WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is taking credit for persuading TransCanada Corp. to withdraw a hefty lawsuit against the U.S. government over the previous administration’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. But the Canadian company says its bid for compensation for the stalled project is merely suspended, as it has been for weeks.
Trump’s account, to Republican donors Tuesday night, was one of several from the president claiming achievements that have yet to happen. A look at a few:
TRUMP: The president said he talked Tuesday morning with his chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, and asked him about the TransCanada dispute. “He said, sir, they dropped the suit,” Trump said. “Good.”
The president said he had told Cohn earlier to convey a threat to TransCanada: “I’m approving the pipeline and they are suing us for $14 billion and I’ve already approved it, right? … Go back to them and tell them if they don’t drop the suit immediately, we are going to terminate the deal. You know, being president gives you great power, right?”
THE FACTS: TransCanada’s bid for compensation, filed to a panel that arbitrates disputes under the North American Free Trade Agreement, is still on the books. “The NAFTA challenge remains suspended,” TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha told reporters in Toronto on Wednesday. The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, which is handling the matter, lists the case as having been suspended in late February. TransCanada launched the challenge last year after the Obama administration turned against the project on environmental grounds.
The arbitration action was suspended after Trump took steps to revive the project and signaled it would probably get quick approval. A separate TransCanada lawsuit in a federal court also was suspended until the fate of the pipeline was determined.
The NAFTA challenge could be terminated or amended any day — the suspension will expire Monday. But Trump got ahead of developments in claiming he made the dispute go away. He also got ahead of himself in saying “I’ve already approved it.” He hasn’t, but may soon.
TRUMP: “The border is in the best shape it’s been in in decades. Down 61 percent since the inauguration.”
THE FACTS: The government hasn’t put out any numbers supporting Trump’s repeated contention that illegal crossings at the Mexico border are down 61 percent since Jan. 20.
Available information shows a 44 percent decrease in arrests from January to February. Officials take fewer arrests to mean fewer attempts to cross illegally. Month-to-month variations are not unusual. The number of arrests at the border generally increases during warmer spring and summer months.
As for the border being in the “best shape” in decades, that’s generally been true since before Trump won the election. The number of arrests at the border has hovered around 40-year lows for several years. With just a single month’s worth of arrest data, it’s too soon to know what the long-term trend is and whether Trump’s hard-line rhetoric on illegal immigration is dissuading foreigners from trying. Trump hasn’t expanded the ranks of the Border Patrol or any other immigration or border-security agency. His orders haven’t yet changed the way the Border Patrol operates, and so far there is no evidence that more people are being deported.
TRUMP: “You know, our Navy is at World War I levels. Can you believe that? World War I levels.”
THE FACTS: Actually, the Navy is much smaller than it was at the end of World War 1 — 774 fighting ships in 1918, 274 this year. That’s largely because the nature of warfare has changed. The age of massive sea battles has passed and air power has risen exponentially. The fleet shrank precipitously in the years after World War I — only 139 ships in 1930 — before surging to 6,768 in 1945 at the end of World War II.
The fleet may grow more than planned if Trump’s military expansion is approved by Congress but nothing comparable to the world wars is envisioned.