By Daniel Dale and Tara Subramaniam,
CNN Updated 1931 GMT (0331 HKT) July 23, 2019
Washington (CNN)We’re going to keep count. Because they all count.
President Donald Trump litters his public statements with false claims, from little exaggerations to big lies. Starting today, we’ll bring you a fact check of all of them.
Why do this? Because facts matter. Whatever voters think of the President, they should know when he is deceiving them — and they should know the truth that is being obscured by the deception.
Every week, we’ll give you a weekly tally of the previous week’s false claims. And we’ll give you a breakdown of the worst, weirdest and most interesting false claims from those seven days.
We tallied 5,276 false claims from Trump in our previous job at the Toronto Star. That was an average of about six per day from his inauguration in January 2017 through May 2019. Trump has gotten less truthful over time: in 2017, his average was 2.9 false claims per day; from 2018 through May 2019, it was 8.3 per day.
Trump exceeded all of his averages last week with 61 false claims. He made 22 at his campaign rally in North Carolina (we found two additional false claims after our initial “20 false claims” report on the speech), 15 at his Cabinet meeting, six on Twitter and five in an exchange with reporters on Friday. The remainder were scattered around his other events.
The most egregious false claim(s): The barrage against Ilhan Omar
Trump had never made a false claim about Omar before last week. Last week, he made six.
He accused her twice of having praised or expressed pride in the terrorists of al Qaeda, a baseless smear we think is one of the most egregious false claims of his whole presidency. He also accused her of having used the phrase “evil Jews,” twisting a 2012 tweet in which she alleged that Israel had committed “evil doings.”
Some Republicans have attacked Omar based on her actual record, which includes a long list of controversial remarks. As so often, the president chose to dissemble.
The most absurd false claim: The chant he didn’t stop
Starting with the size of his inauguration crowd, Trump has repeatedly attempted to rewrite history everyone could see for themselves — betting that he can convince a substantial chunk of the public to believe him over their lyin’ eyes. On Thursday, he embarked on an effort to revise something that happened on television less than 18 hours prior.
He claimed he had “started speaking very quickly” as his rally crowd in North Carolina the previous night chanted “send her back” against Omar. In reality, he had gone silent for 13 seconds as the chant proceeded.
Democratic voters often express frustration that Trump isn’t challenged on his plain dishonesty. In this case, he was challenged — and he just kept being dishonest.
“I started very quickly,” he repeated after a reporter reminded him he had let the chant play out.
Then he suggested it was the reporter who was being the deceiver adding: “And I think you know that.”
The most revealing false claim: The debate victories he didn’t have
For Trump, it is insufficient to have defeated Hillary Clinton and won the presidency. It is embarrassing to him that there is any evidence that the country preferred Clinton to him in any respect.
Hence his repeated imaginings about mass voter fraud in California, which he uses to explain why Clinton got more votes than him. And hence his insistence last week that the polls showed that he won all three debates against Clinton, though scientific opinion polls — the polls you think of when you think of polls — showed Clinton winning all three.
Trump didn’t make this up entirely. He’s referring, as usual, to unscientific polls on websites, which allow anyone to go and click for their favorite.
Conspiracy of the week: The caravan caper
One of Trump’s signature immigration false claims is about the green card lottery. In his groundless telling — 43 times through May, by our count — foreign governments are deliberately forcing their problem citizens into the lottery to foist them upon the United States.
When Trump started talking about migrant caravans, he simply took the substance of his lottery accusation and transferred it over. Presto! Last week, he claimed that Latin American governments were deliberately forcing their problem citizens into caravans to foist them upon the United States.
“Why would Honduras or Guatemala or El Salvador — why would they keep their criminals when you can put them into a caravan, lose them in a caravan, and send them up to the United States?” he said at his Cabinet meeting.
As always, experts told us there is no shred of evidence that governments have inserted criminals into a caravan.
Embellishment of the week: The non-hunt for Hafiz Muhammad Saeed
Like many presidents before, Trump seeks opportunities to present himself as a conquering commander-in-chief. When Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, was arrested in Pakistan in advance of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the White House on Monday, Trump made it sound like there had been a lengthy campaign to hunt him down, bin Laden-style.
“After a ten year search, the so-called ‘mastermind’ of the Mumbai Terror attacks has been arrested in Pakistan. Great pressure has been exerted over the last two years to find him!” Trump tweeted.
This was comical to Pakistanis and security experts: Saeed has lived openly in Pakistan, giving sermons and interviews and founding a political party.
When the Obama administration announced a $10 million reward for information leading to his arrest, in 2012, Saeed held a news conference at a hotel and said, “Why don’t they give it to me? I can tell them my whereabouts on a daily basis.” He has been arrested and released on several occasions, most recently in 2017.
“It has been happening for a long time — arrest-release, arrest-release,” an Indian government spokesperson said at a news conference.
Here is this week’s list. And here is a list of Trump’s 29 false claims from the previous week.
Trump claimed that the governments of Guatemala and Honduras were “forming caravans and sending them up.” He then elaborated on the conspiracy theory, saying that these governments were dumping “hardened” criminals into the caravans.
“And why not? Why would Honduras or Guatemala or El Salvador — why would they keep their criminals when you can put them into a caravan, lose them in a caravan, and send them up to the United States?” he said. “We take everybody, because the Democrats don’t allow immigration laws that mean anything. It’s horrible.” — July 16 Cabinet meeting
Facts First: Though the Department of Homeland Security has said that some members of recent migrant caravans have had criminal pasts, there is simply no evidence that the governments of Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador have deliberately put criminals into the caravans to foist them upon the United States.
By all accounts, the caravans have consisted of people who decide for themselves that they want to migrate. There has been no hint that governments have forced anyone into one of the caravan groups.
“Everything we have seen suggests the migrant caravans were loosely organized and largely spontaneous in nature, and were not organized or directed by the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras,” said Ariel Ruiz, an associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.
Migrants and the courts
“We catch them and release them. We catch them and say, ‘Come back to court in five years,’ and nobody comes back. Two percent, to be accurate. I want to be accurate, because I don’t want the press to say I was inaccurate. Two percent come back. And those people we wonder why — why are they coming back? They’re the only ones.” — July 16 Cabinet meeting
Facts First: Trump was not even close to accurate. Eighty-nine percent of asylum seekers showed up in court to receive a decision on their case in the 2017 fiscal year, according government data; it was 72% for all kinds of migrants.
It is possible that the percentage has fallen since 2017, but there is no sign that it has fallen to anywhere close to 2% or zero.
“We’re doing very well but we have no help whatsoever from the Democrats. … They obviously don’t mind crime and drugs and human trafficking, which is a tremendous problem. And it’s human trafficking mostly in women. And you know Democrats — with their big wonderful hearts, human trafficking with women, where three, four, five women are put in the back of a van or the back of a car, and they go through areas where there will soon be wall but there’s no wall right now, because you can’t obviously come through ports of entry.” — July 16 Cabinet meeting
“This is all over the world, human trafficking. It’s a terrible, terrible thing and we’re going to solve it. You know most of it comes through in this country, our southern border, where we don’t have the wall. They’re not going through our points, they’re not going through areas where we have security, where we have guards, where we have gates, where we have all sorts of equipment. No, they ride through the desert and they make a left, where you don’t have the wall. It’s so simple. Everybody knows it.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: Many human trafficking victims do indeed come through ports of entry, according to experts on trafficking and according to international data. Experts say that victims are more likely to be deceived into crossing the border willingly than being kidnapped and put in the back of a vehicle.
“I have worked on human trafficking on multiple continents in multiple countries for more than two decades, and in all the work that I’ve done with trafficking victims, I have met one who was actually kidnapped and thrown into a car,” Martina Vandenberg of the Human Trafficking Legal Center told CNN in January, when Trump was telling frequent stories about women being bound and gagged in cars.
Many victims, experts say, are tricked into coming to the US with promises of a good job. Others are coerced through threats to their families or themselves. While experts say there may be some cases like the ones Trump has described, they emphasize that such cases are exceedingly rare.
In 2018, the UN International Organization for Migration found that “in the last 10 years, almost 80% of journeys undertaken by victims trafficked internationally cross through official border points, such as airports and land border control points.”
Hispanics and the wall
“Unemployment, among Hispanic Americans, where we’re doing really well. You know why? Because they want a strong border. They want it because they understand the border better than anybody. They want that strong border. They want that wall, that’s being built right now. They want that wall, and they really do. They understand the border better than anybody.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: A majority of Hispanics oppose Trump’s proposed border wall, polls show.
In a Pew poll in 2018, 75% of Hispanics were opposed to expanding the border wall. In a Quinnipiac University poll in January, 66% of Hispanics were opposed to building a wall. (The questions were phrased slightly differently.)
Also, the wall is not “being built right now.” As of June, no new miles had been constructed. Trump said this spring that replacement fencing should be counted by the media as his “wall,” since he is replacing ineffective old barriers with effective modern ones. This is subjective, but we think it’s fair to focus on the new barriers he promised during his campaign.
Democrats and undocumented immigrants
“The Democrats want to spend more money on health care for an illegal immigrant than they do for a citizen of the United States,” Trump said. He added: “Illegal aliens will be very nicely covered. How about California? They just approved $100 million. They just approved $100 million to take care of the needs of illegal immigrants.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: California did approve spending of about $100 million to provide Medicaid health coverage to low-income undocumented immigrants between the ages of 19 to 25. But there is no basis for the claim that Democrats want to spend “more” on health care for the undocumented than on citizens.
Some Democrats, including most of the party’s presidential candidates, support offering health insurance to undocumented immigrants around the country. But they are proposing to treat undocumented people the same way citizens are treated, not better than citizens.
And since there are many fewer undocumented immigrants than citizens — 10.5 million in 2017, according to Pew — the total cost of coverage would be much lower.
Democrats and human trafficking
“Human trafficking is the worst now throughout the world, because of the internet. It’s the worst that’s ever been. And the worst treated of all, children, but it’s women, women. The Democrats want to do nothing about it.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: It is false that Democrats want to “do nothing about” human trafficking. They have joined with Republicans in multiple Trump-era bills on the issue.
Trump is arguing that Democrats don’t want to address trafficking because they oppose many of his immigration proposals, including a border wall. But that is not the same thing.
House Democrats introduced and voted unanimously for the Put Trafficking Victims First Act of 2019 and voted overwhelmingly for the Republican-introduced Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017. Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand have both introduced legislation on human trafficking.
Later in this same speech, Trump said Democrats have voted for recent human trafficking bills he has signed: “I’ve proudly signed four bipartisan human trafficking laws, securing $400 million to support victims of human trafficking.”
Democrats and the border wall
“No, they (human traffickers) ride through the desert and they make a left, where you don’t have the wall. It’s so simple. Everybody knows it. You know, the Democrats all know it because five years ago, before I was here, they all wanted it. Now they don’t want it. You know why they don’t want it? For political reasons.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: Some Democrats, but far from all, voted in 2006 to approve a fence on the Mexican border — a fence Trump himself said was much different than the wall he wanted.
In the Senate, 26 Democrats (including Schumer and Clinton) voted yes on the Secure Fence Act, 17 voted no; in the House, it was 64 yes, 131 no. That isn’t close to unanimous support.
The law was to authorize 700 miles of fencing. Trump himself said during the 2016 campaign that this fencing was not comparable to the giant concrete wall he was proposing: “It was such a little wall, it was such a nothing wall,” he told Fox News.
Democrats also endorsed border fencing as part of the failed 2013 “Gang of Eight” comprehensive immigration reform bill. That, however, was part of a compromise package in which undocumented immigrants would be given a path to citizenship — so Democrats did not go from supporting a standalone fence proposal in 2013 to opposing that same kind of proposal.
Democrats and borders
“Radical Left Democrats want Open Borders, which means drugs, crime, human trafficking, and much more…” – July 15 tweet
“We’re doing very well but we have no help whatsoever from the Democrats. Just the opposite. They want open borders. They obviously don’t mind crime and drugs and human trafficking, which is a tremendous problem.” — July 16 Cabinet meeting
So if you don’t want Democrats to raid your health care, to steal away your money, to bankrupt your country, then you have a choice. You must vote Republican. …You can’t say you love our country if you want to destroy it through open borders. Open borders are a disaster.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: Some Democrats, including presidential candidates such as Elizabeth Warren and Julián Castro, have advocated a significant loosening of immigration law, including a decriminalization of the act of illegally crossing the border.
But none of them have proposed literally opening the border to unrestricted migration.
The border wall
“We’re building a lot of wall right now.” — July 16 Cabinet meeting
Facts First: No new miles of wall were under construction as of last month.
Customs and Border Protection provided a fact sheet saying that “construction activities” had “started for approximately 13 miles of new border wall system and levee wall system in the Rio Grande Valley.” But such “activities” are different from construction itself; they include the clearing of vegetation, a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson previously told CNN, and there is no current sign that construction of the actual wall has started. Even if it now has quietly started, that is not “a lot of wall.”
Trump said this spring that replacement fencing should be counted by the media as his “wall,” since he is replacing ineffective old barriers with effective modern ones. This is subjective, but we think it’s fair to focus on the new barriers he promised during his campaign.
Undocumented immigrants, cars and the media
“You know, I joked, I said, ‘And everybody will get a free Rolls-Royce. Every family gets a free Rolls-Royce, every family.’ And the media said, ‘Donald Trump is exaggerating. He knows that they’re not getting a Rolls-Royce.’ I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Don’t put it. Don’t put it. Don’t put it. Don’t put that I said free Rolls-Royce.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: That is not exactly what happened. Trump did make a joke at a 2018 campaign rally in Arizona about Democrats wanting to give undocumented immigrants a free Rolls-Royce — but then, at a rally the next day in Nevada, he made a non-joking claim that Democrats want to “give them cars.” He continued to joke about a Rolls-Royce in particular, but he was challenged on the assertion of fact.
He said in Nevada: “They want to open your borders, let people in, illegally. And then they want to pay for those people for health care, for education. They want to give them cars, they want to give them driver’s licenses. I said last night, we did a great — we did a great, great rally in Arizona last night, and I said — I said last night, what kind of car will they supply them? Will it be a Rolls-Royce?”
Democrat Dan McCready
“Ninth Congressional District: the Democrat in the race is an ultra-liberal named Dan McCready, wants to take away your guns. He wants to raise your taxes. He doesn’t care about borders. He likes open borders, and he really admires socialism.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: Trump’s claims about McCready were comprehensively inaccurate. McCready advocates additional gun control measures, but not taking away people’s guns. He is campaigning on tax cuts for “middle class families.” And he supports border security measures including “physical barriers.”
McCready’s website says: “Dan will fight for common-sense and bipartisan gun violence prevention, comprehensive background checks, and closing the gun show and online loopholes that allow guns to fall into the hands of domestic terrorists, domestic abusers, and the mentally ill.” That isn’t close to “take away your guns.”
McCready is calling for comprehensive immigration reform “that secures our border, respects our laws and protects our American values.” He says the border should be secured by using a mix of physical barriers and technology like drones and infrared cameras.
Ilhan Omar and al Qaeda
“I mean, I look at the one — I look at Omar — I don’t know, I never met her. I hear the way she talks about al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has killed many Americans. She said, ‘You can hold your chest out, you can’ — ‘When I think of America…huh…when I think of al Qaeda, I can hold my chest out.'” — July 15 Made in America product showcase at the White House
“Omar laughed that Americans speak of al Qaeda in a menacing tone and remarked that, ‘You don’t say America with this intensity. You say al Qaeda — makes you proud. Al Qaeda makes you proud. You don’t speak that way about America.'” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: Omar did not say that the terrorist organization al Qaeda makes her “proud” or that “you can hold your chest out” when thinking of al Qaeda. Trump was inaccurately describingremarks she made in 2013 about how one of her college professors acted when he discussed al Qaeda.
In a 2013 appearance on the Twin Cities PBS show BelAhdan, host Ahmed Tharwat mused about how Americans use the Arabic names for “violent or negative entities,” such as terrorist groups, rather than translating them to English.
Omar responded that the use of the Arabic names was a product of media sensationalism. When a word is said with “such intensity,” she said, people think “it must hold a bigger meaning.”
She then spoke about a college class she said she took on terrorist ideology. She said, laughing, that the professor reacted with particular body language whenever he said the name “al Qaeda.”
“The thing that was interesting in the class was every time the professor said ‘al Qaeda’ he sort of like — his shoulders went up,” Omar said.
After some banter with Tharwat, she continued: “You don’t say ‘America’ with an intensity, you don’t say ‘England’ with an intensity, you know, you don’t say ‘the Army’ with an intensity. But you say these names because you want that word to carry weight.”
She concluded: “So yes, a lot of it is deluded, I think. When you hear a lot of people speaking in Arabic, you know, suspicion arises.”
There was no praise of al Qaeda. In the same interview, she described terrorism as “evil.”
Ilhan Omar and Jews
“The First Lady thinks that it’s horrible what they’ve said about Israel and horrible what they’ve said about our country — these congresswomen. They can’t call our country and our people ‘garbage.’They can’t be anti-Semitic. They can’t talk about ‘evil Jews,’ which is what they say: ‘evil Jews.’ ” — July 19 exchange with reporters
Facts First: None of the four Democratic congresswomen Trump was attacking has used the phrase “evil Jews.” Trump appeared to be referring to a 2012 tweet in which Omar, now a Minnesota congresswoman, accused Israel of “evil doings” during its military conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The tweet was widely criticized as anti-Semitic because of its first sentence, in which Omar said “Israel has hypnotized the world.” (After defending the tweet when it resurfaced this year, she later said she had come to understand she had employed an anti-Semitic trope.) Nonetheless, she did not refer to Jewish people as evil.
Ilhan Omar’s resolution on boycotts
“And then you have these people — I think that Omar — I find it hard to believe — but I hear Omar today put in, or yesterday put in a sanctions bill against Israel, and other things beyond sanctions.” – July 19 exchange with reporters
Facts First: Trump might have just been speaking imprecisely, but his description of Omar’s effort was erroneous enough that we’re calling the claim false. Omar introduced a resolution, not a bill, earlier that week, “affirming that all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad.” The resolution did not propose any sanctions against Israel, nor even mention Israel.
The resolution was widely seen as a response to a resolution opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement Omar supports. But Trump went too far when he called it a “sanctions bill against Israel” in itself.
“Send her back” chant against Ilhan Omar
Question: “And, Mr. President, if I may, when your supporters last night were shouting — chanting, ‘send her back’ — why didn’t you stop them? Why didn’t you ask them to stop saying that?” Trump: “Well, No. 1, I think I did. I started speaking very quickly. It really was a loud — I disagree with it, by the way. But it was quite a chant. And I felt a little bit badly about it. But I will say this: I did, and I started speaking very quickly. But it started up rather — rather fast, as you probably noticed.” — July 18 meeting with 2019 Special Olympics World games team
Facts First: Trump did not attempt to stop the “send her back” chant about Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar at his campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina, the day before, and he did not start speaking “very quickly.” He went silent for 13 seconds as the chanting occurred. He then resumed his criticism of Omar without expressing any disagreement with the chant.
Three days later, Trump advised Omar on Twitter to “go back” to her native Somalia. And on Friday, the day after this apparent disavowal of the chant, Trump said of the crowd at this rally, “Those are incredible people. Those are incredible patriots.” What he was unhappy about, he said, was Omar’s comments.
An article on his attacks against Omar
“The Washington Post Story, about my speech in North Carolina and tweet, with its phony sources who do not exist, is Fake News.” — July 21 tweet
Facts First: There was simply no evidence that the Post invented nonexistent sources for its article on his Trump’s aides’ and allies’ reaction to his racist tweets about four Democratic congresswomen.
The article said the reporting was “based on interviews with 26 White House aides, advisers, lawmakers and others involved in the response — most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to share behind-the-scenes details.” There is no sign that the Post has fabricated sources for any of its articles on Trump.
The poll numbers of Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
“These are people that if they don’t like it here, they can leave. And I’d be — I don’t know who’s going to miss them, but I guess some people will. One of them is polling — one of them is polling at 8 — one of them is polling at 8%. One of them is polling at 8%.” — July 15 Made in America product showcase at the White House
“Omar is polling at 8%, Cortez at 21%. Nancy Pelosi tried to push them away, but now they are forever wedded to the Democrat Party. See you in 2020!” – July 16 tweet
Facts First: Trump seemed to be referring to a poll that surveyed a group not representative of either the whole country or these congresswomen’s racially diverse districts: “1,003 likely general-election voters who are white and have two years or less of college education.” New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has a district approval rating of 47%, according to an April poll. (There has been no recent public polling of Omar’s district.)
Axios reported on the poll of the white voters earlier in the week. Its article said the poll was being circulated by “top Democrats,” but it did not provide any additional details about either who conducted the poll, where the poll respondents lived, or what exactly they were asked.
The poll showed Omar at 9% approval and Ocasio-Cortez at 22%. So Trump cut off a point even from their ratings with the unrepresentative sample.
A Siena College poll in late March and early April of registered voters in Ocasio-Cortez’s district found 52% had a favorable opinion of her and that 47% approved of her job performance.
There is no public polling on Omar’s district, but it’s dishonest to point to a politician’s approval rating with a subset of white voters and suggest it is their overall approval rating — especially when they represent a district like Omar’s, where 35% of the population is non-white.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and “garbage”
“The First Lady thinks that it’s horrible what they’ve said about Israel and horrible what they’ve said about our country — these congresswomen. They can’t call our country and our people ‘garbage.'” –July 19 exchange with reporters
“I’m unhappy with the fact that a congresswoman … can call our country and our people ‘garbage.’ That’s what I’m unhappy with.” — July 19 event commemorating the Apollo 11 moon landing
Facts First: Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic congresswoman to whom Trump was referring, did not call Americans “garbage.” She said in March that the country has gone so far in the wrong direction that people shouldn’t be satisfied with moderate policies that are merely “10% better from garbage.”
Arguing that ambitious policies are necessary, Ocasio-Cortez said: “I think all of these things sound radical compared to where we are. But where we are is not a good thing. This idea of 10% better from garbage shouldn’t be what we settle for. It feels like moderate is not a stance, it’s just an attitude toward life of like, ‘meh.’ “
Elizabeth Warren and Native Americans
“I was driving her (Elizabeth Warren) crazy, so she went out and hired a guy to check the blood. I’m sure he had a lot of fun doing that. He checked her blood and found out that many, many, many, many, many, many years ago, there could have been somebody. And he could have been Indian. And then the Indians got together, and they said, ‘We don’t want her. We don’t we want her. We want Trump. We want Trump. They want Trump.’ ” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: Cherokee Nation leaders did criticize Warren for taking a DNA test to establish that she might have a distant Native American ancestor, saying that it was “inappropriate” and “wrong” to use such a test to try to establish a connection to the nation. But they did not simultaneously say “we want Trump.”
Chuck Hoskin Jr., secretary of state for the Cherokee Nation, wrote in an op-ed for the Tulsa World that it “offends us when some of our national leaders seek to ascribe inappropriately membership or citizenship to themselves.” In the same op-ed, however, Hoskin took issue with name-calling; though he didn’t explicitly mention Trump derisively dubbing Warren “Pocahontas,” he wrote that “when someone disparages someone else’s family lore by dismissively calling them names or using negative stereotypes about Native Americans, that robs us all of an opportunity to have a meaningful discussion.
Obstruction of justice
Question: “… the special counsel was going to testify today before Congress. That’s been pushed back to next week. Do you have any concerns about what he’s going to say?” Trump: “No, because the report said no collusion and no obstruction. The attorney general ruled on absolutely no obstruction, and there was no obstruction, and, you know, frankly, the collusion was the bigger thing.” — July 17 interview with Dave Jordan, WITN of Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: Mueller’s report did not say “no obstruction” in any way.
Mueller laid out a case that Trump may have committed obstruction, but he explained that he would abide by a Justice Department policy that holds that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
“… If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” the report said.
Attorney General William Barr then determined that the evidence laid out by Mueller was “not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” So Trump was basically correct when he described what Barr “ruled,” but not about the Mueller report itself.
Spending and debt
Puerto Rico disaster relief
“A lot of bad things are happening in Puerto Rico. The Governor is under siege, the Mayor of San Juan is a despicable and incompetent person who I wouldn’t trust under any circumstance, and the United States Congress foolishly gave 92 Billion Dollars for hurricane relief, much of which was squandered away or wasted, never to be seen again. This is more than twice the amount given to Texas & Florida combined.” — July 18 tweet
Facts First: Congress has not approved $92 billion for Puerto Rico hurricane relief. As of the week of Trump’s tweet, the federal government’s relief tracking website said $42.5 billion had been allocated to Puerto Rico between 2017 and 2019 and $13.6 billion spent — neither of which are double the combined amounts for Texas and Florida.
At the time, $36.7 billion had been allocated to Texas and Florida combined; $12.6 billion had been spent on Texas and Florida combined.
As the Washington Post first explained, the $92 billion is an approximate long-term estimate of hurricane-related obligations to Puerto Rico, including money not yet being considered by Congress.
The debt ceiling
“Well, hopefully we’re in good shape on the debt ceiling. The debt — I can’t imagine anybody ever even thinking of using the debt ceiling as a negotiating wedge. When I first came into office, I asked about the debt ceiling. And I understand debt ceilings, and I certainly understand a — the highest-rated credit ever in history in a debt ceiling. And I said — I remember — to Sen. Schumer and to Nancy Pelosi, ‘Would anybody ever use that to negotiate with?’ They said, ‘Absolutely not.’ That’s a sacred element of our country.’ They can’t use the debt ceiling to negotiate.” — July 19 event commemorating the Apollo 11 moon landing
Facts First: Trump himself has thought of using the debt ceiling for negotiating purposes. During the Obama presidency, he repeatedly urged Republicans to do so.
“The Republicans once again hold all the cards with the debt ceiling. They can get everything they want. Focus!” he tweeted in 2012, one of multiple public statements he made to that effect.
The size of the debt
“And don’t forget: President Obama, during his eight years, he created — he doubled the debt. You take every president — every president prior to President Obama — he then took it and doubled the debt over $10 trillion. Ten trillion, with a ‘T,’ not a ‘B.’ Not a million, not a billion. President Obama put $10 trillion — it doubled the debt. It was at 10, it went to 20, went to even above 20.” — July 19 event commemorating the Apollo 11 moon landing
Facts First: Trump was roughly correct with most of this claim, but he was incorrect that the debt went to “above 20 (trillion)” under Obama. It got close, but it first hit the $20 trillion threshold in September 2017, during the Trump presidency.
During President Obama’s tenure, the country’s total debt — which includes money owed to other government entities like Social Security — went from $10.6 trillion to $19.9 trillion.
That’s not quite a doubling but not far off, and not quite a $10 trillion increase but not far off. If you look only at debt owed to the public, the debt did more than double under Obama, from $6.3 trillion to $14.4 trillion.
But the total debt never hit the $20 trillion mark until Trump’s first year in office, as the tax cuts he passed at the end of 2017 took effect and lowered revenue to the Treasury.
It’s also worth noting that Obama was not solely responsible for the debt increase during his presidency. Some of it was incurred because of spending intended to address the recession he inherited from the George W. Bush era; in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Congress and Obama were forced to approve stimulus funding to keep the US economy from collapse. And Congress, controlled by Republicans in full or in part for Obama’s last six years in office, writes and approves spending bills.
“You have to remember this, are you ready? Because they give us a bum rap. Patients with preexisting conditions are protected by Republicans much more so than protected by Democrats who will never be able to pull it off.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: Democrats have already pulled it off: they installed protections for people with preexisting conditions in the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Republicans, conversely, have repeatedly tried to weaken these protections.
Trump’s administration and congressional Republicans have repeatedly put forward bills and lawsuits that would weaken Obamacare’s protections for people with preexisting conditions. Trump is supporting a Republican lawsuit that is seeking to get all of Obamacare declared void. He has not issued a plan to reinstate the law’s protections for people with preexisting conditions if the suit succeeds.
Prescription drug prices
“And last year, this is — I’m so proud of this, because we have no help from the Democrats. Last year, for the first time in over 50 years, drug prices went down.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: This was a slight exaggeration: prescription drug prices declined last year for the first time in 46 years, according to one of several measures.
The Consumer Price Index for prescription drugs showed a 0.6% decline between December 2017 and December 2018, the first calendar-year decline since 1972.
As the Washington Post pointed out in its own recent fact check, some experts say that the Consumer Price Index is a flawed measure of trends in drug prices, since it doesn’t include rebates that drug companies pay to insurers. 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.”
Trump can reasonably cite the Consumer Price Index. He was just off on the number of years.
“So we’ve taken historic action to fight the opioid epidemic, what a problem. And just today, it was just announced before I came in, that drug overdose deaths, we’re working so hard on this, including our Vice President, including our first lady, including everybody in the Trump administration — it’s dropped for the first time in more than 30 years. It’s gone down. First time.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: This was one of Trump’s trademark small exaggerations. Media outlets including CNN reported that day that overdose deaths had declined in 2018 for the first time since 1990, or 28 years, according to preliminary data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
We might be inclined to let this go if Trump did not do such exaggerating so frequently. As he did in the same speech with prescription drug prices, he regularly adds additional years to his accomplishments.
“Think of it, we have the strongest economy in history. The lowest unemployment numbers ever.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: Particular minority groups are all near their lowest unemployment numbers ever, but the country as a whole is not.
The June unemployment rate was 3.7%. Ignoring the months earlier in the year when it was slightly lower, that is the lowest rate since 1969, not the lowest rate of all time: 2.5% in 1953.
Black, Asian and Hispanic Americans are at roughly their lowest unemployment rates since the government began tracking them using its current methodology (in the early 1970s for black and Hispanic Americans, 2000 for Asians), though the Asian and Hispanic rates were slightly lower earlier in the year.
The North Carolina economy
Trump, claiming that North Carolina “has had its best economic year in the history of your state,” said “you have the lowest unemployment rate” and “your best unemployment numbers.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: North Carolina does not have either its lowest unemployment rate ever or the lowest unemployment rate in the country.
Its rate in May was 4.1%, 38th of all states. The rate was slightly higher than it was a year prior, 4.0% in May 2018. The rate did drop from 4.2% to 3.7% over the course of 2018.
North Carolina’s unemployment rate has been lower than 4.1% as recently as 2000. So this is a 19-year low (if you ignore previous Trump-era months when it was slightly lower than it is now), not a historic low.
“Our unemployment numbers are historic in the sense that we’ve never had better numbers … women, 75 years.” — July 16 Cabinet meeting
“Asian-Americans, the best unemployment numbers in our history. And likewise, women: 74 years. I’m sorry, women, I let you down.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: The women’s unemployment rate for June was 3.6%, a tick above the 3.4% in April and 3.5% in May. It has been 66 years since the women’s rate has been this low, not 75 years.
The rate was last at 3.6% in 1953.
Workers and the stock market
“We’re doing numbers that have never been done before. I think a number that makes me the happiest is that, proportionately, the biggest gainer in this entire stock market — when you hear about how much has gone up — blue-collar workers, the biggest proportionate gainer. They’ve had a tremendous gain.” — July 16 Cabinet meeting
Facts First: There is data that suggests blue-collar workers are benefiting most from the performance of the economy as a whole, but they are not reaping the biggest gains from the performance of the stock market in particular.
Low-wage workers have experienced faster wage growth over the last year than higher-income workers. But since wealthy people own much more in stock than lower-income people — the richest 10% of households owned 84% of the stock value, according to a 2017 study that used 2016 data, and about half of Americans own no stock at all, according to multiple estimates — there is no way blue-collar workers could be the biggest gainers from the market’s gains. (Trump might have simply misspoken here, since he has previously referred accurately to blue-collar workers’ gains from the strong economy.)
“And every car that comes through that used to be made in the United States — now Mexico has 30% of our car business. But that’s not going to happen anymore, no more — no more companies are going to leave because we have reasons that they can’t leave anymore. There’s just no reason for them to leave anymore.” — July 16 Cabinet meeting
Facts First: Nothing in Trump’s revised trade agreement with Mexico and Canada prevents automotive companies from leaving the United States.
It sets new rules intended to help convince them to manufacture in North America in general and the US in particular, but it does not force them to do anything.
“Car companies are coming in — Japanese car companies, in particular. Although Germany called to say that they’re going to be announcing some very big movement with respect to a certain company that I’ve demanded has to come, because they sell us a lot of cars but they make them in other places. We want them making them in the United States. But Japan has 12 different companies building plants in Michigan, in Ohio, in North Carolina, in Pennsylvania. One is going to be announced in Florida.” — July 16 Cabinet meeting
Facts First: There are not 12 Japanese automakers building plants in the US. Just two Japanese automakers, Toyota and Mazda, have announced plans to build a US plant during Trump’s presidency; their joint venture is under construction in Alabama.
Trump has said since last year that Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has told him that more Japanese automakers will soon announce major US investments. But that has not happened yet: none of the companies has announced a new US plant since Toyota and Mazda introduced the joint venture in early 2018.
We can’t fact-check what might happen in the future, but industry analysts say they see no sign of imminent news.
“We know of no German or Japanese automakers currently looking to place additional car or truck assembly capacity in the United States,” said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan. She added, “We know of no Japanese automakers currently looking to build assembly plants in Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, or Pennsylvania. There are no auto assembly plants that we are aware of that are on the cusp of being announced in Florida. Florida has very little auto industry employment. Their transportation equipment sector is more focused on aerospace.”
Dziczek noted that there are only six Japanese automakers that sell vehicles in the US.
Louisiana LNG plant
“Or LNG plants; I just left Louisiana, cut a ribbon for a $10 billion LNG plant that’s so incredible people wouldn’t believe it. It was many, many years trying to get permits, they couldn’t get the permits, but we got the permits and we got it very rapidly.” — July 16 Cabinet meeting
Facts First: The permits for the facility Trump visited were granted by the Obama administration.
Trump spoke at Sempra Energy’s Cameron liquefied natural gas export facility in Louisiana in May. The company says on its website: “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authorized the project in June 2014.” The company confirmed to FactCheck.org: “You are correct, Cameron LNG was approved in 2014.”
The facility made its first shipment in late May.
The steel industry
“Our steel industry was going out of business. If I hadn’t been elected, you would have no steel industry right now. It would be gone.” — July 15 Made in America product showcase at the White House
Facts First: There was no indication the US steel industry was “going out of business” before Trump took office or before he imposed his tariffs.
The American Iron and Steel Institute said in 2016: “The steel industry directly employs around 140,000 people in the United States, and it directly or indirectly supports almost one million U.S. jobs.” Bloomberg reported in an October 2018 fact-check: “In fact, U.S. steelmakers Nucor Corp. and Steel Dynamics Inc. were two of the healthiest commodity companies in the world before Trump took office.”
There is no doubt that the steel industry has declined and that it was employing fewer Americans: the number of people working in iron and steel mills or in making steel products fellfrom more than 250,000 in 1990 to under 150,000 by 2016. Still, “going out of business” is an exaggeration. In 2016, the US produced about as much raw steel as it did at various points in the 1980s.
“So, I’m getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon. They’re saying it wasn’t competitively bid. This is going on for a long time — I guess, probably, before this administration. And we’re looking at it very seriously. It’s a very big contract. One of the biggest ever given having to do with the cloud and having to do with a lot of other things. And we’re getting tremendous, really, complaints from other companies and from great companies. Some of the greatest companies in the world are complaining about it, having to do with Amazon and the Department of Defense. And I will be asking them to look at it very closely to see what’s going on because I have had very few things where there’s been such complaining. Not only complaining from the media — or at least asking questions about it from the media — but complaining from different companies like Microsoft and Oracle and IBM. Great companies are complaining about it.”
Facts First: The Defense Department began the process of searching for a cloud computing provider in 2017 — during Trump’s presidency, not “before this administration.” Though Amazon is a leading contender for the contract, it has not yet been awarded.
In April, Amazon and Microsoft were announced as the two finalists for the contract. Complaintsfrom Oracle and IBM, who alleged that the process was biased in favor of Amazon, were dismissed by the Government Accountability Office prior to this April announcement. Additionally, the week before Trump’s comments, a judge from the US Court of Federal Claims ruled against Oracle.
Farmers and China
“Out of the tariffs, I took $16 billion to make up for the shortfall. I went to (Agriculture) Secretary Sonny Perdue … I said, ‘What was the amount at its highest that China pumped into the farmers in the form of purchase?’ ‘$16 billion.’ I said that’s alright, we’re taking many, many times that in tariffs. We’re going to help the farmers out, and I did that with $16 billion,” Trump said at his Cabinet meeting on July 16. He repeated the story in a July 17 interview with Dave Jordan of WITN in Greenville, North Carolina.
Facts First: Sixteen billion is not the most China has ever spent on US farm products in a year. China spent $29.6 billion in 2014, according to government figures. The peak was $29.6 billion in 2014, the Department of Agriculture says.
The New York Times reported the previous week that Trump’s tariffs on China have generated about $21 billion so far, which is not “many, many times” $16 billion. And economic studies have concluded that Americans, not people or companies in China, are bearing the majority of the costs.
Trade deficit with China
“During the Obama administration, $500 billion a year was being lost to China. Five hundred billion.” — July 16 Cabinet meeting
” … European Union is terrible to us on trade, terrible. Frankly, they’re as tough or tougher than China, just smaller numbers. That’s the only difference. With China, $507 billion dollars, you look over the years.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: The US has never had a $500 billion trade deficit with China. (Trump refers to trade deficits as losses, though most economists don’t.)
The 2018 deficit was $381 billion when all kinds of trade were considered, $420 billion when counting goods alone and excluding services. Those were both record figures.
Since Trump’s election, he said, “China’s lost $20 trillion.” — July 16 Cabinet meeting
Facts First: There is no apparent basis for the $20 trillion figure. Experts on the Chinese economy have even rejected previous Trump claims of a $10 trillion drop in Chinese wealth.
We checked one of those “$10 trillion” claims for the Toronto Star in May. We wrote then: “George Magnus, a research associate at Oxford University’s China Centre, said, ‘I can’t really make those numbers add up to anything I’m aware of.’ Magnus noted that the entire market capitalization of the Shanghai index was just over $5 trillion US at the time. Derek Scissors, an expert on US economic relations with Asia at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank, also said a $10 trillion drop in Chinese wealth is ‘not in evidence.’ “
Who pays for the tariffs on China
“In the meantime, we are receiving Billions of Dollars in Tariffs from China, with possibly much more to come. These Tariffs are paid for by China devaluing & pumping, not by the U.S. taxpayer!” — July 15 tweet
Facts First: Americans are paying these billions of dollars in Trump tariffs on imported Chinese products.
The American importers, not the Chinese exporters, make the actual payments; economic studies, including one by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, have concluded that the overwhelming majority of the costs are being borne by Americans.
“Well, for 15 years as you know, the farmers have been doing very poorly and it’s been going like this (downward).” — July 17 interview with Dave Jordan, WITN of Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: US farmers had not been on a downward slide for 15 years before Trump imposed his tariffs on China in 2018.
Net farm income doubled between 2000 and 2013, from just under $60 billion to just over $120 billion. The Congressional Research Service wrote in 2018: “US farm income experienced a golden period during 2011 through 2014 due to strong commodity prices and robust agricultural exports,” setting a record high in 2013.
Farm income declined between 2014 and 2016, the last year before Trump took office, but that is not 15 years of “doing very poorly.”
Trump’s popularity and accomplishments
“We haven’t had an empty seat in any event, I don’t believe, that we’ve ever been to. I don’t think, we’ve ever had — we’ve always had people — we haven’t had an empty seat.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: There were empty seats at the very rally where he spoke, in Greenville, North Carolina. There have also been empty seats at various other Trump events.
Bloomberg News reporter Josh Wingrove tweeted a photo of what he described as a “smattering” of empty seats in the almost-full 8,000-capacity venue in Greenville.
The Dallas News said of Trump’s October 18 rally in Houston: “Many hundreds of seats were empty, including all of the boxes on both tiers of the mezzanine.” At Trump’s Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, rally in April 2017, Philadelphia Inquirer journalist Jonathan Tamari tweeted a photo of rows of empty seats in the upper deck.
The legitimacy of polls
“You remember last election? ‘Donald Trump will never ever get the women.’ Then we get this tremendous number of women. We’ve got this tremendous number of women and during the election night they said, ‘What’s going on?’ You know what it’s called? Suppression polls. Suppression. Polls are just as fake as the news itself.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: There is simply no evidence that pollsters have manipulated their numbers to suppress the enthusiasm of Trump voters, as Trump has repeatedly alleged.
Exit polls found that Trump won 41% of the ballots cast by women.
Polls on the 2016 debates
“And according to the polls, I won every single debate, Republican and against Hillary. Can you imagine — those are the polls. They won’t admit that: many, many polls.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: Trump did not win every Republican debate according to scientific opinion polls with random sampling — and he did not win any of the three debates with Clinton according to scientific polls. He won the Clinton debates only in unscientific website polls, in which anyone could go and click a button.
Carly Fiorina did best in a Fox News poll on performance in the first Republican debate in August 2015; Trump was in last.
Scientific polls by major news organizations, such as those by CNN, had Trump losing all three debates to Clinton. The CNN poll on the first debate had 62% picking Clinton, 27% picking Trump.
Trump has tended to point to polls on websites such as Breitbart and Drudge Report, which allow anyone to go and click for their favorite. Such polls are not representative of the population, since they allow coordinated efforts to boost particular candidates.
Trump’s approval with Republicans
“I’m 94% in the Republican Party approval rating.” — July 19 exchange with reporters
Facts First: Trump is extremely popular with Republicans, but we could not find a single recent poll where his approval rating with party supporters was 94% or higher.
Gallup had him at 90% with Republicans in its approval poll conducted from the first 12 days of July. Ipsos had him at 86% with Republicans in a poll conducted the week Trump spoke here. CNN’s poll in late June had him at 89% with Republicans. His 44% overall approval in the Washington Post/ABC poll conducted in late June and early July was the highest overall number he has ever had in a poll by those media outlets — but his approval with Republicans was 87% even there.
We asked the White House earlier in July to tell us what poll had Trump at 94% with Republicans. We did not receive a response.
“Our vets are doing great. For the first time, you haven’t heard complaints. We have Choice. For 44 years, they’ve been trying to get Choice, meaning if a vet can’t get a doctor fast enough, they go outside to an outdoor — to a — to a doctor outside, and we pay for it, and it works out so great, and it’s been working so great. Our vets are happy. They never thought they could get Choice approved and we got it approved, Choice for the vets.” — July 17 interview with Dave Jordan, WITN of Greenville, North Carolina
“I mean, I’ve done things — I’ve done things that I never — I never said we were going to get. As an example with our vets, that we’re going to get Choice … been trying to get practically from the beginning, Choice, so simple, and yet they never got it. Nobody got it through.” July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: Trump did not get the Veterans Choice program passed. It was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2014.
In 2018, Trump signed the VA MISSION Act, which expanded and changed the Choice program.
Foreign and military affairs
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed
“After a ten year search, the so-called ‘mastermind’ of the Mumbai Terror attacks has been arrested in Pakistan. Great pressure has been exerted over the last two years to find him!” — July 17 tweet
Facts First: There was not a 10-year “search” for Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group: Saeed has been previously arrested and released several times, including as recently as 2017, and he has spent much of the last decade living openly in Pakistan.
The Obama administration announced in 2012 that it was offering a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture. But there was not an actual “search”: two days later, Saeed held a news conference at a hotel near the US embassy and the headquarters of the Pakistani army, where he said, “This is a laughable, absurd announcement. Here I am in front of everyone, not hiding in a cave.”
He added of the reward: “Why don’t they give it to me? I can tell them my whereabouts on a daily basis.”
The Los Angeles Times reported this week: “Saeed has lived openly in Lahore for years, runs a well-funded Islamic charity organization, regularly gives sermons to large audiences and occasionally meets with foreign news media.”
The length of the Iran nuclear deal
“But if you look at the original President Obama deal (with Iran), it was a disaster from many standpoints, but almost, most importantly, because it was going to be ending very shortly. You know, it’s a very short-term deal. And you can’t have a short-term deal for a country. You need 100-year deal. You don’t need a short-term. In a few years, literally — in a few years they would be on their way to a nuclear weapon. That’s unacceptable.” — July 18 meeting with 2019 Special Olympics World games team
“And remember this: the agreement — the ridiculous agreement made by President Obama expires in a very short period of time. It was a short-term agreement. When you’re dealing in countries, you have to deal in 50 years and 100 years. You don’t deal in the short term. That was a ridiculous agreement. And it goes to show you I was right about Iran.” — July 19 exchange with reporters
Facts First: The nuclear deal with Iran was not going to be “ending” shortly. Some central provisions were written to expire in the next 10 to 15 years. But the deal as a whole — including a blanket prohibition on Iran developing nuclear weapons — was written to continue in perpetuity.
“It’s not accurate to say the deal expires,” said Naysan Rafati, Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group. “Certain clauses of the deal expire and a lot of the key clauses don’t expire.”
The 2015 deal includes important sunset clauses. Its limits on the number of first-generation centrifuges Iran can possess, and on the research and development of more advanced centrifuges, are scheduled to end in 2025. The 3.67% uranium purity limit is to end in 2030.
So is the 300-kilogram limit on Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium, which Iran said in early July it has now broken. And so is the ban on building a new heavy-water reactor and on reprocessing spent fuel, which effectively bars Iran from developing a plutonium weapon.
However, some of the limits in the deal extend past 2030 — and some do not expire at all. Centrifuge production sites are to be under continuous surveillance until 2035. Iran’s uranium mines and mills are to be monitored until 2040.
Other provisions were written to be in place in perpetuity. For example, Iran is permanently required to provide advance notice of plans to build a nuclear facility. Iran promised that it will not “ever” seek a nuclear weapon. And IAEA monitoring of Iran’s nuclear activities is to continue indefinitely.
– Nicole Gaouette and Zachary Cohen contributed to this fact check.
The cost of the Iran nuclear deal
“Remember one thing. An agreement was made with Secretary Kerry at the time and with President Obama. That agreement was a disaster. Spent $150 billion.” — July 16 Cabinet meeting
Facts First: The US did not “spen(d)” tens of billions to make the Iran nuclear deal; the deal allowed Iran to access tens of billions in its own assets — not American cash — that had been frozen in foreign financial institutions because of sanctions. The total was significantly lower than $150 billion, experts say.
Trump did not invent the $150 billion figure out of thin air: Obama himself mused in a 2015 interview about Iran having “$150 billion parked outside the country.” But experts on Iran policy, and Obama’s own administration, said that the quantity of assets the agreement actually made available to Iran was much lower.
In 2015, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew put the number at $56 billion. PolitiFact reported that Garbis Iradian, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance, put it at about $60 billion, and that Nader Habibi, professor of economics of the Middle East at Brandeis University, thought it was between $25 billion and $50 billion after discussing the issue with officials at Iran’s Central Bank.
Adam Szubin, a senior Treasury Department official, testified to Congress in 2015 that the “usable liquid assets” would total “a little more than $50 billion.” The rest of Iran’s foreign assets, he said, were either tied up in “illiquid” projects “that cannot be monetized quickly, if at all, or are composed of outstanding loans to Iranian entities that cannot repay them.”
As Trump regularly notes, the Obama administration did send Iran $1.7 billion to settle a decades-old dispute over a purchase of US military goods Iran made before its government was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The goods were not delivered, and the US paid Iran its money back plus interest.
Inflation in Iran
“Iran is not the same country. They have inflation now at 75%.” — July 18 meeting with 2019 Special Olympics World games team
Facts First: Iran’s inflation rate is high, but it is not 75%, according to published figures and experts on Iran. The International Monetary Fund reported a 37% inflation rate for Iran as of April. The Statistical Center of Iran announced a 38% rate in late June.
It is possible that inflation has increased this month, and Iran’s official figures are not always precise, but experts said 75% is certainly an exaggeration.
“There’s no question that inflation is running rampant these days after the sanctions, but the 75% figure is way above the numbers I’ve seen by analysts and organizations that do a reasonably good job of tracking these. The latter have inflation at just above 50%, nowhere near 75%,” said Hussein Banai, an international studies professor at Indiana University and an expert on US-Iran relations.
“I have seen figures closer to 40-50%,” said Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council.
“Now we’re no longer the suckers. Like with NATO, we protect Europe. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars, and they’re not paying their fair share. So last year, I went and said, ‘Folks. Sorry, you’ve got to pay your fair share.’ Sixteen years, it was going like this (downward), the contribution, and now it’s like a rocket ship, $100 billion.” — July 17 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Facts First: Military spending by NATO members other than the US was not declining for “16 years” prior to Trump’s presidency: it increased in both 2015 and 2016, according to official NATO figures.
Spending increased by 1.8% in 2015 and 2.6% in 2016, before Trump took office. Trump-era increases have been higher — 6% in 2017 and an estimated 3.8% in 2018 — and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has credited Trump for his role in prompting the increase. But the upward trend started two years before Trump’s tenure began.
In 2014, NATO countries who were not yet meeting the alliance guideline of spending 2% of their Gross Domestic Product on defense re-committed to meeting the target. Spending began rising after that.
North Korea and US remains
“We got our hostages back (from North Korea). We got the remains back, and they continue to come.” — July 16 Cabinet meeting
Facts First: While North Korea returned some remains last year, it is no longer doing so. The US military announced in May that the remains program had been suspended for the rest of the 2019 fiscal year because North Korea had stopped communicating with the US agency responsible for the effort.
Trump could accurately tout the return of remains in the past tense: North Korea returned 55 cases of possible remains in the summer of 2018. As of late May, six soldiers had been identified from these cases.
But the remains are no longer being returned. The Pentagon’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said in May that no more remains would be coming back this fiscal year. The agency said North Korea had not spoken with the agency at all since the Hanoi summit in February between Trump and Kim Jong Un, which ended abruptly.