09:50 - Source: CNN
Don Lemon: What Trump said on Fox News is stunning
Washington CNN —  

President Donald Trump made seven false claims in a 25-minute telephone interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday night. Here’s a fact check of all of them:

Energy and Russia

Trump argued that he was the “last person” Russia should want to be president.

“Well, based on the fact that we’ve just become – and, you know, fairly recently, a little while ago, the number one oil and gas producer and energy producer in the world, by far – Russia, Saudi Arabia, now second and third, based on the fact that we now have the best – we will soon have the most modern military we have ever had with the best equipment, the best, newest planes and all of the things that we have done, and so many other things, Sean – based on all of that, the last person they should want is me,” he said.

Facts First: The US has not “just” become the world’s top energy producer: it took the top spot in 2012, according to the US government’s Energy Information Administration. It became the top producer of crude oil in particular during Trump’s tenure.

“The United States has been the world’s top producer of natural gas since 2009, when US natural gas production surpassed that of Russia, and it has been the world’s top producer of petroleum hydrocarbons since 2013, when its production exceeded Saudi Arabia’s,” the Energy Information Administration says.

Crime “on the other side”

Trump repeated his claim that unspecified opponents of his broke the law.

“This crime was a – the crime was committed on the other side, and we’ll find out about that. We have a great attorney general who is looking at it. I’m not involved in that,” he said.

Facts First: Several of Trump’s former aides and allies have been convicted through the Mueller investigation. None of Trump’s opponents have been convicted. Attorney General William Barr did assign a federal prosecutor to examine the origins of the Russia investigation, but no proof of any crimes by the investigators has emerged to date.

Former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig, someone who can be said to be on the “other side,” has been charged with alleged crimes that were uncovered because of the Mueller probe. But former special counsel Robert Mueller has secured convictions from multiple people from Trump’s orbit: former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former deputy chairman Rick Gates, former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former lawyer and Trump Organization executive Michael Cohen.

Russian “bloggers”

As he has in the past, Trump claimed that Russian “bloggers” were charged by Mueller.

“You know, all of these things like the Russian bloggers, they had nothing to do with us. And everybody knew it. In fact, there is a little sentence, and they are saying that it had nothing to do with the Trump administration. But it was like a lot of people, 24 people or something. A lot of bloggers, bloggers in Russia, they’ll never see these people,” he said.

Facts First: No “Russian blogger” was charged by Mueller. He charged Russian hackers. Twelve members of the GRU, an arm of Russian military intelligence, were accused of hacking the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The Mueller report described an extensive hacking operation by the GRU. The report mentioned that the GRU used a blog to disseminate hacked documents, but it did not call them bloggers.


Trump repeated his allegation that the Russia investigation was “treason.”

“This was a fake witch hunt and it should never be allowed to happen to another president again. This was treason. This was high crimes. This was everything – as bad a definition as you want to come up with,” he said.

Facts First: Nothing about the Russia investigation comes close to meeting the definition of treason. Under the Constitution, treason is narrowly defined: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

Mueller was appointed and supervised by a Republican whom Trump appointed as deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. There is no evidence of any behavior that could even possibly qualify as treason.

A “coup attempt”

In addition to the accusation of “treason,” Trump claimed that the Russia investigation was “an illegal takeover” and a “coup attempt.”

“The country has had tremendous support from (Rep. Mark) Meadows and (Rep. Jim) Jordan and Devin Nunes and so many of the names that you saw yesterday, performed so well. I mean, they performed so well, and they worked so hard because they saw this was a scam. This was an illegal takeover, as you would say in the business world. I mean, this was – this was a coup attempt, in my opinion. And this is the United States,” he said.

Facts First: The Russia investigation was not illegal or an attempted coup. Again, Mueller was appointed and supervised by a Republican Trump appointee.

Trump’s crowds

Trump asserted once more that he has never had an empty seat at one of his rallies.

“I think we’re going to do very well. We have tremendous spirit. Every time, you’ve never seen an empty seat. We go into these massive arenas and they’re packed and there’s thousands of people outside. You’ve never seen an empty seat. So I think we’re going to do very well,” he said.

Facts First: There were empty seats at Trump’s most recent rally, in Greenville, North Carolina, last week. There have also been empty seats at various other Trump events.

Bloomberg News reporter Josh Wingrove tweeted a photo of what he described as a “smattering” of empty seats in the almost-full 8,000-capacity venue in Greenville.

The Dallas News said of Trump’s October 18 rally in Houston: “Many hundreds of seats were empty, including all of the boxes on both tiers of the mezzanine.” At Trump’s Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, rally in April 2017, Philadelphia Inquirer journalist Jonathan Tamari tweeted a photo of rows of empty seats in the upper deck.

US remains from North Korea

Trump continued to claim that the US is receiving the remains of soldiers who died in North Korean territory during the Korean War.

“And in the case of North Korea, I’m actually getting along very well with him, but we’ll see what happens. I mean, you know, the sanctions are on. The hostages are back. We’re getting the remains back.”

Facts First: While North Korea returned some remains last year, it is no longer doing so. The US military announced in May that the remains program had been suspended for the rest of the 2019 fiscal year because North Korea had stopped communicating with the US agency responsible for the effort.

Trump could accurately tout the return of remains in the past tense: North Korea returned 55 cases of possible remains in the summer of 2018. As of late May, six soldiers had been identified from these cases.

But the Pentagon’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said in May that no more remains would be coming back this fiscal year. The agency said North Korea had not spoken with the agency at all since the Hanoi summit in February between Trump and Kim Jong Un, which ended abruptly.

North Korea’s missile testing

Trump said of North Korea: “They really haven’t tested missiles other than, you know, smaller ones, the, uh – which is something that lots test.”

Facts First: South Korean officials said North Korea fired two short-range missiles early Thursday toward the sea of Japan. The first flew approximately 430 kilometers (265 miles) and the second flew 690 kilometers (428 miles), they said.

Trump is entitled to his opinion about how “small” the missiles were, and they were indeed short-range, so we won’t call this claim false – but it’s worth noting that their range was big enough to threaten both US allies and the US military personnel stationed in South Korea, 29,000 as of the end of March. South Korea’s Ministry of Defense said it viewed the launches “as a military threat and an action undermining efforts to alleviate tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”

Trump had argued that the May test was not a violation of United Nation resolutions, and he had occasionally insisted in the weeks after the test that North Korea had not done any missile testing at all. But Patrick Shanahan, then the acting secretary of defense, was unequivocal, telling reporters, “Let me just be clear: these were short-range missiles. Those are a violation of the UNSCR.”

CNN’s Zachary Cohen, Nicole Gaouette, Sophie Jeong and Barbara Starr contributed to this article.