Twenty-five of the 66 false claims were related to the Ukraine scandal.
Trump made 20 false claims on Twitter, 11 in a speech on Medicare at The Villages retirement community in Florida, and 10 in an exchange with reporters before he boarded Marine One to visit wounded soldiers.
Trump made a systematic effort to convince people that the whistleblower was highly inaccurate about his July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, saying nine times that the whistleblower was “almost completely wrong,”https://www.cnn.com/”way off” and such.
The whistleblower was highly accurate.
The whistleblower’s complaint featured a three-point list of key allegations about the call. The rough transcript released by the White House itself proves all three points are basically right: Trump sought to get Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, to investigate the conspiracy theory about Democratic computer servers, and to speak to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr.
The whistleblower described these requests as pressure, which Trump is entitled to dispute. But the underlying facts are not in dispute.
The most revealing false claim: An attack on Van Jones
We don’t give special prominence to false claims about people who work for CNN, but Trump’s story about CNN host Van Jones was just so weird.
We could find no evidence for the existence of a television show that resembled what Trump had said. Jones says none of this ever happened, that he never made any apology, and that he thinks…Trump might be confusing him with entertainer John Legend, whom Trump had previously criticized while complaining about people failing to praise him over justice reform.
Whether Trump was mixing up two very different black men or assailing someone who has gone out of his way to be fair to him, this saga says something unflattering.
The most absurd false claim: Ukraine talk
Trump’s call with Zelensky was the biggest story in Washington last week. Trump’s opponents were talking about it at great length.
Trump said people were not talking it at all.
“All I can tell you is this: When I speak to foreign leaders, I speak in an appropriate way. If you notice, they don’t mention the call that I had with the president of Ukraine. They don’t mention that because it was so good,” Trump told reporters.
Even by the standards of Trump’s usual reality-reframing efforts, this one was special.
Here’s this week’s full list of false claims, starting with the ones we haven’t previously included in a weekly update:
The Ukraine scandal
The whistleblower complaint (nine claims)
Trump claimed nine times that the whistleblower complaint about his July phone call with the president of Ukraine was largely inaccurate, calling the whistleblower’s description of the call, “totally wrong,”https://www.cnn.com/”totally inaccurate,”https://www.cnn.com/”almost completely wrong,”https://www.cnn.com/”way off” and a “fraud,” among other things.
The whistleblower reported that Trump “pressured” Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden, to help in locating Democratic computer servers and to speak with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr.
Trump can argue that he was making friendly requests, not applying pressure, but he did make all three requests.
The whistleblower also alleged that Trump suggested Zelensky might want to keep Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, on the job. The rough transcript does not show Trump saying this. However, it is not a verbatim transcript.
The whistleblower’s information
As we explained above, most of the whistleblower’s allegations about the call have been corroborated.
Mitch McConnell’s statement
A photo of the Bidens
The fourth person in the photo with Archer and the Bidens has not been publicly identified, but he is not Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky or top executive Taras Burdeinyi.
The call transcript
Facts First: The document released by the White House explicitly says, on the first page, that it is not an exact transcript.
Talk of the call
“All I can tell you is this: When I speak to foreign leaders, I speak in an appropriate way. If you notice, they don’t mention the call that I had with the President of Ukraine. They don’t mention that because it was so good.” — October 4 exchange with reporters before Marine One departure
Facts First: To the contrary, Trump’s call with Ukraine’s President was the subject of widespread discussion among members of Congress and in the media at the time; it was a central focus of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
Hunter Biden’s Ukraine salary (two claims)
“To have him get a billion and a half dollars, to have him — and now I’m hearing the number of $50,000 a month. Now I’m hearing the number of $50,000 a month is very low. It’s a much higher number that Biden’s son was getting per month. The fact is it’s much higher. And for him to — and for him, as a total — for him, as a totally unqualified person, to be getting hundreds of thousands a month is very, very (inaudible).” — October 4 exchange with reporters before Marine One departure
“Seven or eight times”
“… because the whistleblower report — didn’t he say, seven or eight times I said ‘quid pro quo’?” — October 2 news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö
A newspaper mix-up
Speaking to reporters at an October 2 meeting with the Finnish President, Trump told a story about how he knew a new book on his immigration policy was inaccurate because it was written by journalists from The Washington Post.
Facts First: We can’t fact check how nice or not-nice Trump was to Zelensky, but it’s flat false that he never asked Zelensky for anything. Again, Trump asked him to look into Biden and the situation with the server, and to speak with Giuliani and Barr. In fact, prior to launching into the request about the server, Trump said, “I would like you to do us a favor though.”
The unemployment rate (four claims)
“But the unemployment numbers just came out: 3.5% unemployment. And that is a tremendous number; the lowest in over 50 years.” And: “We have the best job numbers we’ve had in 51 years.” — October 4 exchange with reporters before Marine One departure
In his October 4 speech to the Young Black Leadership Summit, Trump told a detailed story about watching a television show in which CNN host Van Jones, a prominent advocate for criminal justice reform, omitted Trump from a long list of people to thank for the justice reform bill Trump signed last year, the First Step Act — though Jones had thanked the Rev. Al Sharpton. Trump said Jones later spoke to Jared Kushner and “he apologized.”
An award “from the Marines”
Facts First: It seems possible that Trump was genuinely confused, not being intentionally deceiving, but the award he received was not from the Marine Corps; it was from a charitable foundation that has the words “Marine Corps” in its name: the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, which provides financial assistance to the children of Marines and law enforcement personnel who have been killed.
“President Trump received the award for his support to our military and law enforcement. The Marines Corps is not involved in the choice,” foundation executive director Sue Boulhosa said in an email to CNN.
An inaccurate map
Facts First: The map inaccurately displayed multiple blue counties won by Hillary Clinton as red counties won by Trump.
Trump’s poll numbers
“If you look at what’s happened with my polls, they’re through the roof. You know why? Because of this phony witch hunt.” — October 4 exchange with reporters before Marine One departure
The history of wage growth
“People are working. They’re making money. The — if you look at one very important number that was just announced: wages up 3%. That’s unheard of. That’s unheard of. So, it’s a great thing.” — October 4 exchange with reporters before Marine One departure
It’s worth noting that the 2008-2009 period of wage growth over 3% occurred during the Great Recession, a reminder that wage growth is not the only thing we should look at to measure economic health. (Wage growth did decline over the course of the recession, hitting 1.7% in Nov. 2010.)
New York’s anti-discrimination guidelines
“I will never allow these politicians to steal your health care and give it away to illegal aliens. And now, in New York, I hear they passed a new regulation that, if you use the word, ‘illegal immigrant’ — did I hear correctly? They want to charge you a fine of $250,000. In other words, sell your home in The Villages because you happened to say, ‘We don’t like illegal immigrants pouring into our country illegally.”https://www.cnn.com/” — October 3 speech on Medicare at The Villages in Florida
Conditions in the VA health care system (two claims)
“… you know, before me, every night you’d see these stories, these horror stories about the VA. I haven’t seen one in a long time. Now, I don’t want to wish it because the fake news will search the system to find somebody that’s not happy. ‘We found somebody. We found a vet in Florida who isn’t quite happy with everything. Let’s do a major story.’ But do you remember all of the bad stories that used to be about the VA? Now you don’t see that because they have accountability. We can fire bad people.” — October 3 speech on Medicare at The Villages in Florida
“You know, by the way, just because a lot of people are vets — the vets were treated horribly. You don’t hear that anymore. You don’t hear it. Now, they’ll go out and find some vet somewhere in this country that isn’t happy. And that person will become a star overnight, right? But you don’t hear it anymore.” — October 4 speech at Young Black Leadership Summit
Facts First: We can’t be sure of what Trump himself has been told about conditions at the VA, but it’s just not true that the rest of us no longer hear about veterans being treated badly at VA facilities.
Here are the claims Trump made last week that we have previously fact checked in one of these weekly roundups:
The Ukraine scandal
Adam’s Schiff’s comments (four claims)
Facts First: The whistleblower rules were not changed.
A letter from Democratic senators
“… because the whistleblower report — didn’t he say, seven or eight times I said ‘quid pro quo’? … In all fairness, you have at least four United States senators — Democrats — that said it. And they said it a lot stronger than even Schiff and his made-up story said it.” — October 2 news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö
In the letter, the senators expressed concern about a New York Times report that Ukraine had, to avoid Trump’s wrath, stopped cooperating with the Mueller investigation and frozen investigations into former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The senators urged Ukraine to reverse course if the report was correct.
Military and foreign affairs
“… Joe (Dunford) published the first Joint Military Net Assessment in 20 years. We have a lot of the ideas that we’ve brought forward. And, you know, we’ve spent $2.5 trillion since I’m President — $2.5 trillion — far more than this country has ever even thought about spending.” — September 30 speech at welcome ceremony for new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley
Facts First: Trump was exaggerating. As noted by Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, total 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.
Harrison said he thinks Trump must have been including military funding for the 2020 fiscal year to get to “$2.5 trillion” figure — but since the 2020 fiscal year hadn’t even started at the time Trump spoke, Harrison said, “that funding has not been ‘spent’ in any sense of the word. Additionally, the actual appropriations bills for FY20 are still pending in Congress.” While a budget deal earlier in the year allocates up to $738 billion for defense, Harrison said, “until the appropriation bill is passed, the money cannot be spent.”
The nuclear arsenal
“Our nuclear has been totally rebuilt; some brand new and some refurbished.” — September 30 speech at welcome ceremony for new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley
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.
“You look at Venezuela; take a look at that. Fifteen years ago, it’s one of the wealthiest countries. Now they don’t have food.” — October 3 speech on Medicare at The Villages in Florida
Facts First: Venezuela was not one of the world’s wealthiest countries 15 years ago.
The International Monetary Fund ranked Venezuela 67th in the world in 2004 by GDP per capita, at $4,019 (US) — better than more than half of the world’s countries, but nowhere near the top.
“Venezuela was one of the richest countries in the world 60 years ago. The richest in Latin America 40 years ago. But not 20 years ago,” Ricardo Hausmann, a former Venezuelan planning minister and central bank board member, said in response to a previous version of this Trump claim. Hausmann, now a Harvard University professor of economic development, was chief economist of the Inter-American Development Bank from 1994 to 2000.
The border wall
Facts First: No new miles of border wall had been built during Trump’s presidency as of September 30, 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.
Democrats and borders (two claims)
“They also want to have open borders, so the people can just come in and do whatever they want to do.” — October 3 speech on Medicare at The Villages in Florida
Facts First: Even Democratic presidential candidates who advocate the decriminalization of the act of illegally entering the country, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, do not support completely unrestricted migration, as Trump suggests. Opposing a border wall is not the same as supporting open borders.
Mexican troops on the border
“Mexico gave us 27,000 soldiers guarding our border and the numbers are way down. Twenty-seven thousand. I want to thank Mexico — the government and the president.” — October 3 speech on Medicare at The Villages in Florida
Economy and trade
Wage growth (two claims)
“When I was campaigning three years ago, and people were making less and less and less –they were making less three years ago. You go back 20 years from then, they used to make more money with one job than they made with two or three jobs. And now, for the first time in many, many years, wages are rising again.” — October 4 speech at Young Black Leadership Summit
“And, I think, really, very important — again, I’ll say: Wages are up. When I was running, wages were nowhere. They were going down. And people were having two and three jobs, and they were making less money than they made 20 years before. Now wages are up. So we’re very happy about that.” — October 4 exchange with reporters before Marine One departure
Facts First: Wages have been rising since 2014, using one common measure.
Trump could accurately boast that wage growth during his presidency has been faster than under Obama, but he is wrong that this is the first time there has been any increase in 20 years.
Who is paying Trump’s tariffs on China
World Trade Organization victories
“You never had wins with other presidents, did you? But we’re having a lot of wins at the WTO since I became president…Your wins are now, because they think I don’t like the WTO, and they want to make sure I’m happy. Because all of those countries were ripping off the United States for many years. They know that I’m wise to it. We’ve had a lot of wins.” — October 2 news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö
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%).
The trade deficit with the European Union
“America’s trade deficit with the EU has been averaging $160 billion a year for many, many years.” — October 2 press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö
The deficit was $169.6 billion in 2018 if you only count trade in goods and ignore trade in services. But Trump failed to specify that he was using this more limited measure.
Prescription drug prices (two claims)
“Prices coming down. As I said, prescription drug prices — first time in over 50 years, Alex, that drug prices have come down for the year. Your average prescription drug price — first time in 50 years — over 50 years.” — October 3 speech on Medicare at The Villages in Florida
Popularity and accomplishments
The 2016 election result
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.”
Veterans Choice (four claims)
Trump claimed four times that he was the one who got the Veterans Choice health care program passed, saying once that others had tried to get it passed for “over 45 years” and once that this had happened for “50 years.”
Approval with Republicans (three claims)
“I have a 95% approval rating in the Republican Party.” — October 4 exchange with reporters before Marine One departure
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 94% in any recent poll.
The special election in North Carolina’s 9th District
Trump claimed during an October 4 exchange with reporters that Dan Bishop, the Republican who won the September special election in North Carolina’s 9th District, had been “down by 17 points with three weeks to go.”
Facts First: Bishop was not down 17 points in any public poll; some did have him trailing by single-digit margins.
The special election in North Carolina’s 3rd District
Trump claimed during an October 4 exchange with reporters that Greg Murphy, the Republican who won the September special election in North Carolina’s 3rd District, had been”up by a very little bit” and had been “almost tied.”
Facts First: Murphy’s race was never close to a tie; he had always been heavily favored to win. One late poll had him up by 11 points.
Right to Try (two claims)
“Now we got that approved — Right to Try. And, by the way, miracles are happening. Right? Miracles. Miracles are happening. Hopefully, it never happens to anybody in this room. But, frankly, people would go to Asia, they’d go to Europe, they’d go all over the world seeking a cure, if they had money. If they didn’t have money, they’d go home and they’d die. But now they don’t have to do that.” — October 3 speech on Medicare at The Villages in Florida
“…now you can use medicines as they get developed, if you’re terminally ill. They call it the Right to Try. Right to Try. If somebody’s terminally ill [before the Right to Try law], they have to go to other countries, or just literally die. And we have the best scientists, we have the best doctors in the world. We have great things, but they’re in a pipeline, you couldn’t use them, and we have now the right to try.” — October 3 interview with Fox 35 Orlando
Facts First: It is not true that terminally ill patients who did not have the money to travel would simply have to go home and die until Trump signed the Right to Try law in 2018. Prior to the law, patients did have to ask the federal government for permission to access experimental medications — but the government almost always said yes. Scott Gottlieb, who served as Trump’s FDA commissioner until April, told Congress in 2017 that the FDA had approved 99% of patient requests. “Emergency requests for individual patients are usually granted immediately over the phone and non-emergency requests are generally processed within a few days,” he testified.
Hillary Clinton’s emails
Facts First: A server company working for Hillary Clinton deleted emails using a free software program called BleachBit. The software involves neither actual bleach nor acid.
“We have made a clear promise to America’s patients: We will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions. The Republicans will always protect pre-existing conditions.” — October 3 speech on Medicare at The Villages in Florida