President Donald Trump was relentlessly inaccurate last week – to the media, to his supporters and to legislators from his own party.
Trump made 90 false claims in all. That is the most in the 10 weeks we have been counting at CNN. It is not, however, an all-time Trump record; he made 240 false claims the week before the 2018 midterm elections, which we counted at the Toronto Star.
Trump made 25 of last week’s 90 false claims at his campaign rally in North Carolina, 22 in his speech to a retreat for House Republican members of Congress, 19 on Twitter, 18 in exchanges with reporters, two in a speech to a Historically Black Colleges and Universities conference, and one at a briefing on Hurricane Dorian damage.
Update: He also made three in an interview, with a North Carolina local television station, that we did not discover until after the original version of this article was posted. The original tally was 87 false claims.
The most egregious false claim: Iran and the media
Trump said as recently as June that he would meet with Iran with “no pre-conditions.” Vice President Mike Pence also said Trump would meet with Iran with “without pre-conditions.” White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnunchin all said the same.
Five days after Pompeo and Mnuchin both said “no pre-conditions” again, Trump tweeted…this: “The Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, ‘No Conditions.’ That is an incorrect statement (as usual!).”
The most revealing false claims: Victory in North Carolina
A Republican candidate who had trailed in some polls won the 9th District, where the 2018 election result had been invalidated because the party faced credible allegations of election fraud. And a Republican won the 3rd District by more than 24 percentage points, slightly exceeding Trump’s margin in the 2016 election.
But all this was insufficient for Trump, who often prefers inaccurate claims to perfectly adequate accurate claims.
Trump decided to insist that 9th District winner Dan Bishop “was 17 points behind, three weeks ago,” though there is no public evidence that shows this, and that 3rd District winner, Greg Murphy had been “anticipated to win by two or three points, maybe less,” though polls had showed him up double-digits.
The most absurd false claim: The weather in Fayetteville
Trump likes to talk about the hardships his supporters endure to attend his rallies – long lines, hot sun. Last Monday, it was nonexistent rain.
Trump encountered stormy weather on the Atlantic coast of North Carolina, his first stop of the day. He was forced to cancel a planned tour of Dorian damage, instead getting a briefing on a parked Air Force One.
As he ended the briefing, he abruptly pivoted from the destruction in the Bahamas to the line for his rally in Fayetteville. Noting that it had rained in the area where he was himself sitting, he said, “So we have now people standing in line trying to get into the arena, and I will tell you that they are soaking wet.”
They were not wet. It was 88 degrees and sunny in Fayetteville, which is 130 miles away from where he was sitting.
Here’s this week’s full list:
The Iraq War
“Going into Iraq was something that he (John Bolton) felt very strongly about … and I disagreed with that decision from the beginning, even though I was a civilian, so nobody cared. But I was out there. I was outspoken about it. I thought it was a terrible mistake. Here we are, many, many years later – decades later – and we’re still there. And we’ve been acting as policemen.” – September 11 exchange with reporters at meeting on e-cigarettes
Facts First: Trump did not outspokenly oppose the Iraq War “from the beginning.” Radio host Howard Stern asked him in September 2002, “Are you for invading Iraq?” Trump was tentatively supportive, responding, “Yeah, I guess so. I wish the first time it was done correctly.” The day after the invasion in March 2003, he said, “It looks like a tremendous success from a military standpoint.”
Trump did not offer a definitive position on the looming war in a Fox News interview in January 2003, saying, “Either you attack or don’t attack.” Trump started questioning the war later in 2003, and he was an explicit opponent in an Esquire article published 17 months after the invasion.
Trump said that, “until President Trump,” military spending by non-US NATO members was declining. “The NATO cost of – spending was going like this,” he said, moving his hand in a downward sloping motion. – Sept. 9 campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina
Facts First: Military spending by NATO members had increased for two years prior to Trump’s presidency. According to official NATO figures, spending increased by 1.8% in 2015 and 2.8% in 2016, before Trump took office.
Trump-era increases have been bigger – 6% in 2017 and an estimated 3.8% in 2018 – and Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has credited Trump for his role in prompting the increase. But the upward trend started two years before Trump’s tenure began.
In 2014, NATO countries who were not yet meeting the alliance guideline of spending 2% of their Gross Domestic Product on defense recommitted to meeting the target. Spending began rising after that.
Previous presidents and NATO
Trump indicated he is the first president to ask NATO members to boost military spending. “It just takes a little getting used to, because nobody has ever asked them. ‘Look, we’re defending your country, you’re rich as can be. You got to help us out. You got to pay a little bit.’ And they go, ‘No, no.’ I say, ‘No, no, no, King. You got to pay.’ ‘No, no, Mr. President.’ ‘Mr. Prime Minister, you got to pay. You got to pay.' And the answer is, ‘But, uh, nobody has ever asked us to do that before.’ I said, ‘That’s why I’m different. That’s why I’m different. I’m asking you to do it.’” – Sept. 12 speech at the House Republican Conference
Facts First: It’s not true that nobody ever asked NATO members to increase their military spending. Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush both did so, though their public language was less confrontational.
Obama repeatedly urged NATO allies to spend more, including in 2014 when he said he, “had some concerns about a diminished level of defense spending among some of our partners in NATO.”
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.”
“This is a country that, 15 years ago, was one of the wealthiest countries, and now it’s dying. They don’t have water, they don’t have food, they don’t have medical.” – Sept. 11 exchange with reporters at meeting on e-cigarettes
“And, you know, we’re working very hard on a place called Venezuela. Fifteen years ago, it was one of the wealthiest countries in the world. And, today, they don’t have food. They don’t have water. They don’t have anything.” – Sept. 12 speech to House Republican Member Retreat
Facts First: Venezuela was not one of the world’s wealthiest countries 15 years ago.
The International Monetary Fund ranked Venezuela 67th in the world in 2004 by GDP per capita, at $4,019 (US) – better than more than half of the world’s countries, but nowhere near the top.
“Venezuela was one of the richest countries in the world 60 years ago. The richest in Latin America 40 years ago. But not 20 years ago,” Ricardo Hausmann, a former Venezuelan planning minister and central bank board member, said in response to a previous version of this Trump claim. Hausmann, now a Harvard University professor of economic development, was chief economist of the Inter-American Development Bank from 1994 to 2000.
Meeting with Iran
“The Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, ‘No Conditions.’ That is an incorrect statement (as usual!).” – Sept. 15 tweet
Facts First: Trump said in June 2019 and in July 2018 that he would meet with Iran with “no pre-conditions.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin both said the same – five days before this tweet.
It is possible that Trump’s position had just changed. But journalists were reporting the position he and his top officials had repeatedly expressed over the previous 14 months. You can read our full fact check on this claim here.
Payments to Iran (two claims)
Trump claimed the US “paid” Iran “$150 billion” as part of the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Facts First: The money in question was Iranian money frozen in foreign financial institutions because of sanctions, not US government money – and many experts say the total was significantly lower than $150 billion. You can read our full fact check on this claim here.
The war in Afghanistan
“Afghanistan is a very interesting situation. We’ve been there for 19 years. Nineteen years.” – Sept. 9 exchange with reporters
Facts First: This was a small exaggeration. The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, less than 18 years ago. This was not a one-time slip though; Trump habitually says “19 years.”
The Green New Deal
“Over 100 Democrats have signed up to support the $100 trillion Green New Deal. That’s a beauty. No more cows. No more planes. I guess, no more people, right?” – Sept. 12 remarks at House Republican Conference
Facts First: The Democrats’ Green New Deal environmental resolution does not call for the elimination of cows or planes.
Trump did not make up this claim out of thin air. A “FAQ” page that once appeared on the website of a leading Green New Deal proponent, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, calls for the government to “build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.” In explaining why Green New Deal proponents were aiming to get to “net-zero” carbon emissions in 10 years rather than the more ambitious goal of zero carbon emissions at all, the FAQ said, “We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.” You can read our full fact check here.
Democrats and energy
“Yet every leading Democrat running for president pledges to ban the energy that drives our economy … if you look at what’s going on, your way of life is under assault by these people.” – Sept. 9 campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina
Facts First: It’s not entirely clear what Trump was talking about – he had spoken about oil and gas moments earlier – but it was clear he was exaggerating. Almost all of the Democratic presidential candidates have told the Washington Post that they would end new fossil fuel extraction on federal land, but this is not the same as a complete ban on “the energy that drives our economy,” whatever Trump meant. Some of the candidates support a ban on hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, but others do not. Similarly, some want to ban fossil fuel exports, but some do not.
Leading Democrats have made clear that they want to pass policies that will move the country away from fossil fuels. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, for example, says his plan will “transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to 100 percent energy efficiency and sustainable energy by 2030 at the latest”; his website says, “When Bernie is president, he is going to fully transform our energy sector away from fossil fuels, ensuring no one is priced out of this transition.” But a transition is not the same as a ban.
A quote from Democratic Rep. Al Green
“‘We can’t beat him, so lets impeach him!’ Democrat Rep. Al Green” – Sept. 12 tweet
Facts First: Green, a Texas congressman, is being misquoted; he told CNN, “I never said we can’t beat the President.” In May, he said this: “I’m concerned that if we don’t impeach this President, he will get reelected.”
One can argue about how similar or different Green’s actual words were to Trump’s rendition of them, but it’s objectively false for Trump to turn his own words into a supposed direct quote by Green.
Democrats and borders (three claims)
Trump said three times that Democrats want “open borders.”
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.
Democrats and illegal immigration
“Democrats also believe any illegal alien who merely sets foot on US soil should be automatically released into the interior of the United States and then given free health care for life.” – Sept. 12 speech to House Republican Member Retreat
Facts First: This might be the belief of some Democrats, but certainly not all. Though some Democratic presidential candidates, such as Warren, want to guarantee legal hearings for people apprehended crossing the border, her position has not been universally adopted. The party has not agreed on any proposal to “automatically” release “any” person who is apprehended illegally crossing the border.
During a primary debate in June, all 10 of the Democratic presidential candidates on stage raised their hand in support of providing health care to undocumented immigrants. Some low-polling candidates who were not debating that night, though, including Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Rep. Tim Ryan and former Rep. John Delaney, told the Washington Post that they disagree, and some of the others have not taken a position.
Warren is proposing to end “expedited removal,” the system that allows for the rapid deportation, without due process, of certain undocumented immigrants; her policy proposal would grant everyone a legal hearing. At the debate in July, Joe Biden said, “The fact of the matter is, you should be able to – if you cross the border illegally, you should be able to be sent back. It’s a crime.”
Democrat Dan McCready and borders
“You must defeat open borders, and you have a Democrat named Dan McCready and he wants open borders.” – Sept. 9 campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina
“McCready – I mean, the problem is, you take a look at what he wants, he wants open borders…” – Sept. 9 interview with WBTV Charlotte
Facts First: McCready, who lost the next day’s special election in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district, did not support open borders. His website says he wants comprehensive immigration reform “that secures our border, respects our laws and protects our American values.” He calls for the government to “reinforce physical barriers with the technology Dan used in the Marines, like infrared cameras and drones.”
Dan McCready and sanctuary cities
“In August, McCready said it was, quote, ‘The right call to set illegal alien criminals loose in the great state’ – I’m using the words great state, he doesn’t – ‘of North Carolina.’” – Sept. 9 campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina
Facts First: McCready did say it was “the right call” for North Carolina’s governor to veto a bill that would have required local sheriffs to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). But he did not say it was the right call to “set illegal alien criminals loose.” McCready spokesman Matt Fried told PolitiFact that “Dan doesn’t support a ‘sanctuary city.’ Violent criminals belong in jail in every city.”
In other words, McCready’s campaign was saying that he opposed a de facto state ban on sanctuary cities but did not support sanctuary cities themselves. Trump could have made a case that McCready’s stance on the statewide bill essentially makes him a supporter of sanctuary cities, but, instead, he put words in McCready’s mouth.
Hurricanes and weather
Hurricane Dorian and Alabama
Question: “And did you tell your chief of staff to have NOAA disavow those forecasters who said that Alabama was not in the path of the storm?” Trump: “No, I never did that. I never did that. That’s a whole hoax by the fake news media, when they talk about the hurricane and when they talk about Florida, and they talk about Alabama. That’s just fake news. It was, right from the beginning, it was a fake story.” – Sept. 11 exchange with reporters at meeting on e-cigarettes
Facts First: We don’t know for sure whether Trump told chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to tell the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to disavow the forecasters who contradicted Trump, though the New York Times reported that Trump “pressed aides to intervene.” But it is not true that the media’s reporting about the hurricane and Alabama has been “a fake story” from the beginning.
You can read our full fact check of this saga here.
Weather in Fayetteville
“So, we have now people standing on line, trying to get into the arena. And I will tell you that they are soaking wet, because Roy and everybody just walked under the plane, and you folks were wet. It is bad weather out there. But we have a tremendous crowd, and we’re going to be there in a little while. We’re going over a little bit earlier than anticipated.” – Remarks at Sept. 9 briefing on Hurricane Dorian in North Carolina
Facts First: The crowd waiting in line at Trump’s rally Fayetteville, North Carolina, was not “soaking wet.” As CNN’s Betsy Klein noted from the scene, it had not rained all day in Fayetteville and was 88 degrees and sunny at the time.
Trump might have been confused because it had rained elsewhere in North Carolina that day; Trump had to call off a planned tour of Emerald Isle because of severe weather. But Emerald Isle, on the Atlantic coast, is about 130 miles from inland Fayetteville. Trump was speaking while Air Force One was parked in Havelock, north of Emerald Isle and also close to the coast.
Glasgow Prestwick Airport
“I know nothing about an Air Force plane landing at an airport (which I do not own and have nothing to do with) near Turnberry Resort (which I do own) in Scotland, and filling up with fuel, with the crew staying overnight at Turnberry (they have good taste!). NOTHING TO DO WITH ME” – Sept. 9 tweet
Facts First: Trump certainly does not own Glasgow Prestwick Airport, but his claim that he has “nothing to do with” the airport is not true. Documents from the Scottish government, obtained by The Scotsman, The Guardian and the New York Times, show evidence of a business partnership between the Trump Organization and the airport to refer some travelers to his Turnberry resort.
The Times reported that “documents obtained from Scottish government agencies show that the Trump Organization, and Mr. Trump himself, played a direct role in setting up an arrangement between the Turnberry resort and officials at Glasgow Prestwick Airport. The government records, released through Scottish Freedom of Information law, show that the Trump organization, starting in 2014, entered a partnership with the airport to try to increase private and commercial air traffic to the region.
“As part of that arrangement, the Trump Organization worked to get Trump Turnberry added to a list of hotels the airport would routinely send aircrews to, even though the Turnberry resort is 20 miles from the airport, farther away than many other hotels, and has higher advertised prices. Trump Organization executives held a series of meetings with the airport officials to negotiate terms that would lead to more referrals, the documents show.”
The airport said in a statement reported by the Times the day of Trump’s tweet: “We provide a full handling service for customers and routinely arrange overnight accommodation for visiting aircrew when requested. We use over a dozen local hotels, including Trump Turnberry, which accounts for a small percentage of the total hotel bookings we make.”
Wind power and air quality
The reliability of wind
“Try dropping a windmill someplace close to your house. …The energy is intermittent. If you happen to be watching the Democrat debate and the wind isn’t blowing, you’re not going to see the debate. ‘Charlie, what the hell happened to this debate?’ He says, ‘Darling, the wind isn’t blowing. The goddamn windmill stopped. That windmill stopped.’” -Sept. 12 speech at the House Republican Conference
Facts First: Using wind power as part of a mix of power sources does not cause power outages, as the federal Department of Energy explains on its website. “Studies have shown that the grid can accommodate large penetrations of variable renewable power without sacrificing reliability, and without the need for ‘backup’ generation,” the Department of Energy says.
The Department of Energy explains that although power grid operators need to account for the variability that comes with using wind and solar power, they know how to manage, since “all forms of power generation,” including non-renewable sources, “may sometimes not operate when called upon.”
James Manwell, professor and director of the Wind Energy Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said in response to a previous version of this Trump claim: “No one is suggesting that the wind alone would supply all the electricity in any large electricity network. It could supply a very large fraction, however, with no adverse impacts.”
Where wind turbines are made
“The wind is very expensive because you put up those windmills — I know it very well. First of all, they’re made in Germany and they’re made in China…” – Sept. 12 speech to House Republican Member Retreat
Facts First: Some wind turbines are made solely in Germany or China, but Trump was inaccurate in omitting the United States from the list of manufacturing countries. The American Wind Energy Association told CNN that there are “over 500 US factories across 42 states” that build components for wind turbines and that “over 25,000 Americans have wind-related manufacturing jobs.”
“By the way, today, we have the cleanest air, we have the cleanest water that we’ve ever had in the history of our country.”– Sept. 12 speech to House Republican Member Retreat
Facts First: By several measures, US air was cleaner under Obama than it’s been under Trump. Three of the six types of pollutants identified by the Clean Air Act as toxic to human health were more prevalent in the air as of 2018 than they were before Trump took office, according to Environmental Protection Agency data.
Additionally, there were more “unhealthy air days” for sensitive groups in 2018 than in 2016 – 799 days across the 35 American cities surveyed by the EPA, up from 702. Though there were significantly more “unhealthy air days” in Obama’s first term than there have been in Trump’s, the lowest amount of unhealthy air days – 598 – occurred in 2014 under Obama.
Polls in the North Carolina 9th District
“And while we’re here and while we’re talking about that, I want to congratulate Dan Bishop last night on an incredible win. He was — Dan was 17 points behind, three weeks ago. The media thought he was going to lose. They were all set to have a big celebration with their partners from the Democrat Party. And Dan Bishop worked really hard. And I worked very hard with him. And he made up a 17-point lead in a few weeks. And he won a great election last night.” – Sept. 11 exchange with reporters at meeting on e-cigarettes
Facts First: Bishop was not down 17 points in any public poll, though some did have him trailing by single-digit margins.
When we tweeted about this, Matt Wolking, deputy director of communications for the Trump campaign, responded “Try harder” – pointing to a tweet by Jim Blaine, a Republican strategist, that included an apparent poll excerpt that showed Bishop down 14.
But 14 is not 17. And neither Wolking nor Blaine responded to our questions about who conducted the poll, who it was conducted for, when it was conducted, what its methodology was, or what its sample size was; Blaine’s tweet did not include any of that information.
Polls in the North Carolina 3rd District
“And also, Greg Murphy — which nobody is even reporting — but Greg Murphy won a great congressional election in North Carolina last night. And I want to congratulate, between Dan (Bishop) and Greg, what a job they did. We picked up two seats, and Greg was, you know, anticipated to win by two or three points, maybe less, but two or three points. And he won by many, many points.” – Sept. 11 exchange with reporters at meeting on e-cigarettes
Facts First: Murphy was widely expected to win by well over “two or three points” in this special election in North Carolina’s 3rd District. One late poll had him up by 11 points; he was running in a district formerly held by the late Republican Rep. Walter Jones, who ran unopposed by the Democrats in the 2018 election; and Trump won the district by about 24 points in 2016.
Trump could have accurately said Murphy outperformed the polls, since he won by 24 points. But there is no apparent basis for the idea that Murphy was expected to win by “two or three.”
Accomplishments and popularity
Right to Try laws
“They’ve been trying to get this for 45 years.” – Sept. 9 campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina
“They’ve wanted to do this for 45 years.” – Sept. 12 speech to House Republican Member Retreat
Facts First: There had not been a 45-year push for a federal Right to Try law, experts said. Similar laws have been passed at the state level only since 2014, after the Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think tank, began advocating them.
“Together, we enacted the VA Accountability Act, so that anyone who mistreats or abuses our great veterans can be promptly fired. There was a time you couldn’t fire anyone, no matter how they treated our veterans, whether they stole or they were sadists. And we had some of them too. You couldn’t fire them, and now we can do it very, very quickly and easily.” – Sept. 12 speech at the House Republican Conference
Facts First: While Trump might have been exaggerating here for effect, it’s not true that “you couldn’t fire anyone, no matter how they treated our veterans,” prior to the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act he signed into law in 2017. The VA fired an average of 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.
Manufacturing jobs, part 1
“And by the way: 600,000 manufacturing jobs in this country. Remember? ‘You would need a magic wand, you can’t do that anymore.’ Well, we did it.” – Sept. 9 campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina
“Remember when President Obama said, ‘No, no, forget the manufacturing; not going to happen’? Well, we have almost 600,000, just in terms of manufacturing jobs. And nobody thought that was possible.” – Sept. 12 remarks at House Republican Conference
Facts First: Trump was exaggerating at least slightly. The economy has added 485,000 manufacturing jobs since January 2017, when Trump took office, official data shows. The number is 512,000 jobs added if you go back to November 2016, the month of Trump’s election.
Manufacturing jobs, part 2
“Remember when President Obama said, ‘No, no, forget the manufacturing; not going to happen’?” - Sept. 12 speech at the House Republican Conference
Facts First: Obama administration did not say “No, no, forget the manufacturing; not going to happen.” In his “magic wand” comments in 2016, Obama did say that some manufacturing jobs were gone for good, but he also boasted of how many were still being created.
At a PBS town hall in Elkhart, Indiana, during the 2016 campaign, Obama mocked Trump for claiming, without outlining a specific plan, that he would bring back manufacturing jobs that had been lost to Mexico; he asked, “What magic wand do you have?”
Obama also noted that some manufacturers were indeed coming back, and he boasted that “we’ve seen more manufacturing jobs created since I’ve been president than any time since the 1990s” and that “we actually make more stuff, have a bigger manufacturing base today, than we’ve had in most of our history.”
“Ninety-four percent Approval Rating in the Republican Party, a record. Thank you!” – Sept. 9 tweet
“We just got right – a little while ago, 94% popularity or approval rating within the Republican Party. So, to be honest, I’m not looking to give them any credibility.” – Sept. 9 exchange with reporters
“I just got a 94% approval rating in the Republican Party…” – Sept. 9 interview with WBTV Charlotte
“Ninety-four percent Approval Rating in the Republican Party! Tuesday night in the Great State of North Carolina proved that high and very beautiful number correct.” – Sept. 14 tweet
Facts First: Trump’s approval with Republicans is very high, regularly in the 80s and sometimes creeping into the 90s, but it has not been 94% in any recent poll.
Popularity among African Americans
“We have tremendous African American support. I would say I’m at my all-time high.” – Sept. 12 exchange with reporters
Facts First: Trump is far from his all-time high in his popularity with African Americans, polls show. He was at 7% approval with African Americans in August polling by Gallup, down from 15% in his first month in office and 18% in April of this year. He was at 9% with African Americans in September polling by CNN, down from 25% in his first month in office.
One caveat: polling on specific demographic groups can be highly variable because of sample sizes that are frequently small. For example, that 25% number was from a small sample, 81 people.
Pete Buttigieg and Texas polls
“I think – I think it was Buttigieg. Buttigieg…But anyway, they said, ‘Buttigieg…’ Can you believe this guy? He’s doing a rotten job running his own city. Lousy job. But they say, ‘Buttigieg is two points up in the state of Texas against President Trump.’ I said, ‘I don’t think so. I don’t think so.’ No, I don’t worry about that too much.” – Sept. 12 speech to House Republican Member Retreat
Facts First: It was not clear who “they” were, but journalists and election analysts have not been publicly discussing any poll in which Pete Buttigieg, the Democratic mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was two points ahead of Trump in Texas. Trump might have been misremembering a Quinnipiac University poll conducted in late May and early June, which found Trump ahead of Buttigieg by two points in Texas, 46% to 44%.
Remains from North Korea
“In the meantime – in the meantime, we have our hostages back, we’re getting the remains of our great heroes back, and we’ve had no nuclear testing for a long time.” – Sept. 9 exchange with reporters
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.
See our full fact check here.
“When I came in, President Obama gave us a beautiful gift. He gave us 138 judges that he wasn’t able to get in or didn’t pick anybody, or couldn’t get them approved. One hundred and thirty-eight.” And: “President Obama gave me a beautiful birthday present when he gave me 138 judges that weren’t approved. And, frankly, how do you consider that being a great president, when you hand to the opposition 138 slots of federal judges, including appellate court judges and one Supreme Court judge?” – Sept. 9 exchange with reporters
Facts First: Trump did not enter office with 138 judicial 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, plus a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the confirmation of many of Obama’s judicial nominees late in his term; Obama obviously didn’t intend to “hand” vacancies to Trump.
“Will soon have record number of Judges…” – Sept. 13 tweet
Facts First: “Soon” is an exaggeration. Trump might indeed break the record number of judges if he gets reelected, given his current pace, but it would almost certainly take him years; at present, he has appointed less than half the number of judges Ronald Reagan did over Reagan’s eight years, according to data from Russell Wheeler at the Brookings Institution.
Wheeler’s data shows that Reagan got 373 judges confirmed to district courts and courts of appeal, Bill Clinton 371, George W. Bush 321. As of last Monday, it was 142 for Trump, Wheeler says. Reagan, Clinton and Bush, of course, served for eight years to Trump’s less-than-three so far, so we’re not saying Trump will never get there – if he won the 2020 election and kept up his current pace of more than 50 per year, he would do so by 2024.
Trump could factually make a more narrow boast: in an August article, Wheeler noted that Trump had seated a record number of appeals court judges through that point in his presidency, leaving his predecessors “in the dust.” But Wheeler also noted that Trump had not set an overall record, when you include district courts, and had not set a percentage record regardless.
The decline in overdose deaths (three claims)
Trump claimed that last year’s decline in drug overdose deaths was the first decline in “over 30 years” or in “nearly 31 years.”
Facts First: There was a rare decline in overdose deaths in 2018, according to preliminary data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – but it was the first in since 1990, or 28 years ago, not “nearly 31 years” ago.
Before Right to Try
“And you have to see the success. People used to go to Asia. They’d go to Europe. They’d go all over the world looking, if they had money. Most people didn’t have the money, so they’d go home and they’d die. Now they have the Right to Try.” – Sept. 12 speech to House Republican Member Retreat
Facts First: It is not true that terminally ill patients 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.
“We passed something that they’ve wanted to do for half a century. We passed VA Choice.” – Sept. 9 campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina
“…we’ve taken care of our vets. We’ve got Choice approved.” – Sept. 9 interview with WBTV Charlotte
“We’re also very proud to tell you that the Veterans Choice, which is something special — so special; they’ve been trying to get it for decades and decades — Choice — so that more veterans have the right to see a private doctor…” – Sept. 12 remarks at House Republican Conference.
Facts First: The Choice bill, a bipartisan initiative led by Bernie Sanders and the late John McCain, was signed into law by Barack Obama in 2014. In 2018, Trump signed the VA Mission Act, which expanded and changed the program.
USMCA and unions
“We got to get Nancy Pelosi to put it up for a vote, make it bipartisan. She’ll have tremendous Democrats support the farmers want it, the unions want it…” – Sept. 9 campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina
“They’ve got to put it up for a vote. By the way, the Democrats are going to vote for it. Unions love it.” – Sept. 12 speech to House Republican Member Retreat
Facts First: American unions generally don’t like Trump’s North American trade agreement, a revised version of NAFTA. The AFL-CIO, a large labor federation made up of 55 unions, says changes must be made to the agreement before the federation could possibly be supportive; in a Fox News appearance in early September, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka called its present incarnation “an unenforceable trade deal” that would be “a windfall for corporations and a disaster for workers.”
As The New York Times has reported, the United Automobile Workers and United Steelworkers, among other unions, have also demanded changes.
The USMCA and Canada
“We need a vote on the USMCA. That’s United States, Mexico and Canada. And they’ve already voted.” – Sept. 9 campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina
Facts First: Mexico’s Senate has voted to ratify the USMCA trade agreement, but Canada’s Parliament has not held a vote.
The agreement is highly unlikely to be rejected by Parliament even if Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is ousted in the current election, since the Conservative opposition party says it will “reluctantly” vote in favor. Still, the voting has not happened yet.
Trade deficit with China (four claims)
Trump claimed the US trade deficit with China is $500 billion, saying “China would take out of our country more than $500 billion a year for many years.”
Facts First: Trump refers to trade deficits as losses and surpluses as gains or takings, though this characterization is rejected by many economists. The US trade deficit with China has never been $500 billion; it was $381 billion last year when counting goods and services, $420 billion when counting goods alone.
Who pays for Trump’s tariffs on China (two claims)
Trump claimed that China is “eating the costs” of his tariffs on imported Chinese products.
The history of tariffs on China
“But we’re taking in billions and billions. Money flowing in. We’ve never taken in 10 cents from China.” – Sept.12 speech to House Republican Member Retreat
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 imposed his own tariffs. (As always, we’ll note it is US importers and consumers, 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.
China’s agricultural spending
Explaining how he decided to give $28 billion in aid to farmers affected by his trade war with China, Trump said he had asked his Secretary of Agriculture how much China had spent on US agricultural products: “And I said to Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture. ‘Sonny, how much was it? Last year and the year before, tell me.’ It was $12 billion and it was $16 billion. And out of the tariffs that we’ve taken in, we gave to our farmers for distribution – hopefully, very good distribution; hopefully, very even distribution – we’ve given them $28 billion so that they’re whole.” – Sept. 9 campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina
Facts First: Trump was significantly understating Chinese agricultural purchases. In 2017, the year before the trade war began, China spent $19.5 billion, according to Department of Agriculture figures. In 2016, it was $21.4 billion.
Chinese purchases plummeted to $9.1 billion in 2018.
China’s economic performance
“By the way, China is having the worst year they’ve had now in 57 years, okay? Fifty-seven. It was 27. It was 22 and then 27. It’s 57 years. This is the worst year they’ve had.” – Sept. 11 exchange with reporters at meeting on e-cigarettes
“I want China to do well and I hope they do well, but they’ve had now the worst year in 57 years.” – Sept. 9 campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina
Facts First: China’s official second-quarter GDP growth rate, 6.2%, was the worst since 1992, 27 years ago. Though experts say China’s official economic statistics are unreliable, there is no basis for the “57 years” claim.
Trump has correctly cited this “27 years” statistic in the past without questioning it. Later, though, he began adding additional years and then additional decades for no apparent reason.
A quote from CNBC
“‘China suspends Tariffs on some U.S. products. Being hit very hard, supply chains breaking up as many companies move, or look to move, to other countries. Much more expensive to China than originally thought.’” – Sept. 11 tweet
Facts First: The first sentence of this supposed quote was taken from text that appeared on CNBC. But the other parts were not direct quotes; nobody who spoke during the CNBC segment said the words “supply chains breaking up,” which is Trump’s own claim.
Co-host Becky Quick and Beijing bureau chief Eunice Yoon discussed companies moving or thinking about moving operations out of China, but neither specifically mentioned supply chains.
Migrants and court
“You have a program, catch and release: you catch them and then you have to release them. And they’re supposed to come back to court in the next three, four, five, six years, and nobody shows up,” Trump said. – Sept. 9 campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina
Facts First: While it is unclear what subset of migrants Trump was referring to, the majority do show up for 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.
Building the wall (five claims)
Trump said “a lot of wall is being built,” that “the wall is going up as we speak,” that the “wall is being built and it’s being built rapidly,” and that “we’re putting up miles and miles.”
Facts First: No new miles of wall had been built during Trump’s presidency as of August, Customs and Border Protection told CNN’s Geneva Sands. Sixty miles of existing barriers have been replaced.
“What can be much more threatening than people that want to pour across our borders? And we have the worst laws – we have the weakest laws in the history of any country. You can’t do anything to stop ‘em,” Trump said. – September 9 campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina
Facts First: This is obviously inaccurate hyperbole. Current US immigration laws are not even close to the weakest they have been in the history of this country: the US government did not make a broad effort to control the flow of people entering the country until the late 1800s, more than a century after the country’s founding.
There are clearly numerous tools at the government’s disposal to stop people from illegally entering the country, from physical barriers to Border Patrol apprehensions. Trump frequently complains that asylum seekers must be released and granted a legal process, but that is also the case in other countries.
Overdose deaths and the border
“100,000 people a year die from what comes across our southern border.” – Sept. 9 campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina
Facts First: Trump was talking here about drug trafficking; he seemed to be saying that 100,000 people a year die from drugs brought across the Mexican border. While we don’t have precise figures on how many overdose deaths are linked to drugs from particular countries, Trump’s 100,000 figure is obviously inaccurate: there were 68,557 total drug overdose deaths in 2018, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes overdoses on drugs obtained legally and illegally, from all countries.
An estimated 31,897 of those deaths involved synthetic opioids, including fentanyl; as Trump himself has noted, a large percentage of fentanyl trafficked into the US comes from China, not Mexico.
“We have the great currency, power, and balance sheet The USA should always be paying the the lowest rate. No Inflation!” – Sept.11 tweet
Trump could fairly say that inflation is low, but “no inflation” is incorrect.
Asian American unemployment
Trump said three times that Asian Americans are at their best unemployment numbers in history.
Facts first: The unemployment rate for Asian Americans was 2.8% in August – higher than the 2.6% rate in December 2016, Barack Obama’s last full month in office.
Women’s unemployment (three claims)
Trump said the women’s unemployment rate is the lowest in “71 years,” the lowest in “72 years” and the “all time best.”
Facts First: This was a slight exaggeration. It has been 66 years since the women’s rate has been as low as it has been this year – it was 3.6% in August, 3.4% in April – not 75 years.
Energy production (three claims)
Trump claimed it was an accomplishment of his that the US “became” the world’s number-one energy producer, saying twice that this had happened because he had ended the Obama administration’s “war” on American energy.
Facts First: The US has not just “now” become the world’s top energy producer: it took the top spot in 2012, under the very administration Trump has accused of perpetrating the “war,” according to the US government’s Energy Information Administration. The US became the top producer of crude oil in particular during Trump’s tenure.
The Mueller investigation
“Done more than any President in first 2 1/2 years despite phony & fraudulent Witch Hunt illegally led against him.” – Sept. 13 tweet
Facts First: There is no evidence the investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia, which he calls a “Witch Hunt,” was illegal.
Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed by a Republican Trump appointed, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Trump has questioned the motives and tactics of Mueller’s team, but he has provided no evidence of illegality.
We’ll let him slide on the subjective claim that he has “done more” than any other president.
“No Obstruction, No Collusion, only treasonous crimes committed by the other side, and led by the Democrats. Sad!” – Sept. 13 tweet
Facts First: Mueller’s report laid out multiple cases of possible obstruction; Trump’s appointee as attorney general, William Barr, concluded the evidence was insufficient to establish a crime was committed, though other prominent lawyers disagreed. Regardless, there is no evidence of “treasonous crimes” by “the other side,” whether Trump means Mueller’s team or Democrats – and there is no evidence any such crimes were “led by the Democrats.”
“Treasonous” can be read at least slightly softer than Trump’s periodic claim that people involved in the investigation committed actual “treason.” Still, he is baselessly, though vaguely, suggesting some sort of treason conspiracy involving Democrats.
Former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig, someone who can be said to be on the “other side,” was charged in a case arising from the Mueller investigation, but he was acquitted this month.
CNN’s financial state
“…I hear that, because of its bad ratings, it is losing a fortune…But most importantly, @CNN is bad for the USA.” – Sept. 9 tweet
Facts First: CNN is not losing money. Spokesperson Matt Dornic said on Twitter: “In case you hear differently, CNN is having its most profitable year in history. Last month the network delivered its highest August ratings on record and won the prime time demo [adults 25-54] - beating both Fox and MSNBC.”
“We’ll always protect patients with pre-existing conditions, always.” – Sept. 9 campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina
Facts First: We usually don’t fact-check promises, but this one has already proved untrue. The Trump administration and congressional Republicans have repeatedly put forward bills and lawsuits that would weaken Obamacare’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Trump is currently supporting a Republican lawsuit that is seeking to declare all of Obamacare void. He has not issued a plan to reinstate the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions if the suit succeeds.
Voting fraud in California
Speaking of California, Trump said, “A lot of illegal voting going on out there, by the way. A lot of illegal voting.” – Sept. 9 campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina
Facts First: There is simply no evidence for Trump’s repeated claim of mass voting fraud in California. You can read a longer fact check of this claim here.
The Washington Post
A Post article
“Can’t believe the @washingtonpost wrote a positive front page story, ‘Unity Issue Has Parties Pointing To Trump. GOP Goes All In, While Democrats Clash Over Ideology & Tactics. Mr. President, We Are With You The Entire Way. REPUBLICANS Have….Coalesced Around Trump.’…..” – Sept.15 tweet
Facts First: “Mr. President, We Are With You The Entire Way” was not a quote from the Post editorial board, Post reporter or even Post opinion columnist; it was from Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who was quoted in the article
Trump also omitted the second part of the article’s “coalesced” sentence. The full sentence was this: “Republicans, meanwhile, have largely coalesced around Trump, but it’s far from clear that the president has a winning message for 2020.”
The article, which analyzed the state of the two parties as 2020 approaches, did include some sentences Trump could construe as “positive”; we won’t call that claim false. But it’s worth noting that the article also referred to “Trump’s erratic approach to foreign policy and trade,” noted in its first sentence that Trump “falsely claimed that televisions turn off when wind turbines stop spinning,” and included reporting like this: “Privately, Republicans acknowledge that Trump’s divisiveness has created a problem for them in suburbs.”
Post/ABC polling, part 1
“…the Amazon Washington Post/ABC, which predicted I would lose to Crooked Hillary by 15 points (how did that work out?)…” – Sept. 11 tweet
Facts First: There was no Washington Post/ABC poll that predicted Trump would lose to Clinton by 15 points in the 2016 election. Their final poll before voting day had Clinton leading by four percentage points; Clinton won by two percentage points.
As Trump noted in a tweet the day prior (which had its own accuracy problems), there was an ABC poll – in which the Post was not involved – that showed Trump down 12 points to Clinton. But that is not 15 points.
Post/ABC polling, part 2
“In a hypothetical poll, done by one of the worst pollsters of them all, the Amazon Washington Post/ABC, which predicted I would lose to Crooked Hillary by 15 points (how did that work out?), Sleepy Joe, Pocahontas and virtually all others would beat me in the General Election. This is a phony suppression poll, meant to build up their Democrat partners.” – Sept. 11 tweet
Facts First: Polls are not always accurate, but there is no evidence for Trump’s claim that the Post or ABC nefariously altered the poll in some way to benefit Democrats and suppress the enthusiasm of his supporters.
Post/ABC polling, part 3
“ABC/Washington Post Poll was the worst and most inaccurate poll of any taken prior to the 2016 Election. When my lawyers protested, they took a 12 point down and brought it to almost even by Election Day. It was a Fake Poll by two very bad and dangerous media outlets. Sad!” – Sept. 10 tweet
Facts First: The Post/ABC poll was not the most inaccurate of the 2016 election. And there is no evidence for the suggestion that Post or ABC altered 2016 poll results after a complaint from Trump’s lawyers. (When Trump claimed in June that his lawyers had sent a “letter of complaint,” a Post spokesperson told CNN that nobody there could recall such a letter.)
A post-election assessment from Costas Panagopoulos, a political science professor at Northeastern University, ranked the Post/ABC poll the second-most-accurate of 14 national polls he studied. (Panagopoulos used head-to-head, Trump-vs.-Clinton results from each pollster, not the results that included third-party candidates; the head-to-head version of the final Post/ABC poll had Clinton leading by three percentage points. Other head-to-head polls had Clinton up by five, six or seven points.)