CNN  — 

White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivered his first briefing of Donald Trump’s presidency Monday, and CNN’s Reality Check Team monitored his statements and checked the claims.

The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN listened throughout the event and analyzed key statements, rating them true, misleading or false.

Cabinet nominees

Reality Check: Nominees approved on Obama’s first full day in office

By Eve Bower, CNN

Spicer criticized Senate Democrats, saying they were “playing political games” and delaying the confirmation of the majority of Trump’s Cabinet nominees.

Spicer said that at this point during President Barack Obama’s first term, in 2009, seven of his nominees had been confirmed, compared to Trump’s two.

It is true that, on the first full working day of Obama’s first term, January 21, 2009, seven members of his Cabinet had been confirmed.

It is also true that, as of Monday, only two of Trump’s nominees have been confirmed: retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, chosen to run the Department of Defense, and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, who is running the Department of Homeland Security.

Late last week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer left open the possibility that, by the end of the day Monday, the nominee to lead the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo, and some other “non-controversial” nominees may be confirmed as well.

Schumer also said that the confirmation process would be expedited if the nominees all submitted their ethics paperwork and allowed “a day or two” for any questions. Of the 21 nominees who had been named by last Monday, required paperwork was still missing for seven of those.

Here’s a list of the seven nominees approved by the end of Obama’s first full day in office (Wednesday, January 21, 2009):

1. Tom Vilsack (Agriculture – 1/20)

2. Arne Duncan (Education – 1/20)

3. Steven Chu (Energy – 1/20)

4. Janet Napolitano (Homeland Security – 1/20)

5. Ken Salazar - (Interior – 1/20)

6. Hilda Solis (Labor – 1/20)

7. Hillary Clinton (State – 1/21)


Reality Check: Spicer on Obamacare rates

By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney

Asked whether Trump feels he has a mandate to make major changes to Obamacare, Spicer said the health care law is not living up to its promises.

“You go around this country and look market after market, they are down to one plan,” he said. “That’s not what the American people were promised. Not only that, but in many cases, you are seeing the rates go up 10, 15, 20, 30, 50%. That’s not what was promised either.”

It’s true that many places in the US are down to only one choice on the Obamacare exchanges. Five states – Alabama, Alaska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wyoming – have only one insurer, as do about one-third of all counties in the US, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

As for the increase in rates, the average monthly premium for the 2017 benchmark silver plan rose 22%, according to Department of Health and Human Services statistics. But the average masks wide variations underneath. In some places it fell slightly, such as Vice President Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana, where it fell 3% on average. In others, it jumped much more. Trump likes to point to Arizona – where the average jumped 116% – as a sign of Obamacare’s failure. Many plans did see increases in the 10% to 50% range.

So we rate Spicer’s comments on Obamacare as true.

Trump inauguration audience

Reality Check: How many people really watched Trump’s inauguration?

By Sonam Vashi, CNN

Spicer doubled down on his claim Saturday that Trump’s inauguration had the biggest audience of any presidential swearing-in – ever.

“You look at just one network alone got 16.9 million people online. Another couple of the networks; there were tens of millions watched it online. Never mind the audience that was here: 31 million people watched it on television. Combine that with the tens of millions of people that watched it online, on a device. It’s unquestionable … I’m saying if you add up all of the various live streaming that we have information on so far, I don’t think there is any question – it was the largest watched inauguration ever.”

But we’re still questioning that.

About 30.6 million people tuned in to watch Trump’s inauguration live on television – including networks and cable channels – according to Nielsen ratings. That’s already less than the estimated 37.8 million who watched Obama’s 2009 inauguration, as well as the 41.8 million who viewed Ronald Reagan’s first swearing-in. (Trump’s initial cable ratings are also less than the inaugurations of Jimmy Carter in 1977 and Richard Nixon in 1973.)

Trump’s ceremony likely did edge out Obama’s online. On Friday, CNN’s live stream audience peaked with 2.3 million devices streaming at the same time, larger than the 2009 inauguration’s max of 1.3 million.

08:10 - Source: CNN
WH criticizes media for crowd size coverage

(Spicer cites a “16.9 million” figure, which is the number of starts CNN had on its live stream Friday. However, the same person can visit a live stream multiple times and be counted in that figure each time. So looking at the maximum number of concurrent users, or when the number of people watching simultaneously was at its highest, is often a better estimate to compare a total active audience.)

Many other websites streamed Friday’s inaugural ceremony. Akamai Technologies, which supports live streaming services on several sites, measured 4.6 million eyeballs at one time for Trump’s swearing-in. That’s more than the 3.8 million concurrent views for Obama’s 2009 inauguration, according to Akamai PR manager Chris Nicholson.

If we add in these best available online numbers to the cable views, Trump’s inauguration had at least 37.5 million viewers, compared to the at least 42.9 million who watched Obama’s in 2009. That’s not even counting the fact that physical attendance at Obama’s ceremony appeared much larger than Friday’s crowd. Based on that information, we’re rating Spicer’s claim as false.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

Reality Check: Spicer claims that ‘bilateral deals’ are mostly China’s focus

By Dan Merica, CNN

Spicer defended Trump’s decision to back out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Monday by arguing bilateral agreements between two countries are more beneficial for American workers.

Spicer went on to defend this decision by arguing “bilateral deals are mostly what China has been engaging in.”

While China has sought to enter into a major trade deal that would act as a backup should the TPP fall through, the majority of trade deals China is either exploring or that it has entered into are bilateral.

Of the trade deals China has signed and are in effect, 14 of 16 are bilateral, as are seven of the nine trade deals China is negotiating, according to the Asia Regional Integration Center.

That said, China has been a major driver behind the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a massive 16-nation proposed trade deal that would link sizable countries like India, China and South Korea with smaller countries like Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos.

The trade deal, which would be smaller than the TPP, would allow China to assert itself in the region, should TPP crumble.

Because the majority of trade deals China has either entered into or are in the process of negotiating are bilateral, we rate this claim true.

Federal employment

Reality Check: Spicer claims Trump’s executive action will curb ‘dramatic expansion’ in federal employees

By Dan Merica, CNN

Trump signed an executive action on Monday that implemented a hiring freeze for some federal workers in an effort to cut government payroll, and Spicer said the action would stop the “dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years.”

Figures from the Office of Personnel Management show, however, the size of the federal employee workforce has declined under the Obama administration.

Total executive branch federal employment – not including uniformed military personnel and legislative and judicial branch personnel – has dropped dramatically since the high point in the late 1980s and early 1990s when it averaged about 3 million employees. In recent years (such as 2009-2014) it has continued to decrease, at a slower rate, from 2.77 in 2009 to 2.66 in 2014.

Trump’s move is more symbolic than anything. The executive action makes good on a promise the Republican made on the campaign trail and mimics promises that Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan made.

Because there hasn’t been a “dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years,” as Spicer stated, but the number of executive branch federal employees has actually been decreasing, we rate Spicer’s claim false.