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Trump made 56 false claims last week, including debunked New Hampshire conspiracy theory

President Donald Trump made 56 false claims last week — repeating one of his conspiracy theories about the 2016 election, promoting new fiction about impeachment witness Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, and inflating his accomplishments and his standing in the polls.

Among other things.

Fifty-six false claims over seven days (February 10 through February 16) is just about standard for this President. Trump is now averaging about 59 false claims per week since we started keeping track at CNN on July 8.

Trump made 11 of last week’s 56 false claims in an interview with Geraldo Rivera on Cleveland radio. But Trump isn’t only dishonest when speaking to supporters and average citizens: he also made 11 false claims during a White House gathering with state governors.

Immigration was the most frequent subject of Trump’s false claims, with 10, followed by the economy and Democrats at six each. He made five false claims apiece about the Mueller investigation, health care and impeachment.

Trump is now up to 1,873 total false claims since July 8.

The most egregious false claim: The “buses” to New Hampshire

Just as Trump has a handy fictional excuse for why he lost the popular vote in 2016 — millions of illegal votes in California and maybe elsewhere — he has a handy fictional excuse for why he didn’t win New Hampshire: “hundreds and hundreds of buses” of improper voters, “shipped up” from Massachusetts, he told a rally crowd in New Hampshire last week.

That simply did not happen. This is the President propagating a conspiracy theory, and undermining faith in American democracy, for no good reason.

The most revealing false claim: “Redemption money”

Some of Trump’s lies are extravagantly detailed, as if he has rehearsed a long imaginary script. Others are notable for their carelessness, as if he has decided that people will believe him no matter how little effort he has made to make the tale sound precise and convincing.

Trump said the following to his New Hampshire rally crowd about the border wall Americans are paying for: “You do know who’s paying for the wall, don’t you? Right. Redemption from illegal aliens that are coming in. The redemption money is paying for the wall.”

There is no such thing as “redemption money,” immigration experts said. Some of the experts thought Trump might have been attempting to refer, rather, to remittance money — money immigrants send back home to their countries of origin.

This wouldn’t have made the claim accurate, since Trump has not implemented any of his proposals to impound or tax remittance money to pay for the wall, but it might have seemed at least slightly more plausible if he had taken the time to memorize the right word.

The most absurd false claim: Impeachment polling

Trump’s standing in the polls has improved since Democrats embarked on their impeachment push in the fall. In Gallup polling, he is now at 49% approval, up from 40% in late September.

On February 9, New York Post columnist Miranda Devine wrote: “Trump has gained 10 points since impeachment began in October.”

Trump then quoted Devine’s words in a tweet. Except, naturally, he changed her “gained 10 points” to “gained 20 points.”

Here is the full list of 56 false claims, starting with the ones we haven’t previously included in a weekly roundup:

New Hampshire elections

A conspiracy theory about New Hampshire in 2016

“Now I can’t tell you what’s happening tomorrow because, you know, you have some pretty strange election laws here, right? Remember last time — we won the primary tremendously? We should’ve won the election, but they had buses being shipped up from Massachusetts, hundreds and hundreds of buses. And it was very, very close, even though they did. But this year, you know we have a great governor, Governor Sununu, great governor, Chris. And now you get prosecuted if you do what they did, so it should be a lot different.” — February 10 campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire

Facts First: There is no evidence for Trump’s conspiracy theory that hundreds of buses full of illegal voters were sent from Massachusetts to New Hampshire in the 2016 presidential election. State election officials who conducted a detailed review did not turn up any such evidence.

Republicans voting in the Democratic primary in New Hampshire

“This has been an incredible state for us. It’s a state where the people are great, just great people. And we hear that there could be — because you have crossovers in primaries, don’t you? So I hear a lot of Republicans tomorrow will vote for the weakest candidate possible of the Democrats.” — February 10 campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire

Facts First: Trump was mistaken: New Hampshire’s primary system does not allow true “crossovers,” in which people registered for one party can go vote in the other party’s primary. Only Democrats and “undeclared” voters, not registered Republicans, were allowed to show up and vote in the Democratic primary the day after Trump spoke here.

Trump might have meant to refer to independents or even registered Democrats who are supportive of Republicans, but what he actually said was inaccurate.

The Snake

Trump introduced “The Snake,” a song whose lyrics he uses as an allegory for what he claims is the danger posed by migrants who seem harmless, and said, “This was a song from the 1950s, Al Green…” — February 10 campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire

Facts First: Trump was wrong both about who sang the song and about when the song was released. “The Snake” is an Al Wilson song from 1968, not an Al Green song from the 1950s.

The song was written by Oscar Brown Jr. in 1963; Brown’s daughters have complained about Trump’s appropriation of their father’s words, saying Brown, who died in 2005, would have opposed Trump’s agenda and message.


“Redemption money” and the wall

“You do know who’s paying for the wall, don’t you? Right. Redemption from illegal aliens that are coming in. The redemption money is paying for the wall.” — February 10 campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire

Facts First: American taxpayers are paying for Trump’s border wall. Immigration experts say “redemption money” is not even a term they are familiar with. Some guessed that Trump might have meant remittance money — money immigrants send back home to their countries of origin — but that wouldn’t make Trump’s claim any more factual: he has not implemented any of his proposals to pay for the wall by taxing or impounding remittances.

You can read a full fact check here.

The number of Venezuelans living in the US

“We have millions of people from Venezuela living in the United States very successfully.” — February 12 exchange with reporters at meeting with Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno

Facts First: Trump was exaggerating the number of Venezuelans living in the US. There were about 363,000 Venezuelan-born people living in the US in 2018, plus an additional 129,000 people of Venezuelan origin, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by Mark Hugo Lopez, director of global migration and demography research at the Pew Research Center.

While additional thousands of Venezuelans sought asylum in the US in 2019, there is no sign that the current number of Venezuelans residing in the country has increased to anywhere close to “millions” since 2018.

The Mueller investigation

The legality of the Mueller investigation

“Who are the four prosecutors (Mueller people?) who cut and ran after being exposed for recommending a ridiculous 9 year prison sentence to a man that got caught up in an investigation that was illegal, the Mueller Scam, and shouldn’t ever even have started?” — February 11 tweet

“And if you look at the Mueller investigation, it was a scam because it was illegally set up.” — February 12 exchange with reporters at meeting with Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno

Facts First: The Mueller investigation was not illegal.

Multiple federal courts have upheld the legality of Mueller’s appointment and endorsed actions he took, such as subpoenaing witnesses to testify before a grand jury and bringing criminal charges against some senior Trump aides.

The inspector general for the Department of Justice conducted an exhaustive review and determined in a report released in December that the FBI had a legitimate basis for opening the Russia investigation in July 2016, prior to Mueller’s appointment in May 2017, though his report also criticized some FBI officials for how they had handled other aspects of the investigation.

Only two of the four prosecutors who withdrew from the Roger Stone case after their sentencing recommendation was reversed by the Department of Justice had worked on Mueller’s team. The claim that the prosecutors were “exposed” is misleading — they made their sentencing recommendation in a public court filing, not in secret. (Stone was later sentenced to 40 months in prison.)

Roger Stone’s crimes

Trump said “nobody even knows” what Roger Stone did to face the possibility of a nine-year prison sentence. (Prosecutors originally recommended seven to nine years, then the Department of Justice overruled them and asked for “far less” time; Stone was later sentenced to 40 months in prison.) Trump said, “You have murderers and drugs addicts; they don’t get nine years. Nine years for doing something that nobody even can define what he did.” — February 12 exchange with reporters at meeting with Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno

Facts First: Trump is free to believe that Stone is innocent, but it’s not true that nobody knows what Stone did or that nobody can define what he did. A jury convicted Stone of seven felonies: five counts of lying to Congress, one count of witness tampering, and one count of obstructing a congressional committee proceeding.

CNN and the Roger Stone raid

Trump said of the FBI’s January 2019 raid on Roger Stone’s Florida home, footage of which was captured by CNN journalists: “This is early in the morning, CNN following them. So they were obviously alerted.” — February 13 radio interview with Geraldo Rivera

Facts First: CNN was not alerted to the timing of the Stone raid and arrest. As CNN’s Jeremy Herb explained, CNN’s presence outside Stone’s Florida home at the time was “the product of good instincts, some key clues, more than a year of observing comings at the DC federal courthouse and the special counsel’s office — and a little luck on the timing.” You can read more here.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team said in a February 2019 court filing that it was “aware of no information indicating that reporters were given any advance knowledge of a possible indictment.” Federal judge Amy Berman Jackson said there was no evidence in the record to prove the allegation that CNN knew the time and place of the arrest.

Roger Stone’s witness tampering

Trump said of Randy Credico, the witness Roger Stone was convicted of tampering with: “That person said he had no idea he was going to jail for that. That person didn’t want to press charges.” — February 12 exchange with reporters at meeting with Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno

Facts First: Credico did oppose Stone being sent to prison, writing a letter to the judge to advocate against Stone’s incarceration. (Stone was sentenced to 40 months on Thursday.) But it’s not true that he didn’t want Stone charged at all.

“I never said that,” Credico told CNN in a text message Wednesday. Credico noted that he has said he didn’t feel personally threatened by Stone “himself,” but he has also said that he felt threatened — because of “the climate in this country right now” — that someone else might try to kill him, telling CNN’s Kate Bolduan that he feared “somebody may pull a Jack Ruby on me.”

“I never told the prosecutors to charge or not charge him,” Credico told CNN on Wednesday. He referred us to his letter to the judge, in which he did not proclaim Stone innocent. He wrote in that letter: “I understand that Roger Stone has broken federal laws, but a prison sentence is beyond what is required in this case.”

Paul Manafort and judges

“Is this the Judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something that not even mobster Al Capone had to endure? How did she treat Crooked Hillary Clinton? Just asking!” — February 11 tweet

“But Paul Manafort was put in solitary confinement by the judge…” — February 13 radio interview with Geraldo Rivera

Facts First: Trump did not name “the judge,” but no judge put Manafort in solitary confinement.

While a federal judge, Amy Berman Jackson, did revoke Manafort’s bail and send him to jail in 2018 after he tried to tamper with witnesses (he later pleaded guilty), she didn’t dictate where he would be incarcerated or what kind of cell he would be held in. “A US marshal, and not the court, made the decision about where he should be placed,” she explained in court in 2019.

While Manafort was held alone at Virginia’s Northern Neck Regional Jail, he was not subjected to the harsh conditions commonly associated with solitary: he was given a large private room, bathroom, shower, workspace, phone and laptop. He even said during a monitored phone call that he was being treated like a VIP, according to a court filing by prosecutors.

Nonetheless, Manafort complained about being at Northern Neck, saying he was being held in solitary and that he was too far from his lawyers to prepare for trial. A different judge, T.S. Ellis, then transferred him to the city jail in Alexandria, Virginia — but Ellis, too, did not order him held in solitary. Upon Manafort’s arrival, Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne said, “Because he is a high-profile inmate, Mr. Manafort will be placed in protective custody, which limits his interactions with other inmates.”

At the Alexandria jail, Manafort’s cell had “a single bunk, it has a window, radio, newspapers, and view of the television,” and he was released for “a few” hours a day to “walk around and be with other people,” Jackson said in court in 2019.

Robert Mueller and Congress

Asked by interviewer Geraldo Rivera what he was referring to in a tweet accusing former special counsel and former FBI director Robert Mueller of having “lied to Congress,” Trump said, “Well, he said in Congress that he never applied for the job of the FBI director and now it’s been proven that he did.” — February 13 radio interview with Geraldo Rivera

Facts First: It has not been proven that Mueller had applied for the job of FBI director when he met with Trump in May 2017. Mueller’s testimony — that he met with Trump because he had been asked to provide advice on the vacant job of FBI director, not because he was seeking the job again — has been corroborated by former senior Trump aide Steve Bannon.

Mueller, who served as FBI director between 2001 and 2013, testified that he was not acting “as a candidate” for the job during the conversation with Trump. He said that “my understanding (was) I was not applying for that job. I was asked to give my input on what it would take to do the job.”

Bannon, who was serving as White House chief strategist at the time, told Mueller’s team that the White House had invited Mueller “to offer a perspective on the institution of the FBI,” according to the Mueller report. The Mueller report also said: “Bannon said that, although the White House thought about beseeching Mueller to become Director again, he did not come in looking for the job.”

Bannon made similar comments in a 2018 interview with MSNBC, noted.

Ukraine and impeachment

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s claims about Trump’s call

Trump said Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who raised concerns about Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, “reported a false call” and “reported very inaccurate things” about the call. — February 11 exchange with reporters at signing ceremony for the Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act

Facts First: There is simply no evidence Vindman has said anything factually inaccurate about the call. Unlike the whistleblower who filed a complaint about the call after being told about it, Vindman listened to the call live. (Contrary to Trump’s repeated claims, the whistleblower’s description was also highly accurate.)

Trump is free to disagree with Vindman’s opinion that Trump’s words were “inappropriate” or that they represented a “demand” of the Ukrainian government. But there is nothing to suggest Vindman misreported any of those words themselves. /

Vindman’s response to the call

Trump said Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council before he was ousted earlier this month, “ran and said he didn’t like the call. First of all, that’s very insubordinate. Why wouldn’t he go to his, his immediate — you know, he went to Congress or he went to Schiff or he went to somebody.” — February 13 radio interview with Geraldo Rivera

Facts First: Vindman did not run to Congress generally or to Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff specifically with his concerns about Trump’s phone call. Vindman testified in the impeachment inquiry that he reported his concerns to National Security Council lawyer John Eisenberg, who had previously advised him to get in touch with such issues.

(Vindman said he also spoke about the call to George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, and someone in the intelligence community, whom he did not name. Kent testified that Vindman “did not share the majority of what was said. I learned the majority of the content after reading the declassified read-out.”)

Vindman did eventually speak to Congress in the impeachment inquiry, but only under subpoena.

Trump and Republican members of Congress have complained that Vindman went to Eisenberg rather than to his superior on the National Security Council, Europe and Russia senior director Tim Morrison. Morrison testified that it was “unfortunate, but not unusual” that Vindman went to Eisenberg; Morrison, who had been in the job for less than two weeks, testified that his predecessor, Fiona Hill, “did not have the same view of how reporting through the chain of command should work.”

Vindman testified: “I attempted to try to talk to Mr. Morrison. That didn’t happen before I received instructions from John Eisenberg to not talk to anybody else any further.”

A claim in the New York Post

“Thank you to @mirandadevine of the New York Post for your interesting (and correct) column today. ‘Trump has gained 20 points since Impeachment began in October. He gets 67% on economy. Nonwhite approval of Trump is also at a high: 28%, up 10 points in a year. Nice one, Nancy (Pelosi).'” — February 10 tweet

Facts First: Trump doubled a key figure in Devine’s New York Post column. The column says “Trump has gained 10 points since impeachment began in October,” not that he has gained “20 points.”

There was an increase of nine points in Trump’s Gallup approval rating between September 30 and January 29; Trump went from 40% to 49%. Trump’s increase is much smaller, however, if you look at an average of polls. According to FiveThirtyEight’s average, Trump went from 42.1% on September 30 to 43.2% on January 28 (and 43.3% on February 21).

Former officials

John Bolton and Senate confirmation

Trump said of John Bolton, his former national security adviser: “And I gave him a big break because, you know, that’s not a Senate-approved job. And he was not able to get a Senate approved job, he never had one before. And when he was at the UN he was — he was appointed, but he wasn’t approved by the Senate. And so we’re going to see how it all works out.” — February 10 interview with Fox Business’ Trish Regan

Facts First: It’s not true that John Bolton has never been approved by the Senate. While Trump is correct that Bolton was not Senate-confirmed for his job as ambassador to the United Nations — President George W. Bush resorted to a recess appointment to install him in that post in 2005 — Bolton was confirmed for previous positions: in 1982 as assistant administrator of the US Agency for International Development, in 1985 as assistant attorney general, in 1989 as assistant secretary of state, and in 2001 as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

James Wolfe and classified information

Trump said: “Look, you had somebody — just recently, you saw what happened. He got two months. He got sentenced to two months for leaking classified information at the highest level.” And: “But think of it: A man leaks classified information — highly classified. They give him two months.” — February 12 exchange with reporters at meeting with Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno

Facts First: Trump was almost certainly referring to James Wolfe, the former Senate Intelligence Committee aide who received a two-month prison sentence in 2018. But Wolfe was not convicted — nor even charged — with leaking classified information, and he denies he ever did so. Wolfe pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the FBI about his contact with journalists; two other false statement charges were dropped.

The Justice Department said upon his guilty plea: “By his guilty plea, Wolfe admitted making false statements to the FBI concerning whether he had provided unclassified, but not otherwise publicly-available, information to reporters.”

Wolfe’s lawyers said in a statement upon the guilty plea: “Jim was never charged with having compromised classified information, nor is such a charge part of today’s plea.” Upon sentencing Wolfe, federal judge Ketanji Brown Jackson noted that she was weighing only Wolfe’s criminal lying to the FBI; she said that “giving sensitive nonpublic but not classified information to a reporter is not a crime.”

The inspector general and Andrew McCabe

“IG report on Andrew McCabe: Misled Investigators over roll in news media disclosure…Lacked Candor (Lied) on four separate occasions…Authotized Media Leaks to advance personal interests…IG RECOMMENDED MCCABE’S FIRING. @FoxNews @IngrahamAngle” — February 15 tweet

Facts First: Department of Justice inspector general Michael Horowitz did not recommend the firing of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.

Trump correctly described Horowitz’s findings about McCabe’s actions, which Horowitz outlined in a 2018 report that was publicly released about a month after McCabe was fired. However, while Horowitz did refer his findings to federal prosecutor, Horowitz did not recommend McCabe’s termination (or argue against it); the report simply said, “The OIG (Office of the Inspector General) is issuing this report to the FBI for such action as it deems appropriate.” It was a separate entity, the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, that recommended McCabe’s firing after receiving Horowitz’s report before its public release.

The Department of Justice informed McCabe in February 2020 that it would not be pursuing criminal charges against him.

The 2008, 2016 and 2020 elections

Hillary Clinton’s campaign spending

Trump claimed it would be “easy” to beat Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg. When interviewer Geraldo Rivera noted that Bloomberg has a lot money, Trump said, “Yeah, he’s got money but, you know, they spent $2 billion on me, Hillary Clinton, and mostly negative ads, and I won. And I won really easily if you look at — you know, the Electoral College, I won some states that were — I won by massive numbers. She spent $2 billion. I mean, they had a $2 billion campaign.” — February 13 radio interview with Geraldo Rivera

Facts First: Trump was more than doubling Clinton’s spending in the 2016 election. Her campaign spent about $563 million, not $2 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a money-in-politics watchdog group. If you add in spending by outside groups supportive of Clinton’s candidacy, the total is still just under $770 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

John McCain and the 2008 election

Trump said he thought Sen. Mitt Romney should have beaten President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, then said of 2008 Republican nominee John McCain: “I don’t — I’m not a McCain fan, never was. But I didn’t think he could have possibly won that one because, you know, he was handed over sort of a rough time in terms of many different things. And first African American — I said that the whole thing was really stacked against McCain. And again, I’m not a fan, but I never said he should have won.” — February 13 radio interview with Geraldo Rivera

Facts First: It’s not true that Trump never said McCain should have won the 2008 election. He tweeted in 2015: “Why would anybody listen to @MittRomney? He lost an election that should have easily been won against Obama. By the way,so did John McCain!”

Sen. Sherrod Brown

Trump quoted a tweet about how syndicated opinion columnist Connie Schultz, a Trump critic, is married to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. Trump wrote: “Nice conflict. Brown dropped out of presidential race FAST. Polled at ZERO!” — February 11 tweet

Facts First: Brown did not drop out of the presidential race: he never entered the race at all. While Brown did embark in January 2019 on a so-called listening tour of states that vote early in the Democratic primary, a sign he was thinking about a run, he announced in March 2019 that he would not go ahead with a candidacy.

“Well, there’s that,” Schultz responded when we pointed this out on Twitter.

The US, ISIS and the Philippines

“But if you look back — if you go back three years ago, when ISIS was overrunning the Philippines, we came in and, literally, singlehandedly were able to save them from vicious attacks on their islands.” — February 12 exchange with reporters at meeting with Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno

Facts First: ISIS was not overrunning the Philippines three years ago. The US was one of several countries that aided the Philippines in a 2017 battle against militant groups linked to ISIS; the US did not succeed “singlehandedly.”

According to Carlos Conde, the Philippines researcher for Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, the militant groups “operated mainly on the southern island called Mindanao, but even then just a small portion of Mindanao.” Conde added that the conflict Trump may have been referring to happened only in one city, Marawi.

“There’s no way also that the US or any other foreign government can ‘singlehandedly’ engage in a battle like Marawi because the Philippine Constitution forbids it,” Conde told CNN. “Foreign troops and foreign military may help by providing intel, logistics, weapons but they can’t, technically, actively participate in combat.”

Henri Barkey, adjunct senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, who studies ISIS, said Trump’s claim is a “total fabrication.”

Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán

While complaining how Paul Manafort was put in “solitary confinement,” Trump said, “El Chapo I don’t think was placed in solitary confinement.” — February 13 radio interview with Geraldo Rivera

Facts First: Guzmán, the notorious Mexican drug lord, was indeed held in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan before his trial. l In a 2017 court filing in which his lawyers sought to get him taken out of solitary, they said that he spent 23 hours of every weekday in a small cell with no windows and all 24 hours of weekend days in that cell. He was not allowed any contact with other prisoners.

After Guzmán’s conviction in 2019, he was sent to a “Supermax” prison in Colorado in which many prisoners are held in long-term solitary confinement. Human rights group Amnesty International has complained that the use of prolonged isolation at the prison amounts to a violation of international law.

Past presidents and their lawyers

In an interview with Geraldo Rivera, Trump defended having personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to deal with the government of Ukraine.

“But also, other presidents had ’em. You know FDR had a lawyer, who was practically, you know, was totally involved with government. Eisenhower had a lawyer. They all had lawyers. Bill Clinton had a lawyer. You know he had a very good lawyer, you know (who) that was. They all had lawyers and they do things for ’em.” — February 13 radio interview with Geraldo Rivera

Facts First: Experts on all three former presidents disputed Trump’s characterization that they had personal lawyers who were “totally involved with government” in any manner resembling the way Giuliani was.

Tim Rives, deputy director and supervisory archivist of the Eisenhower Presidential Library, told CNN, “While Eisenhower employed numerous personal attorneys over the years, they were all used for routine estate planning and personal business purposes.”

As for Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jeffrey Engel, Director of the Center for Presidential History, told CNN, “I can think of no one that would possibly fit the description Trump offers.”

“FDR did have a right-hand do-it-all hard-jobs man: Harry Hopkins. But Hopkins was a social worker by training,” Engel said. “So Hopkins would fit the bill, of a ‘fixer’ if you will, but he was no lawyer.”

Engel added, “FDR used lawyers for law stuff; so too Clinton — and his closest ‘fixer,’ Vernon Jordan, was a lawyer. But I really don’t see any comparison between the type of government-engaged work by a private lawyer that Giuliani seems to be (doing).”

Clinton biographer David Maraniss elaborated upon Engel’s point, saying, “Clinton used personal lawyers at various times in his own defense and to protect himself from various charges but did not assign personal lawyers to go to a foreign country to solicit dirt on a possible opponent.”


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


Deportations to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico

Trump claimed twice that, before his presidency, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico would not accept the return of criminals the US wanted to deport. He said on one of these occasions: “You couldn’t bring them back. They wouldn’t take them. We could catch a murderer from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador. We bring them back and they say, ‘Don’t land your plane. Your bus can’t come in. Your van can’t come in. We don’t want them. We don’t want them back.'”

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

In the 2016 fiscal year, the last full year before Trump took office, ICE reported that Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador ranked first, second, third and fourth for the country of citizenship of people being removed from the US. The same was true in the 2017 fiscal year, which encompassed the end of Barack Obama’s presidency and the beginning of Trump’s. ICE did not identify any widespread problems with deportations to these countries.

In July 2016, ICE deputy director Daniel Ragsdale testified to Congress that there were some exceptions to the rule: “It is important to note that while countries may generally be cooperative, sometimes they may delay or refuse the repatriation of certain individuals. For example, El Salvador, a country that is generally cooperative, has recently delayed the issuance of a number of travel documents where there is no legal impediment to removal.”

So Trump could have accurately made a less sweeping claim. But he was exaggerating when he declared that the four countries simply “weren’t taking them back.”

Obama and DACA

Speaking of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative created by the Obama administration in 2012 to protect “DREAMers,” people brought illegally to the US as children, Trump said, “You know, President Obama signed that bill. It was an executive order. And when he signed it, he said — essentially, he said, ‘I don’t have the right to do this, but I’m going to do it anyway.'” — February 10 remarks at speech and question and answer session with governors

Facts First: Obama didn’t “sign” DACA, which was neither a bill nor an executive order; the program was created through a memo by Obama’s then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. And while Obama had, earlier in his presidency, said he could not unilaterally suspend the deportation of undocumented high school students, he obviously did not say at the time DACA was created that he did not have the right to create it.

In his speech on the day of DACA’s creation, Obama called it a “temporary stopgap measure” and called again for Congress to pass legislation to protect DREAMers.

Mexican soldiers and the border

Trump said three times that Mexico has put 27,000 soldiers on the US border.

Facts First: Mexico has deployed around 27,000 troops, but Trump exaggerated how many are being stationed near the US border in particular. CNN reported on November 2: “Nearly 15,000 troops are deployed to Mexico’s northern border, where they’ve set up 20 checkpoints, Mexican Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval said last week at a press briefing on the country’s security strategy. At the southern border, 12,000 troops are deployed and have set up 21 checkpoints.”

Acting US Customs and Border Protection commissioner Mark Morgan has offered similar numbers, telling reporters in September that 10,000 of approximately 25,000 troops were on Mexico’s southern border.

Democrats and borders

Trump said on two occasions that the Democrats support “open 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, do not support completely unrestricted migration, as Trump suggests.

Democrats and the border wall

“But when you want to get money for a wall that most of the people in the Democrat Party wanted five years ago — they just didn’t like it when I announced that we were going to build it — they were unable to get it built. They had the money, but they were unable to get it built because it takes talent to build things, and they don’t have that talent. But we got it built.” — February 14 speech to National Border Patrol Council members

Facts First: Starting in 2015, about five years ago, Trump was campaigning for the presidency on a controversial promise to build a border wall; there is no evidence the Democrats wanted a wall at that time.

Trump would have at least a slightly better case if he spoke of 2013, just shy of seven years ago, when Democrats supported a comprehensive immigration reform bill that included 700 miles of border fencing. But that was fencing, not the giant wall Trump has proposed — and many Democrats supported it only as part of a package that included provisions they wanted, most notably a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

For example, Mary Landrieu, then a Democratic senator for Louisiana, voted for the final bill that included the fencing. But she said during the debate: “I’m not going to waste taxpayers’ money on a dumb fence…I’ve been in tunnels under the fence. I’ve watched people climb over the fence. I’m not going to send taxpayers’ money down a rat hole.”

San Diego and the border wall

Trump told a story about how, “in San Diego, they were begging us to build a wall,” and then “as soon as it was built, they said, ‘We don’t want the wall,'” so Trump threatened to take the wall down and move it elsewhere, and “they said, ‘No, no, no, don’t do that.'” — February 14 speech to National Border Patrol Council members

Facts First: It is possible that someone or some group from San Diego told him they wanted a border wall, but there is no basis for Trump’s suggestion that the city itself ever begged him for a wall, let alone begged him for a wall, changed its mind, and then reversed itself again and urged him to keep the wall. San Diego’s city council voted 5-3 in 2017 to express opposition to a wall, and even the Republican mayor, Kevin Faulconer, has made clear that he is opposed.

Ukraine and impeachment

Zelensky and the phone call

“A couple of things: The President, as you know, of Ukraine stated very strongly that there was no pressure, there was no anything, there was nothing wrong.” — February 11 exchange with reporters at signing ceremony for the Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act

Facts First: Zelensky did say there 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.

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.”

The timing of Rep. Adam Schiff’s comments

“….you look at Shifty Schiff. Take a look at what he did. He made up my conversation. And then we dropped the transcript, and he almost had a heart attack.” — February 11 exchange with reporters at signing ceremony for the Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act

Facts First: Trump can reasonably criticize Schiff for his comments at a House Intelligence Committee hearing in September; as we’ve written before, Schiff’s mix of near-quotes from Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, his own analysis, and supposed “parody” was at the very least confusing. But Schiff spoke the day after Trump released the rough transcript, not before Trump released the document.

Trump has repeatedly inverted the timing of Schiff’s comments in relation to the release of the rough transcript.

Corrections to the rough transcript

“And then they all went wild when I said that we have transcripts of the calls. And they turned out to be totally accurate transcripts. And if anybody felt there was any changes, we let them make it because it didn’t matter. So we had accurate — totally accurate transcripts.” — February 11 exchange with reporters at signing ceremony for the Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act

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.

Trade and China

The size of the US economy and China’s economy

“When I was running, and long before I was running, I’d always heard that China…was going to be the number one economy in the world during 2019. Actually, it was 2018, 2019. You all heard it, that we were going to go to number two…But we are now so far ahead of China, in terms of the size of our economy…We, right now, have — we’re so far ahead of them. They’re not catching us for a long time.” — February 10 remarks at speech and question and answer session with governors

Facts First: The US economy remains much bigger than China’s economy in terms of total output, but China has continued to close the gap even though its own growth has slowed. In other words, it’s not true the US is only “now” so far ahead because of growth during Trump’s time in office. In fact, the US lead has continued to shrink under Trump.

China reported 6.1% GDP growth in 2019, its slowest rate since 1990. The US reported 2.3% growth in 2019 and 2.9% growth in 2018 — both up from 1.6% in 2016 during President Barack Obama’s last full year in office, but the highest Trump-era growth tying the 2.9% in 2015. While China’s official figures are widely seen as unreliable, there is no doubt China has still grown faster than the US during Trump’s tenure.

Nonetheless, China is still nowhere near the total size of the US economy in terms of raw output. China says its 2019 GDP was about $14.4 trillion. The US says its 2019 GDP was about $21.4 trillion.

It’s not clear where Trump heard China would pass the US as the largest economy “in 2019.” Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and an expert on the Chinese economy, told CNN in 2019 that there were some predictions at the beginning of that decade that China would pass the US around 2019, but that experts were not saying this around the time Trump took office.

The history of tariffs on China

“Massive tariff and tariff money is pouring in and has poured in, poured in by the billions and billions. We never took in 10 cents from China.” — February 10 campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire

Facts First: Aside from the fact that study after study has shown that Americans, not China, are paying the tariff revenue that is pouring into the US Treasury, it’s not true that the Treasury has never received “10 cents” from tariffs on China. The US has had tariffs on China for more than two centuries; reported that the US generated an “average of $12.3 billion in custom duties a year from 2007 to 2016, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission DataWeb.”

Trump’s claim also ignores China’s hundreds of billions of dollars in purchases of US goods — more than $300 billion during Trump’s presidency alone.

China and nuclear arms negotiations

“Now, at the same time, Russia and China both want to negotiate with us to stop this craziness of spending billions and billions of dollars on nuclear weapons.” — February 10 remarks at speech and question and answer session with governors

Facts First: There is no apparent basis for Trump’s claim that China wants to negotiate with the US to make a deal that would limit its nuclear spending. While we can’t know what Chinese officials might have said to Trump in private, China has publicly expressed vehement opposition to negotiating any limits with the US and Russia — and Trump’s own national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said at a public event earlier in February: “So far — and this is not surprising — the Chinese are not interested in arms control.”

After Trump previously suggested that China wanted to participate in a trilateral deal with the US and Russia, a spokesperson for the Chinese government said in May 2019: “We oppose any country’s attempt to make an issue out of China on arms control and will not participate in any negotiation for a trilateral nuclear disarmament agreement.”

In October 2019, Bloomberg reported that Fu Cong, director general of the foreign ministry’s Arms Control Department, had said, “China has no interest in participating in a nuclear-arms-reduction negotiation with the U.S. or Russia, given the huge gap between China’s nuclear arsenal and those of the U.S. and Russia.”


Ivanka Trump and jobs

“She’s gotten 15 million jobs. Training, that’s what she does. She goes to the big companies, gets them to train people. Walmart, a million people — different companies, millions of people but…she had a goal of 500,000 jobs when she started at the beginning and she — she beat that in about two months. And now it’s 15 million jobs…” — February 13 radio interview with Geraldo Rivera

Facts First: Ivanka Trump has not “gotten 15 million jobs.” At the time the President spoke here, roughly 7 million jobs had been created during the entire Trump presidency.

Donald Trump was referring to the White House’s Pledge to America’s Workers initiative, in which Ivanka Trump has sought to get companies to commit to providing “education and training opportunities” for workers. As of February 21, 2020, companies had promised to create 15.7 million opportunities,including one million by Walmart alone — but many of these opportunities are internal training programs, not new jobs. Also, as CNN has previously reported, many of the companies had already planned these opportunities before Ivanka Trump launched the initiative.

Iran’s economy

Trump said of Iran: “Their economy went down 25% last year. Their GDP is down so much. Nobody’s ever seen anything like it.” — February 13 radio interview with Geraldo Rivera

Facts First: While Iran’s economy did shrink in 2019, Trump exaggerated the size of the contraction. In January 2020, the United Nations said Iran’s gross domestic product shrunk by 7.1% in 2019. The International Monetary Fund said in October 2019 that it expected a 9.5% contraction in 2019. The same month, World Bank forecast an 8.7% contraction for the 2019-2020 period.

It’s obviously not true that nobody’s ever seen anything like what is happening to Iran. In mid-2019, the International Monetary Fund forecast a 35% decline for the Venezuelan economy in that year alone.

Aid to Puerto Rico

“I’ll tell you what, the best friend that Puerto Rico’s ever had, Geraldo, is me. They’d gotten $93 billion over a fairly short period of time. There’s not a state in the union that’s gotten that much money, not even close.” — February 13 radio interview with Geraldo Rivera

Facts First: Puerto Rico has not gotten $93 billion in disaster relief funding under Trump, and the relief funding for Puerto Rico is not a record. As of February 21, 2020, eight days after Trump spoke here, the federal government’s relief tracking website said $44.1 billion had been allocated to Puerto Rico since 2017, when Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma occurred, and $15.2 billion actually spent. By contrast, Congress appropriated approximately $120 billion in relief money after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the vast majority of which went to Louisiana.

As the Washington Post first explained, Trump keeps using an approximate long-term estimate of hurricane-related obligations to Puerto Rico, not money actually appropriated by Congress to Puerto Rico.

The EU and NATO

The formation of the European Union

“So, Europe has been treating us very badly. European Union. It was really formed so they could treat us badly. So they’ve done their job. That was one of the primary reasons.” — February 10 remarks at speech and question and answer session with governors

Facts First: Experts on the European Union say it was not formed to take advantage of or mistreat the United States.

“The President’s claims are preposterous. The European Communities (forerunner of the EU) were formed in the 1950s as part of a joint US-Western European plan to stabilize and secure Western Europe and promote prosperity, by means of trade liberalization and economic growth, throughout the shared transatlantic space,” Desmond Dinan, a public policy professor at George Mason University who is an expert in the history of European integration, said in response to a previous version of this claim.

US presidents have consistently supported European integration efforts.

“The EU was launched in 1993, on the shoulders of the European Communities, to promote peace and prosperity in the post-Cold War era, an era also of rapid globalization. American officials may have had their doubts about the feasibility of monetary union, and about the possibility of a Common (European) Security and Defense Policy, but the US Administration strongly supported further European integration in the 1990s,” Dinan said.

The US share of NATO spending

Trump said of NATO: “I went over, made a speech, and said, ‘You got to pay more.’ Because the United States was paying everything. Essentially, they were paying close to 100%.” — February 10 remarks at speech and question and answer session with governors

Facts First: The US was not “paying everything” or “paying close to 100%” of NATO before Trump’s presidency, whether literally or “essentially.”

NATO countries other than the US spent a total of $262 billion on defense in 2016, according to official NATO figures (which use 2015 prices and exchange rates). The US spent $651 billion itself that year, about 71% of the total. That’s a large percentage, but “close to 100%” is a significant exaggeration.

NATO also has its own direct budget to fund its operations. While the US was also the biggest contributor to this budget in 2016, covering about 22%, it was, clearly, not alone; Germany covered about 15%, France about 11%, the United Kingdom about 10%, and so on. Countries’ contributions were set based on their national income.

NATO spending before Trump

Trump said that “NATO was going down like a rocket ship” until he became president. He continued, “I think my biggest fan in the whole world is Secretary General Stoltenberg, head of NATO. And he said he can’t believe it, because for 20 years it went down. It’s like a roller coaster dip. No — none of this (temporary stabilizing); just down. They paid less and less and less.” — February 10 remarks at speech and question and answer session with governors

Facts First: Military spending by NATO members had increased for two years prior to Trump’s presidency. According to the NATO figures released in November, spending increased by 1.7% in 2015 and 3.0% in 2016.


Veterans Choice

Trump said he worked with Sen. Jerry Moran to do something “that couldn’t be done for 44 years, they say, and that’s Veterans Choice.” — February 11 remarks at signing ceremony for the Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act

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

Empty seats

“If I had one empty seat here, one empty seat in this massive arena, they’d say, ‘He didn’t sell out.’ But you know what? We have never had an empty seat from the day your future first lady and I came down the escalator. Never.” — February 10 campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire

Facts First: There have been empty seats at various Trump rallies since he came down an escalator to launch his campaign in 2015, including an October rally Minneapolis, a July rally in Greenville, North Carolina, an October 2018 rally in Houston and an April 2017 rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, according to journalists on the scene.

Pre-existing conditions

Trump promised twice to always safeguard protections for people with pre-existing conditions, once claiming, “We left it.”

Facts First: We usually don’t fact check promises, but this one has already proved untrue. It’s false that Trump administration and congressional Republicans “left” protections for people with pre-existing conditions; they 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.

Highway approval times

Trump touted a proposal to reduce the time it takes to get environmental approvals for infrastructure projects. He said, “Highways that were taking 12 years to get approved, 14, 15, 17, 21 years, we’re trying to get it down to one year.” He then added: “So we have it down to two years now, but we — I think we’re going to get it down to one.” — February 10 remarks at speech and question and answer session with governors

Facts First: There is no apparent basis for Trump’s claim that it now takes just two years to get environmental approvals for highways. According to the Federal Highway Administration’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) page, the department’s median environmental impact statement completion time was 47 months in 2018, up from 46 months in 2017 and 44 months in 2016.

At a Trump event in January, Council on Environmental Quality chairwoman Mary Neumayr said, “The Council on Environmental Quality has found that the average time for federal agencies to complete Environmental Impact Statements is four and half years. Further, for highway projects, it takes over seven years on average.”

Brad Karkkainen, a University of Minnesota law professor and expert on environmental and land use law, said in an email in response to a previous version of this Trump claim that he has “never heard of a highway project taking 18 or 20 years, though it’s certainly possible that when the median time was six or seven years, a few projects took twice as long, perhaps more.”

Prescription drug prices

“We’re also ready to lower drug prices very substantially. We did — last year was the first time in 51 years that drug prices — prescription drug prices — went down. First time in 51 years.” — February 10 remarks at speech and question and answer session with governors

Facts First: Trump was exaggerating how long it had been since there had been a decline in prescription drug prices. The Consumer Price Index for prescription drugs showed a 0.6% decline between December 2017 and December 2018, which was the first calendar-year decline since 1972 — the first decline in 46 years, not the “first time in 51 years.”

In addition, it’s not true that the decline was “this year” or in last year’s numbers that “just came in.” Consumer Price Index data for the period between December 2018 and December 2019 shows an increase of about 3%, not another decrease.

The Consumer Price Index has limitations as a way to measure what is really happening with drug prices; it does not capture rebates paid by drug manufacturers. Other sources of data have shown an increase both years.

For example, the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, which studies drug prices, found that “net drug prices in the United States increased at an estimated 1.5% in 2018.” The list price of brand name drugs rose 3.2%, on average, over the 12 months ending in September 2019, after adjusting for inflation, according to SSR Health, a consulting firm that captures about 90% of these medications sold in the US.

Air quality

“And you know, I always say it, we want the cleanest air, the cleanest water. You know we have our cleanest numbers in many years this year, just got released, the cleanest numbers on carbon, on water, cleanliness, on air, purity, on, you know, air cleanness. I want the cleanest air.” — February 13 radio interview with Geraldo Rivera

Facts First: By several measures, US air was cleaner under Obama than it has been under Trump. Three of the six types of pollutants identified by the Clean Air Act as toxic to human health were more prevalent in the air as of 2018 than they were before Trump took office, according to Environmental Protection Agency data.

Additionally, there were more “unhealthy air days” for sensitive groups in 2018 than in 2016 — 799 days across the 35 American cities surveyed by the EPA, up from 702. Though there were significantly more “unhealthy air days” in Obama’s first term than there have been in Trump’s, the lowest amount of unhealthy air days — 598 — occurred in 2014 under Obama.

Furthermore, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University who studied Environmental Protection Agency data found that air pollution increased between 2016 and 2018.

Trump’s approval rating

“95% Approval Rating in the Republican Party, a Record! 53% overall (plus add 9 points?).” — February 10 tweet

Facts First: Trump’s approval rating among Republicans has crept up to around 95% in some polls, but even 95% would not be a record. George W. Bush hit 99% in Gallup polling after the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001. Also, we could not find any major poll around the day of this tweet in which his overall approval rating was 53%.

As of the day of the tweet, Trump was at 43.8% overall approval in FiveThirtyEight’s average of polls, with 51.8% disapproval. While he was higher than usual in some polls — Gallup announced on February 4 that he had hit 49%, his highest Gallup reading since taking office — no major poll showed him as high as 53%.

It is possible Trump was taking an actual poll result and adding nine points because of what he claims is a phenomenon in which his supporters decline to tell pollsters that they support him. But even if there are some shy Trump supporters, that’s just not how approval ratings work; you can’t take the findings of a poll and give yourself a guessed number of additional approval points.

Trump was at 94% approval with Republicans in the latest Gallup poll at the time of his tweet. Even 95% would not be an all-time high. 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. Reagan, Richard Nixon, and Dwight Eisenhower all went higher than 90%.

The existence of Obamacare

“But when I took over, I had a choice. We got rid of the most unpopular thing in Obamacare, almost got rid of Obamacare, but essentially we did.” — February 10 remarks at speech and question and answer session with governors

Facts First: The individual mandate, which required Americans to obtain health insurance, was indeed a key part of Obamacare — but Trump hasn’t killed Obamacare, essentially or otherwise. While he did eliminate the mandate, he has not eliminated Obamacare’s expansion of the Medicaid insurance program for low-income people, the federal and state marketplaces that allow people to shop for coverage, or the consumer subsidies that help many of them make the purchases.

The military under Trump

Trump claimed to have rebuilt a military that was depleted, saying: “Now, it has all brand-new jets.” — February 10 campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire

Facts First: This was a major exaggeration. While Trump’s administration has invested in new military planes and other equipment, it is not even close to true that the US military has “all brand-new jets” or that, as Trump has claimed in the past, the old planes “are all gone now.”

In December 2018, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the average Air Force plane in 2017 was 28.3 years old: “They range widely in age from the 75 new aircraft that entered service in 2017 to the 21 60-year-old KC-135 tankers that entered service in 1958. The largest share of the fleet is 26–30 years old.” The average age for fighter and attack planes was 26.4 years, for bombers 42.0 years, for tankers 53.7 years.

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