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George Conway: Trump is virtually incapable of telling the truth
02:16 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

President Donald Trump made 49 false claims last week, sprinkling his dishonesty around a wide range of subjects.

Between January 13 and January 19, Trump made eight false claims related to the economy, eight related to the military, seven related to impeachment, seven related to Democrats, and six about energy.

While 49 false claims across seven days is by no means trivial, it’s below Trump’s weekly average of 60 per week for the period starting July 8, when we started counting at CNN.

Trump is now up to 1,685 false claims since July 8.

The most egregious false claim: Pre-existing conditions

Trump keeps simultaneously promising to protect people with pre-existing conditions and attempting to reduce protections for people with pre-existing conditions. As we’ve repeatedly noted, Trump has supported unsuccessful Republican legislation that would weaken protections offered by Obamacare – and he is currently backing a Republican lawsuit that has asked the courts to kill Obamacare in full.

Last week, he turned the empty pledge about the future into egregious nonsense about the past. Criticizing an ad from Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, Trump tweeted, “I was the person who saved Pre-Existing Conditions in your Healthcare, you have it now…”

At CNN, we start with the facts. Visit CNN’s home for Facts First.

That’s absurd. People “have it” only because Trump’s opponents have blocked his attempts to get rid of it.

The most revealing false claim: Vindman and the rough transcript

Trump got at least a little bit of helpful testimony in November from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council expert on Ukraine who was critical of Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Vindman testified that there were some words missing from the rough transcript of the call, and that his requests to add these words to the document were unsuccessful. But Vindman also emphasized that the document was still “substantively correct,” that there was nothing “nefarious” about the words being left out, and that the omissions were not “that big a deal.”

Instead of mentioning this truth, Trump falsely claimed last week that the omissions had been fixed at Vindman’s request. “The transcript was perfectly accurate. And now everybody agrees because it went through a lot and they said, ‘Well, could you add one word here?’ Our lieutenant colonel said, ‘Well, I think they should add…’ – they added the word,” he told reporters.

The most absurd false claim: Mexico and the wall

One of Trump’s most memorable 2016 rally shticks was a call-and-response segment.

Trump would ask his crowds who was going to pay for his wall on the Mexico border. The crowds would respond with Trump’s implausible promise: “Mexico!”

Mexico has not paid for the wall, though it has helped Trump thwart migrants in other ways. Needing billions more for the project than Congress has been willing to appropriate, Trump has been diverting taxpayer funds from the military.

So, naturally, Trump told a rally crowd last week: “And by the way, they think they caught me – they never catch us – because, you know: Mexico’s paying for the wall. You know that. You’ll see that. It’s all worked out. Mexico spent – it’s driving them crazy.”

He then pivoted to a promise that “Mexico will pay.” Then, reverting to his reality TV past, he vaguely promised a dramatic reveal at some future point: “And here’s the thing, here’s the thing, you’ll see that. It’ll come out. We’ll do it sometime during the debate or maybe before our debate, the real debate that people are going to watch.”

We will await the big moment.

Here is the full list of 49 false claims, starting with the ones we haven’t previously included in one of these weekly roundups:

Ukraine and impeachment

Vindman and the rough transcript

“Fortunately, I released the transcript of the call. The transcript was perfectly accurate. And now everybody agrees because it went through a lot and they said, ‘Well, could you add one word here?’ Our lieutenant colonel said, ‘Well, I think they should add…’ – they added the word. Everything – everyone agrees the transcript is perfecto, done by total professionals, right?” – January 16 exchange with reporters after remarks on prayer in public schools

Facts First: In fact, Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, testified in the House impeachment inquiry that two “substantive” changes he suggested to the rough transcript of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were not made. As we have noted before, the document Trump released explicitly says on its first page that it is “not a verbatim transcript.”

Vindman testified that he had wanted to change the words “the company” to “Burisma,” the company name he said Zelensky had used on his call with Trump. And Vindman testified that he had wanted to add in Trump saying “there are recordings” related to former Vice President Joe Biden and a Ukrainian prosecutor Biden had pushed Ukrainian leaders to fire. (Trump was vague about what he meant; in public comments last fall, Trump brought up a video of Biden at a 2018 event telling the story of his effort to get the prosecutor ousted.)

Vindman testified that the transcript was “substantively correct” even without the changes he had proposed. “When I first saw the transcript without the two substantive items that I had attempted to include, I didn’t see that as nefarious. I just saw it as, OK, no big deal. You know, these might be meaningful, but it’s not that big a deal,” he told the House Intelligence Committee in November.

What Ukraine’s foreign minister said

Defending his July call with Zelensky, Trump said: “The foreign minister said, ‘They want to impeach, impeach the President of the United States over a perfect phone call.’” – January 14 campaign rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“You have now the Ukrainian President and the Foreign Minister of Ukraine saying there was nothing done wrong. In fact, they said there was absolutely no pressure whatsoever. Everything was perfect.” – January 16 exchange with reporters after remarks on prayer in public schools

Facts First: Ukraine’s president and foreign minister have made comments that bolster Trump’s argument that he did not pressure Ukraine to investigate his opponents in order to receive US military aid – but the foreign minister has never called the phone call “perfect” or complained that Trump’s opponents were trying to impeach him over a “perfect” call, and the president has not said that Trump did nothing wrong.

The foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, has said “I have never seen a direct relationship between investigations and security assistance,” according to Reuters, citing Russian news service Interfax. And Prystaiko has said Trump’s July phone call with Zelensky was “friendly” and that “I think there was no pressure.”

Zelensky said had been “no pressure” from Trump and made other statements to that effect, but he has not gone so far as to say Trump did nothing wrong or that everything was perfect. In an interview published by Time magazine in early December, Zelensky did say, “Look, I never talked to the President from the position of a quid pro quo. That’s not my thing.” But Zelensky continued: “I don’t want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying.”

Trump could tout these comments. Instead, he touted a comment they did not make.

The public response to Trump’s Ukraine calls

“Now, so you have these perfect calls, and everybody says it now. Before they knew they were so good – because, fortunately, they were transcribed – you had other people saying terrible things about the calls.” – January 16 exchange with reporters after remarks on prayer in public schools

Facts First: This is an obvious exaggeration. It is clearly not true that “everybody” says Trump’s phone calls with Zelensky were “perfect” or even good. Democratic members of the Congress continue to cite the July call as key evidence supporting Trump’s impeachment.


A Very Stable Genius

“Another Fake Book by two third rate Washington Post reporters, has already proven to be inaccurately reported, to their great embarrassment, all for the purpose of demeaning and belittling a President who is getting great things done for our Country, at a record clip.” – January 18 tweet

Facts First: Trump was almost certainly referring to “A Very Stable Genius,” a new book by Washington Post journalists Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig. The book has not been “proven to be inaccurately reported,” nor has there been any sign that the authors are embarrassed about anything they included.

The New York Times

Trump said The New York Times is “a newspaper that was going broke until I came along.” – January 18 tweet

Facts First: There was no sign The New York Times was “going broke” prior to Trump launching his presidential candidacy in mid-2015. (Trump didn’t specify what he meant by “until I came along,” but that seems like the earliest reasonable starting point.) The New York Times Company was profitable in 2013 and 2014. While the company reported a $14 million loss in the first quarter of 2015, it reported a $16 million gain in the second quarter of 2015, more than two thirds of which occurred before Trump began his campaign in mid-June.


Pelosi, Sanders and impeachment

“They are rigging the election again against Bernie Sanders, just like last time, only even more obviously. They are bringing him out of so important Iowa in order that, as a Senator, he sit through the Impeachment Hoax Trial. Crazy Nancy thereby gives the strong edge to Sleepy Joe Biden, and Bernie is shut out again. Very unfair, but that’s the way the Democrats play the game. Anyway, it’s a lot of fun to watch!” – January 17 tweet

“They are taking the Democrat Nomination away from Crazy Bernie, just like last time. Some things never change!” – January 18 tweet

Facts First: There is no evidence for either Trump’s general claim that “they” are rigging the Democratic presidential primary to hurt the chances of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, nor for the specific claim that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scheduled Trump’s impeachment trial to damage Sanders’ chances in Iowa.

Sanders responded to Trump’s claim with his own tweet: “Let’s be clear about who is rigging what: it is Donald Trump’s action to use the power of the federal government for his own political benefit that is the cause of the impeachment trial. Democrats are going to unite to sweep him out of the White House in November.”

The New York Times reported that Pelosi deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill said, “Senator Sanders isn’t the only senator running, so this doesn’t make any sense.”

Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Michael Bennet of Colorado are also candidates.

Chuck Schumer and the China deal

“They asked one of our Democratic – Cryin’ Chuck Schumer – ‘What do you think of the deal?’ – two weeks ago. He had no idea what the deal was. Never saw the deal; it’s totally guarded. ‘I don’t like it. I don’t like the deal,’ he said. ‘Well, have you seen it?’ “Yeah, I think I know what…’ ‘Well, why don’t you like it?’ ‘Well, they took the tariffs off.’ Actually, we didn’t. He didn’t know anything about the deal. He just said exactly what probably you should say, as a politician. ‘How do you like the deal?’ ‘I don’t like the deal.’ ‘Do you know the deal?’ ‘Uh, uh, sort of.’ He never saw the deal. He knew nothing about it.” – January 15 speech on signing of “phase one” trade agreement with China

Facts First: There was no exchange in which Schumer, the Democrats’ Senate leader, said, “Uh, uh, sort of” when asked if he knows the contents of Trump’s China deal, or that he conceded he merely thinks he knows what’s in it. Also, the deal does reduce, though not eliminate, some of the US tariffs on imported Chinese products.

After Trump made this accusation on January 15, Schumer responded the same day: “I know what’s in the deal. I’m not sure the President does. If he knows what’s in the deal – he should throw it away and take China back to the negotiating table. I will cheer him on if he does.”

Foreign affairs

Locating Baghdadi

Recounting the US military raid that resulted in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Trump said, “We found him about a month-and-a-half ago. Again, a person walks in from the CIA and says, ‘Sir, we have him.’ I said, ‘You have who.’ ‘Al-Baghdadi.’ I said, ‘You got to be kidding.’” – January 17 fundraiser (audio obtained by CNN’s Kevin Liptak)

Facts First: We don’t know when Trump was informed that Baghdadi’s location in Syria had been identified, but it was clearly more than “a month-and-a-half ago.” He died on October 26, more than two-and-a-half months prior to this claim, so Trump would have been inaccurate even if he was talking about the raid itself.

We might let this go if it was a one-time slip, but it wasn’t. Intentionally or unintentionally, Trump has repeatedly moved the dates of his accomplishments closer to the present.

Soleimani and Hezbollah

Trump spoke about the January 3 airstrike in Baghdad that killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani and associate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy leader of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella organization of Iraqi militant groups. He said, “He [Soleimani] got off the plane and they said, ‘Sir, and he met the head of Hezbollah, we get two for the price of one. He met the head of Hezbollah.’” – January 17 fundraiser (audio obtained by CNN’s Kevin Liptak)

Facts First: Trump referred inaccurately to Muhandis – a founder of Iraq-based militant group Kataib Hezbollah, which is separate from the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah. The head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, was not with Soleimani and is still alive. It’s possible that Trump was confused because Soleimani had met with Nasrallah in Beirut in the days before the airstrike, according to Nasrallah.

The difference between Hezbollah (which means Party of God) and Kataib Hezbollah (which means Brigades of the Party of God) is not trivial. Though both groups are backed by Iran, and though Kataib Hezbollah is known to have received support from Hezbollah, they are “entirely independent entities,” said journalist Hala Jaber, author of the 1997 book “Hezbollah: Born With a Vengeance.” The groups “do have shared, common interests and ideologies, no question,” and do support each other, but they are distinct organizations with their own country-specific reasons for existing, Jaber said.


The size of Trump’s trade deals

Trump called the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the “phase one” trade deal with China “the two biggest trade deals in the world ever done.” He specified that the China deal is “the biggest deal ever done in the history of our country.” – January 16 exchange with reporters after remarks on prayer in public schools

“We just made the two largest trade deals in history: one with China and the other one with Mexico, Canada.” – January 17 speech at event for college football champion Louisiana State University

Facts First: “Biggest” can be defined in different ways, but trade experts say neither deal is among the two biggest trade deals in US history. “Since ‘biggest trade deal’ has no standard meaning, it may be possible to justify his statements by constructing a measure that fits it and by limiting the number of trade agreements that one compares to. But by any sensible interpretation, he’s wrong,” said Alan Deardorff, a University of Michigan professor of international economics who focuses on trade. Deardorff said: “Both deals, measured in terms of the volume of trade that they cover, are smaller than the Trans-Pacific Partnership that Obama negotiated, and much smaller than the Uruguay Round that created the World Trade Organization.”

The USMCA includes the US, Canada and Mexico. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which Trump withdrew the US, included all three of those countries but also nine others. Also, the USMCA is a modification to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) rather than a deal created from scratch; many of its changes are small.

Gary Clyde Hufbauer, a nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said that George W. Bush granting China the status of permanent normal trade relations in 2001 was “far bigger” than Trump’s preliminary deal with China, covering a far greater number of subjects (tariffs, non-tariff barriers, investment and others). Hufbauer also noted that it is not clear if the China deal’s pledged increase in purchases of US exports – $200 billion in additional purchases over two years – will actually materialize.

Washing machine tariffs

Trump said that South Korean companies are building washing machine factories in the United States “because they don’t want to pay the 25% tariff.” – January 14 campaign rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Facts First: There is no Trump washing machine tariff of 25%. In the first year of his tariffs on washing machines, which took effect in 2018, the tariff was 20% on the first 1.2 million imports, then 50% on additional imports. In the second year, it is 18% on the first 1.2 million imports, then 45% on additional imports. In the third year, it is 16% on the first 1.2 million, then 40% on additional imports.

Trump might well have made an innocent slip rather than an intentional falsehood, but this was at least the sixth time he has cited an inaccurate percentage for these tariffs.

Trump’s 2016 crowds in Texas

“I remember 2016 – the election. And the fake news – these people back here – they were going – they were saying, ‘Trump: going to have a hard time winning Texas.’ And we came. We made speeches…Remember? We’d have 25-, 30,000 people standing on line. Can’t get in. And I said, ‘Why am I going to have a hard time with Texas?’” – January 19 speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation

Facts First: There is no evidence to support this claim. Trump has repeatedly exaggerated the number of supporters stuck outside his events unable to get in.

After his rally in Dallas in 2015 during the Republican primary, the Dallas News reported that “up to 20,000 people were expected, but the upper levels of the arena were largely empty…arena personnel estimated attendance at about 15,000.” The Texas Tribune reported that Trump’s February 2016 rally in Fort Worth did not have a “capacity crowd,” either.

When Trump claimed that thousands of supporters were stuck outside a June 2016 rally at a Dallas entertainment venue with a capacity under 5,000, local radio station KERA News said it was really 100 to 200. NBC reported that “several thousand” were turned away from a June 2016 rally in The Woodlands, but there were no reports that the number was anywhere near 25,000; that venue had a capacity of about 5,000.

Mexico and the wall

“You know with the wall: we’re building a wall. You know that, right?… And by the way, they think they caught me – they never catch us – because, you know: Mexico’s paying for the wall. You know that. You’ll see that. It’s all worked out. Mexico spent – it’s driving them crazy. Now they say, ‘OK, he’s building the wall, but Mexico didn’t pay.’ Mexico will pay. And here’s the thing, here’s the thing, you’ll see that. It’ll come out. We’ll do it sometime during the debate or maybe before our debate, the real debate that people are going to watch.” – January 14 campaign rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Facts First: Mexico is still not paying for Trump’s border wall, which his administration is seeking to fund in part with taxpayer money appropriated by Congress and in part with taxpayer money taken from the military.

Mexico is spending a significant amount of money to help the US on migration issues, deploying thousands of troops to both its Guatemala border and its US border to thwart would-be asylum seekers. It’s possible to argue that this is like Mexico paying for a kind of human wall. But Trump’s wall is an actual, physical project that Mexico is not funding.

The Trump administration says that about 101 miles of wall had been built on the Mexican border as of January 10. Only one of these miles was built in places where no barriers had existed before; the other 100 miles replaced or reinforced previously existing barriers.

Chuck Grassley and James Comey

Trump said of Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley: “This guy is the toughest guy. He can say something in a nice manner and everybody is afraid. Right? He made Comey choke during the hearing. He said, ‘Did you leak anything to the press?’ ‘What? What? What? What?’ Comey choked like a dog, and he was being nice when he said it.” – January 15 speech on signing of “phase one” trade agreement with China

Facts First: James Comey did not say anything like “What? What? What? What?” when Grassley asked him at a May 2017 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about whether he had any role in leaks to the media.

Grassley said, “It is frustrating when the FBI refuses to answer this committee’s questions, but leaks relevant information to the media. In other words, they don’t talk to us, but somebody talks to the media. Director Comey, have you ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation?”

Comey responded, “Never.”

Grassley: “Question two, relatively related: Have you ever authorized someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation?”

Comey: “No.”

Grassley: “Has any classified information relating to President Trump or his association – associates been declassified and shared with the media?”

Comey: “Not to my knowledge.”


Here are the repeat false claims we have previously fact checked in a weekly roundup:

Ukraine and impeachment

The accuracy of the whistleblower

“You had a fake whistleblower that wrote a report that bore no relationship to what was said. Everything was false.” – January 16 exchange with reporters after remarks on prayer in public schools

Facts First: The whistleblower’s account of Trump’s July call with Zelensky has been proven highly accurate. In fact, the rough transcript released by Trump himself showed that the whistleblower’s three primary allegations about the call were correct or very close to correct. You can read a full fact check here.

The House impeachment proceedings

“Cryin’ Chuck Schumer just said, ‘The American people want a fair trial in the Senate.’ True, but why didn’t Nervous Nancy and Corrupt politician Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff give us a fair trial in the House. It was the most lopsided & unfair basement hearing in the history of Congress!” – January 14 tweet

Facts First: The House did not hold a “trial” at all. Under the Constitution, it is the Senate that has the sole power to try impeachments.

This is not merely a matter of semantics. During the House impeachment process, Republicans complained that Trump was being denied constitutional rights afforded to criminal defendants – wrongly suggesting to the public that the House process was tantamount to a trial.

The House proceedings did involve closed-door hearings in a secure room in a Capitol basement, but there were also, of course, subsequent public hearings.

Trump’s approval with Republicans

“95% Approval Rating in the Republican Party, A Record. Thank You!” - January 18 tweet

Facts First: Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is very high, regularly in the 80s and sometimes creeping into the 90s, but it has not been 95% in any recent major poll we could find.

Trump was at 89% approval with Republicans in a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted January 7-12, 93% in a Quinnipiac University poll conducted January 8-12, 88% in an Ipsos/Reuters poll conducted January 6-7, 89% in a Gallup poll conducted December 2-15.

The Quinnipiac poll at which he was at 93% had an overall margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, and a larger margin of error for the smaller sub-sample of Republican voters, so that poll found that it’s possible Trump’s true number is indeed 95% – but it’s not accurate to make leaps from the numbers the polls actually found without explaining that this is what you are doing.

Regardless, Trump’s approval rating is not a record. Gallup’s website features data on approval rating by party for every president since Harry Truman; George W. Bush hit 99% in Gallup polling after the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001. His father, George H.W. Bush, hit 97% at the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and Dwight Eisenhower all went higher than 90%.


China’s agricultural spending, part 1

“But then we started doing the big tariffs – taking in literally tens of billions of dollars. And we started giving money back. I went to Sonny Perdue. I said, ‘Sonny, what did China – what was the number that China did last year?’ He said, ‘Sir, they bought $16 billion.’ I said, ‘Oh, that’s good. What did they do the year before?’ ‘Sir, they bought $12 billion worth of product.’ I said, ‘Good.’ So it’s $12 billion. We gave you the $12 billion. Then, $16 billion. We gave you the $16 billion so you weren’t hurt.” – January 19 speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation

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 agricultural spending, part 2

Trump said “the most” China has ever spent on US agricultural products is “$20 billion.” – January 19 speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation

Facts First: China spent $25.9 billion on American agricultural products in 2012, according to figures from the Department of Agriculture.


Energy production

Trump claimed three times that the US is “now” the world’s “number one” energy producer. On two of these occasions, he claimed the US had not previously held this status. (On one of these two, he said, “We weren’t even close.”) And he claimed the achievement had happened because he “ended the 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, according to the US government’s Energy Information Administration – under the very Obama administration Trump is accusing of perpetrating a “war” on the industry.

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.

Household income

Trump claimed twice that real median household income has increased by $10,000 during his presidency. In addition to $5,000 in “wage gains,” he added $3,100 from “regulatory cuts” and $2,500 for “energy savings.”

Facts First: It’s not true that household income gains under Trump have already hit $10,000 in less than three years. A firm called Sentier Research found pre-tax income gains of about $5,000 between January 2017 and November 2019. Savings from energy or from regulation would be included in the pre-tax gains, not added over top of them.

You can read a longer fact check here.

The estate tax

Trump twice claimed to have eliminated the estate tax, emphasizing that this would benefit small farmers.

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 small 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.”

The WOTUS rule and puddles

“So, this rule gave bureaucrats virtually unlimited authority to regulate stock tanks, drainage ditches, and isolated ponds as navigable waterways and navigable water. You believe that? Sometimes, you’d have a puddle – a little puddle. And they’d consider that a lake.” – January 19 speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation

Facts First: Puddles were not covered by the Obama-era Waters of the United States environmental regulation; the rule explicitly said puddles do not qualify as one of the waters in question.

A preamble to the rule explained: “The final rule adds an exclusion for puddles. The proposed rule did not explicitly exclude puddles because the agencies have never considered puddles to meet the minimum standard for being a ‘water of the United States,’ and it is an inexact term…However, numerous commenters asked that the agencies expressly exclude them in a rule. The final rule does so.”

Manufacturing jobs

Trump claimed to have added “600,000” manufacturing jobs.

Facts First: Trump was exaggerating. The economy added 487,000 manufacturing jobs between January 2017, when Trump took office, and December 2019, official data shows. The number is 514,000 jobs added if you go back to November 2016, the month of Trump’s election, as Trump often likes to do.

What Obama said about manufacturing jobs

“And our manufacturing numbers are fantastic. You see that. Remember? Manufacturing. Phil, you remember? ‘There’s no more manufacturing.’ And then we have almost 600,000 jobs. They said, the last administration, ‘You’d need a magic wand to bring back manufacturing.’ So I guess we found the magic wand. We found the magic wand.” – January 19 speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation

Facts First: Trump’s “magic wand” comment was a reference to a remark President Barack Obama made at a PBS town hall in 2016 – but he was inaccurately describing what Obama said. Obama never said, “There’s no more manufacturing.” Rather, Obama scoffed at Trump’s promises to bring back what Obama called “jobs of the past” without providing specifics on how he would do so. Contrary to Trump’s repeated claims, Obama didn’t say manufacturing was dead or that new manufacturing jobs could not be created; Obama boasted of how many manufacturing jobs were being created during his presidency, saying, “We actually make more stuff, have a bigger manufacturing base today than we’ve had in most of our history.”

The unemployment rate

“The unemployment rate is now 3.5% – the lowest in over 51 years, half a century.” – January 19 speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation

Facts First: Trump’s “over 51 years” is one of his usual slight exaggerations of an already-impressive number. The 3.5% unemployment rate for December 2019 was the lowest since December 1969, exactly 50 years prior. (if you ignore the fact that it was the same 3.5% in November and September).


Deportations to Latin America

Trump said that, prior to his presidency, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador refused to take back criminals the US wanted to deport, but now they do.

Facts First: Trump was mixing up two separate issues. While the Trump administration does have new agreements with all three of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, those agreements are related to the handling of people who come to the US seeking asylum, not criminals the US is seeking to deport. In 2016, just prior to Trump’s presidency, none of the three countries was on the list of countries that Immigration and Customs Enforcement considered “recalcitrant” (uncooperative) in accepting the return of their citizens from the US.

Democrats and borders

Trump claimed twice that Democrats support “open borders.”

Facts First: Even the Democratic presidential candidates who have advocated the decriminalization of the act of illegally entering the country, such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro (who dropped out of the race earlier this month), do not support completely unrestricted migration, as Trump suggests.

A quote about illegal immigration

Trump said this is what happened when he claimed that Democrats would give undocumented immigrants Rolls-Royce luxury cars: “You know, I one time said, ‘We’re going to get everybody a Rolls-Royce,’ and CNN or one of them said, ‘They never said – and they never promised – a Rolls-Royce, Donald Trump lied tonight.’ I said, ‘Every illegal alien will have a Rolls-Royce.’ They said, ‘He lied tonight.’” – January 14 campaign rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Facts First: That is not exactly what happened.

Trump did make a joke at a 2018 campaign rally in Arizona about Democrats wanting to give undocumented immigrants a free Rolls-Royce – but then, at a rally the next day in Nevada, he made a non-joking claim that Democrats want to “give them cars.” He continued to joke about a Rolls-Royce in particular, but he was challenged on the assertion of fact. He said in Nevada: “They want to open your borders, let people in, illegally. And then they want to pay for those people for health care, for education. They want to give them cars, they want to give them driver’s licenses. I said last night, we did a great – we did a great, great rally in Arizona last night, and I said – I said last night, ‘What kind of car will they supply them? Will it be a Rolls-Royce?’”

Military and foreign affairs

Military spending

“It’s rebuilt completely. We spent $2.5 trillion.” – January 17 fundraiser (audio obtained by CNN’s Kevin Liptak)

Facts First: Trump was exaggerating. Defense spending for fiscal years 2017, 2018 and 2019 was $2.05 trillion, and that includes more than three-and-a-half months of Obama’s tenure, since the 2017 fiscal year began in October 2016.

Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he thinks Trump must have been including military funding for the 2020 fiscal year to get to the “$2.5 trillion” figure – but the 2020 fiscal year just started on October 1, and Harrison noted that the defense appropriation has not yet been approved by Congress.


“And we have the best military in the world. When I came in it was totally depleted, it was gone. We had fighter jets that were 54 years old. And it was terrible…We didn’t have ammunition, and now we have so much ammunition we don’t know what the hell to do with it.” – January 17 fundraiser (audio obtained by CNN’s Kevin Liptak)

Facts First: According to military leaders, there was a shortfall in certain kinds of munitions, particularly precision-guided bombs, late in the Obama presidency and early in the Trump presidency. But the claim that “we didn’t have ammunition” is a significant exaggeration. Military leaders did not say that they had completely run out of any kind of bomb, let alone ammunition in general.

You can read a full fact check of Trump’s claims about munitions levels here.

Veterans Choice

“Our military is rebuilt. Our – if you see the VA, you know how well that’s doing now. We have Veterans Choice. That was a big difference where you can go out, get a doctor if they can’t take care of you immediately. So our vets are taken care of for the first time, really.” – January 13 interview with WWL-TV in New Orleans

Facts First: The Veterans Choice bill, a bipartisan initiative led by Sens. Bernie Sanders and the late John McCain, was signed into law by Obama in 2014. In 2018, Trump signed the VA Mission Act, which expanded and changed the program.

Complaints about the VA

“You don’t hear complaints about the VA anymore. Do you notice?” – January 15 speech on signing of “phase one” trade agreement with China

Facts First: We can’t be sure of what Trump himself has heard about conditions at the VA, but it’s just not true that the rest of us no longer hear complaints.

Merely since August 2019, there have been news stories about “11 suspicious deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center,” “how Veterans Affairs failed to stop a pathologist who misdiagnosed 3,000 cases” and wasn’t fired until 2018, how “a Veterans Affairs medical center in West Virginia is being investigated over allegations that one of its physicians sexually assaulted more than a dozen patients,” and how a veteran at a VA facility in Georgia was allegedly bitten by ants 100 times before his death.”

The Turkey-Syria border

“…We did something in Syria. We were guarding their border. At one point, we had thousands of people – the Syrian border, between Turkey and Syria. It’s been there for a thousand years.” – January 14 campaign rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Facts First: There is no basis for the claim that there has been fighting over the Turkey-Syria border for 1,000 years; modern-day Turkey and Syria were both part of the Ottoman Empire that was only dissolved after World War I, and the border between them is less than 100 years old.

“The border he refers to – the Turkish-Syria border – was established in 1923 with the Treaty of Lausanne and the founding of the Republic of Turkey. The exception to this is the province of Hatay, which passed from Syrian to Turkish control following a referendum,” said Lisel Hintz, assistant professor of international relations and European studies at Johns Hopkins, who called a previous version of Trump’s claim – in which Trump said there had been fighting for “2,000” years – “patently and irresponsibly false.”

Soldiers in Syria

“So they said, ‘Trump stayed in Syria. Trump stayed.’ So people said to me, ‘Why are you staying in Syria?’ Because I kept the oil. Which frankly, we should have done in Iraq, OK, a long time ago. You have no idea the things and the decisions I’ve seen. So they say, ‘Trump stayed in Syria,’ I didn’t pull out. I did pull out. We have the oil really secure.” – January 14 campaign rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Facts First: Trump did not “pull out” of Syria; regardless of why he has kept some troops there, they are there. While he did withdraw US troops from the northeastern region in advance of a Turkish offensive in that region, he has kept hundreds of troops in the country.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in November that there would be “probably in the 500-ish frame. Maybe 600” soldiers left in northeast Syria (he said the number would definitely be less than 1,000), in addition to the separate force of more than 100 soldiers stationed in southern Syria near Jordan.

Military leaders have said that the US will not keep any revenue from the Syrian oil fields they are securing, but Trump has continued to suggest that the US is seizing the oil for itself.

Democrats and Soleimani

“The Democrats and the Fake News are trying to make terrorist Soleimani into a wonderful guy, only because I did what should have been done for 20 years.” – January 13 tweet

Facts First: The Democrats were not trying to make the Iranian commander, whom Trump had killed in a US airstrike, sound “wonderful.” Prominent Democrats, such as the party’s presidential candidates and congressional leaders, criticized Trump’s decision to order the killing of Soleimani, but they offered no defense of Soleimani’s actions or personality.

Pelosi, for example, called Soleimani a “terrible person” who “did bad things,” explicitly emphasizing that her opposition to killing him was not based in any sympathy for him or for Iran. You can read a longer fact check here.

Money and the Iran deal

“Obama gave them $150 billion, $1.8 billion in cash.” – January 14 campaign rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Facts First: The sum in question was Iranian money frozen in foreign financial institutions because of sanctions, not US government money – and experts say the total was significantly lower than $150 billion. You can read a fuller fact check here.

Pre-existing conditions

“I stand stronger than anyone in protecting your Healthcare with Pre-Existing Conditions.” – January 13 tweet

“Mini Mike Bloomberg is spending a lot of money on False Advertising. I was the person who saved Pre-Existing Conditions in your Healthcare, you have it now, while at the same time winning the fight to rid you of the expensive, unfair and very unpopular Individual Mandate… – January 13 tweet

“We will protect patients with pre-existing conditions like nobody else…” – January 14 campaign rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Facts First: Trump is not the person who “saved” protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The opposite is true: The Trump administration and congressional Republicans have repeatedly put forward bills and filed 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.

People crying

“I terminated one of the most ridiculous regulations of all: the last administration’s disastrous Waters of the United States rule. Thank you. It’s gone. That was a rule that basically took your property away from you. I’ll never forget: At the White House signing, I had probably 30, 35 people behind me – farmers and homebuilders and others – people that haven’t cried in many years. People that weren’t – some of them were so tough, they never cried. They didn’t cry when they were babies. And they were crying. No, we gave them their life back.” – January 19 speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation

Facts First: We checked the video of this 2017 event, and nobody in the vicinity of Trump was crying. (Trump had previously claimed that “half” of the people standing behind him were crying, then made it “almost all” of the people.)