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Fact check: Trump makes false claims about Iraq, Iran and Nikki Haley in new Fox interview


By Daniel Dale, CNN

(CNN) — Former President Donald Trump repeated a variety of his previous false claims about the Middle East, rival Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other subjects in an interview that aired Sunday morning on Fox News – notably including his years-old lie that he warned the US not to invade Iraq. Here’s a non-comprehensive roundup.

Invasion of Iraq

Trump revived a lie he has been uttering since his 2016 presidential campaign – an assertion that he publicly spoke out against the idea of invading Iraq. He said on Fox: “Going into Iraq was a stupid thing. Remember I used to say: ‘Don’t do it, but if you do it, keep the oil.’”

Facts First: Trump’s claim that he said “Don’t do it” is false; the claim was debunked eight years ago. In reality, Trump did not publicly express opposition to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq before it occurred. In his 2000 book, “The America We Deserve,” Trump argued a military strike on Iraq might be necessary; when radio host Howard Stern asked Trump in September 2002 whether he is “for invading Iraq,” Trump responded, “Yeah, I guess so. I wish the first time it was done correctly”; and Trump did not express a firm opinion about the looming war in a Fox interview in January 2003, saying that “either you attack or don’t attack” and that then-President George W. Bush “has either got to do something or not do something, perhaps.”

Trump began criticizing the war in 2003, but after the invasion, and also said that year that American troops should not be withdrawn from Iraq. He emerged as an explicit opponent of the war in 2004. You can read more here about his shifting positions.

A CNN search in 2019 turned up no examples of Trump saying anything before the war about keeping Iraq’s oil. Trump’s White House did not respond at the time to our request to provide any such evidence.

Iran’s missiles

Trump repeated a claim he has made at various campaign events in recent months, saying Iran intentionally avoided hitting a base that housed US troops in Iraq when it launched missiles toward the base in January 2020 in retaliation for the Trump-ordered assassination of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

Trump claimed on Fox, as he has before, that Iran “called me” to let him know of its plan to deliberately miss. He said, “We knew they weren’t going to hit inside the fort” even though outside observers were left wondering, “How come they all missed?”

Facts FirstTrump’s claims that all of Iran’s missiles missed the base are false. As The Washington Post noted in its own fact check late last year, 11 Iranian missiles hit the al-Asad base Iran targeted in the retaliatory attack. The fact that missiles hit the base was confirmed by satellite imagesby the Pentagon, and by a CNN visit to the base days after the attack. CNN reported from the scene: “Ten of the 11 missiles struck US positions at the sprawling desert Iraqi airbase. One struck a remote location on the Iraqi military’s side.” CNN reported that “the Iranian missiles, which used on-board guidance systems, managed to shred sensitive US military sites, damaging a special forces compound, and two hangars, in addition to the US drone operators’ housing unit.”

While no US troops were killed, more than 100 were diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injuries. Gen. Mark Milley, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, told reporters he believed Iran’s intent was to kill; he credited “the defensive techniques that our forces used” for the absence of deaths.

Trump has provided no substantiation for the claim that Iran called him to telegraph the strike and offer reassurance. As The Post reported, Iraq’s prime minister said he received a general warning from Iran that it was about to begin its response and target US troops.

New Hampshire primary

Trump said the New Hampshire primary he won in January was the one place that Haley had a chance to win – claiming that this is “because Democrats are stupidly allowed to vote in the Republican primary, and independents also.”

Facts FirstTrump’s claim is false. Registered Democrats aren’t allowed to vote in New Hampshire’s Republican primary. Only registered Republicans and independents are allowed to vote.

Some independents who lean toward Democrats almost certainly participated in the Republican primary, plus some Democrats who switched their affiliation to independent before the early October deadline. But Trump claimed, with no caveats, that Democrats are simply allowed to vote in New Hampshire. That’s not true. (And it is standard for states to allow people to switch affiliations by a certain date to participate in another party’s primary.)

Indiana primary ballot

Trump claimed of Haley: “We have a situation where they forgot to apply, I guess, for Indiana. You don’t run and not apply for Indiana. Great state.”

Facts FirstThis is false. Haley did not forget to apply to be on the Republican primary ballot in Indiana. The filing deadline for the May 7 primary, February 9, has not arrived yet. Trump has previously made a different claim that Haley did not submit enough signatures by the state’s January 30 signature deadline to qualify for the ballot; Haley’s campaign told CNN and other media outlets that this is not true and that she submitted more than enough signatures. 

Regardless, the campaign didn’t forget to apply.

“We’ll be on the ballot. We turned in more than double all the signatures required and they are being verified now as part of the process before the filing deadline on February 9,” Haley campaign spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas said in a Sunday email.

In response to a similar claim from Trump, Haley wrote on social media on Friday: “Looks like he’s confused again…”

Mitch McConnell and the Green New Deal

In a clip from the interview that Fox aired Friday, Trump claimed McConnell has supported trillions in spending on “projects that are Green New Deal.” The Green New Deal is a broad congressional resolution, supported by some Democratic legislators, that calls for major investments in a wide variety of environmental, social and economic initiatives.

“Mitch McConnell: I mean, he’s agreed billions of dollars and trillions of dollars for projects that are Green New Deal – you know, I call it the Green New Scam – trillions of dollars for the Green New Scam,” Trump said.

Facts FirstTrump’s claim that McConnell has supported “trillions” in spending on Green New Deal projects is false even under a generous-to-Trump definition of what counts as a Green New Deal project. And as in the past, Trump failed to mention here that McConnell has been a vocal opponent of the Green New Deal congressional resolution as  a whole – and that Congress has never actually passed the resolution.

McConnell has repeatedly denounced the Green New Deal resolution, describing it as, among other things, “radical,” “socialist” and a “mess.”

So what is Trump talking about? Trump’s similar past attacks have been about how McConnell voted in 2021 for a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that contained spending that overlaps with some of the proposals in the wide-ranging Green New Deal resolution. For example, the 2021 infrastructure bill contained tens of billions in spending on cleaning up toxic waste sites, modernizing public transportation, increasing the country’s resilience against climate change, ensuring drinking water is clean, and facilitating a transition to zero- and low-emissions vehicles.

But even if you were to count all of this as “Green New Deal” spending – which would be misleading given that the list includes priorities that both parties funded long before the Green New Deal was introduced in 2019 – the total would be in the hundreds of billions, not “trillions.”

McConnell opposed a major Democratic bill in 2022 that spent hundreds of billions more on climate initiatives.

Border wall

Touting his performance on immigration policy, Trump claimed, as he has before, “I built 561 miles of wall.”

Facts FirstTrump’s “561 miles” claim is false, a substantial exaggeration. An official report by US Customs and Border Protection, written two days after Trump left office and subsequently obtained by CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez, said the number built under Trump was 458 miles (including both wall built where no barriers had existed before and wall built to replace previous barriers).

Even in his campaign speeches late last year, Trump sometimes put the figure, more correctly, at “nearly 500 miles.” You can read more here.

CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski contributed to this report.

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