New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo claimed one in three adults in the U.S. has a criminal record. (Courtesy: Cuomo’s Flickr page)

PolitiFact: criminal records, Trump travel costs and exporting energy

PolitiFact last week looked at a governor’s statement on how many Americans have “criminal records,” a commentator’s characterization of the cost to taxpayers of President Donald Trump’s lifestyle and a comment by Trump on the U.S. exporting energy. Summaries of our findings are here. Full versions can be found at www.politifact.com.

“70 million Americans have a criminal record — that’s one in three adults.”

— New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, July 18th, 2017 in an article on LinkedIn

Cuomo did not make any distinction between convictions and arrests in his article. He just used the term “criminal record” without defining it.

The meaning of “criminal record” can be ambiguous. The FBI considers anyone who has been arrested on a felony charge to have a criminal record, even if the arrest did not lead to a conviction. So by the FBI’s standard, 73.5 million people in the United States had a criminal record as of June 30.

A search on the internet will tell you a criminal record is a history of someone’s convictions, a step beyond the FBI’s definition. There is no federal data on the number of people with a criminal conviction living in the U.S.

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics does have an estimate for how many people were under correctional supervision in 2015. The bureau reported 6.7 million adults either incarcerated or on parole or probation. That’s close to three out of every 100 adults.

Our ruling

Cuomo said “70 million Americans have a criminal record — that’s one in three adults.” By the FBI definition, that is correct. But the FBI definition is different from the common-sense definition. His claim may have been interpreted by some to mean one-third of adults have a criminal conviction. That’s not true.

His statement leaves out how he defines criminal record, an important detail. We rate it Half True.

“No president in history has imposed larger personal lifestyle costs on the taxpayer than Donald Trump.”

— David Frum on Monday, August 21st, 2017 in a tweet

It’s hard to separate leisure and work when it comes to the presidency, particularly as Trump has hosted state visits at his resorts.

Could his leisure trips and residential circumstances amount to the costliest ever? It’s too early to tell, as even the highest estimates of Trump’s spending can’t match former President Barack Obama’s eight years in office. Trump does seem on pace to outstrip previous presidential spending by the end of his term.

Here’s the important point to keep in mind: There are no definitive reports on the cost of Trump’s travel, nor of any other president. The most comprehensive analyses are on Trump and Obama’s presidencies and have been done by watchdog groups.

Our rating

It’s a bold claim to make in the absence of definitive data on the costs of presidential travel, which is generally not disclosed. Travel and security records we gathered do suggest Trump is on pace to outstrip Obama’s spending on security and transport costs. But it’s still too soon to tell, and Frum’s statement remains an exaggeration. We rate it Mostly False.

“We have become an energy exporter for the first time ever just recently.”

— Donald Trump on Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 in a rally in Phoenix

Was he correct about the United States being an energy exporter? Short answer: No.

But to get to the short answer, you have to wade through several possible interpretations of what Trump meant. (The White House did not clarify his meaning for us.)

One way to read Trump’s statement is to take it to mean the United States only recently began to export energy. This is flat wrong. Trump might have meant that the United States had only recently become a net exporter of energy — meaning the total of all U.S. energy exports recently overtook the total of all U.S. energy imports. This is less wrong, but still not accurate. In its most recent projections, the federal Energy Information Administration concluded that the United States would become a net energy exporter around 2026, depending on future patterns of global supply, demand and pricing.

Our ruling

This statement is problematic regardless of how you interpret his statement: gross energy exports, net energy exports, gross crude-oil exports, and net natural gas exports. The closest he would come to being accurate is if he were referring to net natural gas exports, but even there, it hasn’t happened yet, contrary to what his past-tense statement indicates. We rate the statement False.

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