New record: Trump made 129 false claims last week, the most since CNN started counting in July
President Donald Trump averaged 18 false claims per day last week, subjecting his rally crowds, social conservatives, reporters and Twitter followers to an unceasing barrage of dishonesty.
It was not a record for Trump’s presidency. He made 240 false claims during a rally-filled week before the 2018 midterms, which we counted at the Toronto Star.
Both of the last two weeks have featured frequent deception about his dealings with Ukraine and the related whistleblower complaint. This past week, Trump made 28 false claims related to the whistleblower and 24 about his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. His single most frequent false claim over these two weeks – 11 times last week and nine times the week before – was that the whistleblower’s highly accurate account of the call was highly inaccurate.
Trump also made 24 false claims last week about the military, turning to dishonesty to sell his controversial decision to remove US troops from northern Syria in advance of a Turkish offensive.
Trump’s high total was, in part, a product of how much he spoke. Among other events, he held two campaign rallies (making 34 total false claims), delivered a speech to the Values Voter Summit of social conservatives (24 false claims), and did a Fox News interview (10 false claims).
The most egregious false claim: Soldiers in Syria
Trump said a variety of inaccurate things about the American military presence in Syria. One claim was particularly outlandish.
“Look, we have no soldiers in Syria. We’ve won. We’ve beat ISIS. And we’ve beat them badly and decisively. We have no soldiers,” Trump told reporters.
This was probably news to the 1,000 US soldiers in Syria at the time.
The most revealing false claim: One timeline out, one timeline in
After Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff delivered a confusing rendition of Trump’s call with Zelensky, Trump began slamming Schiff for putting words in Trump’s mouth that were not contained in the (rough) transcript Trump had released the day prior.
Then Trump began telling a completely different story. In this new account, Schiff had only made these comments because he never thought Trump would ever release a transcript – but Trump outsmarted him by later doing so, and he was “very embarrassed.”
Trump is rarely faithful to any particular account of events. If he eventually decides a new story will serve the moment better than the story he’s been telling over and over, the old story gets jettisoned.
The most absurd false claim: Grocery identification
Trying to make a case for strict voter Identification laws, the president returned to a claim for which he received mockery in 2018: Americans, he said, need ID even to buy groceries.
They very much do not.
Here’s this week’s full list of 129:
The Ukraine scandal
The former US ambassador to Ukraine
“And, again, she may be a very fine person. I just don’t know. But even if you listen to the very good conversation that I had, a very, very good, no-pressure, congenial conversation with the new president of Ukraine, he had some things that were not flattering to say about her. And that came out of the blue. So, you know, it would be nice to have somebody that he liked because he’s going – the person will have to deal with the president of Ukraine.” – October 12 interview with Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro
Facts First: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not criticize former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch “out of the blue” in his July phone call with Trump. The rough transcript released by the White House shows Trump brought up Yovanovitch, saying: “The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that.” Zelensky responded that “It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%.”
Zelensky did criticize Yovanovitch. “Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new president well enough,” he said. But he had been prompted by Trump, not disparaging her on his own.
Pelosi’s comments (four claims)
“The conversation that I had with the Ukrainian President Zelensky was a very good conv- – it was a very cordial, very good conversation. The mistake they made – the opponents, the opposition, the Democrats, the radical Left, deep state, whatever you want to call them – they came out with a whistleblower report before they saw the conversation. Had they waited one day, Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t have made a fool out of herself, and she would have been able to say what I said. Because when she saw it, she said, ‘This is not what the whistleblower said.’” – October 7 exchange with reporters at signing of trade agreements with Japan
“And then she saw the call and she said to her people, ‘What the hell? Nobody ever told me this was the call.’” – October 10 campaign rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota
“But Nancy Pelosi said, ‘Well, that’s what he said. Isn’t it?’ But she was angry as hell when she got to read the transcript. Because she said, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not what I was told.’ But she was stuck, she was stuck.” – October 11 campaign rally in Lake Charles, Louisiana
“And then Nancy Pelosi went on television. She was very angry when she read the actual call…” – October 12 speech to Values Voter Summit
Facts First: While we can’t be sure what Pelosi might have said in private, there is no public evidence Pelosi said any such things, or that she was underwhelmed by the rough transcript released by the White House. Her official statement on Trump’s call was scathing; she said: “The release of the notes of the call by the White House confirms that the President engaged in behavior that undermines the integrity of our elections, the dignity of the office he holds and our national security. The President has tried to make lawlessness a virtue in America and now is exporting it abroad. I respect the responsibility of the President to engage with foreign leaders as part of his job. It is not part of his job to use taxpayer money to shake down other countries for the benefit of his campaign.”
The timing of Rep. Adam Schiff’s comments (four claims)
“I will say this: Adam Schiff took that conversation before he saw it and fabricated a conversation.” – October 10 exchange with reporters before Marine One departure
“This should never be allowed to happen again. When Schiff goes out and speaks before Congress, they never thought I was going to release the transcript of my call, aww.” – October 11 campaign rally in Lake Charles, Louisiana
“Nobody in this room would do what Adam Schiff did. Nobody would ever think of it. By the way, he only did it because he never thought that I was going to release the transcript. … But he did it and then I released the transcript. They never thought in a million years – even in terms of violation with another country, but we got approval. So, he’s very embarrassed.” – October 12 speech to Values Voter Summit
“…the only thing impeachable is the fraud…that Adam Schiff committed on the American people…because he made up a conversation. He made a conversation that didn’t exist…He never thought in a million years that I was going to release the real conversation.” – October 12 interview with Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro
Facts First: Schiff made his comments about Trump’s call with Zelensky the day after Trump released the rough transcript, not before. Before he started claiming that Schiff did not expect a transcript to be released, Trump had complained that Schiff did not read the transcript available to him.
A “perfect” phone call
Speaking of his call with Zelensky, Trump said that “everybody that looked at it” agreed that it was “perfect.” – October 10 campaign rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Facts First: Given the major controversy over the phone call, it’s very clearly not true that “everybody” agrees with this assessment. Trump might have been referring to some subset of his own aides or officials.
The whistleblower and Biden
“And the whistleblower who works now for Biden, did you hear this one? Came out yesterday.” – October 11 campaign rally in Lake Charles, Louisiana
Facts First: There is no evidence the whistleblower works for Joe Biden. The whistleblower’s lawyers said in a statement that “our client has never worked for or advised a political candidate, campaign, or party.” Trump was likely referring to a report in the Washington Examiner that alleged the whistleblower had some kind of working relationship with Biden while Biden was serving as vice president.
The report did not specify what that past relationship might have been. The whistleblower’s lawyers said in the statement that “our client has spent their entire government career in apolitical, civil servant positions in the Executive Branch,” and added, “In these positions our client has come into contact with presidential candidates from both parties in their roles as elected officials – not as candidates.”
“So pathetic to see Sleepy Joe Biden, who with his son, Hunter, and to the detriment of the American Taxpayer, has ripped off at least two countries for millions of dollars, calling for my impeachment - and I did nothing wrong.” – October 9 tweet
Facts First: We give Trump wide latitude to express opinions about Hunter Biden’s business dealings, but no evidence has emerged to suggest that former vice president Joe Biden profited from his son’s career abroad or was directly involved in facilitating it.
Hunter Biden and the law
“And he [Hunter Biden] knows nothing about energy. He knows nothing about oil. Nothing. Zero. You know more than he does. And he walked away with millions of dollars, because of what? It’s just illegal. You can’t do it.” – October 12 interview with Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro
Facts First: Trump is free to raise questions about the son of the vice president getting a position on the board of directors of a Ukrainian energy company for a reported $50,000 per month, without a demonstrated expertise in energy issues – Hunter Biden acknowledged in a subsequent interview that he would “probably not” have gotten the position if his father were not Joe Biden – but it is not illegal for a relative of a prominent politician to be hired for a lucrative job for which others may be better qualified.
Joe Biden and “corruption”
“We have him on tape with corruption. I mean, he’s getting the prosecutor for, I guess, John, it was $2 billion – saying, ‘We’re not giving you the $2 billion’ – or whatever the amount was – ‘unless you get rid of this prosecutor.’ And then he goes, ‘Lo and behold, the prosecutor was gone.’” And: “He’s been caught red-handed. I mean, here’s a man who is on tape saying exactly what he’s going to do in terms of corruption, and he gets away with it. If that ever happened to a Republican, they’d be getting the electric chair right now.” – October 9 exchange with reporters at signing of executive order on regulatory guidance and enforcement
Facts First: The “tape” Trump was likely referring to does not show Biden acting corruptly, as Trump suggested, or being “caught” in any way. The video, from a 2018 event, is of Biden telling a story of how he used a threat to deny Ukraine a $1 billion (not $2 billion) loan guarantee to successfully pressure Ukrainian leaders to fire a chief prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was widely seen by the US government and its European allies to be ineffective in fighting corruption. There is no evidence of Biden wrongdoing.
Foreign and military affairs
A timetable for Syria
“The United States was supposed to be in Syria for 30 days, that was many years ago.” – October 7 tweet
“Again, we were supposed to be in there for a – just a tiny spot. Like, a 30- to 90-day period. That was many years ago. It’s time.” – October 7 exchange with reporters at signing of trade agreements with Japan
“We were put into this battle – interjected. It was supposed to be a 30 – a 30-day period. And we’ve been there for many, many years.” – October 9 exchange with reporters at signing of executive order on regulatory guidance and enforcement
“We were supposed to be in Syria for