04:59 - Source: CNN
Fact-checking Trump's claims at Louisiana rally
Washington CNN —  

President Donald Trump made 67 false claims last week, 27 of them related to Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

This was the sixth consecutive week in which Trump made more false claims about impeachment or Ukraine than about any other subject.

Trump’s three most frequent false claims of the week were all impeachment-related. He said seven times that the whistleblower has disappeared (there is no evidence of this), four times that the whistleblower’s complaint was inaccurate (it has proven highly accurate), and four times that the Washington Post fabricated its sources for an article about how Trump had reportedly tried to get Attorney General William Barr to hold a news conference declaring he had committed no crimes in his July call with Ukraine’s president (there is no evidence the Post invented any sources; other news outlets, including CNN, quickly followed the Post scoop with similar reports).

Trump has made 1,202 false claims in the 18 weeks we have been fact checking him at CNN, about 10 false claims per day. Last week’s total of 67 false claims was his eighth-highest weekly total.

The most egregious false claim: Unearned credit in Louisiana

The Cameron LNG (liquefied natural gas) export facility in Hackberry, Louisiana, has its own website, which explains that the federal government approved the facility in 2014, then approved an expansion in 2016.

Trump visited the facility in May – and quickly began claiming he was personally responsible for securing the approvals that were granted while Obama was president.

Trump did it again during his rally in Louisiana last Wednesday. This time, he made the tale even more egregious by sprinkling some supposed quotes from himself into the fictional timeline.

“They couldn’t get their permits for years. I got them real fast,” he said. “I said, ‘How long?’ I said, ‘Let’s go get them that permit.’”

The most pointless exaggeration: Filling the judiciary

Trump gave a speech last Wednesday about milestones he had reached in his quest to shape the federal judiciary. He had impressive numbers at his disposal. As of that day, 25% of circuit judges were people he had put on the bench.

Trump recited this “one out of every four” statistic from his text. Then, because he is an incorrigible exaggerator, he added that the real number has “exceeded that by quite a bit,” though that was not true.

The most absurd false claim: Thank you for the imaginary approval rating

Trump went out of his way to express gratitude last week. Three separate times, he tweeted about his “95% Approval Rating in the Republican Party” – then added, each time, “Thank you!”

We check the polls each time he tweets the “95%” claim; it has never been true. Trump’s Republican approval last week was at 89% in Gallup polling for October and lower in the 80s in major November polls by other prominent pollsters – definitely impressive, just not as high as he keeps saying.

At this point, Trump making up numbers is to be expected. What’s more interesting is how he sometimes takes an extra step – by, say, professing thanks for a level of support he does not have – to disguise his dishonesty as authenticity.

Below is this week’s full list of 67 false claims, starting with the ones we haven’t included in a weekly update before:

Ukraine and impeachment

Impeachment witnesses

“I’m not concerned about anything. The testimony has all been fine. I mean, for the most part, I’ve never even heard of these people. I have no idea who they are…It seems that nobody has any firsthand knowledge. There is no firsthand knowledge.” – November 8 exchange with reporters before Marine One departure

“They’re having people – I never even heard of some of these people; I don’t know who they are. And, by the way, it’s all third-hand knowledge. But regardless of what anyone says, read the transcript.” – November 9 exchange with reporters before Air Force One departure

Facts First: It is not true that none of the people who testified in the impeachment inquiry had firsthand knowledge or that they all had “third-hand” knowledge.

Trump didn’t say what precisely he was referring to; the witnesses have had firsthand knowledge of various components of the story. But Trump was incorrect even if he was talking specifically about knowledge of his phone call with Zelensky. Witnesses Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Tim Morrison of the White House’s National Security Council both listened to the call; so did witness Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence.

The media and Trump’s comments

Question: “You said the impeachment hearings should not be held behind closed doors, but now you say you don’t want them to be public. So –” Trump: “No, no. I don’t care if they’re public; they should be public. What I said – it was misreported, as usual. What I said is very simple: There shouldn’t be anything. There shouldn’t be impeachment hearings, is what I said. So maybe they misconstrued it.” – November 9 exchange with reporters before Air Force One departure

Facts First: The media did not misreport Trump’s comments the day prior. He had said “they shouldn’t be having public hearings,” not that “there shouldn’t be anything” or “there shouldn’t be impeachment hearings.”

The day before, Trump was asked, “And what do you expect for the public hearings next week?” Trump responded, “Well, they shouldn’t be having public hearings. This is a hoax. This is just like the Russian witch hunt. This is just a continuation.”

It makes sense that Trump had actually meant that he doesn’t think there should be any kind of hearings at all. But that’s not what he said, so the issue was with the clarity of his original comments, not with the reporting of them.

Gordon Sondland’s comments

“Let me just tell you, I hardly know the gentleman [Gordon Sondland]. But this is the man who said there was no quid pro quo, and he still says that … and he says that I said that. And he hasn’t changed that testimony. So this is a man that said, as far as the President is concerned, there was no quid pro quo.” – November 8 exchange with reporters before Marine One departure

Facts First: Trump was accurate on one part of this claim, inaccurate on another. Trump was correct that Sondland, his ambassador to the European Union, had not changed his testimony that Trump said there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine. But the additional testimony Sondland submitted last Monday effectively conceded that there was indeed a quid pro quo.

You can read a full fact check on Trump’s comments about Sondland here.

Rep. Adam Schiff’s comments

“But here’s a guy [Schiff] that made up a conversation, totally, I mean, not even like – he didn’t use one word that I said. He just totally made it up, and it sounded terrible.” – November 4 interview with WKYT of Lexington, Kentucky

Facts First: Trump can reasonably criticize Schiff for Schiff’s comments at a House Intelligence Committee hearing in September; as we’ve written before, Schiff’s mix of near-quotes from Trump, his own analysis, and supposed “parody” was at the very least confusing. But Trump exaggerated when he said Schiff “didn’t use one word that I said.”

You can read our full breakdown of Schiff’s comments here.

The Washington Post’s article on Barr

“The story in the Amazon Washington Post, of course picked up by Fake News CNN, saying ‘President Trump asked for AG Barr to host a news conference clearing him on Ukraine,’ is totally untrue and just another FAKE NEWS story with anonymous sources that don’t exist.” – November 7 tweet

“Bill Barr did not decline my request to talk about Ukraine. The story was a Fake Washington Post con job with an ‘anonymous’ source that doesn’t exist.”– November 7 tweet

“The degenerate Washington Post MADE UP the story about me asking Bill Barr to hold a news conference. Never happened, and there were no sources!” – November 7 tweet

“With that being said, it’s fake news. They wrote a fake story. We’ve told them that before they wrote the story. But today, when you tell the press something, it’s meaningless because they write whatever – it’s all fiction. And I’ll tell you, they don’t have sources. You know what they do? They make it up. Not everybody – not John, not everybody. But they make it up.” – November 8 exchange with reporters before Marine One departure

Facts First: We won’t call Trump inaccurate for denying this Washington Post report – though CNN, the New York Times and other news outlets soon reported the same thing – but there is simply no evidence that the Post fabricated the existence of its sources for the article.

Post executive editor Marty Baron said in a statement: “The Post fully stands behind its story and its reporters, who are among the finest journalists anywhere. The president continues to make false accusations against news organizations and individual journalists. Despite his repugnant attempt to intimidate and harass The Post and its staff, we will continue to do the work that democracy demands of a free and independent press.”

The economy

The economy under Trump

“We’ve never had an economy like this before in our history, and it does make things easier. But if our opponent had gotten in, this economy, instead of being up 60, 70%, would have been down 60 or 70%, and that’s guaranteed.” – November 8 speech to Black Voices for Trump

Facts First: We can’t fact check the hypothetical about what would have happened if Hillary Clinton had been elected, but “the economy” is not up 60% or 70% under Trump. The economy grew by less than 3% in 2017 and 2018.

Trump may have been conflating the economy as a whole with the stock market, which is, of course, not the same. (The NASDAQ was up more than 60% from the date of his election to the date he spoke here.)

Job creation in Kentucky

“Under his [Gov. Matt Bevin’s] leadership, Kentucky has created over 57,000 new jobs – but I helped also, we worked together.” – November 4 campaign rally in Lexington, Kentucky

Facts First: Between the month Bevin was sworn in, December 2015, and September 2019, the last month for which data was available at the time, 39,300 net non-farm jobs were added in Kentucky. The “over 57,000” figure is for a separate measure the Kentucky state government uses: “announced jobs” – jobs that “private-sector manufacturing, service and tech companies plan to create in the future,” Jack Mazurak, spokesman for the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, said in an email.

There is nothing wrong with the state counting such announcements, but this is not a count of jobs actually created. Mazurak acknowledged that announced jobs sometimes do not come to fruition.

“We remove announced projects from the rolling total when a company tells us the project is canceled. And we adjust the numbers when a company tells us the project has changed substantially,” he said. (He also noted that the announced jobs count does not include “non-profit, hospital, education, retail, restaurant, financial services or government sectors.”)

Judges

Judicial confirmations

“Now, one out of every four circuit judges currently on the bench was appointed by this administration. And that number has now exceeded that by quite a bit.” – November 6 speech on judicial confirmation milestones

Facts First: Trump’s first sentence was correct. His second was not.

As of the day Trump spoke here, 44 of his nominees for circuit judge had been confirmed, precisely 25% of the 176 active-status circuit judges and just about 25% (24.6%) of the 179 circuit judgeships authorized by law, according to Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who tracks judicial appointments. So Trump was bang on – but he then did his trademark exaggerating. (Trump was obviously vague when he said “that number has now exceeded that by quite a bit,” but he appeared to be saying the actual percentage of Trump appointees, “that,” has now exceeded “that” figure, 25%, “by quite a bit.”)

The history of judicial confirmations

“No president in history has confirmed as many circuit court judges even close – not even close – in such a short period of time.” – November 6 speech on judicial confirmation milestones

Facts First: “The statement is demonstrably false,” said Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who tracks judicial appointments. At this point in Jimmy Carter’s presidency, Wheeler noted, “the Senate had confirmed 45 circuit judges,” one more than had been confirmed under Trump.

Wheeler added that Carter and Richard Nixon were both ahead of Trump at the time if you look at the percentage of authorized circuit judgeships they had filled – 31% for each of them to Trump’s 25%. And John F. Kennedy was also at 25%, Wheeler said.

The Trump Foundation and New York

“All they found was incredibly effective philanthropy and some small technical violations, such as not keeping board minutes.” – November 7 Twitter statement about the Trump Foundation

Facts First: The New York state investigation into the Trump Foundation uncovered issues far more significant than a failure to keep board minutes. In ordering Trump to pay $2 million in damages, a state judge wrote that a review of the record “establishes that Mr. Trump breached his fiduciary duty to the Foundation and that waste occurred to the Foundation.”

Trump acknowledged in the settlement that the Foundation did not even have board meetings between 1999 and November 2018; that Foundation money was used to resolve a lawsuit involving Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club (he reimbursed the Foundation ten years later, in 2017) and to buy a painting of Trump (the Foundation was eventually reimbursed); and that the Foundation had made a $25,000 donation to support the re-election campaign of Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general (Trump reimbursed the Foundation three yeas later).

What constitutes a “small technical violation” is open for debate, but it’s clear that the Foundation’s issues went far beyond trivial administrative transgressions.

In her damages order, Justice Saliann Scarpulla addressed one issue that had not been resolved in the settlement: the Foundation’s activities related to a televised fundraiser Trump held in Des Moines, Iowa, in January 2016, days before the Iowa caucuses. She found that “Mr. Trump’s fiduciary duty breaches included allowing his campaign to orchestrate the Fundraiser, allowing his campaign, instead of the Foundation, to direct distribution of the Funds, and using the Fundraiser and distribution of the Funds to further Mr. Trump’s political campaign.”

Scarpulla did note that money raised “ultimately” reached veterans charities, and she declined to order punitive damages.

Andy Beshear and energy