President Donald Trump made 56 false claims last week, delivering his usual assortment of dishonesty about immigration, his popularity and his record.
Where he made the biggest numbers: Trump made 26 false claims at his campaign rally in Cincinnati, 13 more in various exchanges with the media, seven on Twitter, five in an interview with C-SPAN.
Top categories: Eighteen false claims were about the economy or trade; 10 were about Trump’s popularity, his crowds or others’ crowds; 10 were about immigration; eight were about former President Barack Obama’s record.
The most egregious false claim: Support from African Americans
Trump’s stories are peppered with unnamed validators – “many people” who say he’s right about something, “tough guys” backstage who break down crying in his presence, a “friend” who just called him to say something dramatic.
Last week, as he faced accusations of racism for his attack on Baltimore as “disgusting, rat and rodent infested” and unfit for human habitation, he turned the black community into a validator.
“What I’ve done for African Americans, no president, I would say, has done,” he told reporters, citing his criminal justice legislation, the low black unemployment rate and the criticism of Baltimore itself. “Now, I’ll say this: They are so happy, because I get the calls.”
Though Trump does have African American supporters, all the available evidence suggests African American voters are overwhelmingly unhappy with him. In one poll the week before last, he had a 6% approval rating with black voters; 80% of them said he is racist.
We can’t fact-check the existence of phone calls to him. We can note that he has invented phone calls before.
The most revealing false claim: A Veterans Choice fable
Trump has made a concerted effort to erase and distort Obama’s record. He has claimed more than 75 times as President that he was the one who got the Veterans Choice health care program passed, though Obama signed it into law in 2014.
Most of the time Trump talks about Veterans Choice, he simply asserts that he was the one responsible for doing what previous presidents couldn’t. Sometimes, like at his rally last week, he invents an entire elaborate story.
He said he was thinking about the problem of veterans’ health care “during the campaign,” and he approached “experts” with a “great idea” he thought made him “the smartest guy”: Veterans, he had decided, should be allowed to see private doctors if they are facing long waits in the VA system. (Note: That is what the Obama program already allowed them to do.) As it turned out, he said, the “experts” had something remarkable to tell him: They had this same idea long before, but could never get it implemented.
“Sir,” Trump said the experts told him, “we’ve known about it for about 40 years, but we’ve never been able.”
Note the “sir,” one of the most surefire signs Trump is making something up.
The most absurd false claim: Hot air on wind
When Trump uses his campaign rallies to rile up his supporters over issues like immigration, we say he is throwing them red meat.
We need a phrase for when he uses his rallies to rant about a personal grievance that his supporters don’t seem to be interested in at all. Green meat?
One such issue is wind turbines, a longtime bugbear for him. Again and again, Trump has returned to the subject even as the people in his crowds have demonstrated little apparent excitement.
At the rally last week, he did not repeat his infamous false claim that wind turbines cause cancer. He did, however, claim that wind turbines being built near your house means your house becomes “practically worthless.”
Not true, studies show.
Here is this week’s full list of 56:
Crowds and popularity
“…I’ve never had an empty seat. … I don’t think we’ve had an empty seat. I don’t think you’ve seen an empty seat, with thousands of people outside. … We’ll have a 22,000-seat arena, including like a basketball – an NBA – arena, or even bigger stadiums, we’ve never had an empty seat.” – July 30 interview with C-SPAN
“I’m going to Cincinnati. The arena is a very large one. And we’ve sold it out. We could sell it out probably 10 times, from what I hear. The applications for seats, as you know – never had an empty seat. …” – August 1 exchange with reporters
Facts First: There have been empty seats at various Trump events, including a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, just two weeks prior to these remarks.
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.
Support among religious voters
When Trump was asked about recent criticism from Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, who said the President’s recent remarks had “deepened divisions and diminished our national life,” he said he was unaware of the archbishop’s remarks but that he is highly popular with “the church.” He continued, “The church has loved me and I love them. You know, we’ve got about 84% of the vote. And the churches love Donald Trump and I love them.” – August 1 exchange with reporters
Facts First: Trump did not get anywhere close to 84% of the vote from Catholics in the 2016 election. Exit polls had him winning 50% of the Catholic vote to Hillary Clinton’s 46%. Data from the American National Election Study had Clinton winning 48% to Trump’s 45%.
Trump might have been referring imprecisely to his level of support from white evangelical Christians. Exit polls found 80% of that particular group voted for Trump.
Support among African Americans
“What I’ve done for African Americans, no president, I would say, has done. Now, I’ll say this: They are so happy, because I get the calls.” And: “The African American people have been calling the White House. They have never been so happy as what a president has done.” – July 30 exchange with reporters
Facts First: African Americans are overwhelmingly unhappy with Trump’s job performance, polls have consistently shown.
Trump began talking negatively about Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings and Baltimore in a series of tweets on July 27. In a Quinnipiac University poll conducted from July 25 to July 28 – two days before the tweets, the day of the tweets and one day after the tweets – Trump had a 6% approval rating and 84% disapproval rating with black voters. Eighty percent of black voters said Trump is racist, while just 11% said he is not.
A Fox News poll conducted from July 21 to July 23 had Trump at 75% disapproval among black registered voters, with 22% approval. In a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted June 28 to July 1, 81% of African Americans said they disapproved; 18% approved. Both of those approval numbers were substantially better than the one in the new Quinnipiac poll, but still: On the whole, large majorities of African Americans were displeased with him.
“Wow! Morning Joe & Psycho ratings have really crashed. Very small audience. People are tired of hearing Fake News delivered with an anger that is not to be believed. Sad, when the show was sane, they helped get me elected. Thanks! Was on all the time. Lost all of its juice!” – July 30 tweet
Facts First: The ratings for the MSNBC show “Morning Joe” have not “crashed.” The show’s viewership in the second quarter of 2019 was nearly identical to its viewership in the second quarter of 2018 and the second quarter of 2017 – and significantly higher than its ratings in the second quarter of 2016, during the presidential election.
“Morning Joe” averaged 1.03 million viewers in the second quarter of this year. That was down very slightly from 1.06 million viewers in the same quarter in 2018 and up very slightly from 997,000 viewers in the same quarter in 2017.
All of these figures were higher than the 608,000 viewers “Morning Joe” averaged in the second quarter of 2016.
Joe Biden’s crowd size
“I saw Biden’s opening, where he couldn’t get 150 people to an opening in a little basketball, high school gymnasium.” – July 30 interview with C-SPAN
Facts First: About 600 people attended Biden’s first speech after he announced his candidacy – which was held at a union hall, not a high school gymnasium.
Trump had previously claimed that Biden’s launch event was attended by 150 people, not the reported 600. This time, the President claimed it was not even 150.
The Atlantic reported that journalists occupied 100 of the 600 spots at the hall in Pittsburgh, but that is still 500 non-journalists.
Biden did hold an event at a community center gym in South Carolina that same week, but he drew a crowd of 700, The New York Times reported.
The crowd in Cincinnati
“l’ll tell you what: This is some crowd, some turnout. We’ve sold tens of thousands of tickets, and you know, at the sale prices, we keep it nice and low, but keep it nice and low.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnat
Facts First: Tickets to Trump’s rallies are not “sold” by the campaign. Contrary to Trump’s suggestion that people had paid to attend this rally, attendance was, as always, free.
It’s possible Trump was making a joke, but that wasn’t clear.
The 2016 election
“I say it all the time: never happened before. There’s never been a movement like this. They’ve had movements, they never went – they won a state, they did well in a state. We won 32 states, there’s never been anything like it.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: Trump won 30 states, not 32. Also, this was far from a historic number: Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1984 each won 49 states; James Monroe won every state in the uncontested election of 1820.
“There have been 45 presidential elections in which the winning candidate won a larger share of the electoral vote,” The New York Times reported.
Ohio in 2016
“We ended up winning Ohio by close to 9 points, which is unheard-of. …” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: Trump exaggerated very slightly. He won 51.7% to 43.6%, a margin of just over 8 points. That was the biggest margin in Ohio since George H.W. Bush’s 11-point win in 1988, but not an unprecedented margin for the state.
Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon all won the state by 20 points or more.
Florida in 2016
“So we have a great governor in the state of Florida. Ron DeSantis. Calls me up – doing a great job, Ron DeSantis. He was at 3 and he went to 70. That’s a pretty good increase.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: DeSantis did experience a spike in support after Trump endorsed him, but he never came close to 70% in the polls. He won the Republican primary with 56.5% of the vote.
We also could not find any public polls in which DeSantis was as low as 3%, though he was indeed polling poorly before Trump expressed support for him in December 2017 and before the President issued a “full” endorsement in June 2018. He was at 17% in a Fox News poll just before the endorsement.
Talking about immigration, Trump said, “We’re the only country in the world, or just about, where people come in, Bill, they come in and they get a trial, so we hire Perry Mason. And it’s a big deal. And the trial we say, ‘Come back in four years.’ It is so crazy. But we’re the – nobody else has judges. They come in – other countries, they come and they say, ‘Sorry, you have to get out.’ And in this country they come in, it’s ‘Welcome to litigation.’ ” – August 1 interview with Bill Cunningham of 700WLW Cincinnati
Facts First: The US is far from the only country to grant asylum claimants the right to a legal process.
In Canada, for example, refugee claimants who pass an initial eligibility test are given hearings before a tribunal called the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada; if their applications are rejected by the board, they have the right to seek reviews by the Federal Court of Canada. In Germany, claimants who are rejected by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees also have the right to file appeals in court.
“This statement is patently false,” James Hathaway, law professor and director of the program in refugee and asylum law at the University of Michigan, said in an email in response to a previous version of Trump’s claim. “It is completely routine in other countries that, like the U.S., have signed the UN refugee treaties for asylum-seekers to have access to the domestic legal system to make a protection claim (and to be allowed in while the claim is pending).”
If Trump was talking about undocumented immigrants who do not make asylum claims, it is not true that these people are welcomed in and granted a trial years down the road. Under a system of “expedited removal,” people who are apprehended within 100 miles of a land border and within 14 days of arrival can be quickly deported without seeing a judge. (The Trump administration announced in July that it plans to expand expedited removal to include undocumented immigrants anywhere in the country who can’t prove they have been in the US continuously for two years or more.)
Democrats and the border
“Despite the Democrats wanting very unsafe Open Borders. …” – July 30 tweet
“But what we have to do is fix the loopholes, and the Democrats don’t want. The reason is the Democrats want open borders.” – July 31 exchange with reporters
“The greatest betrayal committed by the Democrats is their support for open borders. And these open borders would overwhelm schools and hospitals, drain public services and flood communities with poisonous drugs.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
“But I watched (the Democratic debates) and I guess it’s probably four or five (contenders). It’s down to four or five. I can’t imagine somebody else coming up. But I don’t think it’s what our country represents, number one. And when you look at open borders, how about the open borders, where everybody can just come in. … But I’m just watching, and it’s incredible to think people come up – many of these people are not good people. They’re convicted of lots of bad crimes, and they want open borders where they just flow into our country.” – August 1 interview with Bill Cunningham of 700WLW Cincinnati
Facts First: Some Democrats, including presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Julián Castro, have advocated a significant loosening of immigration law, including a decriminalization of the act of illegally crossing the border. But none of them have proposed literally opening the border to unrestricted migration.
During the Trump era, Democrats have voted for billions of dollars’ worth of fencing and other border security measures. In 2018, Democratic leaders offered Trump $25 billion for border security in exchange for a path to citizenship for the “Dreamers,” young undocumented immigrants brought to the US illegally as children.
“The cages for kids were built by the Obama Administration in 2014. He had the policy of child separation. I ended it even as I realized that more families would then come to the Border! @CNN” – July 31 tweet
Facts First: Trump was correct that Obama’s administration built chain-link “cages” to detain migrants. But Trump did not inherit an Obama policy of routinely separating migrant children from their parents. Separations were rare under Obama; Trump made them standard.
In March 2017, John Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, told CNN that he was thinking about implementing a separation program “to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network.” In April 2018, Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, announced a new “zero tolerance” policy in which everybody caught crossing the border illegally would be criminally prosecuted – a change he explicitly noted would result in regular separations.
Separations did sometimes occur under Obama, but they were non-routine and much less frequent, according to immigration experts and former Obama officials. They occurred in exceptional cases, such as those where the parent was being criminally prosecuted for carrying drugs across the border or other serious crimes aside from simple illegal crossing, those where human trafficking was suspected and those where the authorities could not confirm the connection between the child and the adult.
It is technically true that Trump is the one who ended the separation policy: In June 2018, he signed an executive order to detain families together. But he was ending his own policy, not Obama’s, and he signed the order only after a furious public outcry.
“We’re building the wall faster and better than ever.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
“… Crossings are way down and the Wall is being built). Even with zero Dem help, Border getting strong!” – July 29 tweet
Facts First: Nothing resembling the wall Trump campaigned on has been built at any speed. Zero additional miles of border barriers had been erected as of mid-June.
About 50 miles have been built over his two-and-a-half years in office, but all of them are replacement barriers rather than additional miles.
According to Customs and Border Protection, 47 miles “of new border barriers in place of dilapidated design” had been completed as of June 14. The Washington Examiner reported July 20 that the total was up to 51 miles of such replacement barriers, but that no additional miles had been built. (Customs and Border Protection did not respond to our request for updated information in the wake of the Examiner story.)
Trump has started arguing since this spring that replacement fencing should be counted by the media as his “wall,” since he is replacing ineffective old barriers with effective modern ones. This is subjective, but we think it’s fair to focus on the new barriers he promised during his campaign.
“We’re replacing random migration and we’re replacing the lottery system. How about the lottery system? How about lotteries? This was Chuck Schumer: You put the name in a basket. The country puts the name in the basket. And you pick people out of the lottery. ‘Well, let’s see, this one’s a murderer. This one robbed four banks, this one … I’d better not say … this one, another murderer, ladies and gentlemen, another murderer.’ ” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: Almost everything Trump said here was inaccurate. Foreign countries don’t enter people into the green card lottery conducted by the State Department, let alone deliberately enter their criminals and problem citizens. Individuals enter on their own because they want to immigrate.
The people whose names are selected are subjected to an extensive vetting process that includes a criminal background check.
“It’s time for Democrats to end sanctuary cities, end catch and release. You know what you do: You catch ‘em and then you release ‘em and you say, ‘Would you please report back in four years from now?’ But only 2% come back.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: While it’s unclear what subset of migrants Trump was referring to, the majority of migrants appear in court.
In 2017, 89% of asylum seekers appeared in court to receive decisions on their cases. Among all kinds of migrants, 72% appeared in court.
China and nuclear arms
“But I will say this: With Russia, if we could get a pact where they reduce and we reduce nuclear, that would be a great thing for the world. And I do believe — I do believe that will happen. We’ve — we have discussed it. I’ve also discussed it with China. I’ve discussed it with President Putin. I’ve also discussed it with China. And I will tell you, China was very, very excited about talking about it, and so is Russia. So I think we’ll have a deal at some point.” – August 2 exchange with reporters
Facts First: We don’t know what a Chinese official might have said to Trump in private, but China is not “excited” about the prospect of an arms control agreement with the United States. After Trump first suggested that China wanted to participate in a trilateral deal with the US and Russia, a spokesperson for the Chinese government said: “We oppose any country’s attempt to make an issue out of China on arms control and will not participate in any negotiation for a trilateral nuclear disarmament agreement.”
Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, noted that two days before Trump’s new remark, Zhou Bo, a senior colonel in China’s People’s Liberation Army, published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in which he wrote, “To Chinese ears, Mr. Trump’s claims make no sense. Between them, the U.S. and Russia possess 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons. China has fewer nuclear warheads (290) than France (300), according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. No wonder China’s Ministry of National Defense essentially laughed at the idea of a three-way deal on arms control involving the U.S. and Russia.”
Reif told CNN: “The Chinese reaction is not surprising. China, which is estimated to possess a total of about 300 nuclear warheads, has never been party to any agreement limiting the size and configuration of its nuclear arsenal. Beijing is highly unlikely to engage in any such talks until the United States and Russia further cut their far larger arsenals, estimated at over 6,000 warheads each.”
The European Union
“We are competing with other countries that know how to play the game against the U.S. That’s actually why the E.U. was formed. …” – July 29 tweet
Facts First: Competing with the United States economically was not a key reason 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 response to a previous version of this claim.
US presidents have consistently supported 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 war in Afghanistan
“With respect to Afghanistan, we’ve made a lot of progress. We’re talking, but we’ve also made a lot of progress. We’re reducing it. We’ve been there for 19 years. ” – August 2 exchange with reporters
Facts First: This was a small exaggeration. The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 – less than 18 years ago, though Trump habitually says “19 years.”
“To protect America’s security I withdrew the United States from the horrible Iran nuclear deal, a horrible stupid deal. We gave Iran $150 billion.” Trump went on to claim that the US also gave Iran $1.8 billion “in cash.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: The second figure is roughly correct, but the first is exaggerated.
The Iran nuclear deal allowed the country to access tens of billions in its own assets that had been frozen in foreign financial institutions because of sanctions; experts say the total was significantly lower than $150 billion.
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.
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.”
As Trump regularly notes, 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 Russia investigation
“Such a great victory in court yesterday on the Russian Hoax, the greatest political scam in the history of our Country. TREASON! Hopefully, the Attorney Generel of the United States, and all of those working with him, will find out, in great detail, what happened. NEVER AGAIN!!!!” – July 31 tweet
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.”
Special counsel Robert 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.
Mueller and obstruction
“Well, I watched Mueller. I’m not sure Mueller knows what’s going on, if you want to know the truth. But all I do know is he said, ‘No collusion with us. No collusion,’ and ultimately ‘no obstruction,’ because it led to no obstruction by a very smart group of people, including our attorney general. ” – August 1 exchange with reporters
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.
As Trump said, Attorney General William Barr then determined that the evidence laid out by Mueller was “not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” So Trump was basically correct when he described what Barr concluded – but he was incorrect in suggesting that Mueller himself had said “no obstruction.”
Mueller also did not use the words “no collusion”; his report explained that he was investigating the issue of conspiracy, since collusion does not have a precise legal meaning. With that said, “no collusion” is a much fairer paraphrase of Mueller’s findings than “no obstruction” is.
The economy and trade
Steel plants before the tariffs
After listing recent plant investments by American steel companies, Trump said, “And this was unthinkable, because four years ago, steel plants were closing, they weren’t expanding and they weren’t building.”
Facts First: While some steel plants were closing, being idled or otherwise doing poorly four years ago, some other plants were being built or expanding at the time. Investment was not “unthinkable.”
A simple Google search brings up numerous 2015 announcements about planned investments in steel plants. For example, Steel Dynamics announced a $100 million expansion at a mill in Mississippi. Commercial Metals announced a $250 million investment to build a micro-mill in Oklahoma. Nucor and a partner announced a $75 million investment in improvements at a mill in Arkansas. Ferrous CAL announced a $53 million investment in a Michigan plant to make steel for automotive companies.
There were also multiple stories about US Steel and other companies idling plants and laying off workers at the time. But it’s not true that it was “unthinkable” four years ago for plants to be built or expanded.
Steel companies before the tariffs
“… but they were dumping tremendous quantities of steel, and what was happening is United States Steel and all of our companies were going virtually out of business, and I stopped it. I put on a 25% tariff.”
Facts First: It is not true that “all” American steel companies were “going virtually out of business” before Trump imposed his steel tariffs last year. Though US Steel had significantly declined from its heyday and had faltered for much of the decade, it had earned a profit in 2017. Other American steel companies, notably Nucor, were thriving before the tariffs.
US Steel earned $387 million in 2017, the year before Trump imposed the tariffs. The company had struggled so badly in the years prior that it was dropped in 2014 from the S&P 500 stock index, but it was not on the verge of quickly vanishing before the tariffs came into effect.
Other steelmakers were faring much better than US Steel. Nucor, for example, reported consolidated net earnings of $1.3 billion for 2017 and $796 million for 2016. Steel Dynamics earned $813 million in 2017 and $382 million in 2016. Bloomberg reported in an October 2018 fact check: “In fact, US steelmakers Nucor Corp. and Steel Dynamics Inc. were two of the healthiest commodity companies in the world before Trump took office.”
Unemployment, part 1
“We need good people. We’re down to 3.5% unemployment.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: The unemployment rate for June was 3.7%. The rate for July, released the morning after the rally, was unchanged, holding at 3.7%, well above the record 2.5% set in 1953.
The rate has not hit 3.5% at any point in Trump’s presidency. It was 3.6% in April and May. So Trump was close, but this is not a figure that is usually rounded to the nearest half-point.
Unemployment, part 2
“Unemployment has reached the lowest rate in over half a century.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: This was close to true, but Trump was exaggerating. The unemployment rate over this spring and summer – 3.7% each month in July and June, 3.6% each month in May and April – has been the lowest since December 1969, slightly less than 50 years ago.
We might be inclined to ignore this one if it seemed like a one-time slip, but it was not. Trump, a serial exaggerator, habitually turns “almost” into “over” and “more than.”
Employment in Ohio
“One hundred and twenty three thousand more Ohio workers are employed today than when I was elected.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: Trump was exaggerating. As of the most recent jobs numbers at the time Trump spoke, for June, the increase from the month of Trump’s election was 77,600 people.
Who is paying for tariffs on Chinese products
“We’re taking in billions and billions of dollars from China in the form of tariffs. Our people are not paying for it.” – July 30 exchange with reporters
“And it’s been proven that our people are not paying for those tariffs.” And: “They’re paying for these tariffs; we’re not.” – August 1 exchange with reporters
“And don’t let them tell you – the fact is, China devalues their currency. They pour money into their system, they pour it in and because they do that you’re not paying for those tariffs, China’s paying for those tariffs.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
“The tariffs are not being paid for by our people; it’s being paid for by China because of devaluation and because they’re pumping money in.” – August 2 exchange with reporters
Facts First: American importers make the actual tariff payments, and economic studies have found that Americans, not people and companies in China, have borne most of the cost.
A March paper from economists at Columbia, Princeton and the New York Federal Reserve found that the “full incidence” of Trump’s tariffs has fallen on domestic companies and consumers – costing them $3 billion a month by the end of 2018. The paper also found that the tariffs led to a reduction in US income, by $1.4 billion a month.
A separate academic paper also found that the tariffs led to higher consumer prices. It estimated that the tariffs will result in a $7.8 billion-per-year decline in income.
The White House’s Economic Report of the President also acknowledged that American consumers do pay some of the cost of these tariffs. Domestic producers, according to the report, benefit from price increases from the tariffs, but “offsetting these benefits are the costs paid by consumers in the form of higher prices and reduced consumption.”
Some Chinese suppliers might take on some of the burden of the tariff by reducing their prices to maintain a market in the United States, but these studies show that the burden heavily falls on US consumers and companies.
The history of tariffs on China
“Remember this: Our country is taking in billions and billions of dollars from China. We never took in 10 cents from China.” – August 2 exchange with reporters
Facts First: The US government has been charging tariffs on imported Chinese goods for more than two centuries, and it took in hefty sums from such tariffs long before Trump’s own tariffs. (Again, it is US importers, not China, who have paid these tariffs.)
The Treasury received $14 billion from tariffs on China in 2014, to look at one pre-Trump year.
Highest agricultural spending by China
“And I will say that the farmers are very grateful. The most they’ve ever spent on agricultural product is $16 billion. So when they pulled out, I took just a small part of the money that China is paying us, and I gave it toward the farmers and the farmers are very happy.” – July 30 exchange with reporters
Facts First: Sixteen billion dollars is not the most China has ever spent on US agricultural products in a year. As we noted above, studies have found that Americans, not China, are bearing the majority of the cost of the tariffs. And Trump’s aid to affected farmers has required much more than “a small part” of the tariff revenue.
China spent a record $29.6 billion on US agricultural products in 2014, according to government figures.
The New York Times reported July 15 that Trump’s tariffs on China had generated about $21 billion as of July 10. As Trump noted later last week, he has promised a total of $28 billion in aid to farmers over the last two years – so the tariff revenue so far does not even cover the cost of his pledge.
Baltimore and corruption
“What Elijah Cummings should do is he should take his Oversight Committee, bring them down to Baltimore, and invest all of it, and really study the billions and billions of dollars that’s been stolen. It’s been wasted; it’s been stolen.” And: “But the people of Baltimore are very thankful — they have let us know by the thousands of people — because of the fact that finally somebody is pointing out how corrupt Baltimore is, how billions and billions of dollars have been stolen.” – July 30 exchange with reporters
Facts First: Though Baltimore has had a series of corruption scandals in recent years, there is no evidence that anywhere near “billions and billions” has been “stolen.”
We can’t definitively fact-check Trump’s claim that billions have been “wasted”; he is entitled to his opinion on the effectiveness of spending. But an allegation of billions in actual theft requires proof, and Trump has not provided any.
“He has no idea what he’s talking about,” said Matthew Crenson, professor emeritus of political science at Johns Hopkins University and a scholar of Baltimore’s political history. “I’d like to see those billions and billions.”
Corruption convictions or cases involving alleged corruption in Baltimore have tended to involve sums of money much smaller than “billions.”
In 2009, Mayor Sheila Dixon was convicted of stealing about $1,500 worth of gift cards meant for low-income residents. Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned in May of this year over a scandal involving payments from the University of Maryland Medical System. Pugh, who sat on the nonprofit company’s board of directors, received $500,000 for 100,000 copies of a children’s book she wrote. (She called the deal a “regrettable mistake.”)
“Baltimore’s numbers are the worst in the United States on Crime and the Economy. Billions of dollars have been pumped in over the years, but to no avail. The money was stolen or wasted. Ask Elijah Cummings where it went. He should investigate himself with his Oversight Committee!” – July 29 tweet
Facts First: Baltimore does not have the worst economic numbers in the United States, though it does rank poorly by several measures.
Baltimore had the fourth-worst unemployment rate of major cities in 2018, but its 5.7% rate was substantially better than that of last-place Detroit, which was at 9.0%. In 2017, the Baltimore metropolitan area (which includes more than the city of Baltimore, on which Trump was focusing his attacks) ranked 19th in the country in gross domestic product out of 383 areas studied. The city of Baltimore had a 22.4% poverty rate over the 2013-2017 period, well ahead of such cities as Detroit (37.9%), Bloomington, Indiana (37.5%), and Laredo, Texas (30.6%).
Baltimore did have the highest homicide rate of any major city in 2017, so Trump was accurate in his claim about crime.
Obama and energy
“The previous administration tried to shut down American energy…” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: Obama did encourage the use of renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels, but he didn’t try to “shut down” fossil fuel production – which increased significantly during his tenure.
For example, field production of crude oil increased in each of Obama’s first seven years in office before declining in his last year, reversing a steady decline that had begun in the mid-1980s. CNN reported in 2015: “The greatest oil boom in this nation’s history has occurred during the tenure of self-proclaimed environmentalist Barack Obama.”
In his 2013 State of the Union address, Obama called for the US to go “all in on clean energy,” but he immediately added, “Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. And that’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. That’s got to be part of an all-of-the-above plan.”
Trump said the Obama administration tried to end the use of “American, clean, beautiful coal.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: Obama did try to reduce the use of coal – but nothing about coal is “clean.”
“Clean coal” is an industry term for particular technologies that attempt to reduce the many environmental harms caused by coal, a particularly dirty source of power. The term is not meant to be used to broadly describe coal itself, though that is what Trump generally does.
While criticizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, from which he withdrew the US, Trump claimed Obama had said that “you can’t produce manufacturing jobs anymore in the United States.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
“President Obama said that manufacturing jobs are gone.” – August 1 interview with Bill Cunningham of 700WLW Cincinnati
Facts First: Obama didn’t say you can’t produce manufacturing jobs in the United States. At a town hall event on PBS in 2016, he said some manufacturing jobs were gone for good, in part because of automation, but he boasted of how many were being created and his administration’s investment in new technologies to attempt to create new manufacturing sectors.
Obama mocked Trump for not specifying how he would bring back the jobs that had been lost to other countries. But Obama was not saying that it was impossible to produce manufacturing jobs at all. He said: “Well, in fact, we’ve seen more manufacturing jobs created since I’ve been President than any time since the 1990s. That’s a fact. And you know, if you look at just the auto industry as an example, they’ve had record sales and they’ve hired back more people over the last five years than they have for a very long, long time. We actually make more stuff, have a bigger manufacturing base today than we’ve had in most of our history.”
His tweet about Obama
Talking about his tweeting habits, Trump said, “I sent the one about the ‘wiretapping’ in quotes, and that turned out to be true. Remember the big deal that was? I heard like about a minute after I sent that, I was called by my people, ‘Sir, did you say –’ I said, ‘Yeah, I did, what’s the big deal?’ And the reason it was such a big deal is it turned out to be true.” – July 30 interview with C-SPAN
Facts First: Trump’s tweet about Obama allegedly wiretapping his phones has not been proved true.
Trump was referring to the 2017 tweet in which he said, “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” (He repeated the allegation in additional tweets the same day, saying, for example, “I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”)
There is still no evidence that Trump was wiretapped, let alone that Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump. The Justice Department said in a 2017 court filing that there are no records related to wiretaps like the ones Trump described. Then-FBI Director James Comey told Congress in 2017 that “we have no information to support those tweets.”
Paul Manafort, who served as Trump’s campaign chairman, was wiretapped before and after the election, CNN has reported, and Manafort had a residence in Trump Tower.
But a wiretap of someone living in Trump’s apartment building is not the same as a wiretap of Trump himself. And there remains no public evidence that Obama was personally involved even in the Manafort wiretaps.
“The previous administration, they liked windmills. You know windmills: If a windmill is within 2 miles of your house, your house is practically worthless.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: While some homes might fall in value when turbines are erected close by, studies in the US have not found that homes generally become anywhere close to “practically worthless” in such cases – and some have found no significant decline at all.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Real Estate Research, for example, analyzed “more than 122,000 home sales, between 1998 and 2012, that occurred near (within 10 miles) 41 turbines in densely populated Massachusetts communities.” The study found “no unique impact on the rate of home sales near wind turbines.”
Trump said of vacancies on federal courts: “And I came in, I had 148 openings. I said – you’re supposed to have none. I said, ‘How many do we have?’ ‘148.’ I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ ” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: Trump did not enter office with 148 judicial vacancies, and it is not normal for incoming presidents to be told they have “none.”
Like Trump, his predecessors entered office with dozens of vacancies. 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.
Promises and accomplishments
“We passed VA Choice and VA Accountability on behalf of our great veterans. They’ve been trying to pass VA Choice for four decades. They couldn’t get it done, we got it done, we got it.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
“But with all of the things that we’ve got – I mean think of VA Choice, think of all of the things that we’ve got, you would think that that would make people happy.” – July 30 interview with C-SPAN
Facts First: Trump did not get the Veterans Choice program passed, nor had there been an unsuccessful 40-year effort to get it passed. The program was signed into law by Obama in 2014.
In 2018, Trump signed the VA MISSION Act, which expanded and changed the Choice program.
What Veterans Choice does
“Trump contrasted the Choice program with the previous situation, in which he noted that veterans had to wait for health care for “three, four, five, six days, for three weeks, for five weeks.”
Trump suggested that this is no longer the case, saying that he had the idea to “let them go outside, go to a private doctor. We’ll pay the bill, they’ll be fixed up all perfect and they can do it immediately.’” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: Neither the Obama version nor the Trump version of this program allows veterans to avoid waiting days or weeks to see a VA doctor. At present, most veterans can get reimbursed for private care only if they are facing waits of more than 20 days at the VA.
Under the current version of the program, there is an exception to the 20-day rule for people who live more than a 30-minute drive from a VA facility. But people who live within a 30-minute zone are still forced to stay within the VA system if they are facing waits of just under three weeks.
As we noted in the previous fact check, the program was not Trump’s idea. It was created in 2014 under Obama.
Firing people at the VA
“You couldn’t fire anybody. If they were treating our vets badly, you couldn’t fire him for anything. People could steal, they could be sadistic to our vets. … You couldn’t fire anybody for almost anything.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: While Trump might have been exaggerating here for effect, it’s not true that “you couldn’t fire anybody” prior to the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act he signed into law in 2017.
The VA fired on average approximately 2,300 employees annually from 2005 to 2016, based on data collected by the Office of Personnel Management. However, the Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Mississippi did find several instances where VA employees who were registered sex offenders or had been indicted for killing patients, for example, retained their jobs. The legislation Trump signed simplified and expedited the process of terminating VA employees.
“You know we’ve been doing very well in the courts, by the way. … We’ve been winning a lot of cases, a lot of cases, we really have. We really have been. You know, we’ve now appointed 148, think of this, federal judges, 148.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: This was a slight exaggeration. There were 144 judges confirmed during the Trump presidency as of the day Trump made this statement, said Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who tracks judicial appointments.
It was 99 district court judges, 43 appeals court judges and two Supreme Court justices, Wheeler said.
Debt and spending
Asked about the increase in debt during his tenure, and told that spending under his watch has been higher than spending under Obama, Trump said, “Sure, but the difference is, he wasn’t building up the military. The military was getting depleted. I have to build it up, and I have to build it up from both Bush and from Obama, because with Bush, you know we were in these wars all over the place, and with Obama the same thing, they just never ended.” – July 30 interview with C-SPAN
Facts First: Military spending is not the primary contributor to the increase in debt under Trump.
According to a July analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, legislation signed by Trump will produce a $4.1 trillion increase in the debt between 2017 and 2029. Of that $4.1 trillion, senior vice president Marc Goldwein said, approximately a quarter is attributable to the increase in military spending.
Trump’s tax cuts are responsible for a much bigger share of the $4.1 trillion: about $1.8 trillion.
“There’s been across-the board-increases in the deficit, and defense is certainly a piece of it. But to use it as an excuse for the other three-quarters doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Goldwein said.
“Last year was the first time in 51 years that drug pricing for prescription drugs actually came down.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
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 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.
“… We will always protect patients with preexisting conditions, always.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: This claim is undercut by Trump’s actions and those of congressional Republicans during his presidency.
We usually don’t fact-check promises, but this one has already proved untrue. Trump’s administration and congressional Republicans have repeatedly put forward bills and lawsuits that would weaken Obamacare’s protections for people with preexisting conditions. Trump is currently supporting a Republican lawsuit that is seeking to get all of Obamacare declared void. He has not issued a plan to reinstate the law’s protections for people with preexisting conditions if the suit succeeds.
Right to Try
“They had no hope. For 44 years, they’ve been trying to get Right to Try. … I got it approved, and it wasn’t easy.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: There had not been a 44-year push for a federal Right to Try law, experts said.
The law tries to make it easier for terminally ill patients to access experimental medications that have not received Food and Drug Administration approval for widespread use. Similar laws have been passed at the state level only since 2014, after the Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think tank, began pushing for them.
“I have no idea what ‘they’ve been trying to get’ for 44 years. The Right to Try law was a creation of the Goldwater Institute, and it first became state law in 2014 (in Colorado), relatively soon after it was first conceived of,” said Alison Bateman-House, assistant professor of medical ethics at New York University’s Langone Health.
Before Right to Try
Trump said that, before the Right to Try program came into effect, terminally ill patients “couldn’t get medicine.” He said, “They couldn’t get anything – they’d travel to Asia, if they had money. They’d travel to Europe, they’d travel all over the world hoping for a cure. If they had no money, they’d just go home, they’d die. They had no hope.” – August 1 rally in Cincinnati
Facts First: It is not true that terminally ill patients “couldn’t get anything” or would simply have to go home and die until Trump signed the Right to Try law in 2018. Prior to the law, patients did have to ask the federal government for permission to access experimental medications – but the government almost always said yes.
Scott Gottlieb, who served as Trump’s FDA commissioner until April, told Congress in 2017 that the FDA had approved 99% of patient requests. “Emergency requests for individual patients are usually granted immediately over the phone and non-emergency requests are generally processed within a few days,” he testified.
CNN’s Holmes Lybrand, Kevin Liptak, Maegan Vazquez and Nicole Gaouette contributed to this article.