowing them to reduce an individual civil service, SES positions, or political appointee’s salary to $1, effectively firing them by amendment to any piece of legislation an appropriations bill. We now know why they wanted names and positions of people in Energy and State.

NOTE: True. For full description, see this Washington Post article. This passed as part of the House Rules package – everyone focused on the Ethics Office provisions, and this sneaked in under the radar. Lesson: look beyond the one big story that’s grabbing headlines. 

3. Senate schedules 6 simultaneous hearings on cabinet nominees and triple-books those hearings with Trump’s first press conference in months and an ACA budget vote, effectively preventing any concentrated coverage or protest.

NOTE: True – except that concerted coverage and protest IS happening, and has already led to delay of the Elizabeth DeVos hearing. So the message remains: KEEP ON CALLING SENATORS AND PROTESTING. 

4. House GOP expressly forbids the Congressional Budget Office from reporting or tracking ANY costs related to the repeal of the ACA.

NOTE: TrueThis travesty passed as part of the House Rules package – everyone focused on the Ethics Office provisions, and this sneaked in under the radar. Lesson 1: look beyond the one big story that’s grabbing headlines. Lesson 2: look at the information that has ALREADY come out of CBO on impact of repeal,  and also look for other sources, such as this Urban Institute report.

5. Trump continues to throw the intelligence community under the bus to protect Putin, despite the growing mountain of evidence that the Russians deliberately interfered in our election.

NOTE: True – but possibly a big distraction from all of the real damage he is doing. Tweets about the intelligence community and Meryl Streep serve to distract, just as the big – and legitimate – outcry over the Ethics Office meant that the CBO/ACA prohibition (#4 above) and the Holman awfulness ((#2 above) slipped by under the radar. (For more on what I think about the Russian brouhaha, see What’s wrong with the “Russian election hacking” meme and Russian bear or Washington weasel?)

6. Trump breaks a central campaign promise to make Mexico pay for the wall by asking Congress (in other words, us, the taxpayers) to pay for it.

NOTE: And this is a surprise? The so-called wall, which is now turning into “some kind of barrier,” is a far smaller issue than the thousands of refugee applicants already languishing in private, for-profit U.S. prisons, or the racist xenophobia permeating political discourse.

7. Trump threatens Toyota over a new plant that was never coming to the US nor will take jobs out of the US.

NOTE: True – and part of a Trump-ed up bushel of lies over jobs and foreign factories. He has not  kept jobs in Indiana. He has not brought 5,000 Sprint jobs to the U.S. He did not change Ford’s plans.

8. House passes the REINS act, giving them veto power over any rules enacted by any federal agency or department–for example, FDA or EPA bans a drug or pesticide, Congress can overrule based on lobbyists not science. Don’t like that endangered species designation, Congress kills it.

NOTE: True – but this will not take effect unless also passed by the Senate. The House passed this bill in 2015, but it was stopped by the Senate. WHAT WE NEED TO DO: contact Senators and tell them to oppose and filibuster to stop REINS.

Do Congressmembers have ACA coverage?

Ron posted yesterday:

Here’s a simple message to send to members of Congress. “We want a health care plan that’s no worse than yours.”

Someone responded that members of Congress have to use health insurance exchanges. That sounded weird, as the exchanges are specifically limited to people who do NOT have employer-sponsored insurance.  Turns out, though, that there’s an exception for Congress.

Congress and congressional staffers WERE covered under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which serves 8 million federal and retired workers and their dependents, until January 2014. Then a Republican-sponsored initiative said they had to buy coverage through the exchanges – even though the exchanges were set up to specifically EXCLUDE employees eligible for an employer-sponsored plan. So now they buy coverage through the exchange, which is equivalent to FEHBP, and their premiums are subsidized by their employer – the federal government, not through the ACA structure. Does that mean they are the same as everybody else buying insurance through the ACA exchanges? IMHO, not really, but it’s all a grand mess.

For details, see the official documentation, and articles in Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and PolitiFact Wisconsin.

Is Glenn Greenwald “terrible on Syria” or “crazy”?

This Facebook thread began with a lengthy and incomplete quote from a Democracy Now interview of Greenwald that, in its edited form, was presented as saying that the CIA tried to stop a Trump presidency because of – Syria. My first annoyance with the argument was its failure to give a direct link to the Democracy Now interview, which meant I couldn’t easily verify the quote or see the context. I did eventually locate it, and have linked to it. A second, and deeper, problem is that the quote is selectively edited and taken out of context.

Greenwald’s criticism of inaccurate media statements about Russia does not mean that he supports Russia: it means that he opposes bad reporting. So do I.

I join Greenwald in criticizing bad reporting on Russian intervention in U.S. elections. I also condemn Russian intervention in U.S. elections. I value honest, accurate reporting, and I want honest, accurate reporting on what Russia is actually doing. I won’t put up with bad reporting just because it supports my political position.

Actual facts — and then on to action. Keep calling those Senators and Representatives!



Filed under analysis, media, news, Tracking Trump

2 responses to “Fact-checking the news: January 10

  1. We need credible people like Mary filtering out the crap. Nobody is likely to have the time to do it for themselves on the unending flood of issues and reports.


  2. Pingback: SNAP reporting SNAFU at New York Times | News Day

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