The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Fact-checking Trump’s new campaign-style video

Former president Donald Trump released an ominous campaign-style video on Aug. 9, 2022, one day after the FBI conducted a search of his Mar-a-Lago Club. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

One day after FBI agents executed a search warrant at former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, he posted a campaign-style video that has the earmarks of a nascent campaign to reclaim the presidency.

We’ve tried to be judicious about fact-checking Trump since he left the White House, but this seems like a good opportunity to scrutinize some of the claims he makes to audiences at his rallies. Here’s a line-by-line accounting of Trump’s statements of material fact, avoiding opinions, in the order in which they appear in the ad. The narration appears to come from a variety of speeches, spliced together to appear like a coherent argument. We assessed 18 statements — and found 89 percent were false or misleading.

“We are a nation that has the highest inflation in over 40 years …”

True. The Labor Department reported that inflation in June was 9.1 percent — the fastest increase in prices since November 1981.

“ … where the stock market just finished the worst first half of a year in more than five decades.”

True. The S&P 500 index fell more than 21 percent in the first six months of 2022, the worst half since 1970. Stocks had risen sharply in the early part of President Biden’s tenure so even with that loss the stock market was essentially flat from when he took office. As Trump himself knows, the stock market is a fickle barometer of a president’s performance.

“We are a nation that has the highest energy cost in its history …”

False. Trump is speaking about nominal prices, not real prices. Gasoline prices spiked after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but adjusted for inflation, monthly retail prices still did not top June 2008’s inflation-adjusted price of $5.38 a gallon, according to the Energy Information Administration. U.S. residential retail electricity prices jumped sharply in 2021 but inflation-adjusted prices have been higher, according to the EIA. Natural gas prices, adjusted for inflation, also have been higher.

“ … and we are no longer energy independent or energy dominant, which we were just two short years ago.”

False. This was one of Trump’s favorite false claims from his presidency. The United States was never energy independent when he was president; it continued to import millions of barrels of oil per day.

“We are a nation that is begging Venezuela and Saudi Arabia for oil.”

Misleading. Canada is by far the largest oil exporter to the United States, accounting for more than 60 percent of total U.S. crude oil imports in 2021, according to the EIA. Saudi Arabia supplied just 6 percent. Russia supplied 3 percent, but after the invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, Biden banned Russian energy imports. The administration has urged Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela to increase gas exports to help reduce prices in the United States.

“We’re a nation that surrendered in Afghanistan, leaving behind dead soldiers, American citizens …”

Misleading. Biden implemented the withdrawal plan that Trump had negotiated and wanted to act on. The departure was certainly mismanaged, but it’s unknown whether Trump would have done any better.

“ … and $85 billion worth of the finest military equipment in the world.”

False. We’ve previously given this claim Three Pinocchios. The $85 billion number represents all the money appropriated to train, equip and house the Afghan military and police since the U.S. invasion of 2001; moreover, not all of it had been disbursed by the time the Afghan government fell. At best, about 30 percent of this money was spent on equipment, but over two decades, a significant percentage of this equipment may have become obsolete or been destroyed.

“We are a nation that allowed Russia to devastate a country, Ukraine, killing hundreds of thousands of people, and it will only get worse.”

False. The United States did not allow Russia to do anything — and Biden has been credited with rallying U.S. allies to stand firm against the Russian attack and imposing sweeping sanctions against the government led by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We’re a nation that has weaponized its law enforcement against the opposing political party like never before. We’ve never seen anything like this.”

Misleading. Trump appears to associate any investigation of him as an investigation of the “opposing party” — and of course he dismisses any queries into his post-election efforts to overturn the election or his business practices as illegitimate.

“We are a nation that no longer has a free and fair press. Fake news is about all you get. We are a nation where free speech is no longer allowed.”

False. The ad here flashes an image of Trump’s Twitter account that was suspended after he repeatedly violated the company’s rules. But Trump posted this video on his new platform, Truth Social — showing free speech is still alive and well. Trump is also hosting the video on Rumble, a platform for far-right content that gained popularity after social media companies cracked down on misinformation related to the coronavirus and the 2020 election.

“Where crime is rampant like never before.”

False. Violent crime rose during the pandemic, but one or two years of data is not enough to make a trend — and murder and violent crime rates are still well below levels reached in the early 1990s.

“Where the economy has been collapsing.”

False. Economists are divided as to whether the United States is at risk of entering a recession, but the robust July jobs report showed that all of the jobs lost during the pandemic-related economic collapse that started under Trump have been recovered.

“Where more people died of covid in 2021 than in 2020.”

Misleading. The pandemic effectively emerged in March 2020 — only 26 deaths were recorded for January and February — so essentially 2020 is a 10-month number compared with 12 months in 2021. Moreover, a surge in cases at the end of 2020 — when Trump was still president — led to many deaths at the start of 2021, before vaccines became widely available.

“We are a nation that is allowing Iran to build a massive nuclear weapon …”

Misleading. Trump terminated the agreement negotiated by the Obama administration that had halted Iran’s program, claiming he could get a better deal. He never did, and Biden so far has been unable to revive the previous agreement.

“ … and China to use the trillions and trillions of dollars it’s taken from the United States …”

False. Trump persists in misunderstanding trade deficits. Countries do not “take” money from another country if it has a trade surplus. Trade deficits with China persisted during every year of Trump’s presidency — the goods and services trade deficit was $285.5 billion in 2020 — but the trade benefited both countries. China was the United States’ third largest goods export market in 2020, according to the U.S. Trade Representative.

“ build a military to rival our own.”

Misleading. China announced in 2019, when Trump was president, it would seek military parity with the United States by 2027. The Indo-Pacific Command, in a May report to Congress, said $67 billion in new military spending was needed to maintain the U.S. military edge.

“We are a nation that over the past two years is no longer respected or listened to all around the world.”

False. A Pew Research Center survey of 16 countries found a significant uptick in ratings of the U.S. image after Biden became president.

“We are a nation … whose educational system is ranked at the bottom of every nation.”

False. For decades, U.S. students have lagged some of their peers in industrialized countries such as South Korea and Finland, but it’s wrong to claim the U.S. educational system is “ranked at the bottom of every nation.” The United States ranked in the middle of the pack in the 2018 OECD program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a triennial survey of 15-year-old students. “Students in the United States performed above the OECD average in reading (505 score points) and science (502), and below the OECD average in mathematics (478),” the report said. “Their scores were similar to those of students in Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom in at least two of these three subjects.”

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