President Donald Trump made 78 false claims last week, including 24 related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and Russia. That compares to 61 false claims the week before and 29 the week before that.
In the hours leading up to and after Mueller testified before two House committees, Trump unleashed a misinformation blitz about him on Twitter, in a Fox News interview and while speaking to reporters.
Trump also made 11 false claims about China and trade, 10 false claims about immigration, and 9 false claims about his popularity and accomplishments. He was particularly dishonest during a speech to teenagers: he made 22 false claims during his off-script address to a conference held by the conservative student group Turning Point USA.
A complete list of false claims is below. First, some of the week’s lowlights and lower-lights:
The most absurd false claim: The handshake champion
Trump likes to boast that he is smarter, tougher and more productive than previous presidents. He regularly finds new ways to favorably compare himself to the men who came before.
Some of these superlatives are not remotely true. Last week, for example, he said he has more handshake stamina than they did.
Speaking at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit on July 23, Trump bragged that he had “stood up there for the whole thing” and shaken the hand of every member of the graduating classes at the military service academies where he gave speeches — unlike previous presidents, who would “leave after about 50 or 60 people,” he said he was told.
A single Google search brings up articles about how Barack Obama and George W. Bush also shook every graduate’s hand.
The most egregious false claim: An unfounded charge of racism
Trump has a preferred strategy for responding to serious allegations: accuse his critics of the very same thing he is being accused of.
We saw it in 2016 with Hillary Clinton, whose allegation that Vladimir Putin wanted a “puppet” as president was met with a Trump rejoinder of “you’re the puppet.” We’ve seen it during Trump’s presidency with his assertions that his critics are “unhinged” and that Democrats were the ones who committed “collusion.” And we saw it last week: as Trump was being accused of racism for his disparaging remarks about Rep. Elijah Cummings and his Baltimore district, he tweeted that Cummings was “racist.”
We don’t fact-check almost any of Trump’s insults; within reason, he has the right to his opinion. But this claim isn’t within reason. There is just no evidence that Cummings is racist.
The most revealing false claim: “Whatever I want”
Rejecting the suggestion that he could possibly have committed obstruction of justice, Trump gave the Turning Point teens this lesson about the Constitution: “Then I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as President.”
That’s outlandishly wrong. Article II, which outlines the president’s powers, also includes a provision that the President can be impeached.
Does Trump believe that he actually has unlimited authority? Or, more likely, did he hear a lawyer make a particular argument about his Mueller-related powers under Article II and turn that into “do whatever I want”?
At the very least, his claim reveals a president uninterested or incapable of speaking precisely. It also suggests, again, that this president is not much interested in respecting checks and balances.
Invented number of the week
Trump twice cited a “new” poll that he said showed that a mere “11%” of people favor the initiation of impeachment proceedings.
We and others looked for such a poll. There is no such public poll. The only thing anyone could find was an Economist/YouGov poll that showed that 11% of Republicans favored impeachment. With the broader public, support has regularly been in the 30s or higher – and it was 36% in that poll.
Adventures in Trump history
Fueled by George Conway, the anti-Trump conservative lawyer who is married to senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, the hashtag #LostTrumpHistory rocketed around Twitter on Monday, mocking the President’s penchant for wild falsehoods about the past and his role in it.
Trump’s comments last week were littered with not-even-close-to-correct historical anecdotes.
Among other things, he claimed that the US had “never had any kind of cooperation with Mexico ever” before his presidency (there was lots), that the European Union was founded to compete with the US economically (“preposterous,” one expert told us), that the US had never before taken in money from tariffs on China (it was billions a year prior to Trump’s presidency), that previous presidents arrived without judicial vacancies to fill (they had dozens), and that China’s economy had “flat-lined” before it was allowed to enter the World Trade Organization (it had been one of the world’s fastest-growing economies for decades).
Here’s the full list of all 78 false claims
The Russia investigation
Mueller’s relationship with Comey
“And Robert Mueller, I know he’s conflicted – he had a lot – there’s a lot of conflicts that he’s got, including the fact that his best friend is Comey.” – July 22 remarks with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan
Facts First: There is no evidence that former FBI directors Mueller and James Comey are, or ever were, “best friends.”
Mueller said in his testimony on July 24 that the two are “business associates”; when pressed, he conceded they are “friends.” But there is no evidence they were very close or that they have been photographed “hugging and kissing,” as Trump has previously alleged. In 2017, a lawyer for Comey told the fact-check website Snopes: “Jim and Bob are friends in the sense that co-workers are friends. They don’t really have a personal relationship. Jim has never been to Bob’s house and Bob has never been to Jim’s house … They’ve had lunch together once, dinner together twice, once with their spouses and once after Jim became FBI director so Bob could give him a run-down on what to look out for.”
Mueller and the FBI director job
“And Robert Mueller, I know he’s conflicted – he had a lot – there’s a lot of conflicts that he’s got … As you know, he wanted the job of the FBI Director. He didn’t get it.” – July 22 remarks with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan
“It has been reported that Robert Mueller is saying that he did not apply and interview for the job of FBI Director (and get turned down) the day before he was wrongfully appointed Special Counsel. Hope he doesn’t say that under oath in that we have numerous witnesses to the interview, including the Vice President of the United States!” – July 24 tweet
Facts First: Then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and Mueller himself have said that Mueller was not seeking the job when he spoke to Trump about it. According to both of them, Mueller was asked to speak with Trump in an advisory capacity, not as a candidate.
Mueller served as FBI director for 12 years between 2001 and 2013. Bannon told Mueller’s investigators that Mueller’s conversation with Trump in May 2017 was not in the capacity of a candidate to return to the job and that Mueller “did not come in looking for the job.” According to the Mueller report, rather, Bannon said “the White House had invited Mueller to speak to the President to offer a perspective on the institution of the FBI.”
Mueller said in his testimony on July 24 that while he had discussed the job with Trump, it was “not as a candidate.”
“I was asked to give my input on what it would take to do the job,” Mueller testified. The “interview,” he said, “was about the job and not about me applying for the job.”
Asked if he had told the vice president that the one job he would come back for was the job of FBI director, Mueller said, “Don’t recall that one.”
“So Robert Mueller has now asked for his long time Never Trumper lawyer to sit beside him and help with answers. What’s this all about? His lawyer represented the ‘basement server guy’ who got off free in the Crooked Hillary case. This should NOT be allowed. Rigged Witch Hunt!” – July 23 tweet
“It was NEVER agreed that Robert Mueller could use one of his many Democrat Never Trumper lawyers to sit next to him and help him with his answers. This was specifically NOT agreed to, and I would NEVER have agreed to it. The Greatest Witch Hunt in U.S. history, by far!” – July 24 tweet
Facts First: There is no public evidence that lawyer and former FBI agent Aaron Zebley is either a Democrat or a “Never Trumper,” a term generally used to describe Republicans who are steadfastly opposed to Trump. Zebley has not donated to either party, according to the Washington Post, and is not registered with either party. We could not find any public statements from him about Trump.
Zebley served as Mueller’s chief of staff during his final years as FBI Director. After Mueller left the FBI and joined the WilmerHale law firm in 2014, Zebley followed him there. Zebley did represent Justin Cooper, who helped Hillary Clinton set up her controversial private email server.
“So why didn’t the highly conflicted Robert Mueller investigate how and why Crooked Hillary Clinton deleted and acid washed 33,000 Emails immediately AFTER getting a SUBPOENA from the United States Congress? She must have GREAT lawyers! ” – July 24 tweet
Facts First: A server company working for Clinton deleted these emails using a free software program called BleachBit. They were not “acid washed.” Though Trump is correct that the emails were deleted three weeks after the subpoena was issued, a Clinton aide had requested the deletion before the subpoena was issued; there is no evidence Clinton’s team had ordered any deletions after receiving the subpoena.
The emails, which Clinton had deemed personal and not related to her job as Secretary of State, were deleted three weeks after the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued a subpoena demanding the retention of Clinton emails. An employee of the server company, Paul Combetta, told the FBI that he had deleted the emails after belatedly realizing he had forgotten to carry out a request made by Clinton aide Cheryl Mills in 2014, prior to the subpoena, to change Clinton’s email policy so that messages more than 60 days old would be automatically purged.
James Comey, then the FBI director, told the House Judiciary Committee in 2016 that there is no evidence Combetta was ordered to execute the deletion after the receipt of the subpoena.