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.
“No email, no phone call, nothing,” Comey said.
“He was told to do it in 2014, screwed up and didn’t do it, panicked when he realized he hadn’t and then raced back in and did it after Congress asked for the records and the New York Times wrote about them.”
“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.” – July 25 interview with Sean Hannity
Facts First: No “Russian blogger” was charged by Mueller. He charged Russian hackers and Russians who created phony online personas and social media pages to deceive Americans.
Twelve members of the GRU, an arm of Russian military intelligence, were accused of hacking the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The report mentioned that the GRU used a blog to disseminate hacked documents, but it did not call them bloggers.
Mueller also charged Russia’s Internet Research Agency and 12 of its employees. Among other things, they were accused of creating social media pages that were intended to look like they were run by Americans. These individuals are at least somewhat closer to being bloggers than the hackers were, but the term still doesn’t apply.
“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.” – July 25 interview with Sean Hannity
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”
“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.” – July 25 interview with Sean Hannity
Facts First: The Russia investigation was not illegal or an attempted coup. Again, Mueller was appointed and supervised by a Republican Trump appointee.
An “illegal” investigation
“So Democrats and others can illegally fabricate a crime, try pinning it on a very innocent President, and when he fights back against this illegal and treasonous attack on our Country, they call It Obstruction? Wrong!” – July 24 tweet
“Robert Mueller’s testimony, and the Mueller Report itself, was a disaster for this illegal Democrat inspired Witch Hunt.” – July 27 tweet
Facts First: There is no evidence that the Mueller investigation was “illegal,” nor that any crime was fabricated by investigators.
“Why didn’t Robert Mueller & his band of 18 Angry Democrats spend any time investigating Crooked Hillary Clinton, Lyin’ & Leakin’ James Comey, Lisa Page and her Psycho lover, Peter S, Andy McCabe, the beautiful Ohr family, Fusion GPS, and many more, including HIMSELF & Andrew W?” – July 24 tweet
Facts First: Mueller himself is a longtime Republican. The majority of the lawyers on Mueller’s team had registered as Democrats, but not all of them.
The Washington Post found in 2018 that 13 of the 17 lawyers then on the special counsel’s team had registered as Democrats; the Post said the other four had no affiliation or their affiliation could not be found.
In his testimony on July 24, Mueller said he hires people for their capabilities and integrity and had “not had one occasion to ask somebody about their political affiliation” in his 25 years working “in this business.”
Mueller and obstruction of justice
“And Robert Mueller, I know he’s conflicted – he had a lot – there’s a lot of conflicts that he’s got…But you know what? He still ruled – and I respect him for it – he still ruled ‘no collusion, no obstruction.’” – July 22 remarks with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan
Facts First: Mueller’s report did not say “no obstruction” in any way.
Mueller laid out a case that Trump may have committed obstruction, but he explained that he would abide by a Justice Department policy that holds that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
“… If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” the report said,” Mueller’s report said.
It was Attorney General William Barr who determined that the evidence laid out by Mueller was “not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
“I watched Nancy Pelosi trying to get through that, with the performance that Robert Mueller put on, where — I don’t think he ever read the agreement or the document. And the document said, ‘No collusion.’” – July 26 exchange with reporters upon signing agreement with Guatemala
“We had no collusion, no obstruction. We had no nothing. We had a total ‘no collusion” finding. The Democrats were devastated by it. They went crazy… All they care about is a phony investigation where the report was written — it said, ‘No collusion.’” – July 22 remarks with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan
Facts First: The Mueller report did not explicitly say the words “no collusion.” The report explained that Mueller was investigating the issue of conspiracy, not “collusion,” which is not a specific criminal offense.
We don’t call it false when Trump, paraphrasing Mueller’s conclusions, says that Mueller found no collusion: Mueller wrote that his “investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” But it’s false for Trump to say that the phrase “no collusion” was explicitly written in the report, as he did here.
Indictment once out of office
Trump accused reporters of being “fake news” for asking him about the possibility that he could be indicted once out of office, which Mueller testified was possible. Trump claimed that Mueller both “didn’t say that” and “did a correction” on this point; he told reporters to “read his correction,” insisting, “Because if you look at his correction, he took that totally out of play.” – July 24 exchange with reporters
Facts First: Mueller did say that the President could be indicted once out of office, and he did not correct this statement. His correction was about a different statement he made during his testimony on July 24.
Mueller was direct about whether Trump could be indicted after his presidency. Mueller was asked by Republican Rep. Ken Buck, “Could you charge the President with a crime after he left office?” Mueller said, “Yes.”
In the correction, Mueller was clearing up an answer he gave about why he did not indict Trump while in office. Democratic California Rep. Ted. Lieu had asked him, “The reason, again, that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting president, correct?” Mueller responded, “That is correct.”
Mueller explained later that he did not mean to suggest he would have charged Trump if not for the Department of Justice policy Lieu was referring to. Rather, he meant that, because of the policy, they did not even consider charging Trump.
Mueller and text messages
“So what happened with Strzok and Page, meaning the two lovers, it’s a disgrace because they had a lot of text messages, and Mueller illegally deleted those text messages. And they didn’t get too much into that because he forgot; he didn’t really know; he didn’t know too much; he didn’t know anything. But Strzok and Page were texting…What they did and what Mueller did — he deleted their text messages back and forth, probably thousands of them. That’s a serious problem. They shouldn’t have been allowed to do it.” – July 24 exchange with reporters
“…why were the text messages of Peter S and his lover, Lisa Page, deleted and destroyed right after they left Mueller, and after we requested them(this is Illegal)?” – July 22 tweet
Facts First: Mueller did not illegally delete text messages between former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page – nor delete them at all. A computer problem had caused some of their texts to go missing, but they were later found.
The Justice Department’s internal watchdog reviewed whether the missing texts were intentionally destroyed or hidden. Its investigation not only recovered the texts but also concluded that the problem had stemmed from an FBI-wide software glitch. The texts have now been released to the public.
There is no evidence that Mueller, or anyone acting on his orders, was involved in deleting any messages.
“You know, obstruction is sort of interesting. They’ve interviewed 500 people. They’ve interviewed lawyers. They’re interviewed everybody that they wanted to interview.” – July 26 exchange with reporters upon signing agreement with Guatemala
Facts First: Not “everybody.” Trump rejected Mueller’s requests for an interview of him.
Trump instead submitted written responses to questions. Donald Trump Jr., the President’s son, also declined to be interviewed.
Crime “on the other side”
“The real Collusion, the Conspiracy, the Crime, was between the Clinton Campaign, the DNC, Fusion GPS, Christopher Steele…..(and many others including Comey, McCabe, Lisa Page and her lover, Ohr and his wonderful wife, and on and on!).” – July 27 tweet
“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.” – July 25 interview with Sean Hannity
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.
Article II of the Constitution
“Then I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as President.” – July 23 speech at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit
Facts First: Article II of the Constitution, which outlines the powers of the executive branch, does not grant the president the ability to do “whatever” they want.
“The President’s assertion is false, by a long shot,” said William Banks, a law professor at Syracuse University. “The President, like every actor in our national government, is bound by the Constitution. Article II of the Constitution allows the President to take certain actions, but the list is quite short, especially compared to the long list of Congress’s Article I powers.”
The first line of Article II, Section 1 says, “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” Subsequent items establish the process of choosing the president, who is eligible for the presidency, the State of the Union update the president must give to Congress, the president’s role as commander-in-chief, and presidential powers such as making treaties and granting pardons. Notably, Article II also includes the provision that allows for the president to be impeached.
“The main point is that the President is subordinate to the Constitution and laws,” said Banks. “He is not a monarch, nor running an autocracy.”
Trump’s popularity and accomplishments
Polling on impeachment
“But think of it: Only 11 percent, in a new poll, favor the starting of this ridiculous impeachment hearings that are going on. You hear about it.” – July 23 speech at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit
“Newest Poll: Only 11% in favor of starting ridiculous impeachment hearings.” – July 23 tweet
Facts First: There is no recent public poll in which support for impeachment is even close to as low as 11%. While the results have varied depending on the way the question has been asked, support for impeachment has regularly been in the 30s or higher.
It is possible that Trump got the “11%” from a July Economist/YouGov poll in which 11% of Republicans in particular supported impeachment. Thirty-six percent of all respondents supported impeachment.
In a Fox News poll in June, 43% said Trump should be impeached and removed from office, and another 7% said he should be impeached but not removed. A Monmouth University poll in June found 35% support for impeachment and removal.
“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.” – July 25 interview with Sean Hannity
Facts First: There were empty seats at Trump’s most recent rally, in Greenville, North Carolina, two weeks ago. 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.
“I gave the commencement address at the Air Force Academy recently, and at Annapolis the year before. And they said, ‘Sir, would you like to shake the hands of all the cadets?’ I said, ‘How many are there?’ ‘One thousand one hundred.’ I said, ‘Yeah, that sounds okay.’ I say, ‘Do other presidents do it?’ ‘Yes, they do.’ ‘Do all of them?’ ‘Yeah, they do.’ What they didn’t say is they start and then they peter out and they go back. Because it’s – it’s tough. It was really hot. That sun was beaming down. And I’m just one hand. And some of these guys are great athletes. And some of the women – they had some women in the class that were – their hands were very strong, okay? And they’re all shaking. And, you know, they’re a little nervous, maybe; they’re meeting the president. They’re shaking strongly and – ‘Sir.’ But, you know, with shaking 1,100 hands and saluting. We’re saluting, shaking, turning, spinning. They’re coming at all different directions. I felt like a great fighter pilot. But I stood up there for the whole thing. I said, ‘There’s no way that other presidents have done that.’ He said, ‘No, no, they do it but they leave after about 50 or 60 people.’ I said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me that?’ But I’m glad I did it.” – July 23 speech to Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit
Facts First: As Trump says he was initially told, previous presidents have indeed shaken the hands of every graduate of the military service academies where they have spoken.
Contemporaneous news reports about Barack Obama and George W. Bush, for example, noted that they shook every hand at the graduations they attended. We can’t fact-check what Trump might have been told in a private conversation, but he was, at least, promoting a false claim.
There were 989 graduates from the Air Force Academy this year, not 1,100.
“But, you know, what people don’t talk about: I’ve just signed the 124th federal district judge – federal judges – under me. …Because, normally, when you become president, you go in and you say, ‘Do I have any judges to appoint?’ ‘No.’ You know, they’re all – because it’s such an important thing.” – July 23 speech to Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit
Facts First: It is not normal for incoming presidents to be told they have no judges to appoint. Like Trump, his predecessors entered office with dozens of vacancies on federal courts.
According to Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who tracks judicial appointments, there were 103 vacancies on district and appeals courts on Jan. 1, 2017, just before Trump took office; 53 vacancies on Jan. 1, 2009, just before Barack Obama took office; 80 vacancies on Jan. 1, 2001, just before George W. Bush took office; 107 vacancies on Jan. 1, 1993, just before Bill Clinton took office.
So Trump had the most judges to appoint since Clinton, but, clearly, other presidents also had appointing to do.
“…Best and Newest Military (almost totally rebuilt from the depleted military I took over) in History, Best V.A. in History (Choice), and MUCH, MUCH MORE. Gee, let’s impeach the President.” – July 23 tweet
“We have the best VA in history, and I got Choice so that – that’s one of the big things that’s working – so that if a person has to wait for three weeks, four weeks, five weeks – can you imagine you go to a doctor and they say, “Come back in six weeks?” People were coming back – they were sick, and they were coming back and they were terminal. They could’ve been saved. They were waiting so long. So I got Choice. You go out. If you have to wait, you go out and you see a doctor. We pay the bill. Okay? We actually – the least important thing is we save money. That’s the least important thing, in that case, but we do save money. But we also have a very happy VA. They love it.” – July 23 speech at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit
Facts First: Trump did not get the Veterans Choice program passed. It was signed into law by Obama in 2014.
In 2018, Trump signed the VA MISSION Act, which expanded and changed the Choice program.
Social media followers
“For centuries, Americans freely exchanged their ideas in the public square. Now, the public square exists online, and massive, multi-national tech companies have gained enormous power to censor opinions, shape public perception, and really, to decide what information citizens are going to be given. And I see it all the time. I see it on social media – for me. And I have people coming up all the time, “We want to follow you, sir. They make it so hard to follow you.” And I have millions and millions of people. But it should be much more…Everyone tells me, when you read – they talk about this tremendous power. And I’m saying, ‘That’s right. They’re making it impossible.’ And then somebody will look at me, ‘But sir, you won.’” – July 23 speech at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit
Facts First: There is no evidence that Twitter or other social media companies have made it difficult for people to follow Trump. Trump did briefly lose followers on Twitter last year, but that was part of a broad purge of suspected fake accounts.
The purge also removed followers from the accounts of many other famous people. Trump lost approximately 300,000 followers, far fewer than Obama (more than 2 million) and the Dalai Lama (about 375,000), according to a New York Times count.
We obviously can’t verify what people might have told Trump in private, but following him is not complicated: doing so is simply a matter of signing up for an account, searching his name and clicking a single button.
Prescription drug prices
“I’m lowering drug prices. First time in 53 years that drug prices went down last year. Fifty-three years.” – July 22 remarks with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan
Facts First: This was a slight exaggeration: prescription drug prices declined last year for the first time in 46 years, according to one of several measures.
The Consumer Price Index for prescription drugs showed a 0.6% decline between December 2017 and December 2018, the first calendar-year decline since 1972.
As the Washington Post pointed out in its own recent fact check, some experts say that the Consumer Price Index is a flawed measure of trends in drug prices, since it doesn’t include rebates that drug companies pay to insurers. The IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, which studies drug prices, found that “net drug prices in the United States increased at an estimated 1.5% in 2018.”
Trump can reasonably cite the Consumer Price Index. He was just off on the number of years.
Energy and Russia
“And no other president is doing that for the farmers, or no other president is going to save the miners and save energy. You know, we’re the number-one producer of energy now in the world? And when I came, it was heading in the wrong direction. It was heading in a very bad direction. Right now, we’re bigger than Russia and bigger than Saudi Arabia and bigger than anybody.” – July 23 speech at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit
“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.” – July 25 interview with Sean Hannity
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.
There is a factual basis for Trump’s claim that energy production was heading in a “very bad direction,” at least from the perspective of someone who wants energy production to rise: production declined 4% in 2016, according to the US government’s Energy Information Administration. But production had previously increased every year since 2009.
The formation of the European Union
“European Union is worse to us on trade than China, okay? Nobody would think that. You know, a lot of us come from European Union. We come from Europe – our grandparents, our great-grandparents. So you think, ‘Oh, isn’t that nice?’ Except, they kill us – the European Union. It was formed in order to beat us economically, and yet we protect them with NATO.”
Facts First: Beating the United States economically was not one of the key reasons for the formation of the European Union.
“The President’s claims are preposterous. The European Communities (forerunner of the EU) were formed in the 1950s as part of a joint US-Western European plan to stabilize and secure Western Europe and promote prosperity, by means of trade liberalization and economic growth, throughout the shared transatlantic space,” Desmond Dinan, a public policy professor at George Mason University who is an expert in the history of European integration, said in an email.
US presidents have consistently supported all of these European integration efforts.
“The EU was launched in 1993, on the shoulders of the European Communities, to promote peace and prosperity in the post-Cold War era, an era also of rapid globalization. American officials may have had their doubts about the feasibility of monetary union, and about the possibility of a Common (European) Security and Defense Policy, but the US Administration strongly supported further European integration in the 1990s,” Dinan said.
The US contribution to NATO
“But think of this. So they weren’t paying their bills. So we’re paying for close to 100% of NATO. So here’s the story: They rip us off on trade. They have trade barriers that make it impossible for certain groups, like farmers and others, to go in. They rip us on trade, and then we protect them and they rip us on that too. And they don’t pay their bills. Other than that, it’s a wonderful deal.” – July 23 speech at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit
Facts First: US spending represented about 72% of all NATO members’ military spending each year from 2015 to 2017, according to official NATO figures. In 2014, it was 69%. Those are big numbers, but “100%” is an exaggeration.
Separate from the military spending of individual nations, NATO has its own direct budget to run its offices and programs. The US pays for an agreed-upon 22% of that budget.
The percentage of GDP spent on NATO
“So we’re getting it straightened out, folks. We’re getting it straightened out. Somebody said, ‘President Obama is much more popular in Germany than Donald Trump.’ Well, he should be. He should be. (Laughter and applause.) Because Germany is the biggest offender. They don’t pay. They’re paying 1%; we’re paying 4.3% of a much bigger GDP. Germany doesn’t want to pay. They’re supposed to pay 2 percent. They’re paying 1%. And I say, “You got to pay, Angela. You got to pay, Angela. Please pay, Angela.” – July 23 speech at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit
Facts First: The US does not spend 4.3% of GDP on defense. It spent 3.3% in 2017 and an estimated 3.4% in 2018, according to official NATO figures released in March.
Germany spent an estimated 1.2% of GDP on defense in 2018, so Trump was accurate in rounding to 1%.
Previous presidents and NATO
“Except, they kill us — the European Union. It was formed in order to beat us economically, and yet we protect them with NATO. So they rip us off on trade, and we protect them with military. But here’s the problem with the protection: They’re not paying their bills. So the United States – I got $100 billion more in the last two years – $100 billion. I got them to pay. I said, ‘You got to pay.’ Nobody else has ever done that.” – July 23 speech at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit
Facts First: Previous presidents have, like Trump, insisted that other NATO members spend more on defense. NATO countries are not letting actual “bills” go unpaid, though some of them are not yet meeting an alliance guideline of spending 2% of their gross domestic product on defense.
Obama regularly urged NATO allies to spend more. “If we’ve got a collective defense, it means that everybody’s got to chip in, and I’ve had some concerns about a diminished level of defense spending among some of our partners in NATO,” Obama said in 2014. “The situation in Ukraine reminds us that our freedom isn’t free and we’ve got to be willing to pay for the assets, the personnel, the training that’s required to make sure that we have a credible NATO force and an effective deterrent force.”
At George W. Bush’s final NATO summit, in 2008, he called on NATO allies to “increase their defense investments to support both NATO and EU operations.”
Trump might have just been speaking informally here, but NATO countries do not have actual bills owing if they are not meeting the 2% guideline.
How long the US has been in Afghanistan
“So we’re working with Pakistan and others to extricate ourselves. Nor do we want to be policemen, because basically we’re policemen right now. And we’re not supposed to be policemen. We’ve been there – we’ve been there for 19 years, in Afghanistan. It’s ridiculous.” – July 22 remarks with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan
Facts First: The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, less than 18 years ago. This was not a one-time slip; Trump habitually says “19 years.”
North Korea and US remains
“Our relationship with North Korea has been very good. We’ve really established a good relationship with Kim Jong Un. I have personally. There’s no rocket testing. There’s no missile testing. We’re getting our remains back. We got our hostages back.” – July 22 remarks with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan
“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.” – July 25 interview with Sean Hannity
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 remains are no longer being returned. 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.
Inflation in Iran
“Their country is in turmoil. They’re having demonstrations all over Iran. Their inflation rate is at 75 percent. They have a lot of problems.” – July 22 remarks with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan
Facts First: Iran’s inflation rate is high, but it is not 75%, according to published figures and experts on Iran. The International Monetary Fund reported a 37% inflation rate for Iran as of April. The Statistical Center of Iran announced a 38% rate in late June.
It is possible that inflation has increased this month, and Iran’s official figures are not always precise, but experts said 75% is certainly an exaggeration.
“There’s no question that inflation is running rampant these days after the sanctions, but the 75% figure is way above the numbers I’ve seen by analysts and organizations that do a reasonably good job of tracking these. The latter have inflation at just above 50%, nowhere near 75%,” said Hussein Banai, an international studies professor at Indiana University and an expert on US-Iran relations.
“I have seen figures closer to 40-50%,” said Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council.
The Iran deal
“The deal that President Obama made was a disaster because it was such a short term. It didn’t cover ballistic missiles. And they couldn’t see the important sites. Under this you couldn’t inspect the important sites. There were many things wrong. And, of course, they gave $150 billion plus $1.8 billion in green — green, beautiful cash.”
Facts First: The US did not give Iran $150 billion as part of the nuclear agreement. The deal allowed Iran to access tens of billions in its own assets – not American cash – that had been frozen in foreign financial institutions because of sanctions. The total was significantly lower than $150 billion, experts say.
Trump did not invent the $150 billion figure out of thin air: Obama himself mused in a 2015 interview about Iran having “$150 billion parked outside the country.” But experts on Iran policy, and Obama’s own administration, said that the quantity of assets the agreement actually made available to Iran was much lower.
In 2015, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew put the number at $56 billion. PolitiFact reported that Garbis Iradian, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance, put it at about $60 billion, and that Nader Habibi, professor of economics of the Middle East at Brandeis University, thought it was between $25 billion and $50 billion after discussing the issue with officials at Iran’s Central Bank.
Adam Szubin, a senior Treasury Department official, testified to Congress in 2015 that the “usable liquid assets” would total “a little more than $50 billion.” The rest of Iran’s foreign assets, he said, were either tied up in “illiquid” projects “that cannot be monetized quickly, if at all, or are composed of outstanding loans to Iranian entities that cannot repay them.”
The Obama administration did send Iran $1.7 billion to settle a decades-old dispute over a purchase of US military goods Iran made before its government was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The goods were not delivered, and the US paid Iran its money back plus interest.
The Strait of Hormuz
“On the Straits – so we get very little oil from the Straits anymore. In fact, yesterday was very interesting. They said, ‘It’s very interesting there are no USA tankers here. They’re all from China, from Japan.’ China gets 65% of their oil from the Straits, right? Japan gets 25%. Other countries get a lot. And I said, ‘So let me ask you just a really stupid question.’ We hardly use it. We’re getting 10%, only because we sort of feel an obligation to do it. We don’t need it.” – July 23 speech at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit
Facts First: China relied on the Strait of Hormuz for 36% of its crude oil imports in 2018, Japan 78% and the US 17%, according to an analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Trump’s numbers are “not accurate,” said one of the authors of the analysis, Andrew Stanley, an associate fellow with the CSIS Energy and National Security Program.
The US government’s Energy Information Administration reported that imports shipped through the Strait accounted for about 18% of total US crude oil and condensate imports and 7% of total US petroleum liquids consumption in 2018.
Turkey and the F-35
“Well, we’re looking at the whole Turkey situation. You know, they’ve ordered 125 F-35 fighter jets.” – July 26 exchange with reporters upon signing agreement with Guatemala
Facts First: Turkey has ordered 100 F-35s, not 125, a Lockheed Martin spokesperson said in an email.
Trump said military production is “one of the reasons our job numbers probably are so good – the lowest unemployment.” – July 22 remarks with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan
“So we have the best economy in history, the best employment numbers in history. The most people working – almost 160 million – in the history of our country. The most people working. That’s a big number. So we have the best economy, best unemployment numbers, most people working.” – July 23 speech to Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit
“We’ve got the strongest stock market, the best unemployment numbers, the most number of people ever working in the history of our country right now – almost 160 million.” – July 24 exchange with reporters
“As you know, we have a very low rate of unemployment – record-setting. We’re at about 3.5, maybe 3.6. I hear it’s going down – probably will – because the country is doing tremendous business.” – July 26 exchange with reporters upon signing agreement with Guatemala
Facts First: The unemployment rates for particular minority groups are at roughly their lowest levels ever, but the overall rate is not. The overall rate is 3.7% – a 50-year low, but well above the record 2.5% set in 1953.