President Trump again misleads on auto industry and much more at Muskegon rally

Todd Spangler
Detroit Free Press

For the second time, President Donald Trump held a Michigan rally on Saturday in which he made vastly exaggerated and inaccurate claims about the state's auto industry, suggesting wrongly that many auto plants have been built during his term.

"We're building all these plants. You had the best year last year you ever had," Trump said during a speech that lasted for more than 1 1/2 hours at a rally at the Muskegon County Airport in west Michigan. 

Two new major assembly facilities have been announced since Trump took office in January 2017, a Jeep plant on Detroit's east side and, last month, Ford said it would build a $700 million plant at the Rouge complex to make the all-electric F-150 truck. But that ignores a 40-day strike that rocked General Motors last year and the idling of Warren transmission.

As of February, the month before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the state had lost 2,400 auto jobs during Trump's term. Since then, the number has fallen precipitously with 18,400 fewer auto jobs in the state compared to January 2017.

It was only one of a number of falsehoods made by the president.

Trump did make some correct claims, saying the Michigan Supreme Court ruled executive orders issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer under a 1945 law in response to coronavirus were unconstitutional, though Whitmer has been able to have some of those same actions re-issued by the state's health director. He also correctly noted that a court reversed a previous holding to allow votes received after Election Day to be counted as long as they were postmarked by the day before.

But many of Trump's statements were clearly false or exaggerated. He said he "had to fight like hell" with Democrats to get funding for a replacement navigation lock at Sault Ste. Marie, while there has been no evidence of that — though the president does get credit for having pushed the long-wanted lock to the top of the Army Corps of Engineers' project list.

More:Michigan Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Whitmer's emergency orders, effective immediately

More:Trump makes wild claims about revitalizing auto industry at Michigan rally

He also said he secured $900 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a  program used to restore wetlands and improve environmental and water quality. But funding for the program is set at $300 million, though Congress added $20 million more last year. And while Trump last year took credit for fully funding the initiative, what he hasn't noted is his own administration had previously asked Congress to either fully cut the funding or scale it back drastically. 

Trump also incorrectly claimed that Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a report calling for the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial and other federal memorials to be removed or altered. A commission appointed by the mayor initially issued a report calling for Bowser to use her spot on the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission to "recommend the Federal government remove, relocate, or contextualize" a number of federal statues and memorials, though it didn't make any specific recommendations for what should happen to specific monuments.

The city removed federal monuments from the list of recommendations in the report but Trump made no mention of it

Last month, Trump held a rally outside Saginaw in which he made many of the same claims and the Free Press debunked them.

The president also falsely claimed that his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, forced Ukraine to get a prosecutor out of office while serving as President Barack Obama's vice president in order to block an investigation into Biden's son, Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

But there was no active investigation of Hunter Biden or the company, Burisma, and it was the policy of the U.S. government and its western allies to get the prosecutor out office because there were concerns he wasn't doing enough to battle corruption.

Contact Todd Spangler attspangler@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter@tsspangler. Read more onMichigan politics and sign up for ourelections newsletter.