WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is revisiting old battles — the political one against Hillary Clinton and real ones against the Islamic State — without a full command of the facts.
On Iraq and Syria, Trump gave credit to himself for military progress that was made by Russia, the Syrian government, Iraqi forces, Iranian forces — and the U.S., under Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama.
On Clinton, he botched her recent comments about the 2016 election, wrongly stating that she thought women felt they needed approval from their husbands to vote for him. Her assertion was closer to the opposite — that women were under pressure from men not to vote for her.
But her central point about the election places her oddly in synch with Trump: Both see James Comey, then FBI director, as a villain of their presidential aspirations.
Here’s a look at a sampling of Trump’s comments Tuesday night to a National Republican Congressional Committee dinner:
TRUMP: “On terrorism, in Iraq and Syria, we’ve taken back almost 100 percent, in a very short period of time, of the land that they took. And it all took place since our election. We’ve taken back close to 100 percent.”
THE FACTS: It’s not true that progress against IS “all took place” since the election. The Obama administration said IS had lost more than 40 percent of its territory by the time the last president left office.
IS was pushed to the point of collapse in Mosul, its main Iraqi stronghold, before Trump took office. In 2016, Iraqi military forces, supported by the coalition, waged successful battles to oust IS from Fallujah, Ramadi, eastern Mosul and a number of smaller towns along the Tigris River. They also established logistical hubs for the push that began in February 2017 to retake western Mosul.
It’s true that advances since then have decimated IS as a territorial force. Those advances came on many fronts from multiple foes of the Islamic State group, including U.S.-backed Iraqi forces and fighters of Syrian President Bashar Assad, supported by Russia. Trump achieved progress early on in Syria, deploying hundreds more troops to help prepare local forces to retake Raqqa, the Syrian city that was the militants’ de facto capital.
Even so, the assertion that “we’ve taken back close to 100 percent” is only supportable if “we” means the various groups, often hostile to each other, that have been battling IS.
TRUMP, on Clinton: “I would say her last statement about women — they have to get approval from their husbands, their sons, and their male bosses to vote for Trump. That was not a good statement. Not good. You notice how fast the Democrats have run from these statements now? They are disavowing those statements like I’ve never heard before. ‘She’s wrong.’ People that were her biggest supporters are now saying, ‘What is she doing? Why doesn’t she just go home?'”
THE FACTS: That’s a mangled account of what she said. In remarks this month in India, Clinton advanced the theory that a slim majority of white women voted for Trump because of “ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should.” She did not say women felt they needed approval from men to vote for Trump — but rather that they faced pressure from them to side with Trump instead of her.
Comey released a letter in the campaign’s final two weeks saying the FBI was renewing its investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state because of new emails it had discovered. Clinton told the India Today forum: “All of a sudden, you know, white women, who were going to vote for me — and frankly standing up to the men in their lives and the men in their workplaces — were being told, ‘She’s going to jail. You don’t want to vote for her.'”
In her view, that “stopped my momentum and it decreased my vote enough.”
For his part, Trump still rails against Comey’s decision not to recommend charges against Clinton and to press ahead with an investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. He fired Comey in May.
TRUMP: “Republicans also repealed one of the nation’s cruelest and most unfair taxes ever: the Obamacare individual mandate. And the mandate is gone forever. And that’s a beauty. You pay a lot of money not to have to pay and not to get health care. So you’re paying not to have health care. I mean, that wasn’t so good. But we got rid of it.”
THE FACTS: The mandate is not gone. Fines for going without health insurance coverage are still in effect this year. They disappear next year under the repeal law he signed.