The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump just gave a remarkable new interview. Here’s a tally of all his lies.

Lies, untruths or misstatements? Post columnist Margaret Sullivan looks at how different newsrooms are reporting President Trump's claims over crowd size and voter fraud and how "alternative facts" can damage a democracy. (Video: Erin Patrick O'Connor/The Washington Post)


Donald Trump sat down for an interview with ABC News that aired last night, in what was his first major one-on-one with a network as president. Let’s tally up the lies and distortions, one by one:

1) Trump repeated his false claim that there was rampant voter fraud in the election, and when pressed on the fact that his claim has repeatedly been debunked, Trump said: “No it hasn’t. Take a look at the Pew reports.”

The Pew report that Trump is citing did not show what Trump claims it did. The author of that report has repeatedly stated this in numerous interviews.

2) When ABC pressed Trump on the fact that the author of the Pew report undermined his claims, Trump claimed, somewhat unintelligibly, that this author was “groveling.”

This is not even remotely true. In fact, the author told The Post’s fact-checking team last night that he stood by his claim that the report did not say what Trump says it did.

Donald Trump’s stunning first major interview as president, annotated

3) Trump said this about all of the people who he falsely claims voted illegally in the election:

“Those were Hillary votes. And if you look at it they all voted for Hillary. They all voted for Hillary. They didn’t vote for me. I don’t believe I got one. Okay, these are people that voted for Hillary Clinton. And if they didn’t vote, it would’ve been different in the popular.”

There is no way Trump could possibly know this even if those illegal voters existed, which they don’t.

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4) Trump said this about his glorious victory:

“I had a tremendous victory, one of the great victories ever. In terms of counties I think the most ever or just about the most ever. When you look at a map it’s all red. Red meaning us, Republicans.”

The context here was the size of Trump’s victory, but there is no reasonable metric by which his margin was either tremendous or one of the greatest ever. Trump lost the popular vote by nearly three million, and the size of his electoral college win was down toward the bottom in historical terms.

5) Trump said this about the size of the audience for his inaugural speech:

“When I looked at the numbers that happened to come in from all of the various sources, we had the biggest audience in the history of inaugural speeches.”

This is absurdly false, no matter what angle you examine it from.

6) Trump said this about immigration:

“We have to stop people from just pouring into our country.”

This is not exactly a lie, since “pouring in” is not a precise statement, but it leaves an enormously misleading impression. People are not by any reasonable metric “pouring into our country.” The number of undocumented immigrants in this country has been stable for years. As for Trump’s suggestion that we have failed to “stop” this alleged “pouring in,” experts have said that the flow of illegal immigration has fallen in recent years, and that border security matters less than economic and demographic trends in determining that flow in any case.

7) Pressed by ABC on the fact that Obamacare repeal could mean at least 18 million people lose insurance, Trump said:

“Nobody ever deducts all the people that have already lost their health insurance that liked it. You had millions of people that liked their health insurance and their health care and their doctor and where they went. You had millions of people that now aren’t insured anymore.”

This is not quite a lie, but it is a flagrant distortion. First there’s the claim that, in measuring the impact of Obamacare, “nobody ever deducts” all of those who supposedly “lost” their insurance. This is silly. One of the most widely cited metrics for measuring the law’s impact comes from Gallup, which measures the uninsured rate. Gallup has found that since Obamacare went into effect, that rate has fallen by more than six percentage points. Thus, it’s also a distortion to suggest that the law has left millions uninsured.

Maybe Trump isn’t ‘lying’

As I keep telling you, we need to accept the possibility that we’re looking at something new and different here. Just as happened during the campaign, Trump and his team are serving up a level of dishonesty straight out of the White House that, both in volume and in egregiousness, is creating unprecedented new challenges for the news media. And it’s not clear we’re up to it.


President Trump sat down for his first interview at the White House with ABC News on Jan. 25. Here's what happened. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

* TRUMP’S EXEC ORDER ON MUSLIM COUNTRIES IS LEAKED: The Post has a copy of a new executive order that Trump may sign as early as Thursday. As expected, it temporarily bans refugees and people from some Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.:

The order calls for an immediate 30-day halt to all immigrant and nonimmigrant entry of travelers from certain countries whose citizens “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” The countries … include Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia … Additionally, all refu­gee admission and resettlement would be halted for 120 days — and until further notice, from Syria — while vetting procedures are reviewed.

As I reported Wednesday, this could easily be expanded to many more Muslim-majority countries, which would make it, in effect, a wide-ranging Muslim ban.

* TRUMP’S EXEC ORDER IS IN LINE WITH A MUSLIM BAN: The New York Times observes this about the new Trump executive order discussed above:

The order on refugees is in line with a Muslim ban that Mr. Trump proposed during the campaign, though it does not single out any particular religion. It orders the secretary of state and the secretary of Homeland Security to prioritize those who are persecuted members of religious minorities, essentially ensuring that Christians living in predominantly Muslim countries would be at the top of the list.

Well, Trump campaigned pretty explicitly on this, so why should anyone be surprised?

* HOW TRUMP WILL MAKE MEXICO PAY FOR THE WALL: Trump has now moved forward with the wall, but U.S. taxpayers will fund it at first. In an interview with ABC News, he explains how he’ll make Mexico pay for it later:

“We’ll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico … that wall will cost us nothing. I’m just telling you there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form.”

“A complicated form.” Translation: I’ll come up with some kind of convoluted lie to explain this away later.

* REPUBLICANS WONDER HOW TO PAY FOR TRUMP’S PROPOSALS: Congressional Republicans are in the midst of a two-day “strategy session,” and the Post reports this about some of the discussions underway there:

One point of tension between Trump and lawmakers was on an infrastructure bill. … No details, such as a price tag or structure, were discussed, multiple members said. … Paying for Trump’s proposals remains an unexplored subject. Many hard-line conservatives previously opposed large policy changes that would add greatly to the deficit, as many of Trump’s proposals could.

Repeat after me: Republicans don’t care about the deficit when the president is a Republican. This will happen again: enormous tax cuts for the rich and lots of grand spending on Trump’s dreams.

* DEMS GEAR UP TO FIGHT VOTER SUPPRESSION: CNN reports that Democrats are ramping up with new efforts to combat what they expect will be a major assault on voting rights in coming years:

Priorities USA, the largest Democratic super PAC and a key Clinton backer in 2016, is aiming to turn its nonprofit arm into the party’s major hub to fight for voting access. … Priorities USA is also building a national database that’s intended to serve as a one-stop inventory of restrictive voting measures which will be shared with other progressive organizations. And it plans to launch social advocacy campaigns around its efforts to fight those measures.

Look for a lot more of this on the level of the states, too. It will be a major battleground during the Trump era.

* REPUBLICANS ALLOW TRUMP’S VOTER FRAUD LIES TO STAND: Trump has been lying again about widespread voter fraud, and Matt Flegenheimer points out:

Trump’s baseless claims of widespread election fraud and subsequent calls for an investigation into it have attracted little blowback from fellow Republicans, who may use any inquiry as a rationale to push for more stringent voter identification laws that many of them have long supported.

This is only one of multiple ways that congressional Republicans are enabling Trump’s active undermining of our democracy.

* QUOTE OF THE DAY, RARE-ACCOUNTABILITY-SIGHTING EDITION: GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, the chair of the Rules Committee, had this to say about his own party’s lack of a detailed plan to replace Obamacare after Republicans repeal it:

“Exact, specific and detailed — that’s what people want. We’re going to own this stuff, and we better be able to explain it.”

Good to hear a Republican admit that his party will be responsible for whatever consequences repeal of the ACA brings. All too rare.