Five months before unveiling his tax plan, President Trump claimed that it “is the biggest tax cut in history. This is bigger than Reagan. … This is actually bigger than Reagan tax cuts.” We warned readers at the time that there was no public proposal yet and that this was a dubious claim properly measured as a percentage of the nation’s gross domestic product.
Trump would repeat this misleading claim 16 more times before he actually revealed his plan to the public Sept. 27. In fact, the 16th time he said it was during remarks before traveling to Indiana for the speech: “We’re going right now to Indiana. We’re going to introduce a tax plan that’s the largest tax cut, essentially, in the history of our country.”
Yet nothing in the plan revealed that day offered clarity as to how it was “the largest tax cut in our country’s history.” Instead, he outlined four still-somewhat-vague proposals while repeating some golden-oldie false or misleading facts about taxes, which we fact-checked in a roundup.
This tendency of Trump is all too familiar to The Fact Checker. He is quick to make claims full of superlatives — the greatest this and the most beautiful that — with little to no empirical evidence to support them. Trump proposed deep tax cuts, but so far, he has released only a nine-page framework that would start negotiations with lawmakers. Yet since five months ago, he flatly proclaimed his plan “is actually bigger than Reagan tax cuts.”
The Fact Checker has completed two-thirds of our year-long project analyzing, categorizing and tracking every false or misleading claim by Trump, as well as his flip-flops. As of our latest update Oct. 10, 2017, or his 264th day in office, the president has made 1,318 claims over 263 days. He has averaged five claims a day, even picking up pace since the six-month mark. (Our full interactive graphic can be found here.)
When you track Trump’s claims so closely, it can often feel like deja vu. Trump has a tendency to repeat himself, and that includes his false or misleading claims. (For an overview of his most frequently repeated claims, see our update from August when Trump surpassed the 1,000-claim mark.)
With almost exactly 100 days left to go in our year-long project, Trump is inching ever closer to breaking 2,000 claims.
Many of Trump’s most frequent claims in the past month were about taxes. He repeatedly claimed that the United States pays the highest corporate taxes or that it is the highest-taxed nation. The latter is false; the former is misleading, as the effective U.S. corporate tax rate (what companies end up paying after deductions and benefits) end up being lower than the statutory tax rate.
Trump now claims that between $3 trillion and $5 trillion, perhaps even more, of profits are held overseas by U.S. companies. There is no official statistic, as Trump notes, but his high-end figure appears to be an exaggeration. The Internal Revenue Service in 2012 said the figure was $2.3 trillion, and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that it had risen to $2.6 trillion in 2015. There are other estimates as well, but none top $2.8 trillion.
Since our last update, we saw a surge of brand-new claims about hurricanes and the National Football League. In the past month, two destructive hurricanes hit Florida and Puerto Rico, and Trump pushed for NFL players to be penalized for protesting police brutality and racial inequality during the national anthem.
Trump repeatedly got basic facts wrong about Hurricane Irma in Florida and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. He claimed they made landfall as Category 5 storms — the most destructive kind — but they touched down as Category 4 and eventually reached Category 5 strength. How strong a hurricane is when it makes landfall, and then how much strength it gains or loses, is an important distinction for weather disasters.
Trump exaggerated the progress of the federal government’s relief efforts in Puerto Rico, the number of lives saved by the Coast Guard in after Hurricane Harvey in Texas, and the maximum wind speed of Hurricane Maria.
Trump often made false or exaggerated claims in his attacks against the NFL. He claimed multiple times that NFL ratings are “down massively” and “going way down” because of the players’ protests during the national anthem before the game begins.
But this lacks context. The TV audience size for NFL games is down this year, but it’s unclear exactly why. “Average attendance at regular season NFL games last year was the highest since 2007, when the NFL set an record in attendance. The NFL says ticket sales are ‘on par’ with last year,” according to the Associated Press. And professional football games remain among the most-watched televised events, the AP reported.
Trump also repeatedly said the NFL protest “has nothing to do with race.” But players and coaches who defended the protests said it was over racial injustice. Trump blamed the NFL for not enforcing a rule “that’s been in existence for a long time” requiring players to stand for the anthem. But it turns out, it wasn’t a rule; the NFL said players are “encouraged but not required to stand for the national anthem” and that teams can use discretion.
Finally, in the past month, we saw the return of a curious talking point. As Trump publicly criticized Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s approach to confronting the growing North Korean nuclear threat, Trump bemoaned the lack of progress made in denuclearizing North Korea over the past 25 years.
In April, Trump claimed that since President Bill Clinton, every president “has been outplayed by this gentleman,” referring to North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un. Then, recently, Trump again made it seem like “Rocket Man” — his nickname for Kim — was in charge since Clinton.
Of course, that’s not the case. It was misleading, as three different leaders (Kim, his father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il-sung) have led North Korea since Clinton’s presidency. Kim is one of the most common Korean surnames.
Turns out, this was an instance where Trump glossed over key details to the point of inaccuracy — another Trump tendency with which The Fact Checker is quite familiar. During an Oct. 7, 2017, interview with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R), Trump acknowledged that there are three different Kims, but they have the “same attitude.” Trump added, about Kim Jong-Un: “I think this one’s the worst of the group.”
So, mystery solved on the Kim front. Still, we are eager to get to the bottom of another head-scratcher: Whether Trump’s tax plan is the “biggest tax cut in U.S. history.” When the details are finally revealed, Trump’s track record so far suggests his claim will once again fall short.
Send us facts to check by filling out this form
Keep tabs on Trump’s promises with our Trump Promise Tracker
Sign up for The Fact Checker weekly newsletter