President Donald Trump made 87 false claims last week, using relentless dishonesty to defend his dealings with Ukraine and his decisions on Syria.
Trump made 40 false claims last Thursday alone, including 30 at his campaign rally in Dallas. Thirty false claims is his highest total for a single rally during the 15 weeks we’ve been counting at CNN; 40 false claims is his second-highest single day total over those 15 weeks.
Trump’s total of 87 false claims was the third-highest for the 15 weeks, though it was down from 129 false claims the week prior.
This was equal-opportunity deception. Trump made 17 false claims about military matters, 17 related to Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, 15 about the economy and 12 about trade. He treated a visitor to the White House, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, to 25 false claims in their consecutive joint interactions with the media.
The most egregious false claim: The safety of the Kurds
Trump made it hard to pick a most egregious false claim about Syria and Turkey. Among other things, he claimed that troops he is sending from Syria to elsewhere in the Middle East are coming “home,” that the Kurdish PKK is a more severe terror threat than ISIS, and that his narrow, concessionary ceasefire deal with Turkey had been sought by other administrations for 10 years or 15 years.
We think this one was the worst: As Turkey attacked Kurdish areas of northeast Syria, Trump said, “In the meantime, our soldiers are not in harm’s way — as they shouldn’t be — as two countries fight over land that has nothing to do with us. And the Kurds are much safer right now, but the Kurds know how to fight.”
The Kurds were obviously not at all safer.
The most revealing false claim: Obama and HIV/AIDS
Near the end of his rally speeches, Trump usually repeats a scripted promise about how his administration is going to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the US in 10 years or less.
In Dallas, he attached something new to the pledge: a groundless attack on his predecessor.
“The previous administration spent no money on that,” he said.
Trump has seemed particularly fixated on former President Barack Obama over the last two weeks, baselessly suggesting there is something nefarious about Obama’s post-presidency deal with Netflix and making things up about Obama’s dealings with North Korea.
The HIV/AIDS claim was not even close to true. The Obama administration spent billions on anti-HIV/AIDS efforts — $10.8 billion on domestic HIV/AIDS research between the 2013 fiscal year and 2016 fiscal year alone, according to a review by the Kaiser Family Foundation, plus $85.1 billion more on domestic HIV/AIDS care, housing and prevention programs in those four years, plus $26 billion on global programs over the same period.
The most absurd false claim: The Gloria story
Trump lies for strategic purposes, systematically attempting to reframe reality to his own political advantage. He also just says little incorrect things for no particular reason because he doesn’t care to check if they’re true.
Welcoming the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues to the White House on October 15, Trump told the fun story about how the 1982 Laura Branigan hit “Gloria” became the team’s victory song in 2019. He explained, reading from a text, that it all started when the Blues beat the Philadelphia Flyers in January. He added the Flyers “were hot” at the time.
The Flyers had lost six consecutive games.
Here is this week’s full list of 87, starting with the ones we haven’t included in a weekly update before:
The Ukraine scandal and impeachment
Ukraine and “the server”
“Where is the server? I want to see the server. Let’s see what’s on the server. So, the server, they say, is held by a company whose primary ownership individual is from Ukraine. I’d like to see the server.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: Trump appeared to be referring to CrowdStrike, a publicly traded cybersecurity firm that was hired to investigate the hack of DNC servers in 2016. The company was co-founded by Dmitri Alperovitch, an American citizen who was born in Russia, not Ukraine. There is no evidence that any physical DNC server is currently being “held” by CrowdStrike.
CrowdStrike — which, like former special counsel Robert Mueller, attributed the hack to Russia — said in a previous statement: “With regards to our investigation of the DNC hack in 2016, we provided all forensic evidence and analysis to the FBI. As we’ve stated before, we stand by our findings and conclusions that have been fully supported by the US Intelligence community.”
Tom Bossert, Trump’s former homeland security adviser, said on ABC in September that he was frustrated by the “conspiracy theory,” adding: “It’s not only a conspiracy theory. It is completely debunked.”
CrowdStrike has been hired by Republicans as well as Democrats. It has been paid during Trump’s presidency by the National Republican Congressional Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee, public records show.
“I understand he has immunity, but he doesn’t have immunity when he puts it on his Twitter, which he did.” — October 18 teleconference with participants of first all-female spacewalk on International Space Station
Facts First: The constitutional provision that gives Schiff immunity from prosecution over his comments in a congressional committee hearing also gives him immunity over his tweet of a video of those comments, experts say.
As the Congressional Research Service explains, the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause has been interpreted “to include all ‘legislative acts’ undertaken by Members or their aides,” including their committee activities.
“The protection clearly extends to the offending Tweets,” said William Banks, a law professor at Syracuse University.
Republicans and impeachment
“Republicans are totally deprived of their rights in this Impeachment Witch Hunt. No lawyers, no questions, no transparency!” — October 16 tweet
Facts First: As CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju noted last week, “Republicans have been able to ask questions to all the witnesses in the closed-door depositions. Each side alternates and asks questions, and the depositions have lasted roughly 8-10 hours.“
Republicans do not have guaranteed “rights” to call or cross-examine witnesses as part of an impeachment process in the House of Representatives. A president who has been impeached cannot be removed from office without a trial in the Senate, but the House does not need to hold anything like a trial before doing the impeaching.
A quote from Jason Chaffetz
“‘Because the House has already voted against the Impeachment Proceeding, the current inquiry is totally invalid. The current sham of a so-called investigation is nothing more than an unconstitutional power grab. It needs to end.’ @JasonChaffetz @seanhannity Corrupt Adam Schiff” — October 18 tweet
Facts First: We give Trump latitude to make minor errors when he is quoting people, but we think it counts as a false claim when he makes changes and omissions that significantly alter the meaning of the quote. In this case, Trump left out an important qualifier from Chaffetz, the former Republican congressman.
Chaffetz actually said the following: “Because the House has already voted against an impeachment proceeding, the current inquiry is totally invalid unless another formal vote is held.” Trump left out the “unless another formal vote is held” — thus erasing Chaffetz’s suggestion that the inquiry could become valid in the future.
The whistleblowers being ‘all gone’
“Where is the Whistleblower, or the 2nd Whistleblower, or the ‘informant?’ All gone because their so-called story didn’t come even close to matching up with the exact transcript of the phone call.” — October 20 tweet
Facts First: There is no evidence that either the first whistleblower (who filed the complaint about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine) or the second whistleblower (whose lawyer said they have first-hand information corroborating claims made by the first whistleblower) are now somehow “gone,” let alone that they are “gone” because of the first whistleblower was shown to be inaccurate.
“The whistleblowers have not vanished,” Bradley Moss, a colleague of Mark Zaid, a lawyer for the two whistleblowers, said on Twitter.
Paul Ryan and subpoenas
“And the Republicans have been treated very unfairly by the Democrats. I’ll say this: Paul Ryan would never issue a subpoena. I don’t say right or wrong. He wouldn’t do it. He had too much respect for our country.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: As FactCheck.org noted, numerous Republican subpoenas were issued to the Obama administration during Paul Ryan’s tenure as Speaker of the House.
A Fox News poll
“The Fox Impeachment poll has turned out to be incorrect. This was announced on Friday. Despite this, the Corrupt New York Times used this poll in one of its stories, no mention of the correction which they knew about full well! ‘Fox News Pollster Braun Research Misrepresented Impeachment Poll: Analysis’ @NYPost” — October 14 tweet
“Just another FAKE SUPPRESSION POLL, this time from @FoxNews, of course!” — October 19 tweet
Facts First: There was no announcement that the poll — which found 51% support for impeaching and removing Trump — was “incorrect.” Trump may have been referring to the New York Post article that criticized the poll, but that is far from the official announcement Trump seemed to be suggesting exists. And there is no evidence that the poll was intentionally designed to suppress Trump’s support.
The argument from the Post and from Trump aide Kellyanne Conway was that the pollsters surveyed too many Democrats. Others disagree. (Here’s CNN’s Chris Cillizza on why the sample makes sense.) Regardless, the pollster did not announce some sort of error.
It’s also worth noting that the Post, and Trump in quoting the Post, misidentified the pollster. The poll was jointly conducted by Democratic firm Beacon Research and Republican firm Shaw & Company Research. Braun Research was hired to do the fieldwork of contacting the participants; it did not design the poll.
Dana Blanton, Fox News vice president of public opinion research, said in a statement to CNN: “Our polling unit has long been held in high regard for being a nonpartisan source of research. Under the joint direction of Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company (R), the latest FNC poll included interviews with randomly chosen registered voters and — as is our standard practice — we reported the partisan distribution we found among the electorate. Braun Research is solely our data collection partner. We stand by our latest poll.”
Turkey and Syria
A quote from Mark Esper
“‘The ceasefire is holding up very nicely. There are some minor skirmishes that have ended quickly. New areas being resettled with Kurds. U.S. soldiers are not in combat or ceasefire zone. We have secured the Oil.’ Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense. Ending endless wars!” — October 20 tweet
Facts First: This was the second version of this tweet; the first, which Trump deleted, wrongly referred to Mark Esper as “Mark Esperanto.” The second version of the tweet, however, was also incorrect: Esper did not say all of the words Trump attributed to him, at least not in public.
Esper had told reporters en route to Afghanistan: “Well, I think overall the ceasefire generally seems to be holding. We see a stabilization of the lines, if you will, on the ground. And we do get reports of intermittent fires, this and that. It doesn’t surprise me necessarily. But that’s what we’re picking up.”
Trump has a history of misusing or sloppily using quotation marks, repeatedly inserting his own comments into supposed quotes from other people without distinguishing between the two.
The deal with Turkey
“This outcome is something they’ve been trying to get for 10 years — everybody — and they couldn’t get it, other administrations. And they never would’ve been able to get it unless you went somewhat unconventional. I guess I’m an unconventional person.” And: “We’ve tried — we have tried, but everybody has tried to make this deal for 15 years.” And: “Because the conventional solution is to sit down, negotiate, and they’ve done that for 15 years. Actually more than that, I understand. And that was never going to work.” — October 17 exchange with reporters upon Air Force One arrival in Texas
“This is a great day for civilization. I am proud of the United States for sticking by me in following a necessary, but somewhat unconventional, path. People have been trying to make this ‘Deal’ for many years.” — October 17 tweet
“…it was unconventional, but they fought for a few days and it was pretty vicious — the Kurds, who are our friends; Turkey’s our friend; but they fought. It was tougher, I mean it was nasty, and you couldn’t make a deal for 15, think of it, for 15 years, 20 years, they couldn’t make a deal.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
“This is a deal that should have been made 15 years ago, 10 years ago, over the last number of years, under the Obama administration.” — October 18 exchange with reporters at teleconference with participants of first all-female spacewalk on International Space Station
Facts First: Trump’s claims are baseless to the point of being nonsensical. The deal is a narrow agreement specifically tied to the Turkish offensive that followed Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from a Kurdish-held region of northern Syria, not an agreement that resolves longstanding regional disputes. Further, Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush never sought to give Turkey anything like the concessionary terms of Trump’s deal. In addition, the Syrian civil war had not even started 10 years ago or 15 years ago.
You can read a longer fact check here.
Soldiers being withdrawn from Syria
“We’re bringing our soldiers back home, and we’ve done a great job.” — October 16 press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: The soldiers are not being brought “home,” at least not yet. Trump announced last Monday that “United States troops coming out of Syria will now redeploy and remain in the region to monitor the situation and prevent a repeat of 2014, when the neglected threat of ISIS raged across Syria and Iraq.” He also announced that 1,800 more troops would be deployed to Saudi Arabia.
Question: “Are you okay with (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan saying that he is not going to do a ceasefire?” Trump: “He didn’t say that at all. He’s meeting. And he’s meeting today with some of our representatives.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: Erdogan had indeed said that: “‘Declare a ceasefire, they say.’ We will never declare a ceasefire,” Erdogan told reporters on October 15.
The Kurds’ safety
“In the meantime, our soldiers are not in harm’s way — as they shouldn’t be — as two countries fight over land that has nothing to do with us. And the Kurds are much safer right now, but the Kurds know how to fight.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: It is clearly not true that the Kurds were safer “right now” — after US troops vacated their positions in northern Syria, after Turkey began its bombardment and before a ceasefire was announced — than they had been before. More than 160,000 Kurds were displaced by the Turkish offensive, according to the United Nations.
The Kurdish Red Crescent said in a Monday statement: “Since the ceasefire, we documented 21 civilians dead and 27 injured.” The Red Crescent said the total would rise.
The PKK and ISIS
“Now, the PKK, which is a part of the Kurds, as you know, is probably worse at terror and more of terrorist threat, in many ways, than ISIS.” — October 16 press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: Though the US government does consider the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) a terrorist entity, the government and independent experts consider ISIS as a much more dangerous and much more global threat. ISIS has also undertaken many more attacks.
“The PKK is a domestic Turkish terrorist organization that’s focused exclusively on its struggle for Kurdish independence from Turkey,” said Bryan Gibson, an expert on Kurdistan and assistant professor of history at Hawaii Pacific University. “It has never posed a threat to the US nor has it specifically targeted Americans…ISIS is a global terrorist organization, which has specifically targeted Americans in terrorist attacks, fought a war with the US, and continues to pose a clear and present danger to Americans at home and abroad.”
As The New York Times reported, a database of terror attacks maintained by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland counts 2,455 PKK attacks since the organization was founded in 1978 — versus 6,451 attacks by the Islamic State “since it became formally known by its name in 2013.” In 2018, the consortium counted 122 attacks and 136 deaths from the PKK versus 735 attacks and 2,221 deaths from ISIS.
The Times also noted: “The State Department’s latest annual terrorism report contains over 500 references (to) ISIS, including a lengthy introduction assessing its influence in the region, compared with under 30 mentions of the PKK.”
Relief money for Texas
Touting the “billions and billions of dollars” in relief money he authorized for Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 — and teasing Texas lawmakers over their requests for him to spend more — Trump said, “You made a fortune on the hurricane.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: Texas did not make money from Hurricane Harvey.
The Texas Department of Insurance estimated in April that personal and commercial insurance payouts related to Harvey would total $19.6 billion.
Aside from the personal toll of the disaster, which killed dozens of people, thousands of Texas residents have suffered severe financial losses from which they have not recovered.
Coast Guard rescues
Trump said of Hurricane Harvey: “Our Coast Guard saved 16,000 lives.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: The Coast Guard says the correct number is 11,022 people rescued.
Trump conflated his accusations against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter — railing against Hunter Biden’s business dealings, then saying that Joe Biden “takes a billion-five” from China and “he goes on and he allows China to rip us off.” He added, “So the Bidens got rich while America got robbed.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: There is no evidence Joe Biden has received large sums of money from China or has otherwise gained wealth as a result of his son’s business dealings abroad.
Trump has previously made the “billion-five” accusation against Hunter Biden. While a conservative author has used this figure, it has not been proven. A lawyer for Hunter Biden, George Mesires, says the investment company in which Hunter Biden has an equity stake was capitalized with a total of about $4.2 million at today’s exchange rates, “not $1.5 billion.” Even this investment was not a direct payment to Hunter Biden; He holds a 10% stake in the firm, Mesires says, and has not made a profit to date.
Obama and AIDS
“We will achieve new breakthroughs in science and medicine, finding new cures for childhood cancer, and ending the AIDS epidemic in America in less than 10 years — we’re doing that. Who would have believed we could do that? We’re doing that. And the previous administration spent no money on that…” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: The Obama administration spent $10.8 billion on domestic HIV/AIDS research between the 2013 fiscal year and 2016 fiscal year alone, according to a review by the Kaiser Family Foundation, and $85.1 billion more on domestic HIV/AIDS care, housing and prevention programs in those four years. It also spent $26 billion on international HIV/AIDS initiatives of various kinds over the same time period.
Democrats and undocumented immigrants
Trump noted that all of the 10 Democratic presidential candidates at a debate in June raised their hand to say they would extend health care coverage to undocumented immigrants, then claimed that the Democrats “want to give more to illegal aliens than they give to American citizens.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: The Democrats want to give these immigrants the same access to care that citizens have, not more.
The crowd outside his Dallas rally
“…outside, they have close to 30,000 people. And I wonder if I could ask the fire marshal, fill up this little area, let ’em in.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: Trump’s estimate was way off. “We didn’t have 30K outside. Probably had upward of 5K outside,” Dallas Police Department spokesman Sgt. Mitchell Warren told CNN in an email.
The crowd inside the Dallas rally
“And by the way, I have to say this. So outside, they have close to 30,000 people, and I wonder if I could ask the fire marshal: fill up this little area, let ’em in. You know, they have a certain max. We broke the record tonight.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: Trump did not break the attendance record at the American Airlines Center. Jason Evans, a spokesman for the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department, told CNN that the fire department and the arena calculated an attendance of 18,500. The Dallas Mavericks, who play in the arena, had an average announced attendance of 20,013 per game last season, among the highest in the NBA, according to ESPN data.
Economy, trade and international affairs
“I think we’re in a very good position in the Middle East. I think we’re very, very strong in the Middle East. Iran is going to hell; their economy is in deep trouble. Their GDP went down 20%, which nobody ever even heard of before. Probably 25%.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: Trump was exaggerating. While Iran’s economy is shrinking, the Statistical Center of Iran reported that the country’s GDP fell by 4.9% in the year 2018-2019.
Experts say there is no apparent basis for Trump’s “20%” and “25%” figures even though Iran’s official economic data is less reliable than official data in the US.
“It’s still not iron-clad stuff, but if the situation was anywhere near 25% decline then the official stats would at least be in the teens. This is also why folks cross-check these numbers with independent and global institutional data (such as IMF’s). My suspicion is that it’s closer to 13-15% decrease, which still puts it a good 10% points below Trump’s claim,” Hussein Banai, an assistant professor who studies Iran at Indiana University’s School of International Studies, said in an email.
The International Monetary Fund expects a 9.5% contraction in Iran’s economy this year — down from an earlier estimate of a 6% contraction, but still not 20% or 25%. The World Bank forecasts an 8.7% contraction in the 2019-2020 period.
Stock market participation
“If you look at people’s stocks, their 401(k)s, if you look at anything you want to look at, they’re far better off now than they probably ever have been in this country. Record stock markets. And don’t forget, stock market is not just rich people. It’s all people. Because all people own in the stock markets.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: Trump was right that it’s not only rich people who own stocks, but it’s not true that “all” people own stocks. Roughly half of Americans owned stocks as of 2017, according to academic studies and polls.
Wealthy people own a disproportionate share of stocks. A 2017 paper by New York University economist Edward Wolff found that the top 10% of households owned 84% of stocks in 2016.
The Soviet Union’s ‘downsizing’
“You know, Russia was involved in Afghanistan. It used to be called the Soviet Union — now it’s called Russia for a reason. Because they lost so much money in Afghanistan that they had to downsize. A very big downsizing.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: This was an exaggeration. Experts say the Soviet Union’s failed war in Afghanistan was far from the only reason for its collapse, though it did contribute to it. (We’ll ignore Trump’s use of the term “downsizing” to describe the dissolution of the Soviet Union.)
You can read a longer fact check here.
“And they’re opening up a plant in Texas. The first time, I believe — one of the great companies of the world — first time ever in the United States.” — October 17 exchange with reporters upon Air Force One arrival in Texas
Facts First: The Louis Vuitton workshop Trump visited in Texas is the company’s third workshop in the United States. It also has two in California.
US tariff history
Trump boasted about a World Trade Organization decision to allow the US to impose $7.5 billion in tariffs on European countries in response to their subsidies to airplane manufacturer Airbus.
“We’re winning, in the case of the European Union, $7.5 billion. And Italy has a percentage of that to pay. And, in the — in other cases, we’ve won. And we have a lot of money coming into the United States for the first time ever. Tremendous amounts of money in many different forms, including tariffs.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: This is nonsensical. This is clearly not the first time the US has had tariff revenue; the US generated $32 billion from tariffs in 2016, the last full year before Trump’s presidency, according to the Congressional Research Service, and $41.6 billion in the 2018 fiscal year, according to Customs and Border Protection.
Trump was wrong even if he was talking specifically about tariffs authorized by the WTO. “Airbus is not the only case where ‘retaliation’ was authorized and US tariffs went into effect,” said Dan Ikenson, director of the Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. Ikenson pointed to the case of hormone-treated beef, in which the WTO approved retaliatory tariffs the US imposed in 1999.
“And we lose, for many years, $500 billion a year with China and many other countries, we lose billions. We lose with everybody — but that’s all changing now.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: “We lose with everybody” is an exaggeration, even going by Trump’s disputed characterization of trade deficits as “losses.” While the US did have an overall trade deficit with the world in 2018, it had surpluses with multiple countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil, Canada and Singapore, according to US government data.
We explain in a separate item that the US has never had a $500 billion trade deficit with China.
The media and the G7
“So interesting that, when I announced Trump National Doral in Miami would be used for the hosting of the G-7, and then rescinded due to Do Nothing Democrat/Fake News Anger, very few in Media mentioned that NO PROFITS would be taken, or would be given FREE, if legally permissible!” — October 20 tweet
“I thought I was doing something very good for our Country by using Trump National Doral, in Miami, for hosting the G-7 Leaders…I announced that I would be willing to do it at NO PROFIT or, if legally permissible, at ZERO COST to the USA. But, as usual, the Hostile Media & their Democrat Partners went CRAZY!” — October 19 tweet
Facts First: Numerous news outlets reported the White House’s claim that Trump would not make a profit on a G7 summit held at his resort. (CNN’s article, for example, quoted acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney as saying, “Trump will not be profiting in ‘any way, shape or form'”; the New York Times article said, “Mr. Mulvaney said the hotel would put on the summit ‘at cost.’ ‘I think the president has pretty much made it very clear since he got here that he doesn’t profit from being here,’ he said. ‘He has no interest in profit from being here.'”)
News outlets did not report that anything would be “given FREE” because Mulvaney and White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham used the phrase “at cost,” not “free” or “zero cost.”
The 2016 election
Facebook and the election
“And I’m no fan of those companies. They were against me. Somebody said I lost maybe two million votes, maybe more, because of Facebook.” — October 16 press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: Trump appeared to be referring to a flawed study that dubiously alleged that Google bias was sufficiently bad to have shifted at least 2.6 million votes away from Trump in the 2016 presidential election. While the author, Robert Epstein, did criticize Facebook in congressional testimony in July, he did not find that Facebook cost Trump 2 million votes. You can read a longer fact check about this study here.
Trump was vague, saying that “somebody” said he had lost 2 million votes or more, so it is possible he was referring to something else. Regardless, there is no evidence for the claim that he lost millions of votes because of some nefarious acts by social media companies.
The number of Republican candidates
“I never debated, my whole life has been a debate, but I never debated like with a podium and this and that. So, I said who are they? And we had 17 people plus me. We had 18, it was actually not 17, it was 18, remember? Gilmore, nobody remembers him but we had 18 people.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: There were 17 candidates in the early Republican primary debates in 2015, including Jim Gilmore, the former Virginia governor.
We usually ignore it when Trump says there were 18, since he was off by only one, but we’re flagging it here because Trump specifically rejected the accurate number, 17.
Trump recited his usual complaints about how he was treated by US intelligence officials involved in investigating his campaign’s relationship with Russia. He added: “There was a lot of corruption. Maybe it goes right up to President Obama. I happen to think it does.” — October 16 press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: There is simply no evidence of Obama corruption.
Women in space
“Joining us during their spacewalk outside the International Space Station — and this is the first time for a woman outside of the Space Station — are Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Flight Engineer Jessica Meir.” — October 18 teleconference with participants of first all-female spacewalk on International Space Station
Facts First: Trump was immediately fact checked by Meir, who noted that this is not “the first time for a woman outside of the Space Station.”
Meir said: “Thank you. First — first of all, we don’t want to take too much credit, because there have been many other female spacewalkers before us. This is just the first time that there have been two women outside at the same time.”
The Internal Revenue Service
“I will never allow the IRS to be used as a political weapon — except in the case of myself, where they use it against me.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: There is no basis for Trump’s claim that he is allowing the IRS to be used against himself. The IRS is run by a Trump appointee, Charles Rettig, and there is no evidence it is being used against Trump; Democrats are seeking access to his tax returns, but that is not the same thing.
The St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers
“But they (the Blues) gathered at a bar in Philadelphia where they heard the 1982 hit, ‘Gloria.’ That’s where you were — that’s why we were playing that song, for those of you that don’t know what’s happened here. ‘Gloria.’ The next day, you shut out the Flyers, who were hot, and ‘Gloria’ became your new ‘win song.'” — October 15 speech at ceremony for Stanley Cup champions St. Louis Blues
Facts First: We realize this sounds silly, but since we count each and every Trump false claim no matter how little, we must note that he was the opposite of correct when he said the Flyers were “hot” at the time the Blues faced them on January 7. The Flyers were on a six-game losing streak.
Here are the claims Trump made last week that we have previously fact checked in one of these weekly roundups:
The Ukraine scandal
The accuracy of the whistleblower
Trump claimed six times last week, in tweets and public remarks, that the whistleblower’s account of his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was highly inaccurate — calling the whistleblower’s claims “sooo wrong, not even close,” “so far from the facts,” and “totally different from the actual transcribed call.”
Facts First: The whistleblower’s account of the call has largely been proven 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 timeline of Schiff’s comments
“So he (Adam Schiff) made up a totally false conversation with the Ukrainian President, and we caught him cold. Everybody knew it anyway. See? We did one thing — you always have to do the unexpected. They never thought I’d release the conversation with the Ukrainian President.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: Schiff delivered his rendition of Trump’s call the day after Trump released the transcript, not before. Trump initially recounted the timeline correctly, then adopted this incorrect timeline.
The legality of Schiff’s comments
“Hope all House Republicans, and honest House Democrats, will vote to CENSURE Rep. Adam Schiff tomorrow for his brazen and unlawful act of fabricating (making up) a totally phony conversation with the Ukraine President and U.S. President, me. Most have never seen such a thing!” — October 16 tweet
Facts First: While it’s fair for Trump to be miffed about Schiff’s comments — Schiff’s mix of near-quotes from Trump, his own analysis, and supposed “parody” was at the very least confusing — Schiff’s words were not illegal.
Again, the Constitution includes a specific provision that allows members of Congress to speak freely during official meetings.
The rough transcript
Trump twice claimed that he had released an “exact” transcript of his call with Zelensky.
Facts First: The document released by the White House explicitly says, on the first page, that it is not an exact transcript of the call.
“A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion. The text in this document records the notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty officers and NSC policy staff assigned to listen and memorialize the conversation in written form as the conversation takes place. A number of factors can affect the accuracy of the record, including poor telecommunications connections and variations in accent and/or interpretation,” the document says.
Democrats and the wall
“Democrats always liked Walls, until I built them. Do you see what’s happening here?” — October 17 tweet
“And you know five years ago, almost every one of them (Democrats) wanted a wall.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: Democrats did support Republican demands for fencing in the comprehensive immigration reform bill six years ago, but that was fencing — and Democrats agreed to endorse it only in exchange for Republican support for their own preferred policies, like a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
“…the WALL is being built!” — October 14 tweet
“We’re building a great wall along the southern border and it’s going up rapidly.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: As of September 30, no additional miles of border wall had been built during Trump’s presidency in places where barriers had not existed before, according to a fact sheet from Customs and Border Protection. Over Trump’s tenure in office, 69 miles of barriers had been constructed in places where “dilapidated and outdated” barriers had existed before; that’s a pace of about half a mile of replacement barrier per week.
Trump said three times that the Democrats support “open borders.”
Democrats and borders
Facts First: Even 2020 Democratic presidential candidates who advocate 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, do not support completely unrestricted migration, as Trump suggests.
“Mexico, today, had 27,000 soldiers on our border and we’ve stopped this horrible migration of people…” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: Mexico has deployed a substantial number of troops, but Trump exaggerated how many are being stationed near the US border in particular. Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters in September that 10,000 of the approximately 25,000 Mexican troops deployed were on Mexico’s own southern border: “They’ve created a new national guard within their country: 10,000 troops to the southern border; 15,000 troops to the northern border with the United States,” he said.
Trade and China
The World Trade Organization
“I think the WTO award has been testament to a lot of good work by the Trump administration. We never won with the WTO, or essentially never won. Very seldom did we win. And now we’re winning a lot. We’re winning a lot because they know if we’re not treated fairly, we’re leaving.” And: “But the WTO — that’s the World Trade Organization — has been very unfair to the United States. They know I feel that way, and I think since they know I feel that way, all of a sudden, we’re starting to win very big awards.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
“We didn’t win any cases at the WTO…And we won a lot of cases lately, we didn’t win anything for years, practically.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: The US has long won cases at the World Trade Organization, and there is no evidence that WTO adjudicators have suddenly changed their behavior toward the US. While Trump’s administration took over the 15-year-old Airbus case in 2017, the latest US victory in that case in particular was only the most recent in a series of wins that dates back to the early Obama administration.
Contrary to Trump’s repeated assertion, the US has long been successful in WTO disputes — his own Council of Economic Advisers said in a report in February 2018 that the US had won 86% of the cases it has brought since 1995. The global average was 84% and China’s figure 67%, according to the council.
As is standard for the WTO, the US has tended to lose cases where it is defending the case rather than bringing it — but even in those cases, Trump’s advisers noted that the US did better (a 25% victory rate) than the world average (17%) or China’s rate (just 5%).
A Bloomberg Law review in March found that the US success rate in cases it brings to the WTO had increased very slightly since Trump took office, from 84.8% in 2016 to 85.4%.
China’s economic history
“And China became rich because of the WTO. That’s when China really ascended. That’s when China went up. That’s when they made their great rise. They were flatlining, and then, all of a sudden, around the year 2000, 2001, when they got involved with the WTO, it became a whole different story.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: China’s economy was not “flatlining” before it became a member of the World Trade Organization in late 2001. China had experienced significant growth for years prior.
According to World Bank figures, China grew by 7.7% in 1999, 8.5% in 2000 and 8.3% in 2001. It then grew by 9.1% in 2002, 10.0% in 2003 and 10.1% in 2004. Its post-WTO growth peaked at 14.2% in 2007 — almost identical to its growth in 1992.
Nicholas Lardy of the Peterson Institute for International Economics wrote in 2008: “China has been the fastest growing economy in the world over almost three decades, expanding at 10 per cent per year in real terms.” In an email to CNN in July, when Trump made another version of this comment, Lardy said, “Uninformed would be the best characterization of the President’s comment.”
China’s economic performance
“They’ve (China) had the worst year they’ve had in 27 years and we’re having the best year we’ve ever had, so that’s good, that’s good.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
“And they’re having the worst year they’ve had in 57 years.” — October 18 exchange with reporters at teleconference with participants of first all-female spacewalk on International Space Station
Facts First: The US is not having its best economic year ever by the metric by which China is having its worst year in 27 years.
Who is paying the tariffs
“We’ve taken in tens of billions of dollars of tariffs and China’s eating the cost, because they devalued their currency…” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
China’s agricultural spending
“So I hear the most the farmers ever did (in business with China) was $16 billion, so I said, ‘Ask for 70.’ They said, ‘No, you don’t mean 70. Sixteen.’ ‘Ask for 70.'” — October 15 speech at ceremony for Stanley Cup champions St. Louis Blues
“The most they ever did was $20 billion of product from our farmers, our great farmers, our patriot farmers.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: China spent $25.9 billion on American agricultural products in 2012, according to figures from the Department of Agriculture.
The trade deficit with China
Trump said twice that the US has a $500 billion trade deficit with China.
Facts First: Through 2018, there has never been a $500 billion trade deficit with China. The 2018 deficit was $381 billion last year when counting goods and services, $420 billion when counting goods alone.
The trade deficit with the European Union
“They do very well with us on trade. They had a trade surplus with the United States, over the last five or six years, of about $150 billion a year.” He added that the US deficit “could even be” $178 billion. — October 16 press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: The trade deficit with the European Union was $114.6 billion in 2018, $101.2 billion in 2017 and $92.5 billion in 2016.
The deficit was $169.6 billion in 2018 if you only count trade in goods and ignore trade in services. But Trump, as usual, failed to specify that he was using this more limited measure.
“Our military has been completely rebuilt…We spent two and a half trillion dollars rebuilding it over the last three years.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
“We’ve invested more than $2.5 trillion restoring our armed forces…” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: 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 has just started, and Harrison noted that the defense appropriation has not yet been approved by Congress.
The nuclear arsenal
“Our nuclear has been totally updated and in some cases new.” — October 16 press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: Experts say that Trump has not yet implemented significant changes to the US nuclear arsenal. “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 Scott Kemp, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory for Nuclear Security and Policy, who served as a State Department adviser on arms control early in the Obama administration.
You can read a longer fact check here.
“And I want to just thank Secretary General Stoltenberg because he is going around saying that President Trump was able to raise over $100 billion last year, which is true.” — October 16 press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: This is at least a slight exaggeration — and one Stoltenberg gently tried to correct when he met with Trump in April. Though Stoltenberg has indeed given Trump credit for pressuring NATO countries into boosting spending, he has said, to Trump and in other forums, that the extra $100 billion the countries will spend on their own militaries will come by the end of 2020, not that it happened “last year.”
“We passed for the veterans VA Choice and VA Accountability on behalf of those great people. They’ve been trying to pass it from us 50 years, they couldn’t get it done. But those guys right there and me, we got it done.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: Obama signed the Choice program into law in 2014. Trump signed a law in 2018, the VA MISSION Act, to expand and change the program.
A timeline for Syria
“But we were supposed to be there for 30 days; we stayed for 10 years.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
“We were supposed to be in Syria for one month. That was 10 years ago.” — October 16 press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
“And, by the way, we have the strongest military in the world. But we’ve been there for 10 years.” — October 17 exchange with reporters upon Air Force One arrival in Texas
Facts First: There was never any specific timeline for the US military’s involvement in Syria, much less a timeline of a mere 30 days. The US began bombing Syria in 2014 and deployed ground troops in 2015 — five years ago and four years ago, not 10 years ago.
“There was never a 30-day timetable on the US presence in Syria,” said Syria expert Steven Heydemann, a professor of government and director of the Middle East Studies program at Smith College. “The previous administration, and officials serving in this administration, have never offered a fixed timetable for the US mission. Official statements have emphasized that the presence of US forces would be short, limited in scope, and small. But beyond general comments along those lines, there has been no statement indicating it would end after 30 days.”
News outlets including The New York Times reported in mid-2012 that a small number of CIA officers were on the ground in Turkey to help policymakers decide how to arm the opposition to Syria’s government, so you can make a reasonable argument that US involvement goes back more than seven years. Still, “10 years ago” remains an exaggeration.
Accomplishments, promises and popualrity
Approval with Republicans
“95% Approval Rating in the Republican Party. Thank you!” — October 16 tweet
“95% Approval Rating in the Republican Party!” — October 17 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 88% with Republicans in a Quinnipiac University poll conducted from October 11-13, 84% in an Ipsos/Reuters poll conducted October 14-15, and 87% in Gallup data gathered from October 1 to 13.
“We will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: We usually don’t fact-check promises, but this one has already proved untrue. The Trump administration and congressional Republicans have repeatedly put forward bills and 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.
The unemployment rate
“Last month, unemployment reached its lowest level in 51 years.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: The September rate, 3.5%, was the lowest since December 1969, just under 50 years ago.
Ivanka Trump and jobs
“Even though they’re related to me, just slightly, I will tell you, what a job. Ivanka is responsible for 14 million jobs this year, over the last couple of years, with companies going out and training people. And it’s been an incredible success. She started off two and a half years ago; she wanted 500,000 jobs. That’s a lot. But it was typical Ivanka. It ended up — and now, the number, I think it just crossed 14 million jobs going to Walmart, going to ExxonMobil, going to the great companies. And they train people. And the numbers are incredible, and that’s one of the reasons that our numbers are so good.” — October 17 speech at opening of Louis Vuitton workshop in Alvarado, Texas
Facts First: Given that fewer than 6.5 million jobs had been created during the entire Trump presidency through September, Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter and White House adviser, is obviously not “responsible for 14 million jobs this year.” The President was referring to the Pledge to America’s Workers, an initiative for which companies had promised to create 14.3 million “new opportunities” for workers as of Tuesday — but many of these “opportunities” are internal training opportunities, not new jobs.
The web page for the pledge program describes them as “education and training opportunities.” Also, as CNN has previously reported, many of the companies had already planned these opportunities before Ivanka Trump launched the initiative.
“We’ve ended the war on American energy. America is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas in the world…” — October 17 speech at opening of Louis Vuitton workshop in Alvarado, Texas
Trump claimed to have ended “the war on a thing called American energy,” then boasted that the US is “now the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: The US has not just “now” 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 the very president he has accused of perpetuating the “war.” The US became the top producer of crude oil in particular during Trump’s tenure.
Obama and judicial vacancies
“So I got in and say, ‘How many federal judges do I have?’ ‘Sir, you have 142 two federal judges.’ ‘No, you don’t understand the question. That’s impossible. That would mean that President Obama didn’t appoint 142 judges.’…And then they say, ‘Obama, wasn’t he such a wonderful president?’ How are you a wonderful president — how are you a wonderful president when the most important thing you can do you handed over to the Republicans, 142?” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: Trump exaggerated. There were 104 vacancies on January 1, 2017, just before Trump was inaugurated, according to Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who tracks judicial appointments.
The history of judicial vacancies
“You know, when I got into office, they say the most important thing a president can do, I actually think it’s defense, but they say is the appointment of federal judges. So when I got in — always when you get in, there are none. How many do you have? ‘I have none, none.'” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: It’s not true that presidents are usually left no judicial vacancies at all. According to Wheeler, there were 53 vacancies on January 1, 2009, just before Obama took office; 80 vacancies on January 1, 2001, just before George W. Bush took office; 107 vacancies on January 1, 1993, just before Bill Clinton took office.
So Trump had the most judges to appoint since Clinton, but, clearly, other presidents also had appointing to do.
Trump told his usual semi-comedic story about how, if “windmills” are used for energy as he said Democrats want, people’s televisions will go out if the wind is not presently blowing: “Windmills, you know? ‘Darling, I want to watch Trump speak tonight. We can’t, darling, the wind isn’t blowing.'” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: Democrats support the use of wind turbines. Using wind power as part of a mix of power sources does not cause power outages even when the wind isn’t blowing, as the federal Department of Energy explains on its website. “Studies have shown that the grid can accommodate large penetrations of variable renewable power without sacrificing reliability, and without the need for ‘backup’ generation,” the Department of Energy says.