He smeared Joe Biden. He smeared Ilhan Omar. He smeared San Francisco. He denied the existence of an obvious delay in military aid to Ukraine. He denied that the name of the Democratic Party is the Democratic Party. He confused champion mountain climbers by claiming that champion mountain climbers had tried and failed to climb his border wall.
President Donald Trump made 79 false claims last week, mixing some fresh false accusations and pointlessly false anecdotes into his usual stew of repeat favorites.
Seventy-nine false claims is down from 90 the week prior to last, Trump’s highest total since we started counting at CNN on July 8, but it was still his fourth-most-dishonest of these 11 weeks. His weekly average since July 8 is now 59 false claims.
Trump made 29 of last week’s 79 false claims at his campaign rally in New Mexico. He made 13 more in his White House meeting and press conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, seven on Twitter. The rest came in a smattering of events, interviews and exchanges with reporters.
Twenty-seven of the false claims were about the economy, 15 about Democrats.
The most egregious false claim: The Ukraine delay
Facing difficult questions about why he delayed military aid to Ukraine, Trump and his allies have tested out a variety of possible explanations. At one point last week, though, Trump decided to just deny the very existence of the delay.
“I didn’t delay anything,” he told reporters. “We paid the military aid, to the best of my knowledge.”
The money was paid, but that payment very clearly came after a delay. By this week, Trump was openly defending the delay he had said did not happen.
“I’d withhold again and I’ll continue to withhold until such time as Europe and other nations contribute to Ukraine, because they’re not doing it,” he said – which is also not true.
The most revealing false claim: Maligning Omar, again
Trump has made a concerted effort to smear Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Last week’s entirely baseless inflammatory allegation was his third in under three months.
This time, Trump amplified a tweet from a conservative commentator, Terrence K. Williams. Posting a video of Omar dancing, Williams accused her of partying on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The footage was from September 13. The President either didn’t check, didn’t care, or both.
The most absurd false claim: The name of the Democratic Party
For sheer weirdness, it is hard to top Trump’s story about the mountain climbers and the border wall. But we say his claim about the Democratic Party did it.
Some of Trump’s false claims are so bizarre that it’s almost embarrassing to check them. When you do, some of his supporters will inevitably accuse you of humorlessness or pettiness.
Whatever: this is a comprehensive tally, and we must do our solemn duty. Thus, we must point out that … the name of the Democratic Party is the Democratic Party.
We must do so because Trump has repeatedly and solemnly insisted that the actual name is the “Democrat Party.”
He said last week, again, that he is not only using “Democrat Party” because it sounds worse but because that is the party’s official name. He urged the Democrats to make a change to the nicer “Democratic Party,” in which case he might call them that.
Yes, he might just be trolling. No, that does not make any of this less confusing.
Here is a list of false claims from last week that we had not previously fact checked in a weekly update:
Google and the 2016 election
“Did you see Google? He said I may have lost 2 million to 10 million votes according to this character that worked at Google, right? And we still won. How the hell did we win? Everybody was against us. How did we win? How did we win? This is a Google executive. From two million to 10.5 million votes, and we won.” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Facts First: That flawed study was conducted by a psychologist, not a Google employee or executive. You can read a full fact check on the study here.
Hunter Biden and the investigation
“The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, want to stay as far away as possible from the Joe Biden demand that the Ukrainian Government fire a prosecutor who was investigating his son, or they won’t get a very large amount of U.S. money…” – September 21 tweet
“And, you know, he really made it a – it was an offer. It was beyond an offer. It was something where he said, ‘I’m not going to give billions of dollars to Ukraine unless they remove this prosecutor.’ And they removed the prosecutor supposedly in one hour. And the prosecutor was prosecuting the company of the son and the son.” – September 22 exchange with reporters after Coast Guard briefing in Houston
Facts First: There is no public evidence that Hunter Biden was ever himself under investigation.
The investigation, as far as we know, was into the business activities of Mykola Zlochevsky, who owned a natural gas company, Burisma Holdings, for which Hunter Biden had sat on the board of directors since 2014. The United Kingdom had begun investigating Zlochevsky before Hunter Biden joined the board.
“Hunter Biden did not violate any Ukrainian laws – at least as of now, we do not see any wrongdoing,” Shokin’s successor as prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, told Bloomberg.
You can read a full fact check on Trump’s claims about the Bidens and Ukraine here.
Joe Biden and “the case”
“Somebody ought to look into Joe Biden’s statement, because it was disgraceful, where he talked about billions of dollars that he’s not giving to a certain country unless a certain prosecutor is taken off the case. So, somebody ought to look into that.” – September 20 exchange with reporters at meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Facts First: There is no evidence that Biden ever called on Ukraine to remove its chief prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, from a case involving Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of a natural gas company on whose board of directors Biden’s son Hunter Biden sat. Rather, Biden, like the US government more broadly and several US allies, tried to get Shokin fired.
Trump’s allies might argue that calling for a prosecutor’s firing was even worse than calling for him to be taken off a particular case. But there is a key difference given the context.
Had Biden called for Shokin to be taken off a particular matter in which his son had a stake, this would seem to suggest that his motivation was helping his son. But Biden calling for Shokin’s firing, without mentioning that particular case, was consistent with the international concern about Shokin’s performance.
You can read a full fact check on Trump’s claims about the Bidens and Ukraine here.
Joe Biden’s previous comments
“This is a very dishonest thing that Joe Biden did. And then he said he never spoke to this son. Does anybody believe that one? But then he also said, long before, that that he did speak to his son. So he lied, again.” And: “I mean, give me a break, he’s already said he spoke to his son. And now he said, yesterday, very firmly. Who wouldn’t speak to your son? Of course, you spoke to your son. So, he made the mistake of saying he never spoke to his son. He spoke to his son.” – September 22 exchange with reporters before Marine One departure
Facts First: Biden has not previously said that he did speak to his son about his overseas business dealings. Rather, it was Hunter Biden who said that there was a conversation on the subject, according to a New Yorker article in July.
That article said this: “As Hunter recalled, his father discussed Burisma with him just once: ‘Dad said, “I hope you know what you are doing,” and I said, “I do.’”
Once is more than never, so Trump can fairly point out the contradiction – though the New Yorker article did not offer evidence that the father-son exchange was detailed. Regardless, the elder Biden was not contradicting himself; he was contradicting his son.
You can read a full fact check on Trump’s claims about the Bidens and Ukraine here.
“I never met her. She never treated me nicely. But I would like to wish her family well. She was a professional, and I respect professionals. I respect you guys a lot, you people a lot. She was a real professional. Never treated me well, but I certainly respect her as a professional.” – September 17 exchange with reporters on Air Force One
Facts First: Trump had met Roberts, who died on September 17. As CNN’s Brian Stelter noted, she interviewed him at Trump Tower for a story that aired on ABC in December 1999. (Roberts also questioned him by phone during the 2016 campaign; she asked him asked about children using his campaign rhetoric to bully other children. He called the question “very nasty.”)
Trump, who has been interviewed many hundreds of times, could well have just forgotten the 1999 meeting, but his statement was false regardless of his intent.
San Francisco, the ocean and needles
“We’ll start with those two cities and we’re looking at San Francisco, we’re looking at Los Angeles. And we’re looking at all of the things that are happening. You know, there’s tremendous pollution being put into the ocean, because they’re going through what’s called a storm sewer. That’s for rainwater. And we have tremendous things that we don’t have to discuss pouring into the ocean. There are needles, there are other things. Lot of bad – lot of – it’s a terrible situation. That’s in Los Angeles and in San Francisco. And we’re going to be giving San Francisco – they’re in total violation – we’re going to be giving them the notice very soon.” – September 18 exchange with reporters on Air Force One
Facts First: There is no evidence for Trump’s claim that San Francisco has significant pollution, including needles, being sent into the ocean through storm sewers.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed called Trump’s claims “ridiculous,” saying in a statement that the city’s sewer system “ensures that all debris that flow into storm drains are filtered out at the city’s wastewater treatment plants.” David Lewis, executive director of nonprofit Save the Bay, told the Mercury News: “In San Francisco, all solids in that stormwater and sewage water are removed. And what comes out of the plant is sometimes cleaner than the water that many people in this state are drinking.”
The San Francisco Chronicle reported: “Storm drain runoff is piped to one of two city treatment facilities, the Southeast Treatment Plant in the Bayview neighborhood or the Oceanside Treatment Plant near the zoo. Any pollutants would be treated at those points if they haven’t already been filtered out at catch basins beneath city streets, according to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. ‘We haven’t had any (recent) problems with syringes,’ said SFPUC spokesman Tyler Gamble.”
Mountain climbers and the wall
“We actually built prototypes and we have, I guess you could say, world-class mountain climbers. We got climbers. We had 20 mountain climbers. That’s all they do; they love to climb mountains. They can have it. Me, I don’t want to climb mountains. But they’re very good. And some of them were champions. And we gave them different prototypes of walls, and this was the one that was hardest to climb.” – September 18 exchange with reporters during border visit
Facts First: There is no evidence that 20 mountain climbers, or any number of champion mountain climbers, were recruited to test Trump’s border barriers. When The Daily Beast contacted several top mountain climbers and governing body USA Climbing, nobody had any idea what Trump was talking about. Customs and Border Protection refused to comment to CNN, referring questions to the White House.
The wall and San Diego
“You know in San Diego, California, is very difficult, always complaining, not doing great, but they wanted a wall in San Diego – good mayor in San Diego, by the way. They wanted a wall, and I said, ‘You know what, let’s build it someplace else, because California, you know, once we build it, they’ll complain.’” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Facts First: It is possible that someone or some group from San Diego told him they wanted a wall, but as we reported at the Toronto Star, there is no basis for Trump’s repeated suggestion that the city itself wanted a wall. San Diego’s city council voted 5-3 in 2017 to express opposition to the proposal, and even the Republican mayor Trump was praising here, Kevin Faulconer, has made clear that he is opposed.
The name of the Democratic Party
Trump said he calls the Democratic Party the “Democrat Party” not only because “Democrat” sounds worse than “Democratic” but because “that’s their name, the Democrat Party”; he said, “Frankly, they should probably change it – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Facts First: The party is already named the Democratic Party. We realize this is a strange-sounding fact check, but Trump has repeatedly insisted that the actual name is the Democrat Party, so we are not going to let it slide.
A tweet on Ilhan Omar
Trump shared a tweet from comedian and conservative commentator Terrence K. Williams, who alleged that Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar was dancing on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In his own comment above Williams’ tweet, which Williams later deleted, Trump wrote, “IIhan Omar, a member of AOC Plus 3, will win us the Great State of Minnesota. The new face of the Democrat Party!” – September 18 tweet
Facts First: The footage of Omar dancing was from September 13, 2019, not the anniversary of September 11. She was attending an event, called Breaking Concrete Ceilings, connected to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference.
You can read a full fact check on the tweets here.
“Our nuclear was getting very tired. They hadn’t spent the money on it. And now we have it have it in, as we would say, ‘tippy-top shape.’ Tippy-top. It’s — we have new and we have renovated and it’s — it’s incredible.” –September 20 press conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison
“As you know, we’ve spent tremendous and hopefully – and we pray to God we never have to use it, but we’ve totally renovated and bought new nuclear. And the rest of our military is all brand new. The nuclear now is at a level that’s it’s never been before.” – September 20 exchange with reporters with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Facts First: “Tired” is vague and subjective, but experts reject that characterization of the US nuclear arsenal prior to the Trump administration. Obama did spend money on the arsenal, launching a modernization program that is expected to cost more than $1 trillion. And experts say that Trump has not yet implemented significant changes to the arsenal.
“I feel comfortable saying that the scientific studies to date have yet to provide any evidence that the nuclear arsenal was ‘tired’ or in any way at risk of being ineffective if called upon,” said Scott Kemp, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory for Nuclear Security and Policy.
“I am not aware that Trump can claim to have done anything for the state of the nuclear arsenal — but nothing urgent needed to be done anyway,” said Kemp, who served as a State Department adviser on arms control early in the Obama administration.
Alexandra Bell, senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation, said that, with the exception of a hypothetical top-secret development she doesn’t know about, “everything is the same” in the deployed arsenal “as it was in January 2017” – aside from reductions the US made to fulfill its obligations under the New START treaty with Russia.
While “the Trump administration has certainly requested and received increased funding for nuclear modernization,” Bell said, “this is a trajectory we have been on since 2010” – and “he hasn’t really changed anything yet.”
“Budgets clearly demonstrate that we have spent enormous of money on nuclear modernization over the past decade,” said Bell, who served in the State Department under Obama from 2010 to 2017.
A wall at the Democratic convention?
Talking about the large barriers he had visited at a California border site and is planning to erect elsewhere, Trump was asked if that’s what he wants around the White House grounds. He said, “No, but that’s what the Democrats are putting up around their convention…They’re building a big wall around their convention. Which they should do.” – September 18 exchange with reporters on Air Force One
“You know what I saw the other day? Where the Democrats are having their convention, their national convention. They just gave out a tremendous contract. You know what it’s for? They’re building a big wall around the building, they’re building a big wall, a massive wall.” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Facts First: There is no evidence that the Democrats are planning to erect a big wall around the convention site. “It’s not true,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Brandon Gassaway told CNN.
There will likely be some sort of security fencing in the vicinity of the convention, as is standard, but there are no known plans for a wall even slightly resembling the steel-and-concrete structure Trump visited in California.
The Green New Deal and cars
Trump said that, under the Democrats’ Green New Deal proposal, people would be limited to one car: “Now, under the Green New Deal that (energy revenue) all goes away, that all goes away. It all goes away. You can forget it. No more cows, no more airplanes, no more trips. A single car. Make it electric – single car, you’re not allowed to travel more than 162 miles.” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Facts First: The congressional resolution on the Green New Deal does not include any restrictions on the number of cars people could own or the number of miles they could drive.
The proposal calls for “overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; clean, affordable, and accessible public transit; and high-speed rail.”
Bay of Pigs veterans
“You know just before the last election, the Cubans from Miami, where we got a tremendous percentage of the vote close to 90%. They gave me the Bay of Pigs award. Can you imagine, right? The Bay of Pigs award.” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Facts First: Trump got an endorsement, not an award, from the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association. The endorsement was the first the association had ever made in a presidential election, so Trump could fairly boast about it. But still, an award and an endorsement are different things. (Trump claimed in August to have received an award from the Log Cabin Republicans, which told CNN it gave him an endorsement but not an award.)
Trump’s Cuban American support in 2016
“You know just before the last election, the Cubans from Miami, where we got a tremendous percentage of the vote close to 90%…” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Facts First: Trump did not get anywhere near 90% of the Cuban-American vote, in Miami or elsewhere, according to multiple analyses reported on by the Miami Herald when Trump claimed in 2017 that he had received “84%” of the Cuban-American vote. The Herald noted that estimates range from 50% to 58%.
The Herald reported: “Mauricio Claver-Carone, former executive director of the US-Cuba Democracy PAC who was appointed by Trump to the Treasury Department, estimated that Trump won 58% of the Cuban-American vote based on his review of results from about 30 Miami-Dade precincts with large Cuban-American populations.” As the Herald reported, University of Florida professor Daniel A. Smith found that Trump’s best performance with Cuban-American voters in any Miami-Dade precinct was 68%.
Military aid to Ukraine
Question: “How do you explain the military aid, sir? How do you explain delaying military aid (inaudible)?” Trump: “Because I want Germany and I want France and I want the European Union to put up money. And I didn’t delay anything. We paid the military aid, to the best of my knowledge.” – September 22 exchange with reporters before Marine One departure
Trump was correct that the aid was eventually paid, but he was incorrect when he denied the very existence of a delay; the delay has been publicly discussed by members of Congress and by people who were serving in the Ukrainian government this summer. The Post reported that although the Trump administration notified congressional officials in February and in May that portions of the aid was going to be released, but the release didn’t actually happen until September.
The estate tax
“And to keep New Mexico’s farms, ranches and small businesses in the family, we eliminated the unfair estate tax or death tax so that you can now give your farm or your ranch to your children.” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Facts First: Trump has not eliminated the federal estate tax. His 2017 tax law raised the threshold at which the tax must be paid, from $5.5 million to $11.2 million for an individual, but did not get rid of the tax entirely.
It’s also misleading to suggest that the estate tax had been a particular burden on farms and small businesses; very few of them were paying the tax even before Trump’s changes came into effect. According to the Tax Policy Center, a mere 50 farms and closely held businesses were among the 5,190 estates to pay the estate tax in 2017, before Trump’s tax law. The Center wrote on its website: “The Tax Policy Center estimates that small farms and businesses will pay $20 million in estate tax in 2017, one-tenth of 1 percentage of the total estate tax revenue.”
“Our country is doing well. You look at so many different things. Look at all of the regulation cutting that allows us to do what we did. Look at what happened three days ago — where you have an attack like that and it takes out a big chunk of oil, and the prices go up $4, $5, and now it’s heading down rapidly. That tells you — that would have happened years ago, it would have gone up $50. It would’ve doubled. And this was a blip.” – September 20 press conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Facts First: Though oil prices did head back downward after an initial spike after the attack on Saudi oil facilities, that initial spike was larger than $4 or $5: Brent crude futures, the international benchmark, and West Texas Intermediate futures both rose more than $8, about 15% each, between the close of trading on Friday, before the attack, and the close of trading on Monday; it was the largest single-day percentage gain for Brent since at least 1988, Reuters reported.
We can’t fact check Trump’s hypothetical about what might have happened to oil prices if the attack had occurred some unspecified number of years ago.
The cost of the Mueller investigation
“House Judiciary has given up on the Mueller Report, sadly for them after two years and $40,000,000 spent…” – September 16 tweet
“…they spent $40 million – there’s not a person in the room that I couldn’t find something on with that.” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Facts First: The Mueller investigation cost $32 million, not $40 million, according to figures released by the Justice Department – and the government is expected recoup about $17 million as a result of the investigation, according to a CNN analysis of the sentences handed out to people charged by Mueller.
The vast majority of this $17 million is expected to come from former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was ordered to forfeit assets and pay millions to the Internal Revenue Service.
Here’s a list of claims we’ve fact checked before in one of our weekly updates:
Mexican troops on the border
“And I want to thank the President of Mexico, who right now has 27,000 soldiers on our southern border. It’s been incredible what’s taken place in a short period of time.” – September 22 speech at Howdy, Modi event in Houston
Facts First: The approximately 26,000 troops are split between the US border and Mexico’s southern border. Trump himself said in late July that 6,000 of the troops were near Guatemala; speaking to the press in September, acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner Mark Morgan said, “Since June, Mexico has deployed thousands of troops. They’ve created a new national guard within their country: 10,000 troops to the southern border; 15,000 troops to the norther border with the United States.”
Mexico’s immigration assistance
“You know, Mexico has never done anything to impede people from pouring into our country, and now they’re doing just the opposite. They’ve really been incredible.” – September 18 exchange with reporters during border visit
Facts First: Mexico also took action to impede migrants from entering the United States during the Obama administration.
Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute, noted that the Mexican government beefed up its border enforcement measures as part of a cooperation program with the US that aimed to address the 2014 surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America. “The numbers of unaccompanied minors dropped as a result of this cooperation (and the two countries dealt with a second, smaller spike in 2016 the same way),” Selee said. He added: “The Mexican government has actually deported more Central Americans to their home countries since 2015 than the US government has, sharply limiting the number of migrants from that region that have made it to the US border.”
Building the wall
“Well, this section is 14 (miles), but we’re building many that are 50 and 40 and 17 and different areas. We’re building on many different sites all up and down along the border.” – September 18 interview with Fox News’ Ed Henry
“Well, you know we’re building the wall and it’s going up and it’s going up fast.” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
“Now, the wall still, obviously, has a ways to go, but we’re building it at a breakneck speed.” – September 18 exchange with reporters during border visit
Facts First: Trump was exaggerating the pace of border-barrier construction. No new miles of border 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 had been replaced over Trump’s tenure in office, but Trump was incorrect that there are “many” sections of 50, 40 and 17 miles under construction.
Democrats and the border
Trump said the Democrats have an agenda of “open borders.” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Facts First: Even Democratic presidential candidates who advocate the decriminalization of the act of illegally entering the country, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, do not support completely unrestricted migration, as Trump suggests.
“If you want to stop the drug smugglers and the human traffickers, how about the human traffic? And they traffic really for the most part in women, that’s what they traffic in, it’s women. They’re not trafficking in men, they capture women and they bring them across the open borders and they don’t go through ports of entry where you have guards standing there with guns and rifles and everything else. They go out into the desert areas and they hang a left or they hang a right and they come in.” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Facts First: Many human trafficking victims do indeed come through ports of entry, according to US experts on trafficking and according to international data.
Experts say that victims are more likely to be deceived into crossing the border willingly than kidnapped and put in the back of a vehicle. “I have worked on human trafficking on multiple continents in multiple countries for more than two decades, and in all the work that I’ve done with trafficking victims, I have met one who was actually kidnapped and thrown into a car,” Martina Vandenberg of the Human Trafficking Legal Center told CNN in January, when Trump was telling frequent stories about women being bound and gagged in cars.
Many victims, experts say, are tricked into coming to the US with promises of a good job. Others are coerced through threats to their families or themselves. While experts say there may be some cases like the ones Trump has described, they emphasize that such cases are in a small minority. In 2018, the UN International Organization for Migration found that “in the last 10 years, almost 80% of journeys undertaken by victims trafficked internationally cross through official border points, such as airports and land border control points.”
The Green New Deal, cows and planes
“Now, under the Green New Deal that (energy revenue) all goes away, that all goes away. It all goes away. You can forget it. No more cows, no more airplanes, no more trips.” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
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.”
The FAQ was not an official party document and has not been broadly adopted by Green New Deal supporters. Its language about cows and planes does not appear in the text of the Green New Deal resolution many congressional Democrats have endorsed. The resolution calls for “overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector” and “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible.
Popularity and accomplishments
Special election in North Carolina’s 9th District
Trump said North Carolina congressional candidate Dan Bishop, who won a September special election, was down “17 points three weeks ago,” before Trump got involved. – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
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.
Special election in North Carolina’s 3rd District
Trump said Greg Murphy, who won the special election in North Carolina’s 3rd District, “was up a couple of points” before his victory. – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Facts First: Murphy was leading by significantly more than “a couple of points,” according to public polling. One late poll had him up by 11 points.
The poll was in line with pundits’ expectations for the race, which was widely seen to be an easy Republican victory. Murphy 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 fairly said Murphy outperformed the polls, since he won by 24 points, but “a couple of points” is incorrect.
“Now, if it’s close, like it’s in play, you know you wait two three four or five hours to see what it is, but they don’t even take a breath because they’re called suppression polls, and they’re no different than all of the dishonest reporting that you people say. They’re no different. They’re suppression polls.” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Facts First: There is simply no evidence that pollsters have manipulated their numbers to suppress the enthusiasm of Trump voters, as Trump has repeatedly alleged.
Trump boasted that he was the one who got the Veterans Choice health care Trump passed, saying, “They’ve tried to get that for 45 years. They haven’t been able to get it. But I’m good at getting things.” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Facts First: The Choice bill, a bipartisan initiative led by senators 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.
Foreign and military affairs
“Look at Venezuela: Venezuela, 15 years ago, was one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and today very sad, no food, no water, no nothing.” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
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.
The war in Afghanistan
“We have hit — in Afghanistan, we have hit the Taliban harder than they’ve ever been hit in the entire 19 years of war.” – September 20 exchange with reporters at a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Facts First: We’ll ignore Trump’s subjective claim about how “hard” the US is attacking the Taliban. “Nineteen years of war,” though, was a small exaggeration. The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, nearly 18 years ago. This was not a one-time slip though; Trump habitually says “19 years.”
The Iran nuclear deal
“The problem was, the deal that was signed by the previous administration was a disaster — which, by the way, would be expiring in a very short period of time also. So you really don’t have a deal. You know, that deal was a very short-term deal. So they made a deal, but it was for a very short period of time. So that deal would be expiring very soon.” – September 16 exchange with reporters with Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain
Facts First: Some central provisions of the nuclear agreement with Iran were written to expire in the next 10 to 15 years. But the deal as a whole – including a blanket prohibition on Iran developing nuclear weapons – was written to continue in perpetuity. You can read a fuller fact check here.
ISIS fighters and Europe
“We have thousands of ISIS fighters and we want those fighters to be taken – you’re talking about, I think it’s a big – we have thousands of ISIS fighters that we’ve taken into – we’ve defeated 100% of the caliphate. We are holding in various forms of prison. We’re holding thousands of people. Many come from Germany, many come from France, many come from Holland – really most of them come from various European countries. And we want them to take them back.” – September 18 exchange with reporters on Air Force One
“They mostly come out of Europe.” – September 20 exchange with reporters at a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Facts First: According to Trump’s own government estimates, a minority of ISIS fighters being held in Syria came from Europe.
James Jeffrey, Trump’s special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, said August 1 that about 8,000 of 10,000 terrorist fighters who were then prisoners in northeastern Syria were Iraqi or Syrian nationals; there were “about 2,000 ISIS foreign fighters” from all other countries.
Trump himself tweeted in February to ask that European countries take back “over 800” ISIS fighters captured in Syria.
Remains from North Korea
“We’ve gotten our hostages back. We’ve gotten our great soldiers back who were killed — many of them. And many more are coming back. We have many more coming back. And the families of those — we call them ‘our heroes.’ And they were our heroes. And they’re coming back.” – September 18 exchange with reporters during border visit
Facts First: While North Korea returned some remains last year, it is no longer doing so. The US military announced in May that the remains program had been suspended for the rest of the 2019 fiscal year because North Korea had stopped communicating with the US agency responsible for the effort.
Trump could accurately tout the return of remains in the past tense: North Korea returned 55 cases of possible remains in the summer of 2018. But the remains are no longer being returned. You can read a longer fact check of this claim here.
Unions and the USMCA
Trump said of his USMCA trade agreement, “Unions love it.” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Facts First: The agreement is generally opposed in its current form by major US unions, who have demanded changes to the text; the president of the AFL-CIO federation says it will be a “disaster for workers” if it is not amended. As The New York Times has reported, the United Automobile Workers and United Steelworkers, among other unions, have also demanded changes.
Trade deficit with China
Trump said the trade deficit with China was $500 billion, alleging that previous presidents allowed China to “to take out $500 billion a year” or even “more than that” including theft of intellectual property. – September 20 exchange with reporters at meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison
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.
Aid to farmers
Talking about his tariffs on China, Trump said, “And I’m taking care of our farmers out of that. We’re helping our farmers. Our farmers were targeted, and they were targeted for $16 billion. And I made that up to them. We paid them the $16 billion and had tens of billions of dollars left over.” – September 20 press conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Facts First: It’s incorrect that there are tens of billions of dollars left over in tariff receipts after accounting for the $28 billion Trump has pledged to farmers affected by his trade war with China. (The $16 billion Trump mentioned here was a second announcement that followed an earlier $12 billion announcement. The China-specific tariffs have generated a total of about $30 billion, according to the US government’s tracking data as of September 24.
Who is paying for Trump’s tariffs on China
Trump said twice that China is “eating the tariffs” he has imposed on imports of Chinese products, and he said on a third occasion that the government was taking in the tariff revenue “from China.”
China’s economic performance
Trump said four times that China is having its worst economic year in “57 years.”
Facts First: China’s second-quarter growth rate was the worst in 27 years. Trump has repeatedly made clear that he knows that this is the reported figure, but he has added additional years for no apparent reason.
History of the tariffs
On three occasions on which eh talked about tariff revenue, Trump said the US has never previously received “10 cents,” “100 cents” or “billions” from China.
Facts First: The US government has been charging tariffs on imported Chinese goods for more than two centuries, and it took in billions 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.
Economy and energy
“My relationship has been very powerful with the autoworkers — not necessarily the top person or two, but the people that work doing automobiles. Nobody has ever brought more companies into the United States. You know, I have Japan and Germany, and many countries have been bringing car companies in and opening plants and expanding plants. ” – September 16 exchange with reporters with Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain
Facts First: Contrary to Trump’s claims, there has been no boom in investment from Japanese, German, or other foreign automakers during his tenure. From Trump’s inauguration through July, the Center for Automotive Research, a nonprofit that studies the industry, found 66 automaker announcements of new US manufacturing facilities, or expansions or updates to existing facilities. The center found 170 such announcements in Obama’s (four-year) first term, 154 in Obama’s second term, according to the center’s Bernard Swiecki.
Just two Japanese car companies, Toyota and Mazda, have announced plans to build a US plant (together) during Trump’s presidency; their joint venture is under construction in Alabama. There is no evidence Trump was personally responsible for this investment decision.
Trump has said since 2018 that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has told him that more Japanese carmakers will soon announce major US investments. But none of these companies has announced a new US plant since Toyota and Mazda introduced the joint venture in early 2018, though Japanese automakers have made additional investments in existing facilities and Japanese truck company Hino Motors has built a truck-cab assembly plant in West Virginia.
“We know of no German or Japanese automakers currently looking to place additional car or truck assembly capacity in the United States,” said Kristin Dziczek, the center’s vice president of industry, labor and economics.
“Well, we have the Strategic — if you look at what we have, we have tremendous amounts of oil in our country. We’re independent of everybody now.” – September 16 exchange with reporters
“So nice that our Country is now Energy Independent. The USA is in better shape than ever before.” – September 18 tweet
“We’re independent, as independent as we want, and we are now a net exporter of energy” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Facts First: While definitions of “energy independence” vary, the US is not “energy independent” by any definition; it is expected to export more energy than it imports by 2020, according to the government’s Energy Information Administration, but that has not happened yet. In the first five months of 2019, PolitiFact noted, the US also consumed more energy than it produced.
“The US is still a net importer of crude and refined products, although the trend of declining dependence on imports should continue due to increased domestic production of unconventional oil and biofuels and growing investment in export infrastructure following the 2015 repeal of the crude export ban,” said Josh Price, a senior analyst for energy and utilities at Height Capital Markets. “Most of these factors preceded President Trump and have not been significantly altered by administration policies.”
The decrease in US imports and increase in exports began before the Trump administration. Obama presided over a boom in liquefied natural gas exports and signed a bill lifting a 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports.
“The truth is that both of the presidents of this decade (President Obama and President Trump) have presided over an incredibly brisk expansion of our capacity to produce oil and refined products. Executive policy has had little to do with the explosive gains, which are attributable to technology and price,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service.
It’s worth noting that the US will still be using large quantities of foreign energy even if it does become a net exporter next year. In other words, it will not be completely independent from foreign suppliers.
Trump claimed four times that the US had only recently become the world’s largest producer of oil and gas; in one of the claims, he added a message of self-congratulation in the third person: “Thank you, Mr. President!”
Facts First: The US has not just “now” or “very recently” become the world’s top energy producer, and it did not achieve this status because of Trump’s policies: it took the top spot in 2012, under Obama, 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 United States has been the world’s top producer of natural gas since 2009, when US natural gas production surpassed that of Russia, and it has been the world’s top producer of petroleum hydrocarbons since 2013, when its production exceeded Saudi Arabia’s,” the Energy Information Administration says.
Asian American unemployment
Facts First: Trump falsely claimed four times that Asian Americans are at their lowest-ever unemployment rate. The unemployment rate for Asian Americans was 2.8% in August – higher than the 2.6% rate in December 2016, Obama’s last full month in office.
“Our job numbers for African Americans are the best in history. You saw the new ones came out; they’re even better than they were two months ago. Hispanic, the best in history. Asian, the best in history. Overall, they’re phenomenal. The best in 51 years. And I think we’ll soon be historic on that one too.” – September 16 exchange with reporters with Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain
“We’re doing – we have this great economy. We’re doing better than we’ve ever done. Our employment numbers are the best they’ve ever been and unemployment numbers also. We are doing great. But we should be cutting. There’s no inflation.” – September 18 interview with Fox News’ Ed Henry
“And unemployment in the United States has just reached the lowest level in over 51 years, and very soon, we think that will be broken to be a historic number.” – September 22 speech at Howdy, Modi event in Houston
Facts First: Trump was exaggerating in all three cases – very slightly with “51 years,” more significantly when he said “the best they’ve ever been.” The unemployment rate over this spring and summer – 3.7% in each of June, July and August, 3.6% in each of April and May – has been the lowest since December 1969, slightly less than 50 years ago; all of these rates were well off the record 2.5%, set in 1953.
“Will Fed ever get into the game? Dollar strongest EVER!” – September 16 tweet
Facts First: The dollar is not the strongest it has ever been against other currencies, according to various indices; it was significantly stronger in the 1980s and earlier this decade. You can read a longer version of this fact check here.
Trump said at his New Mexico rally that unemployment numbers for women were the best in “71 years.”
Facts First: This was his usual slight exaggeration. The rate this summer has been the lowest since 1953, 66 years ago.
Trump claimed three times that there is “no inflation.” Facts First: There is inflation: 1.7% for the last 12 months ending in August. Core inflation, which excludes food and energy, was up 2.4% for the 12 months ending in August. Trump could fairly say that inflation is low, but “no inflation” is incorrect.
Trump could fairly say that inflation is low, but “no inflation” is incorrect.
Prescription drug prices
Trump claimed that last year was “the first year in 51 years where prices went down” for prescription drugs. – September 16 exchange w with Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain
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. You can read a longer version of this fact check here.
“And we will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions. The Republicans will always do that.” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Facts First: This promise has already proven false. Trump and Republicans, who have tried to pass bills that would have weakened protections for people with pre-existing conditions, are now trying to get the courts to declare Obamacare void, without a plan to replace those pre-existing protections if their lawsuit succeeds.
“And I’m an environmentalist, I believe in the environment. I want the cleanest water on the planet. I want the cleanest air. I want a lot of things. You know right now we have the cleanest air that we’ve ever had in this country?” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
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.
“President Obama said they (prisoners at Guantanamo Bay) were going to be totally completed and emptied out by the time he left office. And very much like judges, where, as you know, I ended up with 138 slots, you had a situation where that wasn’t cleaned out.” – September 18 exchange with reporters on Air Force One
“In a few short weeks, we’ll be up to 180, sounds impossible, federal judges, including court of appeals judges, because President Obama did us a great favor. when I came in, I said, ‘I assume I have no judges to appoint.’ ‘No sir, you have 138 judges.’ 138, didn’t put them up, couldn’t get them approved. I don’t know what happened, but we started off with 138.” – September 16 campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
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.
CNN’s Marshall Cohen contributed to this article.