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Fact check: Three not-quite-right claims Renacci, Trump made Friday night

Fact check: Three not-quite-right claims Renacci, Trump made Friday night
Posted at 5:40 PM, Oct 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-15 16:18:58-04

LEBANON, Ohio -- Appearing Friday night before an audience of thousands at the Warren County Fairgrounds, President Trump and Rep. Jim Renacci made some claims that hit in the general area of the truth -- give or take $100 million or a few thousand MS-13 gang members.

Renacci's opponent, Sen. Sherrod Brown, is listed among the top recipients of lobbyist funds in the Senate, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray did supervise a controversial remodel of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau's Washington headquarters. The numbers both men cited, however, were off. Sometimes significantly.

The claims

Trump: "Cordray spent 250 million federal dollars trying to renovate a headquarters -- his agency -- that they didn't even own. More than twice what the entire building was worth. They didn't own it. And then it became a big scandal, but because he was a Democrat, the fake news didn't want to write about it."

The facts: The Wall Street Journal reported in October 2017 that the headquarters of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, which Democrat Richard Cordray ran from 2012 until the start of his Ohio gubernatorial campaign, were renovated for $145 million -- over $100 million shy of the figure Trump cited Friday night.

The Office of the Inspector General found in 2015 the cost of the renovation appeared reasonable for the type and scale of changes necessary to transform a decades-old slab of brutalist concrete into an up-to-date workspace that met modern energy efficiency standards. The same report found renting the building rather than leasing it was a sound financial decision for the agency.

However, the cost still rankled some members of Congress. So did interior features such as a glass staircase and lobby waterfall.

Among other criticisms of the bureau, North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry wrote in a 2013 news release the project -- then estimated to cost about $95 million -- represented a splurge that illustrated larger problems with the agency under Cordray's leadership. 

"The Bureau's structure remains deeply flawed and lacks genuine accountability to Congress and the American people," he said.

News outlets including the Los Angeles Times covered the controversy as it developed.

Renacci, referring to Brown: "He votes like a Hollywood liberal, and he has received the most lobbyist money in the Senate. More than any other senator, he has received the most lobbyist dollars."

The facts: Renacci was on-target immediately before this statement, when he described Brown's voting record as being in heavy alignment with those of Democratic Party Senate leaders Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer. (ProPublica offers a vote-comparison tool that bears this out.) This claim, however, was slightly off. 

A report from indicates Renacci would have been correct around Sept. 14, when the outlet and others reported Brown indeed topped The Center for Responsive Politics' list of senators who had taken the most money from lobbyists. However, he sat at No. 2 by Friday night. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania had out-raised him by $584. 

Open Secrets, a CFRP database that compiles information about politicians' various campaign contributions, listed Brown as a top recipient of lobbying cash from pro-abortion rights groups, public sector unions and the insurance industry, among others. The same database named Renacci the No. 2 recipient of mining industry money in the House of Representatives.

Its most recent data sets were collected Sept. 24.

Trump: "You know, I say it to people. MS-13. Gang. Vicious, horrible people. We're throwing them out of here by the thousands."

The facts: The Associated Press in January concluded a similar presidential claim about the violent, transnational gang -- "We have sent thousands and thousands and thousands of MS-13 horrible people out of this country or into our prisons." -- was a significant exaggeration, although aggressive prosecution of the gang remains a hallmark of the Trump administration. Politifact arrived at the same conclusion in May.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security investigators arrested 1,230 MS-13 members in fiscal years 2016 and 2017, according to a news release from the agency. However, no government agency tracks deportations by specific gang affiliations, making it impossible to say how many of those members were ultimately deported. 

Additionally, a tool created by Syracuse University to track pending immigration cases estimates most lasted 694 days from start to finish in 2017 and 749 in 2018.

Assuming every MS-13 arrest made during Trump's presidency ultimately resulted in a conviction and deportation, Syracuse's data still indicates fewer than 1,000 of the MS-13 members arrested since Trump's election would actually have been deported by Friday if their cases adhered to the data.

Politifact, the Associated Press and the Washington Post each concluded the number of MS-13-linked deportations under the Trump administration was likely in the multiple hundreds rather than the multiple thousands.

Why did we choose these claims to fact-check?

Politicians' campaign claims can be prone to abstract hyperbole and difficult to verify as a result. What, for instance, did it mean when the president said this Friday night: "All across Ohio, steel mills are re-opening." Where is "all across Ohio?" How many steel mills would make this claim true? How many would make it false? (Initial emails to Nucor and U.S. Steel, the two companies the president mentioned by name, did not receive an immediate response.)

The claims in this story all involve specific numbers, which can be objectively found to be correct or incorrect.