Democracy Dies in Darkness

Fact Checker | Analysis

President Trump's cascade of false claims in Time's interview on his falsehoods

By Glenn Kessler, Michelle Ye Hee Lee

March 23, 2017 at 9:26 AM

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President Trump on March 21 said fact checkers correct him when he’s “off by one hundredth of a percent.” He added, “I end up getting Pinocchios,” in reference to The Post’s system of grading the accuracy of public statements. (The Washington Post)

President Trump had a remarkable interview with Time magazine on March 22 about falsehoods, in which he repeated many false claims that have repeatedly been debunked. Here's a round-up of his key misstatements.

"Sweden. I make the statement, everyone goes crazy. The next day they have a massive riot, and death, and problems. … A day later they had a horrible, horrible riot in Sweden, and you saw what happened."

This is false. Trump at a rally on Feb. 11 made a reference to "what's happening last night in Sweden," confusing people in that country since nothing had happened. Trump then clarified in a tweet that his statement "was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants& Sweden." Then two days later, riots broke out in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in the northern suburbs of the country's capital, Stockholm. But no one died.

"Huma and Anthony, you know, what I tweeted about that whole deal, and then it turned out he had it, all of Hillary's email on his thing."

No. Weiner did not have all of Clinton's emails on his laptop. The FBI ultimately concluded none of the emails added new information to the investigation into Clinton's private server.

"NATO, obsolete, because it doesn't cover terrorism. They fixed that, and I said that the allies must pay. Nobody knew that they weren't paying. I did. I figured it. … What I said about NATO was true, people aren't paying their bills."

False on several levels. NATO has been involved in counterterrorism since 1980, and especially since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. As for NATO's financing, Trump apparently still does not understand how it works. NATO's guideline, established in 2006, is that defense expenditures should amount to 2 percent of each country's gross domestic product by 2024. In 2016, only four countries besides the United States met that standard, but NATO documents also show that defense spending has increased about 3 percent from 2015 to 2016. In any case, the money would not be going to the United States or even necessarily to NATO; this is money that countries would spend to bolster their own military.

"Brexit, I was totally right about that. You were over there I think, when I predicted that, right, the day before."

Trump's timeline is off. Trump said in March 2016, three months before the June 23 vote on whether Britain should remain part of the European Union, that he thinks "Britain will separate from the EU. I think that maybe it's time, especially in light of what's happened with the craziness that is going on with immigration, with people pouring in all over the place I think that Britain will end up separating from the EU."

He was less sure about it on June 22, the day before the vote: "I don't think anybody should listen to me because I haven't really focused on it very much. … My inclination would be to get out, because you know, just go it alone. … I also tell people: 'Don't go with the recommendation, because it's a recommendation that I would make, but that's where I stand.'"

"Now remember this. When I said wiretapping, it was in quotes. Because a wiretapping is, you know today it is different than wire tapping. It is just a good description. But wiretapping was in quotes. What I'm talking about is surveillance."

Trump has invented a convenient excuse to cover up the fact that he accused the Obama administration of spying on him. In some tweets, he used quotes. But this is the key tweet: "How low has President Obama gone to tapp phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!"

"Here, headline, for the front page of the New York Times, 'Wiretapped data used in inquiry of Trump aides.' That's a headline. Now they then dropped that headline, I never saw this until this morning. They then dropped that headline, and they used another headline without the word wiretap, but they did mean wiretap. Wiretapped data used in inquiry. Then changed after that, they probably didn't like it. And they changed the title. They took the wiretap word out. … Front page, January 20th. Now in their second editions, they took it all down under the internet. They took that out. Ok? But that's the way it is."

Trump is mixing up different headlines for the print and Internet editions. In print, the headline was: "Wiretapped data used in inquiry of Trump aides." Online, the headline read: "Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates." The headlines were not changed as part of any stealth editing. In any case, the text of the New York Times article did not support in any way the claims made by Trump about Obama. Moreover, both the FBI director and the head of the National Security Agency say the claim is false.

Q: The claim that Muslims celebrated 9/11 in New Jersey…
A: Well if you look at the reporter, he wrote the story in The Washington Post.

This is yet another Four-Pinocchio claim that we have checked over and over. Trump claimed he saw on television thousands of Muslims cheer the collapse of the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11 attacks. There is no TV footage, no newspaper coverage, just scattered, unconfirmed reports of five or six people — not necessarily Muslim, probably teenagers — celebrating. There was a small reference buried deep in an article in The Post. When the reporter said it did not support Trump's claim, Trump mocked his disability.

"Well, now if you take a look at the votes, when I say that, I mean mostly they register wrong, in other words, for the votes, they register incorrectly, and/or illegally. And they then vote. You have tremendous numbers of people. In fact I'm forming a committee on it."

We've repeatedly debunked this.  There are instances of people illegally voting, but they are rare. The National Association of Secretaries of State said it did not know of "any evidence" backing up Trump's claims.

"This just came out. This is a Politico story: Members of the Donald Trump Transition team possibly including Trump himself were under surveillance during the Obama administration following November's election. House intelligence chairman Devin Nunes told reporters, wow. Nunes said, so that means I'm right, Nunes said the surveillance appears to have been … incidental collection, that does not appear to have been related to concerns over Russia."

Nunes cited one anonymous source and didn't provide any details. Still, the same Politico story Trump quotes says Nunes disputed that the information Nunes obtained vindicated Trump: "The White House and Trump's allies immediately seized on the statement as vindication of the president's much-maligned claim that former president Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower phones — even though Nunes himself said that's not what his new information shows."

"What I said, look I said, Donna Brazile had information, and she had information on Hillary's debate questions. I said, why didn't Hillary apologize. Donna Brazile just admitted that that was right."

Trump overstates the disclosure about Clinton getting a debate question. During the Democratic primaries, a debate was held in Flint, Mich., to focus on the water crisis. Donna Brazile, then an analyst with CNN, sent an email to the Clinton campaign saying that a woman with a rash from lead poisoning was going to ask what Clinton as president could do the help the people of Flint.

There's no indication Clinton was told this information, but in any case it's a pretty obvious question for a debate being held in Flint. The woman in question also was not happy with Clinton's answer.

"Well that was in a newspaper. No, no, I like Ted Cruz, he's a friend of mine. But that was in the newspaper. I wasn't, I didn't say that. I was referring to a newspaper. A Ted Cruz article referred to a newspaper story with, had a picture of Ted Cruz, his father, and Lee Harvey Oswald, having breakfast."

By "newspaper," Trump is referring to the National Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid owned by a prominent supporter. The thinly sourced article alleged that Ted Cruz's father, Rafael, worked with Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Trump has repeatedly ignored the fact that the article was denied and deemed false even before he ever mentioned it on the campaign trail.

"Why do you say that I have to apologize? I'm just quoting the newspaper, just like I quoted the judge the other day, Judge Napolitano, I quoted Judge Napolitano, just like I quoted Bret Baier, I mean Bret Baier mentioned the word wiretap. Now he can now deny it, or whatever he is doing, you know. But I watched Bret Baier, and he used that term. I have a lot of respect for Judge Napolitano, and he said that three sources have told him things that would make me right. I don't know where he has gone with it since then. But I'm quoting highly respected people from highly respected television networks."

Fox News said it has no evidence to back up claims by Andrew Napolitano, a judicial analyst and commentator on Fox News. Bret Baier said on his show: "We love the judge, we love him here at Fox, but the Fox News division was never able to back up those claims and was never reported on this show."

As for Baier, Trump is apparently referring to a March 3 interview with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). Baier referred to an unconfirmed report that there was a "wiretap at Trump Tower with some computer and Russian banks." Ryan responded: "I am saying I have seen nothing of that. I have seen nothing come of that."

"And then TIME magazine, which treats me horribly, but obviously I sell, I assume this is going to be a cover too, have I set the record? I guess, right? Covers, nobody's had more covers."

Trump is well behind any sort of record for Time covers. Trump has been on the cover of Time magazine about a dozen times. Richard Nixon holds the record: 55.

"I inherited a mess with jobs, despite the statistics, you know, my statistics are even better, but they are not the real statistics because you have millions of people that can't get a job, okay."

The economy was not a mess when Trump became president. The stock market was booming and the unemployment rate was below 5 percent. Trump has falsely claimed that 94 million Americans cannot get a job but most of them do not want a job, as they are retired, in school, taking care of young children or are disabled.

The Pinocchio Test

Trump consistently astounds us with his inability to acknowledge that he repeatedly gets facts wrong and consistently misleads the American public with inaccurate, dubious claims. He earns Four Pinocchios for this interview.

Four Pinocchios

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Glenn Kessler has reported on domestic and foreign policy for more than three decades. He would like your help in keeping an eye on public figures. Send him statements to fact check by emailing him, tweeting at him, or sending him a message on Facebook.

Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports for The Fact Checker. Send her statements to dig into via e-mail, Twitter or Facebook.

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