It is not fun trying to catch up on fact checking President Donald Trump.
We took a Thanksgiving break from our comprehensive counting of the President’s false claims. We returned to find a hefty backlog of nonsense.
Trump made 41 false claims last week, some of which he spent relaxing in Florida. He made 55 false claims the week before.
The economy was the top subject of his dishonesty, with 27 false claims over the two weeks. Many of those economic claims related to his trade war with China; he made 18 false claims about China, 15 about trade (some of which were also about China) and 14 false claims about Ukraine.
Trump scattered the dishonesty around multiple events and interviews. His worst showing: 23 false claims during a ranting 53-minute interview with Fox News morning show “Fox & Friends.” (Before we had time to do a deep dive, we reported it was at least 18 false claims.) Trump added another 15 false claims during his campaign rally in Sunrise, Florida, and 13 false claims in a radio interview with former Fox host Bill O’Reilly.
Trump has now made 1,351 false claims since we began counting at CNN on July 8, an average of about 64 per week.
The most egregious false claim: What you hear about veterans
Trump could make an argument that he has improved the treatment of veterans by the Veterans Health Administration. Rarely content to claim incremental progress when he can claim an astonishing transformation, he keeps saying – three times in these past two weeks alone – that you no longer see any news stories about veterans being mistreated.
“You don’t hear that anymore, do you? You don’t hear it anymore,” he said at the rally in Florida.
There are only two possibilities here: the commander in chief is lying to the country about veterans or Trump is unaware of what is happening to veterans.
It’s possible that Trump’s own favored media outlets are no longer doing as much reporting about veterans’ horror stories as they did under President Barack Obama, but the horror stories have not vanished.
Since August alone, there have been news stories about “11 suspicious deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center,” “how Veterans Affairs failed to stop a pathologist who misdiagnosed 3,000 cases” and wasn’t fired until 2018, how “a Veterans Affairs medical center in West Virginia is being investigated over allegations that one of its physicians sexually assaulted more than a dozen patients,” and how a veteran at a VA facility in Georgia was allegedly bitten by ants “100 times before his death.”
The most revealing false claim: Non-polling on impeachment
Trump found himself with some pretty decent November ammunition for his argument that key voters don’t like Democrats’ impeachment push. A poll of Wisconsin, a key swing state, found 40% of registered voters in favor of impeachment and removal, 53% opposed. In general, recent polling has found substantially less support for impeachment in battleground states than in the country more broadly.
Instead of just saying fact-based things about all these solid polls, Trump touted spectacular polls that do not appear to exist.
Trump tweeted on November 24 that “polls have now turned very strongly against Impeachment, especially in swing states. 75% to 25%.” The next day, he tweeted that “support for Impeachment is dropping like a rock, down into the 20’s in some Polls.”
We scoured polling websites in search of any such results. We asked CNN’s polling team if they had seen any such results. We emailed the Trump campaign, twice, to ask them to point us to the polls Trump was supposedly talking about. We tweeted out two public appeals for evidence.
We found nothing, and the Trump campaign never replied.
The most absurd false claim: Marie Yovanovitch and the embassy photo
Trump found a vivid way to illustrate the supposed anti-Trump animus of Marie Yovanovitch, the diplomat he removed as ambassador to Ukraine (and who testified in November in Democrats’ impeachment inquiry). Trump claimed on Fox & Friends that Yovanovitch “wouldn’t hang my picture in the embassy.”
It turns out that nobody could hang Trump’s official picture in an embassy for the first nine months of his term.
Because the White House had not yet sent the embassies the picture.
Because Trump took more than seven months to pose for the picture.
Here’s the full list of 96, starting with the claims we haven’t included in one of these roundups before:
A quote of Ken Starr’s comments on Fox
“Ken Starr, Former Independent Counsel: ‘Does this reach the level of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors? My assessment of the evidence so far, NO WHERE CLOSE. The evidence is conflicting & ambiguous. Ambassador Sondland’s testimony stated that President Trump said the Ukraine President should just do the right thing (No Quid Pro Quo). You shouldn’t charge, but you cannot convict, a sitting president on the basis of conflicting and ambiguous evidence, and destabilize the American Government.’ Thank you Ken!” – November 21 tweets
Facts First: Trump omitted a portion of Starr’s quote that was unfavorable to him. Trump also added in a comment that Starr did not utter.
Starr did not say “no quid pro quo” in this appearance on Fox News that day. In fact, Starr noted that Sondland said in his opening statement that there was indeed a quid pro quo. Trump left this part of the Starr quote out of his tweets, substantially altering the meaning of what Starr said.
Here’s Starr’s actual quote: “Does this reach the level of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors? My assessment of the evidence thus far: nowhere close. The evidence is conflicting and ambiguous. I think Ambassador Sondland’s testimony yesterday was a clear indication of, gosh where are we at the end of the day. Clearly in his opening statement, a quid pro quo. And then he says later, ‘Well the President said, “I don’t want anything, right, President Zelensky should just do the right thing.”’ That’s the words from the president himself. So the record at the end of the day is likely to be ambiguous at best, conflicting at best.”
So Trump took out the part where Starr said, “Clearly in his opening statement, a quid pro quo.” We give Trump leeway to make minor errors when quoting from television shows, but this particular change was major.
Gordon Sondland’s public testimony
Asked what he made of Ambassador Sondland’s testimony, Trump said, “Well, I think it was fantastic. I think they have to end it now. He said there was no quid pro quo. ‘The President did absolutely nothing wrong.’ If you look at it – I guess you’ve seen me – I took down exactly what he said. He called and he said – he asked me where we – what should he do. I said, ‘I want nothing.’ Then I repeated it: ‘I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell the President’ – as you know, of Ukraine – ‘to do the right thing.’” – November 20 exchange with reporters at tour of Austin, Texas plant making Apple computers
Facts First: Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, did not testify that “there was no quid pro quo.” In fact, Sondland testified that there was a quid pro quo; he merely quoted Trump as having told him that there was no quid pro quo. And Sondland did not say “the President did absolutely nothing wrong.”
Sondland testified to the House Intelligence Committee that “Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew these investigations were important to the president.”
Sondland also said: “I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question. Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
Sondland did testify that Trump had told him during a September phone call, “I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing.” So Trump was accurately quoting Sondland’s rendition of Trump’s own previous comments.
Polling on impeachment
“Polls have now turned very strongly against Impeachment, especially in swing states. 75% to 25%. Thank you! – November 24 tweet
“Support for Impeachment is dropping like a rock, down into the 20’s in some Polls.” – November 25 tweet
Facts First: CNN could find no public polls with support for impeachment as low as the 20s, either nationally or in swing states, or showing a 75% to 25% result in Trump’s favor; even polls that have been relatively good for Trump have put support for impeachment at 40% or higher. For example, a mid-November poll by Marquette University Law School found 40% support in the swing state of Wisconsin for impeaching and removing Trump from office versus 53% opposition.
The Trump campaign did not respond to our request for evidence of any polling showing what Trump claimed.
A quote of Jason Meister’s Fox appearance
“‘Poll shows Dems losing interest in Impeachment inquiry all across the board. These Polls are actually devastating to the Democrats. But the writing was on the wall. He’s done so many great things. He’s devastated ISIS & killed AlBaghdadi, building Wall.’ Jason Meister @FoxNews” – November 26 tweet
Facts First: During this Fox News appearance, Meister did recite a list of what he said were Trump accomplishments – but “building a wall” was not among them. (Trump regularly adds his own comments into his quotations of other people, making it seem like they, not him, uttered those words.)
Meister, whose Twitter profile identifies him as an “Advisory Board Member of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.,” actually said: “If you look at anything, you look at African American and Hispanic unemployment in this country, the lowest level ever in history ever recorded, you look at just the economy which is the envy of the world. You look at the trade deals that he is making. When you look at, he’s decimated ISIS, he’s killed al-Baghdadi. So there’s just so many things that he’s done and accomplished in this country and the Democrats have just obstructed…”
Military pay increases
“We’re investing so much money in our military, and we’re not going to stop until it’s totally rebuilt and complete…We’ve also got your largest pay raise in over 10 years. And I’m very pleased to report that, starting January 1st, you will be receiving another 3.1 percent pay raise.” – November 28 speech to troops at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan
Facts First: Trump was exaggerating slightly when he said he is providing the largest military pay increase “over” 10 years. Both the 2019 pay increase of 2.6% and the planned 2020 increase of 3.1% are the largest since 2010, so nine years and 10 years ago respectively.
(We know this is a minor stretch, but Trump has relentlessly embellished accurate numbers by adding words like “over” and “more than,” so it’s a pattern of little dishonesty rather than a one-time error.)
Clemency for soldiers
Speaking of soldiers to whom he granted clemency, Trump, said, “One young man was in jail for seven years, he had 16 more years to go, and I want to tell you when you look at what they did to that man, you would have been very proud at what we ended up doing.” – November 26 campaign rally in Sunrise, Florida
Facts First: Trump exaggerated slightly. Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance had served six years of a 19-year murder sentence before Trump pardoned him in November, so he had 13 years to go, not 16 years. (Lorance was convicted in 2013 of ordering soldiers to fire on unarmed Afghan civilians, two of whom were killed.)
“But Sergeant Bergdahl – we just lost another man who went after – you know he died last week. He went after – from – he was paralyzed from just about the neck down, and he died last week, going after Sergeant Bergdahl, trying to find Sergeant Bergdahl.” – November 25 exchange with reporters at meeting with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov
Facts First: Trump got the date wrong again. Mark Allen, a soldier who was shot in the head during the search for Bergdahl in 2009, died on October 12, according to a Facebook post from his wife Shannon Allen. That was more than six weeks before Trump spoke here, not “last week.”
We would be more inclined to ignore this as a mistake if Trump were not habitually moving past events closer to the present.
“So you have Chelsea Manning, who after – after Chelsea Manning was, I assume, pardoned by President Obama, Chelsea Manning went around and badmouthed President Obama, on top of everything else. So when you have a Chelsea Manning who stole classified information and did many, many things that were not good and gets pardoned – or whatever happened…” – November 25 exchange with reporters at meeting with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov
Facts First: Trump did make clear that he wasn’t certain of what he was saying, but his assumption was wrong. Though Manning received clemency from Obama, she got her sentence commuted, not a pardon.
Obama made clear at a news conference after the commutation that he specifically rejected the idea of a pardon: “It has been my view that given she went to trial, that due process was carried out, that she took responsibility for her crime, that the sentence that she received was very disproportional – disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received, and that she had served a significant amount of time, that it made it sense to commute – and not pardon – her sentence.”
The fight against ISIS
“As you know, we captured 100% of the ISIS caliphate. When I took office, we had almost nothing. It was as though they were just forming again, and now it’s 100%.” – November 25 remarks about military dog Conan
Facts First: “We had almost nothing” is not even close to true. “President Trump’s statement is inaccurate because at the time of his inauguration in January 2017, the Obama administration had regained close to 50% of ISIS’s would-be Caliphate,” said Nicholas Heras, Middle East Security Fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
Estimates of pre-Trump progress against ISIS vary – some put the Obama-era progress closer to a third of former ISIS territory – but Heras’ estimate roughly squares with news reports from the end of the Obama era. Regardless of the precise figure, there is no doubt that ISIS had lost a substantial portion of its land holdings by the time Trump was inaugurated.
Bulgaria and the F-35
“They’ve ordered some F-35s and some other things. They buy a lot of military equipment from the United States – the best equipment in the world.” – November 25 remarks at meeting with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov
Facts First: There is no evidence Bulgaria has ordered any F-35 fighter jets; Bulgaria has ordered the F-16, a different fighter jet. (Trump may have spoken in error rather than been intentionally dishonest.) Asked about Trump’s claim about Bulgaria ordering the F-35, a spokesperson for Lockheed Martin, the company that makes the F-35, said, “Earlier this year, Bulgaria announced their intention to purchase the F-16.”
The Washington Post
“But if you read the crooked New York Times, if you read the Washington Post – which is just a horrible paper, you know, we don’t have it anywhere in DC anymore. We don’t deliver it, we don’t give it, we used to buy it, we don’t do it. And in fact, I ended it in the nation, because I want them to get correct news, not fake news, but they’re bad people.” – November 26 campaign rally in Sunrise, Florida
Facts First: Trump was either exaggerating or speaking so imprecisely that he accidentally strayed into falseness.
Trump has ordered the termination of the White House subscriptions to both the Times and the Post, and his press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, told the Wall Street Journal in October that he was planning to instruct federal agencies not to renew their subscriptions when they come due. But it is obviously not true that the Post is not available “anywhere in DC anymore” – Trump does not control newspaper distribution in the nation’s capital – or that Trump somehow “ended it” in the entire country. (In addition, Grisham did not say that Trump was ordering federal agencies to cancel their subscriptions immediately, only to decline to renew.)
A New York Times article about Syria
Trump said that there was “false reporting” in a New York Times article about US operations against ISIS in Syria. He said, “We – as you know, we did withdraw from Syria, except we kept the oil. And we’re doing a little scattered fighting because we had some areas where ISIS was a little prevalent and gaining some traction.” – November 28 remarks at meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani
Facts First: Trump provided no evidence that this New York Times article was false. Times spokesperson Ari Isaacman Bevacqua said, “We stand by our reporting, which was based on information provided by the Department of Defense.”
Trump appeared to be referring to an article (that appeared in the Times’ print edition two days prior, not “yesterday”) that began, “United States troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria, military officials say, nearly two months after President Trump’s abrupt order to withdraw American troops opened the way for a bloody Turkish cross-border offensive.”
The article quoted Central Command commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie as telling reporters, “Over the next days and weeks, the pace will pick back up against remnants of ISIS.”
The auto industry in Michigan
“I’m very proud of Michigan because when I ran, if you remember, when I came down the escalator, Michigan was – a lot of people thought it was over. You won’t make cars in Michigan anymore. The whole industry was leaving. It was going to Mexico. It was going to all sorts of places.” – November 19 interview with Michigan radio host Steve Gruber
Facts First: This is an exaggeration. The “whole” automotive industry was not leaving Michigan when Trump came down the escalator at Trump Tower to launch his presidential campaign in 2015, though there was indeed concern that year about new factories being built in Mexico rather than in the United States and about American auto jobs being lost to Mexico.
According to data provided by Kristin Dziczek, vice president for industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research, there were 2.3 million vehicles produced in Michigan in 2014, 2.4 million in 2015 and 2.3 million in 2016; there were more than 3 million vehicles produced in Mexico in each of the three years, but the industry was clearly not abandoning Michigan entirely. The Center for Automotive Research noted in a November 2016 report that automakers had announced more in investments in Michigan between 2013 and October 2016, $18 billion, than they had in Mexico over the same period, $14.8 billion.
The New York Times reported in May 2015 that General Motors had announced $783.5 million in modernization investments in three Michigan plants, part of a $5.4 billion package of such investments in US facilities. The number of Detroit-area jobs in vehicle manufacturing increased from under 14,000 at the post-recession low point of 2010 to more than 30,000 in June 2015, the month Trump announced his candidacy.
Auto plants in Michigan
“They’re expanding and they’re building new plants. There hadn’t been a plant built in 40 years, a new plant, and now they’re coming…” – November 19 interview with Michigan radio host Steve Gruber
Facts First: Kristin Dziczek, vice president for industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research, said Trump’s claim is “not even remotely true.” Automakers built multiple plants in Michigan over the two decades prior to Trump’s campaign in 2015 and 2016.
Trump and self-driving cars
Asked a question about autonomous car technology, Trump said, “I had to approve that.” He added that it was a “new industry,” and he said: “I made it possible, and probably the biggest beneficiary is Michigan and the car industry.” He also said of self-driving cars: “Hey, I look over, I say, ‘There’s nobody in that car, what’s going on?’” – November 19 interview with Michigan radio host Steve Gruber
Facts First: Experts on autonomous vehicles say Trump’s vague claim to have “made it possible” is an exaggeration.
“I haven’t heard of President Trump doing anything to promote AVs, other than not slowing the development down,” said Kara Kockelman, a professor of engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. “AV technology has been under development for decades and is very well established.”
Bryant Walker Smith, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina’s law school who served on the federal Department of Transportation’s advisory committee on automation in transportation, said the Trump administration has taken some action related to automated driving; the Department of Transportation, he noted, “has twice updated an automated vehicles policy that it first released in 2016, begun some early rulemaking activities, and continued to award some small grants for specific projects.” But he said “these efforts are largely a response to rather than a catalyst for the automated driving industry.”
He too noted that much of the industry’s activities predate the Trump administration. And he said that most automated driving activities “do not actually require federal approval. Under the last two administrations, companies have been testing automated vehicles on public roads without federal approval.”
Waymo has tested cars without humans inside on public roads in Arizona, but most of the self-driving vehicles being tested on American roads do have a human inside.
Trump claimed that the first lady and his “public relations” team both told him that media outlets had reported, on the day of his visit to Walter Reed National Medical Center, that he “may have had a heart attack.” He said the public relations team told him that CNN was reporting this.
Facts First: CNN never reported that Trump may have had a heart attack. Nor did other major media outlets. Trump may have conflated unfounded speculation on social media with the reporting of actual news outlets.
CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, said on air the day of Trump’s trip to Walter Reed that the visit was “a bit curious,” explaining that it occurred earlier than Trump’s annual physical normally would. (Trump’s physician said Trump had undergone a “routine, planned interim checkup”; physicians told CNN’s Jeremy Diamond that the term “interim checkup” implies something different than a physical.)
Gupta continued: “So if he’s going to Walter Reed, what were the specific tests? Things like scanning; those types of things can be done at Walter Reed that maybe can’t be done at the White House. We know he has a common form of heart disease. Was there a particular test that was being done for that? Was he having some sort of symptoms? Nobody is suggesting that he had any kind of symptoms, but if someone goes into the hospital a few months early, I think that would be a reasonable question to ask as well.”
In summary: Gupta said it would be reasonable to ask questions about heart disease or particular symptoms, but he stressed that he was not suggesting that Trump was having any symptoms. And he never mentioned anything about a heart attack.
Three days later, Gupta said on air, “He has a common form of heart disease. That’s certainly got to be one of the things at the top of the list to be concerned about. And everybody, really, in their 70s who make a surprise visit to the hospital, that’s one of the areas you look.” Gupta did not mention a heart attack or massive chest pains, and he again emphasized his own uncertainty: “But again, we don’t know. We don’t know what it is, we don’t know what he had done there, and we don’t know why it was done so early.”
Mike Pompeo’s academic record
“Mike graduated number one at Harvard Law. Number one at West Point.” – November 22 interview with “Fox & Friends”
Facts First: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did graduate first in his class at the US Military Academy at West Point in 1986, but not first in his class at Harvard Law School in 1994. (He performed well there, too, but didn’t finish “number one.”)
Pompeo did not earn the Fay Diploma, the prize awarded to the Harvard Law student with the highest academic average for their three years at the school. New York University law professor Stephen Choi’s online biography says Choi graduated first in the 1994 class and earned the Fay Diploma. (Choi did not respond to a request for comment.) Harvard Law officials confirmed Pompeo graduated magna cum laude, which is one step below the highest possible honor of summa cum laude.
Harvard Law was otherwise unwilling to specifically discuss Pompeo’s standing, saying the school long ago discontinued the practice of ranking students, but even Pompeo himself has not claimed to have been number one in the class. In a prepared speech upon Pompeo’s swearing-in as secretary of state in 2018, Trump accurately said Pompeo graduated first at West Point and from Harvard Law “with high honors.”
Trump’s latest comment may be a trivial stretch, but it is part of a pattern of inflating the accomplishments of both himself and his appointees. Trump has previously falsely claimed, repeatedly, that Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch graduated first in his own Harvard Law class and at Oxford University.
Here are the claims Trump made over these two weeks that we have previously fact checked in one of these weekly roundups:
Ukraine and impeachment
Rep. Adam Schiff and the impeachment inquiry hearings
Trump said House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff is “in charge of a committee where the Republicans have absolutely no rights, no due process, no witnesses, no lawyer, no nothing.” – November 19 interview with Rich Zeoli
Facts First: Trump was correct when he had complained earlier in the month that Schiff was not allowing Trump to have his own lawyer participate in impeachment inquiry hearings. But Trump was wrong this time when he claimed that Republicans more broadly were not permitted to have a lawyer. He was also wrong in suggesting that Democrats had not called on any of the witnesses Republicans had requested.
As everyone who watched the public hearings saw, Republicans were permitted to have witnesses questioned by their House Intelligence Committee counsel, Steve Castor, just as Democrats were allowed to have witnesses questioned by their own committee counsel, Daniel Goldman.
Though the Democrats get to control the witness lists, since they hold the House majority, the House Intelligence Committee did hear testimony from three former officials whom Republicans had requested as witnesses: Kurt Volker, the former special representative for Ukraine; Tim Morrison, former National Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia; and David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs.
Polling on impeachment
“…and they’re pushing that impeachment witch hunt, and a lot of bad things are happening to them? Because do you see what’s happening in the polls? Everybody said, ‘That’s really bullshit.’…Everybody.” – November 26 campaign rally in Sunrise, Florida
Facts First: No scientific poll has shown that “everybody” thinks impeachment is BS. Major polls have consistently shown support for impeachment at or above 40% – as of Wednesday afternoon, FiveThirtyEight’s aggregate of national polls put support at 48.5% – and some polls have shown support in the 50s.
Even the swing-state polls Trump has touted have not shown anything close to “everybody” being opposed to impeachment. For example, a mid-November poll by Marquette University Law School found 40% support in the swing state of Wisconsin for impeaching and removing Trump from office, versus 53% opposition.
European assistance to Ukraine
Trump said three times that he had been unhappy that European countries weren’t providing any aid to Ukraine, asking on November 22: “Why isn’t Germany putting up money? Why isn’t France putting up money? Why isn’t all of the European nations, why aren’t they putting up?” – November 22 interview with Fox & Friends
Facts First: European countries, including France and Germany, have provided hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in 2014.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged European “help” during his meeting with Trump at the United Nations in September, though he said the world’s efforts had been inadequate so far: “And, I’m sorry, but we don’t need help; we need support. Real support. And we thank – thank everybody, thank all of the European countries; they each help us. But we also want to have more – more.”
You can read a full fact check here.
The accuracy of the whistleblower
Trump said four times that the whistleblower who filed a complaint about his dealings with Ukraine was highly inaccurate – saying on November 20 that “he’s a fake,” on November 22 that the complaint “bore no relationship to my call,” and again on November 26 that it is a “fake whistleblower.”
Facts First: The whistleblower’s account of the call has largely been proven accurate. In fact, the rough transcript released by Trump himself showed that the whistleblower’s three primary allegations about the call were correct or very close to correct.
You can read a full fact check here.
CrowdStrike and “the server”
Trump said of Democrats: “They gave the server to CrowdStrike or whatever it’s called, which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian.” – November 22 interview with “Fox & Friends”
Facts First: The cybersecurity company that investigated the 2016 hack of Democratic computer servers, CrowdStrike, is a publicly traded American company co-founded by Dmitri Alperovitch, an American citizen who was born in Russia, not Ukraine. Regardless, such firms do not typically take possession of physical servers to conduct their analysis.
Asked if he is sure the Democrats gave the server to Ukraine, Trump did not cite any specific evidence. He said, “That’s what the word is.”
The identity of the whistleblower
“A lot of people think that Schiff basically is, essentially, the whistleblower. He already told the whistleblower what to do.” – November 22 interview with “Fox & Friends”
Facts First: This is simple nonsense. Schiff is not the whistleblower, “essentially” or otherwise.
The whistleblower is someone who works in the intelligence community. The whistleblower sought guidance from Schiff’s committee before filing their complaint, but there is no evidence Schiff dictated the content of the complaint, much less that Schiff can himself be considered the whistleblower.
The timing of Schiff’s comments
Trump said that Schiff made up what Trump said on the call with Zelensky, but then, when Trump released his rough transcript of the call, everybody was “embarrassed.” – November 22 interview with “Fox & Friends”
Facts First: Trump can reasonably criticize Schiff for Schiff’s comments at a House Intelligence Committee hearing in September; as we’ve written before, Schiff’s mix of near-quotes from Trump, his own analysis, and supposed “parody” was at the very least confusing. But Schiff spoke the day after Trump released the rough transcript, not before.
Before he started claiming that Schiff did not expect a transcript to be released, Trump had complained that Schiff did not read the transcript available to him.
Obama’s aid to Ukraine
“Even look at what I’ve done for Ukraine by giving them tank busters, by giving them stuff. And Obama would send pillows and sheets. He wouldn’t send anything else.” – November 22 interview with “Fox & Friends”
Facts First: Obama did refuse to provide lethal aid to Ukraine, but he didn’t send mere pillows and sheets; he sent counter-mortar radars, drones, armored Humvees and night vision devices, among other things.
You can read a full fact check here.
Hunter Biden’s career
Trump said that Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden managed to get business opportunities during Joe Biden’s vice-presidency even though Hunter Biden “never made 10 cents in his life.” – November 22 interview with “Fox & Friends”
Facts First: This is an exaggeration. While it’s certainly fair for Trump to raise questions about how qualified Hunter Biden was for the positions he secured while Joe Biden was vice-president, Hunter Biden did have prior professional experience.
Hunter Biden has acknowledged that he probably would not have gotten a seat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, if his dad were not Joe Biden. However, it’s not true that he had never made “10 cents.” Hunter Biden, a lawyer, had worked prior to Joe Biden’s vice-presidency as a bank executive, at the Department of Commerce and as a lobbyist. He had also served on the board of Amtrak.
Prosecutor Viktor Shokin
Trump said that the Ukrainian prosecutor Joe Biden had pushed to oust, Viktor Shokin, was “prosecuting” the company where Hunter Biden sat on the board, Burisma. – November 22 interview with Fox & Friends
Facts First: Shokin was not prosecuting Burisma.
While there had been an investigation of the company, Shokin’s former deputy, Vitaliy Kasko, has said that it was dormant at the time of Joe Biden’s intervention. (The former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, George Kent, testified in Trump’s impeachment inquiry that Shokin was corrupt; the US and its allies had made a coordinated effort to oust him.)
Zelensky and Marie Yovanovitch
Trump said of the former US ambassador to Ukraine: “By the way, when I was talking to President Zelensky, it’s right on the phone, you can read it. He didn’t like her. He brought up her name and he didn’t like her at all.” – November 22 interview with “Fox & Friends”
Facts First: The rough transcript of the July phone call shows that Trump, not Zelensky, was the one who brought up Yovanovitch: “The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that,” Trump said. Zelensky responded, “It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%.”
Zelensky did criticize Yovanovitch, saying, “Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough.” But he had been prompted by Trump, not disparaging her on his own.
Marie Yovanovitch and Trump’s photo
Trump claimed about Yovanovitch: “This ambassador that everybody says is so wonderful, she wouldn’t hang my picture in the embassy. … She’s in charge of the embassy. She wouldn’t hang it. It took like a year and a half, or two years, for her to get the picture up.” – November 22 interview with “Fox & Friends”
Facts First: There is no evidence that Yovanovitch refused to hang Trump’s photo. It took the Trump administration more than nine months after his inauguration to distribute an official photo of Trump to government buildings such as embassies, CNBC reported in 2017. More than seven months into the term, the White House told the Washington Post that Trump had not yet sat for the photo.
A State Department official who has recently served in Kiev said Yovanovitch never sought to prevent Trump’s photo from being put up at the embassy. The official said the photo did not arrive until late 2017.
Yovanovitch’s legal team did not respond to CNN’s request for comment, but NBC received this response from a person “connected to her legal team”: “The Embassy in Kyiv hung the official photographs of the president, vice president, and secretary of state as soon as they arrived from Washington, D.C.”
Approval among Republicans
Trump claimed four times that he had a 95% approval rating among 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.
Trump was at 82% approval with Republicans in an Ipsos/Reuters poll conducted November 25-26, 86% in a Quinnipiac University poll conducted November 21-25 ,89% with Republicans in a CNN poll conducted from November 21-24, and 90% with Republicans in Gallup data gathered from November 1-14.
Michigan’s man of the year
“And I love Michigan. And I was actually the man of the year in Michigan about 10 years before the election, if you can believe it. That was unrelated to politics, right.”– November 19 interview with Michigan radio host Steve Gruber
Facts First: CNN and other news outlets have found no evidence Trump was ever named Michigan’s man of the year. (Trump had claimed during the 2016 campaign that he earned this honor five or so years earlier, not 10 years earlier.) You can read our full fact check on this claim here.
“Let me just say, this has never happened before. We go out, we never have an empty seat, and all I say is, let’s go to Florida. Just get me the biggest arena. It doesn’t matter where. Let’s go to Wisconsin. Let’s go to Michigan. Let’s go to Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, let’s go anywhere.” – November 26 campaign rally in Sunrise, Florida
Facts First: There have been empty seats at various Trump rallies, including an October rally Minneapolis, a July rally in Greenville, North Carolina, an October 2018 rally in Houston and an April 2017 rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, according to journalists on the scene.
The 2016 election result
“We had an Electoral College – as you know, Congressman, we had a landslide – 306 to 223.” – November 20 exchange with reporters at tour of Austin, Texas plant making Apple computers
“And we had a, you know, that people would call it, it’s 306 to 223. That’s a lot. Remember, they said I couldn’t get to 270 and they were right. I got to 306.” – November 26 interview with O’Reilly
Facts First: Hillary Clinton earned 232 votes in the Electoral College, not 223. This was not a one-time slip; Trump has habitually said “223.”
Democrats and gun legislation
“Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, AOC and the rest of the Democrats are not getting important legislation done, hence, the Do Nothing Democrats. USMCA, National Defense Authorization Act, Gun Safety…” – November 24 tweet
Facts First: It’s true that House Democrats have not yet passed Trump’s US-Mexico-Canada Agreement. But Trump is wrong when he claims Democrats are doing “nothing” to pass gun safety legislation. The Democratic-controlled House passed a bill in February to require background checks on all gun sales; the Republican-controlled Senate has refused to hold a vote on the bill.
The Democrats did pass a House version of the National Defense Authorization Act; Trump was likely referring to their refusal at the time to agree to Senate Republicans’ demands in ongoing negotiations over how to resolve differences with the Senate bill.
Democrats and the wall
“The Democrats would not give me anything, any money, didn’t matter – billions and billions for anything except the wall. Even though five years ago, they all wanted the wall. The only reason they didn’t want the wall is because I wanted it…” – November 26 campaign rally in Sunrise, Florida
Facts First: Democrats did support Republican demands for border fencing in the comprehensive immigration reform bill six years ago, but that was fencing even Trump himself has described as very different than the wall he wants – 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.
For example, Mary Landrieu, then a Democratic senator for Louisiana, voted for the final bill that included the fencing. But she said during the debate: “I’m not going to waste taxpayers’ money on a dumb fence…I’ve been in tunnels under the fence. I’ve watched people climb over the fence. I’m not going to send taxpayers’ money down a rat hole.”
Nancy Pelosi and the USMCA
Trump said twice that the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement has been sitting on the desk of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for “six months,” once simply that it is sitting on her desk.
Facts First: The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement has not been sitting on Pelosi’s desk for months: though the Trump administration has pushed Pelosi to persuade the House to quickly pass the agreement, it had not sent her any legislation. In fact, the President’s trade team had been negotiating with her to address the concerns of Democrats rather than immediately sending her a bill to which some of her party’s caucus might have significant objections.
Nancy Pelosi and Congress
“Today Nancy Pelosi closed Congress because she doesn’t care about American Workers!” – November 20 tweet
Facts First: Pelosi did not “close” Congress. On the day Trump claimed she had closed Congress, the House passed two bills intended to support and protect Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. The day prior, the House passed a short-term funding bill to try to avert a government shutdown.
Democrats and borders
Trump said twice that the Democrats want “open borders.”
Facts First: Even 2020 Democratic presidential candidates who advocate the decriminalization of the act of illegally entering the country, such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, do not support completely unrestricted migration, as Trump suggests.
“We’ve appointed many judges to the Ninth Circuit because President Obama foolishly left me 142 judges. It’s impossible to believe. I thought he’d have, you know, leave us none. He left us 142…” – November 26 interview with O’Reilly
Facts First: Trump exaggerated. According to Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who tracks judicial appointments, there were 103 vacancies on district and appeals courts on Jan. 1, 2017, just before Trump took office, plus a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
California forest management
“Well, (Gov. Gavin) Newsom fought me on forest fires. Now, he finds out I’m right. Those fires in California, there’s no reason to have them. The floors of the forests are filthy, dirty, meaning, feet of leaves and fallen timber. You know, when a tree falls, if it’s there for more than 18 months, it becomes like a matchstick, OK? It’s dry, dead-bone dry and the leaves underneath are bone dry, and in some cases, they’re there for years. When you start one little fire, it goes up, the whole thing goes up. If they would clean that out, you wouldn’t have fires.” – November 26 interview with Bill O’Reilly
Facts First: There is no indication that California Gov. Gavin Newsom has come to a realization that Trump is “right” in casting sole blame for California’s wildfires on the state’s forest management practices.
The primary subject of the dispute between Trump and California leaders was not the idea that good forest management can play a role in combating wildfires. It was Trump’s suggestion, rejected by scientists, that climate change is not a significant cause of the fires.
Scientists and California officials have also noted that forest management could not have prevented several of the major fires of the last two years, since they did not start in forests.
You can read a longer fact check on this subject here.
China and trade
China’s agricultural purchases
“I went to Sonny Perdue, what was the number? It was $16 billion last year, I gave them $16 billion out of the tariffs, and we had a lot of money left over.” – November 19 interview with Michigan radio host Steve Gruber
Facts First: China did not spend $16 billion on agricultural products the year before Trump’s trade war began in 2018.
In 2017, China spent $19.5 billion, according to Department of Agriculture Figures. In 2016, it was $21.4 billion. Chinese agricultural purchases plummeted to $9.1 billion in 2018.
Who is paying Trump’s tariffs on China
“I’m very happy with China right now. They’re paying us billions and billions.” And: “I gave a lot of money to the farmers. I’m helping people that need help because China is paying us tremendous – and they’re paying for it. Those tariffs are not paid by us.” – November 19 exchange with reporters at Cabinet meeting
“We are not paying – like, you know, they fed the line, you know – the media fed the line about us paying.” – November 22 interview with Fox & Friends
Facts First: Americans make the actual tariff payments, and a bevy of economic studies, including a report in late November from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, have found that Americans are bearing the overwhelming majority of the tariff costs.
The history of tariffs on China
“We’ll be over a hundred billion dollars in the not-too-distant future. China – they never gave us 10 cents.” – November 19 exchange with reporters at Cabinet meeting
“China has never given us anything, and here we have this. So, everyone’s happy.” – November 19 interview with Michigan radio host Steve Gruber
“We’re taking in hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs. We never took in 10 cents.” – November 22 interview with Fox & Friends
Facts First: Again, these tariffs are paid by Americans. Aside from the question of who is paying, it’s not true that the Treasury has never received “anything” from tariffs on China. The US has had tariffs on China for more than two centuries; FactCheck.org reported that the US generated an “average of $12.3 billion in custom duties a year from 2007 to 2016, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission DataWeb.”
Trump’s claim also ignores China’s hundreds of billions of dollars in purchases of US goods – more than $300 billion during Trump’s presidency alone.
“Not-too-distant future” is vague, but as of November 27, Trump’s tariffs on China had generated $38.4 billion.
Predictions about China
“So when – whoever it was that was going to be president, they said, ‘Within two years, China would overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy.’” – November 19 remarks at Cabinet meeting
“If Crooked Hillary had won, China would now be the largest economy in the world. They were going to surpass us, expected to, in the second year of the presidency.” – November 22 interview with Fox & Friends
“You know, if you look back, everybody said China was going to capture the United States in terms of the economy, it would surpass the United States within the second year of the presidency – you know when I was running, they kept saying that.” – November 26 interview with Bill O’Reilly
Facts First: Trump did not say who “they” were, but experts on China did not declare during the election that the Chinese economy would be larger than the American economy within two years of the next president being inaugurated.
“When the President took office, there were no predictions China would surpass the US in GDP within two years. Their GDP was 60% the size of the US at the time and slowing. They would have had to grow $7.5 trillion to catch us in two years even if we didn’t grow at all, which would have required 30 percent annual increases on their part. No one would predict that,” said Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and an expert on the Chinese economy.
Scissors said Trump might possibly have been thinking of three things: bad predictions at the start of the decade that China would pass the US around this time; predictions when Trump came into office that China would pass the US before the end of his hypothetical second term; figures that incorporate purchasing power parity rather than measuring the absolute size of the economies.
China’s economic performance
Trump said three times that China is having its worst economic performance in “57 years.”
Facts First: China’s second-quarter GDP growth of 6.2% and third-quarter GDP growth of 6% were its worst since 1992, 27 years ago. Trump has repeatedly made clear that he knows that 27 years is the reported figure, but he has added additional years for no apparent reason.
Trump said three times that China had lost more than $20 trillion in wealth since his election or because of his election – putting the figure at $24 trillion on November 19, “probably $25 trillion” on November 20, and “probably…$30 or $35 trillion” on November 22.
Facts First: There is no apparent basis for any of these figures. 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.’”
We checked in with Magnus again this week. He said, “I’m afraid I have no idea to what the president is referring and I dare say neither does he.”
The US economy versus China’s
“They’ve had the worst year they’ve had in 57 years, and we’ve had the best year we’ve ever had by far. ” – November 22 interview with Fox & Friends
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.
China’s second-quarter GDP growth of 6.2% and third-quarter GDP growth of 6% were its worst since 1992, 27 years ago. US second-quarter growth was 2%, lower than in the same quarter of 2018 and 2017.
The trade deficit with China
Trump said twice that the US has long had a $500 billion annual trade deficit with China.
Facts First: Through 2018, there has never been a $500 billion trade deficit with China. The 2018 deficit was $381 billion when counting goods and services, $420 billion when counting goods alone.
A plant in Texas
Trump said four times that the factory he visited in Austin, Texas, which manufactures Apple’s Mac Pro computers, was just opening. For example, he said at his Florida rally on November 26: “I flew to Texas, the great State of Texas, and I opened up an Apple computer plant.”
Facts First: The Flex Ltd. plant was not opening that day: it has been making Apple’s Mac Pro computers since 2013.
It is perhaps possible that Trump was genuinely confused. Apple announced the same day that it had broken ground on a new $1 billion campus in Austin. Trump accurately made reference to this campus in a tweet the morning after his visit.
You can read a full fact check of this claim here.
Japan and auto plants
“But I’m proud of Michigan, because we have many car plants now expanding, building new ones, coming in from Japan. Prime Minister Abe – I said you’ve got to build more plants, they’re building plants.” – November 19 interview with Michigan radio host Steve Gruber
Facts First: Japanese automakers have announced just two new plants during Trump’s presidency, and neither is to be built in Michigan.
Toyota and Mazda announced a joint venture in 2018 to build a plant in Alabama. Kristin Dziczek, vice president for industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research, said in November there had been only one other Japanese announcement of a new auto plant under Trump: Hino Motors’ 2017 decision to move its West Virginia truck assembly operations to a bigger West Virginia location.
“Unemployment has reached its lowest level in more than 51 years.” – November 26 campaign rally in Sunrise, Florida
Facts First: This is one of Trump’s usual slight exaggerations of an already-impressive number. The 3.6% unemployment rate for October was the lowest since December 1969, just under 50 years ago (if you ignore the fact that it was slightly lower, 3.5%, in September).
“We ended the last administration’s war on American energy. The United States is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world.” – November 26 campaign rally in Sunrise, Florida
Facts First: The US has not just “now” become the world’s top energy producer: it took the top spot in 2012, according to the US government’s Energy Information Administration – under the very Obama administration Trump has repeatedly accused of perpetrating a “war” on the industry. The US became the top producer of crude oil in particular during Trump’s tenure.
“The United States has been the world’s top producer of natural gas since 2009, when US natural gas production surpassed that of Russia, and it has been the world’s top producer of petroleum hydrocarbons since 2013, when its production exceeded Saudi Arabia’s,” the Energy Information Administration says.
Prescription drug prices
“While we had the first prescription drug price decrease in 50 years, Americans still pay far too much for drugs – other countries pay far less – that is WRONG! We will soon be putting more options on the table.” – November 22 tweet
“Thanks to our tireless effort to lower the price of prescription drugs, drug prices have declined in our country for the first time in more than 50 years.” – November 26 campaign rally in Sunrise, Florida
Facts First: Trump was exaggerating. The Consumer Price Index for prescription drugs showed a 0.6% decline between December 2017 and December 2018, which was the first calendar-year decline since 1972 – the first decline in 46 years, not the first one in “more than 50 years.” (As the Washington Post pointed out in its own fact check, some experts say 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.”
Unemployment for women
Trump said that unemployment for women is the “best in 71 years.” – November 19 remarks at Cabinet meeting
Facts First: Trump was off slightly. It had been 66 years, not 71 years, since the women’s unemployment rate has been as low as it was in September, 3.4%. (The October rate was 3.5%, which was a 66-year low if you ignore the Trump-era 3.4%.)
The treatment of veterans
“The vets: for years you would turn on your television, every night you’d see a story about the vets and how badly they’re being treated, it’s a horror show. You don’t hear that anymore.” – November 22 interview with Fox & Friends
“…I was a civilian…but I always see, you turn on the news, you read in the paper, about our veterans being mistreated. They were doing such a poor job. You don’t hear that anymore, do you? You don’t hear it anymore. Our veterans, for the first time, are taken care of to a level that has never happened in our country before.” – November 26 campaign rally in Sunrise, Florida
“What I’ve done for the VA – you don’t see VA problems anymore.” – November 26 interview with Bill O’Reilly
Facts First: We can’t fact check what Trump himself has seen or not seen in the news, but it’s just not true that the rest of us no longer hear about veterans being treated badly at VA facilities.
Merely since August, there have been news stories about “11 suspicious deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center,” “how Veterans Affairs failed to stop a pathologist who misdiagnosed 3,000 cases” and wasn’t fired until 2018, how “a Veterans Affairs medical center in West Virginia is being investigated over allegations that one of its physicians sexually assaulted more than a dozen patients,” and how a veteran at a VA facility in Georgia was allegedly bitten by ants “100 times before his death.”
“We spent two and a half trillion since I’ve been here. That’s a lot of money. But we rebuilt our military.” – November 28 remarks during engagement with troops in Afghanistan
Facts First: Trump was exaggerating. 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 just started on October 1, and Harrison noted that the defense appropriation has not yet been approved by Congress.
‘So when you have a system that allows Sergeant Bergdahl to go, and you probably had five to six people killed – nobody even knows the number, because he left…” – November 25 exchange with reporters at meeting with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov
Facts First: While six soldiers from Bergdahl’s unit died after he walked off his post in Afghanistan, there is no evidence that they died searching for him.
As military-news publication Stars and Stripes reported, “They were all killed in August and September, after the exhausting search effectively had been called off and the mission had changed to secure upcoming Afghanistan elections, according to court testimony.”
It is worth noting that some soldiers f