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Trump boasted about making Air Force One cheaper. He didn't.

Dana Milbank on

WASHINGTON -- In December 2016, then-President-elect Trump sent word that, when it came to government spending, there was a new sheriff in town.

"Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion," he tweeted. "Cancel order!"

With great fanfare, Trump opened talks with Boeing and as recently as June declared that he had forced Boeing to knock $1.6 billion off the price. He boasted about his negotiating triumph over and over.

Welp. The Pentagon just put out its first formal acquisition report on the presidential planes, and the new cost is .?.?. $5.2 billion, Air Force Magazine reports. That's $4.7 billion for the jets themselves and $500 million for associated costs such as hangar construction. In response to my inquiry, an Air Force spokeswoman broke down the costs differently -- $3.9 billion for Boeing and the rest for associated costs -- and came up with a slightly higher figure for the new Air Force One: $5.3 billion.

Heckuva job!

Actually, it's even worse. Though Trump in 2016 had claimed costs were $4 billion for the two-jet order, the Government Accountability Office had estimated the cost that year at only $3.2 billion. Apples-to-apples comparisons are tricky, largely because Trump tends to make up numbers, but by any measure, the price tag is up -- bigly -- from when Trump first complained about it.

 

The tale of Air Force One is a study of Trump's presidency in miniature. He makes fantastical claims and forecasts that are implausible at the time but that can't be proved wrong empirically because sufficient time hasn't passed. As the Trump presidency wears on, however, time exposes more claims as fraudulent.

He claimed the economy would grow consistently at 4% and occasionally as high as 8%; after an initial boost because of tax cuts, it has settled back down to 2.1%.

His treasury secretary said in April that the United States and China were close to a trade deal. The two are now fighting a trade and currency war.

He proclaimed North Korea no longer a nuclear threat and said its main missile-launching site "is going to be destroyed very soon"; North Korea has resumed weapons testing.

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