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By PHILIP BUMP
President Trump is heading to Wisconsin on Tuesday to tour the manufacturing facility for Snap-On Tools and to sign an executive order billed as “Hire American, Buy American.” A preview of the order described to reporters Monday explains the contours of the second half of that title: Government agencies will be encouraged to give priority to American companies when awarding contracts, with a review of waivers and exemptions that allowed the use of foreign-made products.
This is a remarkably hypocritical position for Trump to espouse, as it has been since the outset of his campaign. Why?
Trump sold foreign-made products under his name for years
In a 2012 segment made famous in a Hillary Clinton ad last year, former CBS talk show host David Letterman confronted Trump on his clothing line.
“Where are the shirts made?” Letterman asked. “Bangladesh.”
“Well, it’s good,” Trump replies. “We employ people in Bangladesh. They have to work, too.”
Trump’s affinity for producing his clothing line overseas is so well-established that even foreign leaders have used it to score points against him.
Trump has defended this practice in the past. Last July, he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he “bid out” production for his ties, but you have “companies over in different countries where they devalue their currency and they make it impossible for American companies to compete.” Earlier this week, Trump decided against formally labeling China — where many of his ties were made — as a currency manipulator.
His daughter, now an unpaid White House staffer, continues to do so
An investigation by NBC News found that Ivanka Trump’s clothing line continues to bring in products made overseas.
“Since Election Day,” NBC reported, “the apparel brand run by Trump’s daughter has imported 56 shipments of Ivanka Trump products from China and Singapore, part of a total of 215 shipments from Asia since Jan. 1, 2016.” Trump last month announced that she’d be taking a formal position with her father’s administration.
After she introduced her father at the Republican National Convention in July, her company’s official Twitter account plugged the dress that she wore during that speech — a dress that was imported from an overseas manufacturer.
On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that Trump’s company had secured trademark protection from the Chinese government to sell products in that country. The trademarks were granted the same day that Trump and her father dined with the Chinese president.
Trump buys foreign products for his hotels and properties
There are some occasions in which buying foreign-made products is difficult to avoid. For example: television sets.
“I buy television sets. I buy a tremendous amount of things there because we don’t make television sets anymore, folks,” Trump said during a speech in February 2016. “We’d like to make them. We used to make them. You remember Sylvania, RCA. But those days are gone.”
PolitiFact looked at this claim and rated it true: There are televisions that are assembled in the United States from components made overseas, but none that are manufactured here.
On other occasions, though, Trump has less of an excuse.
In October, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump buildings frequently used imported steel in their manufacture. Trump’s campaign blamed subcontractors for ordering cheaper foreign steel for the projects.
(Trump has repeatedly trumpeted that his approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline shortly after taking office included a mandate that pipeline projects use only American-manufactured steel. However, since the steel for the pipeline already has been purchased, that won’t apply to Keystone.)
It’s not just the structure of Trump properties that use foreign-made products. Business Insider reported that the furnishings of the hotels — and even the toiletries — are also often sourced from foreign countries. Ice buckets from Thailand. Headboards from China. Slippers from Hong Kong. Shower gel from Italy.
Trump and his family have consistently sought to hire foreign workers
It’s worth noting that even the “hire American” part of Trump’s executive order is hypocritical.
We looked at the reliance of Trump properties on guest-worker visas last year. Since 2013, Trump properties including Mar-a-Lago, Trump Vineyards and Trump National Golf Club have sought to fill more than 500 positions with foreign workers under the H-2A visa program. In total, those positions would have earned almost $1 million a month in salary over their durations.
In that same interview with ABC in July, Stephanopoulos questioned Trump’s use of foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago — a practice that continued even up to the month before Trump was elected.
“Well, you know what? I don’t hire the people,” Trump replied. “But if you look at all the other places in Palm Beach, they’re all doing exactly the same thing. And you know why they’re doing that? You know why they’re doing that? Because you can’t get people, George.”
In October, the unemployment rate in Palm Beach County, Fla., where Mar-a-Lago is located, was 5 percent.