This was equal-opportunity deception. Trump made 17 false claims about military matters, 17 related to Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, 15 about the economy and 12 about trade. He treated a visitor to the White House, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, to 25 false claims in their consecutive joint interactions with the media.
The most egregious false claim: The safety of the Kurds
Trump made it hard to pick a most egregious false claim about Syria and Turkey. Among other things, he claimed that troops he is sending from Syria to elsewhere in the Middle East are coming “home,” that the Kurdish PKK is a more severe terror threat than ISIS, and that his narrow, concessionary ceasefire deal with Turkey had been sought by other administrations for 10 years or 15 years.
We think this one was the worst: As Turkey attacked Kurdish areas of northeast Syria, Trump said, “In the meantime, our soldiers are not in harm’s way — as they shouldn’t be — as two countries fight over land that has nothing to do with us. And the Kurds are much safer right now, but the Kurds know how to fight.”
The Kurds were obviously not at all safer.
The most revealing false claim: Obama and HIV/AIDS
Near the end of his rally speeches, Trump usually repeats a scripted promise about how his administration is going to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the US in 10 years or less.
In Dallas, he attached something new to the pledge: a groundless attack on his predecessor.
“The previous administration spent no money on that,” he said.
The HIV/AIDS claim was not even close to true. The Obama administration spent billions on anti-HIV/AIDS efforts — $10.8 billion on domestic HIV/AIDS research between the 2013 fiscal year and 2016 fiscal year alone, according to a review by the Kaiser Family Foundation, plus $85.1 billion more on domestic HIV/AIDS care, housing and prevention programs in those four years, plus $26 billion on global programs over the same period.
The most absurd false claim: The Gloria story
Trump lies for strategic purposes, systematically attempting to reframe reality to his own political advantage. He also just says little incorrect things for no particular reason because he doesn’t care to check if they’re true.
Welcoming the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues to the White House on October 15, Trump told the fun story about how the 1982 Laura Branigan hit “Gloria” became the team’s victory song in 2019. He explained, reading from a text, that it all started when the Blues beat the Philadelphia Flyers in January. He added the Flyers “were hot” at the time.
The Flyers had lost six consecutive games.
Here is this week’s full list of 87, starting with the ones we haven’t included in a weekly update before:
The Ukraine scandal and impeachment
Ukraine and “the server”
CrowdStrike — which, like former special counsel Robert Mueller, attributed the hack to Russia — said in a previous statement: “With regards to our investigation of the DNC hack in 2016, we provided all forensic evidence and analysis to the FBI. As we’ve stated before, we stand by our findings and conclusions that have been fully supported by the US Intelligence community.”
Tom Bossert, Trump’s former homeland security adviser, said on ABC in September that he was frustrated by the “conspiracy theory,” adding: “It’s not only a conspiracy theory. It is completely debunked.”
Facts First: The constitutional provision that gives Schiff immunity from prosecution over his comments in a congressional committee hearing also gives him immunity over his tweet of a video of those comments, experts say.
“The protection clearly extends to the offending Tweets,” said William Banks, a law professor at Syracuse University.
Republicans and impeachment
A quote from Jason Chaffetz
Facts First: We give Trump latitude to make minor errors when he is quoting people, but we think it counts as a false claim when he makes changes and omissions that significantly alter the meaning of the quote. In this case, Trump left out an important qualifier from Chaffetz, the former Republican congressman.
The whistleblowers being ‘all gone’
Paul Ryan and subpoenas
“And the Republicans have been treated very unfairly by the Democrats. I’ll say this: Paul Ryan would never issue a subpoena. I don’t say right or wrong. He wouldn’t do it. He had too much respect for our country.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
A Fox News poll
It’s also worth noting that the Post, and Trump in quoting the Post, misidentified the pollster. The poll was jointly conducted by Democratic firm Beacon Research and Republican firm Shaw & Company Research. Braun Research was hired to do the fieldwork of contacting the participants; it did not design the poll.
Dana Blanton, Fox News vice president of public opinion research, said in a statement to CNN: “Our polling unit has long been held in high regard for being a nonpartisan source of research. Under the joint direction of Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company (R), the latest FNC poll included interviews with randomly chosen registered voters and — as is our standard practice — we reported the partisan distribution we found among the electorate. Braun Research is solely our data collection partner. We stand by our latest poll.”
Turkey and Syria
A quote from Mark Esper
Facts First: This was the second version of this tweet; the first, which Trump deleted, wrongly referred to Mark Esper as “Mark Esperanto.” The second version of the tweet, however, was also incorrect: Esper did not say all of the words Trump attributed to him, at least not in public.
Esper had told reporters en route to Afghanistan: “Well, I think overall the ceasefire generally seems to be holding. We see a stabilization of the lines, if you will, on the ground. And we do get reports of intermittent fires, this and that. It doesn’t surprise me necessarily. But that’s what we’re picking up.”
Trump has a history of misusing or sloppily using quotation marks, repeatedly inserting his own comments into supposed quotes from other people without distinguishing between the two.
The deal with Turkey
“…it was unconventional, but they fought for a few days and it was pretty vicious — the Kurds, who are our friends; Turkey’s our friend; but they fought. It was tougher, I mean it was nasty, and you couldn’t make a deal for 15, think of it, for 15 years, 20 years, they couldn’t make a deal.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
“This is a deal that should have been made 15 years ago, 10 years ago, over the last number of years, under the Obama administration.” — October 18 exchange with reporters at teleconference with participants of first all-female spacewalk on International Space Station
Facts First: Trump’s claims are baseless to the point of being nonsensical. The deal is a narrow agreement specifically tied to the Turkish offensive that followed Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from a Kurdish-held region of northern Syria, not an agreement that resolves longstanding regional disputes. Further, Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush never sought to give Turkey anything like the concessionary terms of Trump’s deal. In addition, the Syrian civil war had not even started 10 years ago or 15 years ago.
Soldiers being withdrawn from Syria
Question: “Are you okay with (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan saying that he is not going to do a ceasefire?” Trump: “He didn’t say that at all. He’s meeting. And he’s meeting today with some of our representatives.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
The Kurds’ safety
“In the meantime, our soldiers are not in harm’s way — as they shouldn’t be — as two countries fight over land that has nothing to do with us. And the Kurds are much safer right now, but the Kurds know how to fight.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
The PKK and ISIS
“Now, the PKK, which is a part of the Kurds, as you know, is probably worse at terror and more of terrorist threat, in many ways, than ISIS.” — October 16 press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: Though the US government does consider the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) a terrorist entity, the government and independent experts consider ISIS as a much more dangerous and much more global threat. ISIS has also undertaken many more attacks.
“The PKK is a domestic Turkish terrorist organization that’s focused exclusively on its struggle for Kurdish independence from Turkey,” said Bryan Gibson, an expert on Kurdistan and assistant professor of history at Hawaii Pacific University. “It has never posed a threat to the US nor has it specifically targeted Americans…ISIS is a global terrorist organization, which has specifically targeted Americans in terrorist attacks, fought a war with the US, and continues to pose a clear and present danger to Americans at home and abroad.”
Relief money for Texas
Touting the “billions and billions of dollars” in relief money he authorized for Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 — and teasing Texas lawmakers over their requests for him to spend more — Trump said, “You made a fortune on the hurricane.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: Texas did not make money from Hurricane Harvey.
Aside from the personal toll of the disaster, which killed dozens of people, thousands of Texas residents have suffered severe financial losses from which they have not recovered.
Coast Guard rescues
Trump said of Hurricane Harvey: “Our Coast Guard saved 16,000 lives.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Trump conflated his accusations against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter — railing against Hunter Biden’s business dealings, then saying that Joe Biden “takes a billion-five” from China and “he goes on and he allows China to rip us off.” He added, “So the Bidens got rich while America got robbed.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: There is no evidence Joe Biden has received large sums of money from China or has otherwise gained wealth as a result of his son’s business dealings abroad.
Obama and AIDS
“We will achieve new breakthroughs in science and medicine, finding new cures for childhood cancer, and ending the AIDS epidemic in America in less than 10 years — we’re doing that. Who would have believed we could do that? We’re doing that. And the previous administration spent no money on that…” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Democrats and undocumented immigrants
Trump noted that all of the 10 Democratic presidential candidates at a debate in June raised their hand to say they would extend health care coverage to undocumented immigrants, then claimed that the Democrats “want to give more to illegal aliens than they give to American citizens.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: The Democrats want to give these immigrants the same access to care that citizens have, not more.
The crowd outside his Dallas rally
“…outside, they have close to 30,000 people. And I wonder if I could ask the fire marshal, fill up this little area, let ’em in.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: Trump’s estimate was way off. “We didn’t have 30K outside. Probably had upward of 5K outside,” Dallas Police Department spokesman Sgt. Mitchell Warren told CNN in an email.
The crowd inside the Dallas rally
“And by the way, I have to say this. So outside, they have close to 30,000 people, and I wonder if I could ask the fire marshal: fill up this little area, let ’em in. You know, they have a certain max. We broke the record tonight.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Economy, trade and international affairs
“I think we’re in a very good position in the Middle East. I think we’re very, very strong in the Middle East. Iran is going to hell; their economy is in deep trouble. Their GDP went down 20%, which nobody ever even heard of before. Probably 25%.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Experts say there is no apparent basis for Trump’s “20%” and “25%” figures even though Iran’s official economic data is less reliable than official data in the US.
“It’s still not iron-clad stuff, but if the situation was anywhere near 25% decline then the official stats would at least be in the teens. This is also why folks cross-check these numbers with independent and global institutional data (such as IMF’s). My suspicion is that it’s closer to 13-15% decrease, which still puts it a good 10% points below Trump’s claim,” Hussein Banai, an assistant professor who studies Iran at Indiana University’s School of International Studies, said in an email.
Stock market participation
“If you look at people’s stocks, their 401(k)s, if you look at anything you want to look at, they’re far better off now than they probably ever have been in this country. Record stock markets. And don’t forget, stock market is not just rich people. It’s all people. Because all people own in the stock markets.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
The Soviet Union’s ‘downsizing’
“You know, Russia was involved in Afghanistan. It used to be called the Soviet Union — now it’s called Russia for a reason. Because they lost so much money in Afghanistan that they had to downsize. A very big downsizing.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: This was an exaggeration. Experts say the Soviet Union’s failed war in Afghanistan was far from the only reason for its collapse, though it did contribute to it. (We’ll ignore Trump’s use of the term “downsizing” to describe the dissolution of the Soviet Union.)
“And they’re opening up a plant in Texas. The first time, I believe — one of the great companies of the world — first time ever in the United States.” — October 17 exchange with reporters upon Air Force One arrival in Texas
US tariff history
“We’re winning, in the case of the European Union, $7.5 billion. And Italy has a percentage of that to pay. And, in the — in other cases, we’ve won. And we have a lot of money coming into the United States for the first time ever. Tremendous amounts of money in many different forms, including tariffs.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
“And we lose, for many years, $500 billion a year with China and many other countries, we lose billions. We lose with everybody — but that’s all changing now.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
We explain in a separate item that the US has never had a $500 billion trade deficit with China.
The media and the G7
The 2016 election
Facebook and the election
“And I’m no fan of those companies. They were against me. Somebody said I lost maybe two million votes, maybe more, because of Facebook.” — October 16 press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Trump was vague, saying that “somebody” said he had lost 2 million votes or more, so it is possible he was referring to something else. Regardless, there is no evidence for the claim that he lost millions of votes because of some nefarious acts by social media companies.
The number of Republican candidates
“I never debated, my whole life has been a debate, but I never debated like with a podium and this and that. So, I said who are they? And we had 17 people plus me. We had 18, it was actually not 17, it was 18, remember? Gilmore, nobody remembers him but we had 18 people.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
We usually ignore it when Trump says there were 18, since he was off by only one, but we’re flagging it here because Trump specifically rejected the accurate number, 17.
Trump recited his usual complaints about how he was treated by US intelligence officials involved in investigating his campaign’s relationship with Russia. He added: “There was a lot of corruption. Maybe it goes right up to President Obama. I happen to think it does.” — October 16 press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: There is simply no evidence of Obama corruption.
Women in space
“Joining us during their spacewalk outside the International Space Station — and this is the first time for a woman outside of the Space Station — are Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Flight Engineer Jessica Meir.” — October 18 teleconference with participants of first all-female spacewalk on International Space Station
Facts First: Trump was immediately fact checked by Meir, who noted that this is not “the first time for a woman outside of the Space Station.”
Meir said: “Thank you. First — first of all, we don’t want to take too much credit, because there have been many other female spacewalkers before us. This is just the first time that there have been two women outside at the same time.”
The Internal Revenue Service
“I will never allow the IRS to be used as a political weapon — except in the case of myself, where they use it against me.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: There is no basis for Trump’s claim that he is allowing the IRS to be used against himself. The IRS is run by a Trump appointee, Charles Rettig, and there is no evidence it is being used against Trump; Democrats are seeking access to his tax returns, but that is not the same thing.
The St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers
Here are the claims Trump made last week that we have previously fact checked in one of these weekly roundups:
The Ukraine scandal
The accuracy of the whistleblower
Trump claimed six times last week, in tweets and public remarks, that the whistleblower’s account of his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was highly inaccurate — calling the whistleblower’s claims “sooo wrong, not even close,” “so far from the facts,” and “totally different from the actual transcribed call.”
Facts First: The whistleblower’s account of the call has largely been proven accurate. In fact, the rough transcript released by Trump himself showed that the whistleblower’s three primary allegations about the call were correct or very close to correct.
The timeline of Schiff’s comments
The legality of Schiff’s comments
The rough transcript
Trump twice claimed that he had released an “exact” transcript of his call with Zelensky.
“A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion. The text in this document records the notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty officers and NSC policy staff assigned to listen and memorialize the conversation in written form as the conversation takes place. A number of factors can affect the accuracy of the record, including poor telecommunications connections and variations in accent and/or interpretation,” the document says.
Democrats and the wall
“And you know five years ago, almost every one of them (Democrats) wanted a wall.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: Democrats did support Republican demands for fencing in the comprehensive immigration reform bill six years ago, but that was fencing — and Democrats agreed to endorse it only in exchange for Republican support for their own preferred policies, like a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
“We’re building a great wall along the southern border and it’s going up rapidly.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: As of September 30, no additional miles of border wall had been built during Trump’s presidency in places where barriers had not existed before, according to a fact sheet from Customs and Border Protection. Over Trump’s tenure in office, 69 miles of barriers had been constructed in places where “dilapidated and outdated” barriers had existed before; that’s a pace of about half a mile of replacement barrier per week.
Trump said three times that the Democrats support “open borders.”
Democrats and borders
Facts First: Even 2020 Democratic presidential candidates who advocate the decriminalization of the act of illegally entering the country, such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, do not support completely unrestricted migration, as Trump suggests.
“Mexico, today, had 27,000 soldiers on our border and we’ve stopped this horrible migration of people…” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Trade and China
The World Trade Organization
“I think the WTO award has been testament to a lot of good work by the Trump administration. We never won with the WTO, or essentially never won. Very seldom did we win. And now we’re winning a lot. We’re winning a lot because they know if we’re not treated fairly, we’re leaving.” And: “But the WTO — that’s the World Trade Organization — has been very unfair to the United States. They know I feel that way, and I think since they know I feel that way, all of a sudden, we’re starting to win very big awards.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
“We didn’t win any cases at the WTO…And we won a lot of cases lately, we didn’t win anything for years, practically.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
As is standard for the WTO, the US has tended to lose cases where it is defending the case rather than bringing it — but even in those cases, Trump’s advisers noted that the US did better (a 25% victory rate) than the world average (17%) or China’s rate (just 5%).
China’s economic history
“And China became rich because of the WTO. That’s when China really ascended. That’s when China went up. That’s when they made their great rise. They were flatlining, and then, all of a sudden, around the year 2000, 2001, when they got involved with the WTO, it became a whole different story.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: China’s economy was not “flatlining” before it became a member of the World Trade Organization in late 2001. China had experienced significant growth for years prior.
Nicholas Lardy of the Peterson Institute for International Economics wrote in 2008: “China has been the fastest growing economy in the world over almost three decades, expanding at 10 per cent per year in real terms.” In an email to CNN in July, when Trump made another version of this comment, Lardy said, “Uninformed would be the best characterization of the President’s comment.”
China’s economic performance
“They’ve (China) had the worst year they’ve had in 27 years and we’re having the best year we’ve ever had, so that’s good, that’s good.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
“And they’re having the worst year they’ve had in 57 years.” — October 18 exchange with reporters at teleconference with participants of first all-female spacewalk on International Space Station
Facts First: The US is not having its best economic year ever by the metric by which China is having its worst year in 27 years.
Who is paying the tariffs
“We’ve taken in tens of billions of dollars of tariffs and China’s eating the cost, because they devalued their currency…” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
China’s agricultural spending
“So I hear the most the farmers ever did (in business with China) was $16 billion, so I said, ‘Ask for 70.’ They said, ‘No, you don’t mean 70. Sixteen.’ ‘Ask for 70.'” — October 15 speech at ceremony for Stanley Cup champions St. Louis Blues
“The most they ever did was $20 billion of product from our farmers, our great farmers, our patriot farmers.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: China spent $25.9 billion on American agricultural products in 2012, according to figures from the Department of Agriculture.
The trade deficit with China
Trump said twice that the US has a $500 billion trade deficit with China.
The trade deficit with the European Union
“They do very well with us on trade. They had a trade surplus with the United States, over the last five or six years, of about $150 billion a year.” He added that the US deficit “could even be” $178 billion. — October 16 press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
The deficit was $169.6 billion in 2018 if you only count trade in goods and ignore trade in services. But Trump, as usual, failed to specify that he was using this more limited measure.
“Our military has been completely rebuilt…We spent two and a half trillion dollars rebuilding it over the last three years.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
“We’ve invested more than $2.5 trillion restoring our armed forces…” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: Defense spending for fiscal years 2017, 2018 and 2019 was $2.05 trillion, and that includes more than three-and-a-half months of Obama’s tenure, since the 2017 fiscal year began in October 2016.
Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he thinks Trump must have been including military funding for the 2020 fiscal year to get to the “$2.5 trillion” figure — but the 2020 fiscal year has just started, and Harrison noted that the defense appropriation has not yet been approved by Congress.
The nuclear arsenal
“Our nuclear has been totally updated and in some cases new.” — October 16 press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
Facts First: Experts say that Trump has not yet implemented significant changes to the US nuclear arsenal. “I am not aware that Trump can claim to have done anything for the state of the nuclear arsenal — but nothing urgent needed to be done anyway,” said Scott Kemp, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory for Nuclear Security and Policy, who served as a State Department adviser on arms control early in the Obama administration.
“And I want to just thank Secretary General Stoltenberg because he is going around saying that President Trump was able to raise over $100 billion last year, which is true.” — October 16 press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
“We passed for the veterans VA Choice and VA Accountability on behalf of those great people. They’ve been trying to pass it from us 50 years, they couldn’t get it done. But those guys right there and me, we got it done.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
A timeline for Syria
“But we were supposed to be there for 30 days; we stayed for 10 years.” — October 16 exchange with reporters at meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
“We were supposed to be in Syria for one month. That was 10 years ago.” — October 16 press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella
“There was never a 30-day timetable on the US presence in Syria,” said Syria expert Steven Heydemann, a professor of government and director of the Middle East Studies program at Smith College. “The previous administration, and officials serving in this administration, have never offered a fixed timetable for the US mission. Official statements have emphasized that the presence of US forces would be short, limited in scope, and small. But beyond general comments along those lines, there has been no statement indicating it would end after 30 days.”
Accomplishments, promises and popualrity
Approval with Republicans
Facts First: Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is very high, regularly in the 80s and sometimes creeping into the 90s, but it has not been 95% in any recent major poll we could find.
“We will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
The unemployment rate
“Last month, unemployment reached its lowest level in 51 years.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Ivanka Trump and jobs
Trump claimed to have ended “the war on a thing called American energy,” then boasted that the US is “now the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world.” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Obama and judicial vacancies
“So I got in and say, ‘How many federal judges do I have?’ ‘Sir, you have 142 two federal judges.’ ‘No, you don’t understand the question. That’s impossible. That would mean that President Obama didn’t appoint 142 judges.’…And then they say, ‘Obama, wasn’t he such a wonderful president?’ How are you a wonderful president — how are you a wonderful president when the most important thing you can do you handed over to the Republicans, 142?” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: Trump exaggerated. There were 104 vacancies on January 1, 2017, just before Trump was inaugurated, according to Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who tracks judicial appointments.
The history of judicial vacancies
“You know, when I got into office, they say the most important thing a president can do, I actually think it’s defense, but they say is the appointment of federal judges. So when I got in — always when you get in, there are none. How many do you have? ‘I have none, none.'” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
Facts First: It’s not true that presidents are usually left no judicial vacancies at all. According to Wheeler, there were 53 vacancies on January 1, 2009, just before Obama took office; 80 vacancies on January 1, 2001, just before George W. Bush took office; 107 vacancies on January 1, 1993, just before Bill Clinton took office.
So Trump had the most judges to appoint since Clinton, but, clearly, other presidents also had appointing to do.
Trump told his usual semi-comedic story about how, if “windmills” are used for energy as he said Democrats want, people’s televisions will go out if the wind is not presently blowing: “Windmills, you know? ‘Darling, I want to watch Trump speak tonight. We can’t, darling, the wind isn’t blowing.'” — October 17 campaign rally in Dallas
CNN’s Brian Stelter, Ashley Killough, Holmes Lybrand and Marshall Cohen contributed to this article.