“I don’t want to leave troops there. It’s very dangerous for — you know, we had 28 troops, as it turned out. People said 50. It was 28. And you had an army on both sides of those troops. Those troops could have been wiped out.”
It was Trump that had said 50 troops. But these tiny numbers belie the fact that Trump ordered the withdrawal of about 1,000 U.S. troops from northeastern Syria from about a dozen bases and outposts scattered across the region, where they worked alongside Syrian Kurdish partners. The hasty withdrawal, prompted by Trump’s decision to let Turkey invade, meant many of these bases had to be quickly abandoned.
“I always thought if you’re going in, keep the oil. Same thing here. Keep the oil. … We’ve secured the oil.”
Trump appears to be talking about a plan to leave a few hundred troops along the Iraqi border area, to prevent the Islamic State from reestablishing its self-described caliphate in the area. That would also help the Kurds keep control of oil fields in the region. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper hinted at such a move when he told reporters over the weekend that all forces would be removed from Syria in the coming weeks “except for — the president has approved the — keeping some forces at Tanf garrison in the south.”
But the plan still has to be put into action. Trump’s language suggests the United States is taking control of the oil. But the U.S. military does not seize foreign oil because it’s against international law “to destroy or seize the enemy’s property.”
“We have a good relationship with the Kurds. But we never agreed to, you know, protect the Kurds. We fought with them for 3½ to four years. We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives.”
Trump misleadingly frames the agreement as the “rest of their lives.” But the United States had certainly made a deal with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is said to have lost about 11,000 soldiers in defeating the Islamic State, after being trained and equipped by the United States. (Turkey considers elements of this force to be a terrorist threat.) To prevent a Turkish invasion, the United States persuaded the SDF to pull back up to nine miles from the Turkish border. In August, the SDF destroyed its own military posts after assurances the United States would not let thousands of Turkish troops invade. But then Trump tossed that aside.
For context, here’s how Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke of the Kurds in 2018.
“They’ve been fighting for 300 years that we know of, 300 years.”
Trump frequently and misleadingly frames this as a “hundreds of years” conflict between the Turks and the Kurds. There has been a hundred-year effort to create a Kurdish state in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, with the Kurds frequently manipulated by great powers seeking to flex their muscles against a particular nation, such as Iraq. The United States, for instance, spent $16 million promoting a rebellion in Iraqi Kurdistan in the early 1970s, only to step aside when the Shah of Iran (then a U.S. ally) decided to cut a border deal in 1975 with Iraq. “There is confusion and dismay among our people and force,” the Kurdish leadership cabled the CIA. “Our people’s fate in unprecedented danger. Complete destruction hanging over our head. No explanation for all of this.”
“The whistleblower gave a false account. Now we have to say, well, do we have to protect somebody that gave a false account?”
Trump says this repeatedly — he’s already earned a Bottomless Pinocchio — but it’s simply not true. Our line-by-line look at the whistleblower complaint, compared to the rough transcript of the July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other information, shows that it was fairly accurate.
“So was there actually an informant? Maybe the informant was Schiff. It could be Shifty Schiff. In my opinion, it’s possibly Schiff. He and his staff, or his staff or a whole group.”
This is ridiculous speculation. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) is not the informant. The whistleblower complaint was investigated by the inspector general for the intelligence community, found to be credible and then submitted to Congress.
“I gave away my salary. It’s, I guess, close to $450,000. I give it away. Nobody ever said, ‘He gives away his salary.’ Now it comes up because of this. But I give away my presidential salary. They say that no other president has done it. … They actually say that George Washington may — may have been the only other president to do — but see whether or not Obama gave up his salary.”
The president’s annual salary is currently $400,000 — and Trump is the third president to give away his salary. Herbert Hoover and John F. Kennedy, both very wealthy at the time, gave their salaries to charity. Barack Obama gave about $1.1 million to charity during the eight years he was president, according to a Forbes analysis. His presidential salary during that period was $3.1 million, though he made millions more from book sales.
“Best location, right next to the airport, Miami International, one of the biggest airports in the world. Some people say it’s the biggest, but one of the biggest airports in the world.”
Trump defended his now-abandoned decision to hold the Group of Seven summit at the Trump National Doral resort, but he needs to get his airport rankings straight. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is No. 1 in the world by passenger volume, with more than 100 million passengers, but Miami does not even rank in the top 20. In 2017, it ranked 40th, according to the Airports Council International.
“Doral was setting records when I bought it, because I owned it for a period of time. Setting records. It was going to — there was nothing like it. It was making a fortune. And then what happened? I announce I’m going to run for office, right? And all of a — and I say we got to build a wall, we got to have borders, we’ve got to have this, we’ve got to have that. All of a sudden, people — some people didn’t like it. They thought the rhetoric was too tough. And it went from doing great to doing fine. It does very nicely now. It’s actually coming back, I understand, very strongly. But Doral was setting records.”
Trump’s Doral resort has been in sharp decline in recent years, according to the Trump Organization’s own records. Its net operating income fell 69 percent from 2015 to 2017; a Trump Organization representative testified last year that the reason was Trump’s damaged brand since he became president. Trump bought it in 2012 and spent several years renovating it, so it’s possible 2015 was the resort’s best year. There is no evidence as yet that it is coming back “very strongly.”
“I don’t know if you know George Washington, he ran his business simultaneously while he was president. … George Washington, they say, had two desks. He had a presidential desk and a business desk.”
We will leave it to readers to decide if the practices at the nation’s founding are relevant today. Washington was one of the nation’s largest landowners when he became president, though they were of dubious value, and he was a shareholder in the Patowmack Co., which aimed to build canals that would have given his land more value. Some historians have been critical — one wrote that Washington “betrayed private trusts in pursuit of private gain” — but our colleague Joel Achenbach, in his 2005 book, “The Grand Idea: George Washington’s Potomac and the Race to the West,” concluded: “There is remarkably little tarnish to be mined in the Washington archive. We can be confident that his reputation as an honest man is not the product of a historical whitewash.”
Achenbach told The Fact Checker: “My thinking is that he did remotely run Mount Vernon as a going concern during his presidency, via letters to his farm manager, but it was a completely different era. Back then he had to borrow cash just to make the trip to get inaugurated.”
“Hey, Obama made a deal for a book. Is that running a business? I’m sure he didn’t even discuss it while he was president, yeah. He has a deal with Netflix. When did they start talking about that? That’s only, you know, a couple of examples.”
In defending the Doral deal, Trump mentions deals that Obama arranged after he left office, speculating without evidence that Obama started negotiating them when he was president.
“I don’t think you people, with this phony emoluments clause — and by the way, I would say that it’s cost me anywhere from $2 billion to $5 billion to be president — and that’s okay — between what I lose and what I could have made.”
The emoluments clause is not phony; it’s right in the Constitution (Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8): “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
Trump’s net worth is valued at $3 billion, so it’s difficult to see how being president could cost him even more than his net worth. Bloomberg News recently estimated that his net worth grew 5 percent in 2018, following two years of declines, bringing it back to the level calculated in 2016. Forbes calculated that as of September, his net worth is $3.1 billion.
“You could end up in a war. President Obama told me that. He said, ‘The biggest problem, I don’t know how to solve it.’ He told me he doesn’t know how to solve it. I said, ‘Did you ever call him?’ ‘No.’ Actually, he tried 11 times, but the man on the other side, the gentleman on the other side, did not take his calls, okay? Lack of respect. But he takes my call.”
“I see this guy, Congressman Al Green, say, ‘We have to impeach him, otherwise he’s going to win the election.’ What’s that all about? But that’s exactly what they’re saying. ‘We have to impeach him, because otherwise he’s going to win.’ I’m going to win the election.”
One problem with this complaint: Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) says he never said that. The Texas congressman noted that on Twitter, writing, “It’s no surprise that @realDonaldTrump, who promoted birther conspiracies about President Obama, who claimed there were nice people among the bigots and racists in Charlottesville, and who consistently engages in perfidy, would tweet another untruth. I never said that.”
Trump appears to be referring to a comment made by Green on MSNBC on May 6, 2019 when he was asked whether impeaching Trump would help him win re-election, given that polling at the time showed most Americans opposed: “I’m concerned that if we don’t impeach this president, he will get re-elected. If we don’t impeach him, he will say he’s been vindicated. He will say the Democrats had an overwhelming majority in the House and didn’t take up impeachment. He will say we have a constitutional duty to do it if it was there and we didn’t. He will say he’s been vindicated.”
In other words, Trump is twisting Green’s comment to suggest he said impeachment is necessary to defeat him. But that’s not how Green framed it.
“They’re interviewing ambassadors who I’d never heard of. I don’t know who these people are. I’ve never heard of them.”
This is false. Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union and a big donor to Trump’s inauguration, testified to Congress on Oct. 17 that Trump in an Oval Office meeting on May 23 directed him, special envoy Kurt Volker and Energy Secretary Rick Perry to talk to his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani about Ukraine issues.
“We asked the White House to arrange a working phone call from President Trump and a working Oval Office visit,” Sondland said. “However, President Trump was skeptical that Ukraine was serious about reforms and anti-corruption, and he directed those of us present at the meeting to talk to Mr. Giuliani, his personal attorney, about his concerns. It was apparent to all of us that the key to changing the President’s mind on Ukraine was Mr. Giuliani.”
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