“America has tested more [for the novel coronavirus] than every country in Europe put together, and more than every nation in the Western Hemisphere combined. We have conducted 40 million more tests than the next closest nation.”
Trump is talking about raw numbers, which is misleading. (And if you believe China, Beijing actually exceeds the number of tests, 90 million to 79 million for the United States.)
The key indicator is tests per capita, which gives a read on the share of the population that has contracted the novel coronavirus that causes the disease covid-19. The United States still lags major countries such as Russia and is tied with Britain in terms of number of tests per million people.
Another problem is test results are slow in the United States. “Test results for the novel coronavirus are taking so long to come back that experts say the results across the United States are often proving useless in the campaign to control the deadly disease,” The Washington Post reported in July. “ ... The long testing turnaround times are making it impossible for the United States to replicate the central strategy used by other countries to effectively contain the virus — test, trace and isolate.”
“When I took bold action to issue a travel ban on China, very early indeed, Joe Biden called it hysterical and xenophobic. And then I introduced a ban on Europe, very early again. If we had listened to Joe, hundreds of thousands more Americans would have died.”
Trump oversells in the impact of his “travel ban” — and on Biden’s criticism.
On Jan. 31, the president announced that effective Feb. 2, non-U.S. citizens were barred from traveling from China, but there were 11 exceptions. Meanwhile, U.S. citizens and permanent residents could still travel from China but were subject to screening and a possible 14-day quarantine. Trump’s action did not take place in a vacuum. Many airlines were canceling flights, and by our count, at least 38 countries took similar action before or at the same time the U.S. restrictions were put in place.
The president said he took bold action that was criticized. News reports say he was reluctant to impose the ban, citing his relationship with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, but the action was urged by his top health advisers. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters on Feb. 7: “The travel restrictions that we put in place in consultation with the president were very measured and incremental. These were the uniform recommendations of the career public health officials here at HHS.”
Any criticism was scattered and relatively muted. Trump points to a comment by former vice president Biden — “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia … and fearmongering to lead the way instead of science” — but Biden says that did not refer to the travel restrictions.
The virus was already spreading through the United States, and there is little evidence the travel restrictions on China saved lives, especially because the Trump administration did not rapidly set up an effective testing regimen, as did many other countries.
Trump also touts his restrictions on travel from some countries in Europe as effective. But a Washington Post examination found that his abrupt decision led to one final viral infusion before the country was forced to shut down. “The lapses surrounding the spread from Europe stand alongside other breakdowns — in developing diagnostic tests, securing protective gear and imposing social distancing guidelines — as reasons the United States became so overwhelmed,” The Post reported. “The travel mayhem was triggered by many of the same problems that plagued the U.S. response to the pandemic from the outset: Early warnings were missed or ignored. Coordination was chaotic or nonexistent. Key agencies fumbled their assignments. Trump’s errant statements undermined his administration’s plans and endangered the public.”
“The United States has among the lowest case fatality rates of any major country in the world.”
This is false. Case fatality measures how many people known to have gotten covid-19 eventually die of covid-19, and the U.S. rate is currently 3.1 percent. Johns Hopkins University says that puts the United States 11th among the 20 countries most affected by the disease; the United States ranks fourth for deaths per 100,000 population.
Trump’s phrasing appears to turn on the phrase “major country.” Among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, for instance, the U.S. rate is lower than the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain but higher than Australia, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Israel, among others.
“I have done more for the African American community than any president since Abraham Lincoln, our first Republican president.”
Trump appears to base this assertion on pre-coronavirus employment figures and some relatively minor actions taken during his administration. Historians say this claim is ridiculous.
Trump has taken few actions specifically on behalf of African Americans.
Lincoln freed the enslaved people in the Confederacy and pressed for passage of constitutional amendments to give them equal status under the law. Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which also had lasting impact on the lives of African Americans. These legislative victories were not easy, requiring Johnson to build coalitions with moderate Republicans and liberal Democrats to defeat the powerful segregationists in his own party who dominated the South. Trump is never one to be modest, but this kind of bragging is simply ridiculous.
[Correction: We wrote “moderate Republicans,” but former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who was a Senate page in 1963 to 1967, contacted The Fact Checker to note that many conservative Republicans also voted both for the Civil Rights Bill and the cloture vote that broke a filibuster by conservative Democrats. “Without these conservatives the Bill and Cloture would not have happened,” he said. The final vote for the bill was 73 to 27, with 27 Republicans in favor and just six opposed. Among Democrats, 46 voted for the bill and 21 rejected it.]
“Our NATO partners, as an example, were far behind in their defense payments. But at my strong urging, they agreed to pay $130 billion more a year, the first time in over 20 years that they upped their payments. And this $130 billion will ultimately go to $400 billion. Secretary General [Jens] Stoltenberg, who heads NATO, was amazed, and said that President Trump did what no one else was able to do.”
Throughout the 2016 campaign and his presidency, Trump has demonstrated that he has little notion of how NATO is funded and operates. He repeatedly claimed that other members of the alliance “owed” money to the United States and that they were delinquent in their payments. Then he claimed credit for the money “pouring in” as a result of his jawboning, even though much of the increase in those countries’ contributions had been set under guidelines arranged during the Obama administration.
Since 2006, NATO guidelines have asked each member country to spend at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. In 2014, NATO decided to increase its spending in response to Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region, with the goal of reaching 2 percent in each country by 2024. This money does not end up in NATO’s coffers, as Trump often asserts. (Direct funding, for military-related operations, maintenance and headquarters activity, is based on gross national income — the total domestic and foreign output claimed by residents of a country — and is adjusted regularly.)
Trump’s $130 billion figure comes from a NATO estimate that its European members and Canada will spend $130 billion additionally on defense over the four years between 2016 and 2020. (The $130 billion is an estimate for cumulative defense spending through 2020, in 2015 dollars, as an increase over 2016 spending.)
Trump falsely claims this is $130 billion a year, rather than over four years.
The $400 billion figure is for eight years.
But NATO figures show that the defense expenditures for NATO countries other than the United States have been going up — in a consistent slope — since 2014. As we noted, that’s when NATO decided to boost spending in response to Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region.
With Trump suggesting at times that he would consider withdrawing the United States from the alliance, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg clearly understands that it is necessary to play to Trump’s ego. At a 2019 NATO summit, he thanked Trump for his “leadership on defense spending.”
Stoltenberg, when he’s not speaking in front of Trump, says 2019 was “the fifth consecutive year of growth” for European NATO members and Canada. That again takes us back to 2014.
“We will always and very strongly protect patients with preexisting conditions. And that is a pledge from the entire Republican Party.”
This could hardly be more false — and we’ve given Trump’s claim our worst rating, a Bottomless Pinocchio.
Trump took office and immediately began trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, and now, his administration is asking the Supreme Court to strike down the entire law, including the preexisting condition coverage guarantee. Trump has not offered a replacement plan, despite promising one since days before taking office in 2017.
We have also given Four Pinocchios to several Republican senators who have consistently worked to undermine the Affordable Care Act and its coverage guarantee, and who support the GOP lawsuit pending before the Supreme Court.
The Republican Party has spent 10 years trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and its coverage guarantee for patients with preexisting conditions, but GOP lawmakers have never come to an agreement on how to replace the law.
“Joe Biden ... the party he leads supports the extreme late-term abortion of defenseless babies right up until the moment of birth ... stopping a baby’s beating heart in the ninth month of pregnancy.”
Most abortions are performed in the earlier stages of pregnancy. About 1 percent happen after the fetus reaches the point of viability. Trump and antiabortion advocates have claimed for months that Biden or other Democrats support abortion “up until the moment of birth,” a claim we have awarded Three Pinocchios.
They argue that some laws and court decisions have opened loopholes that allow abortions to the very end of a pregnancy. Experts have told us abortions up to the moment of birth, what could be described as infanticide, are not happening in the United States.
Biden supports abortion rights and says he would codify in statute the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade and related precedents, which generally limit abortions to the first 20 to 24 weeks of gestation.
Other candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have said they favor no restrictions on abortion. But both co-sponsored the Women’s Health Protection Act, which prohibits states from banning abortion before the fetus reaches viability (the Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey framework).
“We have spent nearly $2.5 trillion on completely rebuilding our military, which was very badly depleted when I took office.”
False. The military was not “depleted” despite Trump’s insistence. (The claim appears 175 times in our Trump database of false or misleading claims.)
The U.S. military budget had declined in the years before Trump took office as a result of decreases in funding for Overseas Contingency Operations, as both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan came to a close, not because the military was “very badly depleted.”
Adjusted for inflation, the U.S. military budget under Trump lags some years during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Over three fiscal years, the Trump administration and Congress have authorized $2.5 trillion in military spending. But the money is not all spent, only a portion of it is destined for new equipment, and the equipment is not all built.
“I then approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, ended the unfair and costly Paris Climate Accord and secured, for the first time, American energy independence.”
Trump signed executive orders to speed up construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which the Obama administration had rejected. (It still has not been built.) But Trump did not “approve” the Dakota Access pipeline, which began construction during the Obama administration.
The Paris Climate Accord allows member nations to set their own targets, and Trump could have unilaterally changed the commitments offered by the Obama administration.
Trump and his allies often repeat the false claim that the United States is now energy independent. The United States is not energy independent, as it continues to import millions of barrels of oil per day.
“In 2019, the United States imported about 9.10 million barrels per day (MMb/d) of petroleum from nearly 90 countries,” according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The United States is expected to become a net energy exporter this year, according to the EIA, meaning it would sell more than it buys from other countries for the first time since 1952. That milestone apparently is not enough for Trump and his Republican supporters, who instead falsely claim the United States no longer relies on foreign energy.
“They spied on my campaign, and they got caught.”
Trump has concocted conspiracy theories about the Obama administration spying on his campaign, which he sometimes labels “Obamagate.”
It started with Trump’s false claim in 2017 that President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap on him. Then that merged with a report that an FBI informant in Europe, a professor named Stefan Halper, met with at least three people working on the Trump campaign in Europe.
A former campaign aide, Carter Page, was subject to an FBI warrant.
Lately, Trump has focused on a January 2017 meeting that Obama held in the Oval Office with then FBI director James B. Comey, Vice President Joe Biden and national security adviser Susan E. Rice, among others. Rice indicated in an email that Obama was primarily concerned with whether limits should be placed on classified information that was shared with the incoming team, in particular incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn, in light of the intercepts of the calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador.
Although presidents generally are expected not to inquire about criminal investigations, it is appropriate to have a discussion about a counterintelligence probe, as that involves national security. Somehow, without much explanation, Trump has turned this meeting into a high crime that he considers to be treason.
“During their convention, Joe Biden and his supporters remained completely silent about the rioters and criminals spreading mayhem in Democrat-run cities.”
Inserting the phrase “during their convention” does not make this claim less misleading. Trump leaves out that in a video posted on Twitter on Wednesday, Biden condemned the violence in Wisconsin, where protests began after the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake, who is Black, was shot seven times in the back as he entered his car on Sunday and was paralyzed.
A White teenager was arrested this week in connection with the deaths of two protesters. “Protesting brutality is a right and absolutely necessary,” Biden said in the Twitter video. “But burning down communities is not protest, it’s needless violence — violence that endangers lives.”
“When asked if he supports cutting police funding, Joe Biden replied, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ ”
This is a false claim that has earned Trump Four Pinocchios. Biden does not support “defunding police,” according to the candidate and the campaign. The phrase generally means shrinking the scope of police responsibilities to public safety and changing the tactics used by police officers. Biden backs advocates’ calls to increase spending on social programs separate from local police budgets, but he also wants more funding for police reforms such as body cameras and training on community policing approaches.
“No, I don’t support defunding the police,” Biden told CBS. “I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness. And, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community and everybody in the community.” Biden, in fact, has come under fire from the left for his position and for proposing to spend an additional $300 million a year on the community policing program started in the Clinton administration.
Trump citation of “yes, absolutely” draws a quote from an interview Biden had with activist Ady Barkan — and an edited version posted by NowThis on July 8.
During the interview, Barkan said, “We can reduce the responsibilities assigned to the police and redirect some of the funding for police into social services, mental health counseling and affordable housing.”
He asked Biden, “Are you open to that kind of reform?” In the video, Biden replies, “I’ve proposed that kind of reform.” At another point, Barkan again asks: “But so we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?” The video shows Biden saying: “Yes, absolutely.”
But the audiotape of the full conversation on police shows Biden’s responses were much more nuanced. The NowThis video does not include Biden adding that his response was not the same as “defunding all the police.” He also speaks about increasing funding for mental health, which is different from saying he would fund mental health aid out of redirected funds from the police. In effect, Biden says he would condition aid on police reforms as an incentive on the one hand, while simultaneously providing additional resources for mental health, homelessness and other kinds of community support.
“The Biden-Bernie manifesto calls for abolishing cash bail, immediately releasing 400,000 criminals onto the streets and into your neighborhoods.”
This is all wrong. Defendants awaiting trial have not been released in states that have moved to abolish cash bail. For example, in New Jersey, former governor Chris Christie, a Republican allied with Trump, led a coalition to abolish cash bail and replace it with a point-based system that assesses risk based on the nature of the charges, the defendant’s prior record and the risk to the public.
The unity task force for Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) simply says, “Poverty is not a crime, and it should not be treated as one. Democrats support eliminating the use of cash bail and believe no one should be imprisoned merely for failing to pay fines or fees.” That’s the same argument Christie would make.
“The Biden plan … he’s even talking about taking the wall down. How about that?”
False. Biden has stated in no uncertain terms that he would not take down the portions of the border fencing system Trump has built, although he would stop further construction. “There will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration,” Biden told NPR this month.
“Biden has promised to abolish the production of American oil, coal, shale and natural gas, laying waste to the economies of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico.”
False. Biden would not abolish fossil fuels. His plan on energy and the environment calls for “net-zero [carbon] emissions no later than 2050.” That’s 30 years from now. In the interim, Biden’s plan says, “we must look at all low- and zero-carbon technologies,” leaving the door open to carbon capture and other fossil-fuel-based sources. The “net-zero” language is a term of art, meaning that some fossil fuels would continue to be used so long as their emissions are offset by other means. Biden also says he would allow existing fracking operations to continue but would not grant new permits on federal lands.
“He [Biden] pledged to increase refugee admissions by 700 percent.”
It’s more accurate to say that the Trump administration has imposed new restrictions on asylum claims and Biden would lift them. Obama had a ceiling of admitting 130,000 refugees a year, Trump slashed that to 18,000, and Biden would seek to increase it to 125,000.
The Biden immigration page says he would reverse Trump’s additional restrictions on asylum seekers traveling through Mexico or Guatemala, would not prosecute asylum seekers for “misdemeanor illegal entry,” and would undo attempts “to prevent victims of gang and domestic violence from receiving asylum,” among other changes.
The Trump administration pioneered a program known as “Remain in Mexico,” or the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), under which mostly Central American migrants petitioning for asylum in the United States wait in Mexico while their U.S. immigration cases are pending. Democrats and migrant advocates say the arrangement exposes those asylum seekers to danger, which is not allowed under international laws covering refugees. Biden’s website says he would end the MPP initiative “and restore our asylum laws so that they do what they should be designed to do — protect people fleeing persecution and who cannot return home safely.”
Biden also pledges to increase the number of asylum officers, to process applications faster.”
“Migrants who qualify for an asylum claim will be admitted to the country through an orderly process and connected with resources that will help them care for themselves,” the Biden website says. “Migrants who do not qualify will have the opportunity to make their claim before an immigration judge, but if they are unable to satisfy the court, the government will help facilitate their successful reintegration into their home countries.”
The Biden-Sanders unity task force similarly says, “Democrats will end Trump Administration policies that deny protected entry to asylum seekers.” It adds: “We will end prosecution of asylum seekers at the border and policies that force them to apply from ‘safe third countries,’ which are far from safe.”
“He [Biden] opposed the mission to take out Osama bin Laden.”
We recently gave Three Pinocchios to Biden when he claimed he didn’t tell Obama not to launch bin Laden raid. But the story is bit more complicated than Trump suggests.
According to the accounts of administration officials involved in the internal debate, Biden was one of the two main skeptics of the intelligence suggesting that bin Laden was in Abbottabad, Pakistan. He publicly even stated that he said “don’t go” until more intelligence was gathered. So it’s clear he advised Obama not to go at that moment when Obama’s advisers were debating the issue.
Biden in an interview with CBS claimed he did not say “don’t go” but instead had said, “Try one more thing.” He argued that since Obama had not made a final decision, he did not want to be on record in front of other administration officials as urging the mission. “We walked up to the Oval. I said: ‘Mister President, follow your instincts. I know you should do it, but follow your instincts.’ ”
Antony Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state who in 2011 was Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, told The Fact Checker that he had learned of the private conversation between Obama and Biden shortly after it happened. Biden had argued in the Situation Room meeting for taking more time to get positive identification of bin Laden, but in the private conversation with Obama, Biden said, “Follow your instincts, they are always good,” according to Blinken’s recollection. (Blinken is a campaign adviser to Biden.)
So it appears that there was a second conversation between Obama and Biden, after the Situation Room meeting, in which he urged the president to follow his instincts. Whether Biden delivered a firm “go” message — or Obama heard one — remains unconfirmed.
“He [Biden] voted for the Iraq War.”
Biden did vote to authorize an invasion of Iraq, which starting in 2005 he said was a mistake. But Trump never mentions he was also a supporter of the Iraq War.
Since he started running for president, Trump has claimed he opposed the invasion, but this is one of his signature lies.
We searched high and low — as did other reporters — and there is no evidence Trump was an opponent of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, let alone a vocal one. In fact, he offered lukewarm support.
When radio host Howard Stern asked whether he supported invading Iraq, Trump replied: “Yeah, I guess so. You know, I wish the first time it was done correctly.”
In another interview, on Fox News two months before the invasion, he said President George W. Bush had to make a decision: “Either you attack, or you don’t attack.” Shortly after the invasion, he again told Fox News, “It looks like a tremendous success from a military standpoint.”
Not until August 2004, in an interview with Esquire, did Trump publicly express opposition to the war. By then — 17 months after the invasion — many Americans had turned against it, making Trump’s position not unique.
“Rather than spending $1 billion on a new building as planned, we took an already owned existing building in a better location … and opened it at a cost of less than $500,000.”
The new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem is a temporary location. It’s not a new building; the United States refurbished its existing consulate in Jerusalem for about $400,000, but U.S. government documents show the overall cost for the conversion now totals more than $23 million. Costs for the permanent embassy could well surpass $1 billion when all is said and done.
“Earlier this year, I ended the NAFTA nightmare and signed the brand new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement into law. Now auto companies and others are building their plants and factories in America, not firing their employees and deserting us.”
Trump regularly attacks the North American Free Trade Agreement, which took effect in January 1994, as the worst trade deal ever. He frequently describes it in apocalyptic terms, claiming it resulted in the loss of millions of jobs. NAFTA — which created an economically integrated market for the United States, Mexico and Canada — has had strong critics from the start, and it’s difficult to separate the impact of trade agreements on jobs from other, broader economic trends such as automation and the explosive growth of low-wage labor abroad. But Trump’s attacks on the deal were over the top.
“In reality, NAFTA did not cause the huge job losses feared by the critics or the large economic gains predicted by supporters,” concluded the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service in 2017. “The net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest, primarily because trade with Canada and Mexico accounts for a small percentage of U.S. GDP. However, there were worker and firm adjustment costs as the three countries adjusted to more open trade and investment.”
As for the USMCA, it does make changes to modernize trade rules in effect from 1994 to 2020, and it gives some wins to U.S. farmers and blue-collar workers in the auto sector. Economists and auto experts think the USMCA is going to cause car prices in the United States to rise and the selection to go down. Some elements of the deal were borrowed from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal Trump scrapped at the start of his term.
About 85 to 90 percent of the new deal is the same as the old deal. “The bottom line is Trump didn’t burn up NAFTA,” wrote our colleague Heather Long. “He made some modest tweaks.”
The U.S. International Trade Commission, which is tasked with evaluating the impact of trade agreements, calculated the new deal would have a relatively minor impact: The USMCA would raise U.S. real gross domestic product by $68.2 billion (0.35 percent) and U.S. employment by 176,000 jobs (0.12 percent). (The report actually said USMCA will cause growth to decline by 0.12 percent, but then made some assumptions about investment and an end of policy uncertainty to achieve positive growth. Some analysts found those assumptions dubious.)
“In a new term as president, we will again build the greatest economy in history.”
Although this claim has been repeated every night of the Republican convention, the president still did not preside over the strongest economy in U.S. history.
Before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses and sent unemployment soaring, the president could certainly brag about the state of the economy in his first three years as president. But he ran into trouble when he made a play for the history books by repeatedly touting it as the best economy ever.
By just about any important measure, the economy under Trump did not do as well as it did under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson or Bill Clinton. The gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2.3 percent in 2019, slipping from 2.9 percent in 2018 and 2.4 percent in 2017. But in 1997, 1998 and 1999, the GDP grew 4.5 percent, 4.5 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively.
Yet even that period paled in comparison against the 1950s and 1960s. Growth between 1962 and 1966 ranged from 4.4 percent to 6.6 percent. In postwar 1950 and 1951, it was 8.7 percent and 8 percent, respectively.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate reached a low of 3.5 percent under Trump, but it dipped as low as 2.5 percent in 1953. (After the pandemic tanked the economy, Trump has jacked up his claim even more, falsely saying it had been the greatest economy in the history of the world.)
“Washington insiders asked me not to stand up to China. They pleaded with me to let China continue stealing our jobs, ripping us off and robbing our country blind. But I kept my word to the American people. We took the toughest, boldest, strongest, and hardest-hitting action against China in American history.”
Many economists say Trump’s trade war with China has made matters worse for American farmers and exporters.
First, Trump imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of goods from China, complaining that Asia’s largest economy had been gaming global trade rules and manipulating its currency for years. In retaliation, China reduced purchases of U.S. crops such as soybeans. Then, Trump directed subsidies to American farmers to soften the blow.
Studies by leading economists have shown that the cost of Trump’s China tariffs is largely borne by American consumers, because companies pass down the cost. The two countries eventually resolved some sticking points in the first phase of a trade deal that took effect in February. But China is lagging far behind in its commitment to purchase $200 billion in agricultural, manufactured and energy products above 2017 levels. Yet Trump deceptively claims they are “more than living up to” their commitments under the deal.
“We also passed VA Accountability and VA Choice. We’re taking care of our veterans.”
Actually, Obama signed VA Choice into law in 2014. Trump merely signed an update of the law known as the Mission Act, which went into effect in 2019.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 was an important measure for accountability and whistleblower protection at VA. But this law builds on firing authority given to VA secretary through the Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014, signed by Obama. Trump frequently claims that before the law, no one could be fired, but the agency fired about 2,000 people a year before the law was enacted. The baseline rate of firing in VA, before the law, was about 220 people a month — and under Trump it has increased to about 290 people a month.
“We passed the decades-long-awaited right-to-try legislation.”
Trump signed “right to try” legislation in May 2018, allowing people with life-threatening illnesses to bypass the Food and Drug Administration to obtain experimental medication. But the legislation had not been waiting in the wings for “decades,” as Trump frequently claims. (He has repeated this statement more than 45 times, according to our ongoing database.) The idea first emerged less than a decade ago, in 2013.
Moreover, the FDA already approved 99 percent of requests for access to unapproved drugs, but supporters thought these policies were too restrictive. Contrary to Trump’s claims of lives being saved, Alison Bateman-House, a medical ethicist at the New York University School of Medicine, has tracked the law’s application and estimates that fewer than 10 people have used it to get treatments since it was passed.
“We passed record-setting tax and regulation cuts, at a rate nobody had ever seen before.”
Trump’s tax cut was not “record-setting,” despite the more than 200 times he has claimed otherwise. Amounting to nearly 0.9 percent of the gross domestic product, it is far smaller than President Ronald Reagan’s tax cut in 1981, which was 2.89 percent of GDP. Overall, it is the eighth-largest — even smaller than two passed under Barack Obama.
Trump may be closer to the facts when it comes to regulation cuts. But his claim cannot be easily verified. There is no reliable metric on which to judge his claim — or to compare him to previous presidents. Many experts say the most significant regulations in U.S. history were the deregulation of airline and trucking industries during the Carter administration.
“As part of Republican tax cuts, in 2019 alone, our child tax credit put over $2,000 dollars into the pockets of 40 million American families.”
— Ivanka Trump
Trump gives too much credit to her father and his Republican colleagues.
The child tax credit has existed since 1997, and it’s been expanded since then, including in the recent tax law. In 2016, under Obama, 35 million American families took the tax credit, with an average benefit of over $1,500 a year, according to the Treasury Department. So there’s only been a modest increase (in part because of inflation).
“And although an agreement on action against police brutality would be very valuable for the country, it would also make President Trump appear to be an effective leader. They could have none of that. So, Black Lives Matter and antifa sprang into action and in a flash they hijacked the peaceful protests into vicious, brutal riots.”
— Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R)
It is impossible to account for the beliefs and motives of every person at every protest. And, consequently, impossible to say that no one with antifa beliefs was involved in any violence at the protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May.
The likelihood that antifa activists were involved with an organized conspiracy to hurt the president is another story, so Giuliani makes assertions here for which there is little evidence.
Antifa is a moniker, not a single group with a clear organizational structure or leader. It is a decentralized network of activists who don’t coordinate — and consequently, did not conspire with anyone on any kind of scale — including Black Lives Matter, as Guiliani suggests.
In recent years, antifa activists appeared whenever there was a large gathering of white nationalists. And white nationalists, as counterintuitive as it might seem, have been known to attend Black Lives Matter rallies. That is what could then draw attention from antifa forces, according to Seth G. Jones, director of the transnational threats project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Both white nationalists and people who identify as antifa were spotted at Floyd protests. Still, being present and orchestrating violence are not the same.
Jones reviewed protests in more than 140 cities throughout the month of June and spoke with U.S. officials within the joint terrorism task force. Most of the violence, Jones said, was committed by “local hooligans, sometimes gangs, sometimes just individuals that are trying to take advantage of an opportunity.” Officials have arrested more than 14,000 people across 49 cities nationwide from May 27 to June 22, according to a Washington Post tally of data provided by police departments and included in media reports.
Thousands were arrested for low-level offenses, including curfew violations and failure to disperse. Roughly 80 federal charges filed by June 22, including murder and throwing molotov cocktails at police vehicles, reveal no evidence of an antifa plot. Four people who identify with the far-right extremist “boogaloo” movement are among those facing the most serious federal charges. Asked whether anyone who identifies as antifa had been charged, Justice Department spokesman Matt Lloyd said via email, “We do not collect statistics based on potential inspiration but on unlawful acts according to statute.”
“Joe Biden sent pallets of cash to the ayatollahs. President Trump ripped up the dangerous Iran nuclear deal.”
— Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)
That “pallets of cash” was related to the settlement of a decades-old claim between the two countries, not the Iran nuclear deal.
An initial payment of $400 million was handed over on Jan. 17, 2016, the day after Iran released four American detainees, including The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian. The timing — which U.S. officials insisted was a coincidence — suggested the cash could be viewed as a ransom payment. But the initial cash payment was Iran’s money.
In the 1970s, the then-pro-Western Iranian government under the shah paid $400 million for U.S. military equipment. But the equipment was never delivered because the two countries broke off relations after the seizure of American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Two other payments totaling $1.3 billion — a negotiated agreement on the interest owed on the $400 million — came some weeks later.
State Department officials said the negotiations over the claims and detainees were not connected but came together at the same time, with the cash payment used as “leverage” to ensure the release of detainees.
Obama administration officials claimed that without a deal with Iran, The Hague tribunal might have imposed an even higher interest penalty on the United States. (Experts agreed that was likely.) U.S. officials said the transfer was made in cash, rather than by wire, as previous claims reached through The Hague tribunal were paid, to ease the impact of increasingly tough sanctions imposed on Iran.
“Joe Biden let ISIS terrorists rampage across the Middle East. President Trump eliminated ISIS’s leader — and destroyed its caliphate.”
The caliphate built by the Islamic State has been dismantled, but Trump cannot take all of the credit for its demise. Obama set up virtually all the structures that did the key fighting against the Islamic State under Trump, and more fighters were trained and munitions dropped under Obama than under Trump.
Under Obama, all Iraqi cities (with the exception of the western half of Mosul) held by the Islamic State — such as eastern Mosul, Fallujah, Ramadi and Tikrit — were retaken by the end of his term, as was much of the northeastern strip of Syria along the Turkish border.
The basic plan of attack in 2017 was also developed under Obama, though Trump sped up the tempo by changing the rules of engagement. Moreover, the loss of physical territory does not mean the group is defeated. Reports estimate that 20,000 to 30,000 Islamic State militants may remain in Iraq and Syria, as opposed to 700 when the United States last withdrew. U.S. Central Command warns “absent sustained [counterterrorism] pressure, ISIS could likely resurge in Syria within six to twelve months and regain limited territory.”
Thus while the caliphate has been eliminated, the Islamic State remains a threat. In August 2019, the Defense Department inspector general warned: “Despite losing its territorial ‘caliphate,’ the Islamic State … solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq and was resurging in Syria. The reduction of U.S. forces has decreased the support available for Syrian partner forces at a time when their forces need more training and equipping to respond to the ISIS resurgence.”
In other words, the Islamic State’s loss of territory does not mean the organization’s end.
“Barack Obama’s own secretary of defense said Joe Biden has been wrong on nearly every major national security decision over the past four decades.”
Cotton was referring to a famous quote by Robert Gates, a Republican who served as defense secretary under George W. Bush and Obama. In his 2014 memoir, Gates wrote: “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
But in a June interview with NPR, Gates indicated he supported Biden for president. “What I will say is, I wrote in my book ‘Duty’ in 2014, that I thought Joe Biden had been wrong on almost every major foreign policy issue over the preceding 40 years,” he said. “I wrote on the same page, though, that I regarded Joe Biden as a man of great integrity, a very decent human being, as somebody that if you had a personal problem or an issue, Joe Biden would be there to help you. So although I’ve got a lot of policy disagreements with the former vice president, he is a decent person. … I think that what the country needs is somebody who will try to bring us together.”
“No one person and no one place could have anticipated the challenges that covid would bring.”
— Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship
The risks of a global pandemic have long been predicted by health experts, and the Trump administration arguably reduced the ability of the United States to respond effectively to the outbreak.
In fact, on Oct. 25, weeks before the first signs of the novel coronavirus, Biden tweeted: “We are not prepared for a pandemic. Trump has rolled back progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security. We need leadership that builds public trust, focuses on real threats, and mobilizes the world to stop outbreaks before they reach our shores.”
By contrast, on Jan. 22, shortly after the first case was detected in the United States, Trump was asked in an interview about the coronavirus and he dismissed it. “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control,” he said. For weeks afterward, he also played down the threat of the virus to the United States.
It has been widely documented that the administration bungled the rollout of testing for the novel coronavirus. The president spent nearly two months issuing confusing and contradictory signals — leaving the bureaucratic machine of the U.S. government to chart the course for the pandemic response.
The Centers for Disease Control and Protection designed its own test. The Food and Drug Administration picked a conservative testing strategy, allowing labs to use only the CDC test. When those tests turned up flawed, neither a new strategy nor a new test was available for more than two weeks. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar failed to push the agencies to change direction, and the president didn’t intervene.
The missteps that went unmanaged were ignored by leaders at the highest level of government and allowed cases to go undetected, contributing to the spike in the virus’s spread.
Democrats “want to tell you … even how many hamburgers you can eat.”
— Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
McConnell sounds like former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka, who told the Conservative Political Action Committee in 2019: “They want to take your pickup truck. They want to rebuild your home. They want to take away your hamburgers.”
Gorka was referring to the Green New Deal, a nonbinding resolution from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and other Democrats that calls for cutting carbon emissions to net-zero over 10 years while making steep investments in green infrastructure.
Trump falsely said in 2019 that under the terms of the nonbinding resolution, “You’re not allowed to own cows, anymore.”
McConnell probably was referring to the Green New Deal in his remarks, too, but it would not ban hamburgers.
As we found last year, a fact sheet from Ocasio-Cortez’s office said the plan called for a 10-year timeline “because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.” Banning cows and airplanes was never in the resolution itself, and Ocasio-Cortez retracted the fact sheet and disowned the remarks within days.
In fact, the resolution calls for the government to work collaboratively with ranchers to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions “as much as is technologically feasible.”
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