Trump made 24 false claims last Monday at the G7 summit in France. He uttered 10 at his closing press conference, five to reporters while meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, five more to reporters while meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and four to reporters while meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Trump also made 17 false claims on Twitter and 10 in a Fox News Radio interview with Brian Kilmeade. The remaining 11 came in other exchanges with reporters and in his hurricane briefing.
Sixty-two false claims is above Trump’s recent average: 55 per week since we started counting in early July.
The most egregious false claim of the week: The Iraq War
Trump took a break for a while from repeating one of the most serious false claims of his 2016 campaign: his insistence that he had opposed the invasion of Iraq from the beginning. But he told Kilmeade: “Look, we should have never been in Iraq. I’ve said that from day one and I was a civilian and it was covered but it was — you know, I was a civilian so who cares, right? But I said from day one, we should not go to Iraq.”
The most confusing false claim of the week: Category 5
This was strange to hear from the leader of a country, since it is rather common knowledge that Category 5s exist, but fine, sure, none of us can know everything.
And then … during a Sunday briefing on Hurricane Dorian, he offered his most confounding version yet.
Either the President is in an eternal cycle of learning of and promptly forgetting the existence of Category 5 storms or this is something he has decided to say on purpose over and over again. Either way, we are confused.
The most absurd false claim of the week: Melania and Kim
First lady Melania Trump was present for her husband’s press conference at the G7 summit in France. This might explain why he decided to mention her while talking about his relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
“Kim Jong Un — who I’ve gotten to know extremely well; the first lady has gotten to know Kim Jong Un, and I think she’d agree with me — he is a man with a country that has tremendous potential,” Trump said.
This seemed at first like a claim that was very likely inaccurate but that would be hard for us to definitively declare false. We knew Melania Trump had never met Kim Jong Un, but perhaps the President meant she had spoken to him over the phone or something of the sort.
In a rare turns of events, the White House essentially did the fact check for us. Behold a real quote from the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham: “President Trump confides in his wife on many issues including the detailed elements of his strong relationship with Chairman Kim — and while the First Lady hasn’t met him, the President feels like she’s gotten to know him too.”
That is not good spin.
Here is this week’s full list of 62:
Japanese auto companies
Facts First: “Many” is an exaggeration. Two Japanese car companies, Toyota and Mazda, have announced plans to build a US plant (together) during Trump’s presidency; their joint venture is under construction in Alabama. There is no evidence Trump was personally responsible for this investment decision.
Facts First: While General Motors does have plants in China, the company has not moved US plants to China, as Trump either claimed or strongly suggested. “No plants were closed in the US and opened in China to serve the US market. China plants are nearly 100% focused on serving that large and growing domestic Chinese market,” said Kristin Dziczek, vice president for industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research.
Trump could fairly say that inflation is low, but “no inflation” is incorrect.
“Our unemployment numbers for African American — African American, Asian, for Hispanic are the best they’ve ever been.” — August 26 G7 press conference
Facts First: Trump was accurate about African-American and Hispanic unemployment rates, but not the rate for Asians.
Hurricane Dorian and Alabama
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesperson Chris Vaccaro confirmed to CNN on Monday afternoon that this was still the case.
Category 5 hurricanes
“I have — not sure — I’m not sure that I’ve ever even heard of a Category 5. I knew it existed. And I’ve seen some Category 4s; you don’t even see them that much. But a Category 5 is something that I don’t know that I’ve even heard the term other than I know it’s there.” — Remarks at September 1 briefing on Hurricane Dorian
Puerto Rico disaster relief
The border wall
Facts First: Trump is not building a border wall “rapidly” or “very fast.” No new miles of wall have been built during Trump’s presidency as of August, Customs and Border Protection told CNN. Sixty miles of existing barrier have been replaced.
Facts First: Trump was referring to Bishop’s Democratic opponent in the special election in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district, Dan McCready, who does not support “open borders.”
McCready’s website says he wants comprehensive immigration reform “that secures our border, respects our laws and protects our American values.” He calls for the government to “reinforce physical barriers with the technology Dan used in the Marines, like infrared cameras and drones.”
Car imports from Japan
“I don’t know of any ways around import tariffs for vehicles shipped from Japan,” said Kristin Dziczek, vice president for industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research.
The trade deficit with the European Union
“The EU is another one: we’ve been losing $180 billion a year for many years.” — August 26 G7 press conference.
“And China has lost $20 (trillion), $25 (trillion), $30 trillion in worth.” — Exchange with reporters at August 26 meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
Facts First: There is no apparent basis for any of these figures. Experts on the Chinese economy have even rejected previous Trump claims of a $10 trillion drop in Chinese wealth.
We checked one of those “$10 trillion” claims for the Toronto Star in May. We wrote then: “George Magnus, a research associate at Oxford University’s China Centre, said, ‘I can’t really make those numbers add up to anything I’m aware of.’ Magnus noted that the entire market capitalization of the Shanghai index was just over $5 trillion US at the time. Derek Scissors, an expert on US economic relations with Asia at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank, also said a $10 trillion drop in Chinese wealth is ‘not in evidence.'”
The World Trade Organization
“Well, we haven’t been happy with the WTO, but now we’re winning cases. We won the big Airbus case, as you know. And it’s a tremendous case. I mean, it’s billions of dollars. That was a very recent victory. And we’re winning cases now. We’re being treated more fairly now in the WTO, which we appreciate.” — Exchange with reporters at August 26 meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Facts First: The US has not just “now” started winning cases at the World Trade Organization. Contrary to Trump’s repeated assertion, the US has long been successful in WTO disputes: his own Council of Economic Advisers said in a report in February 2018 that the US had won 86% of the cases it has brought since 1995. The global average was 84% and China’s figure 67%.
As is standard for the WTO, the US tended to lose cases where it is defending the case rather than bringing it — but even in those cases, Trump’s advisers noted that it did better (25% victory rate) than the world average (17% ) or China’s record (just 5%).
A Bloomberg Law review in March of this year found that the US success rate in cases it brings to the WTO had increased extremely slightly since Trump took office, from 84.8% in 2016 to 85.4%, so there’s a kernel of truth to Trump’s claim.
China’s agricultural spending
“China plays a vicious game. They’ve targeted our farmers and I’ve made up for it by — for two years now, $12 billion they did previously, then they did $16 (billion). I asked Sonny Perdue, our head of agriculture, is doing a fantastic job, what was the number they spent in their biggest year. And it was approximately $16 billion and out of the much more billions of dollars that we’re receiving.” — August 29 interview with Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade
Facts First: Sixteen billion dollars is not the most China has spent on US agricultural products in a calendar year, nor what it spent in a “good year.” According to figures from the US Department of Agriculture, China spent $19.5 billion in 2017, $21.4 billion in 2016 and $20.2 billion in 2015.
China spent more than $17 billion every year from 2010 through 2017 — and more than $20 billion in five of those eight years. Over that time period, its spending peaked at $25.9 billion in 2012.
“The farmers were targeted by China. So, out of the tariffs, which are much more than $16 billion by a factor of a lot, I’ve given the farmers $16 billion.” — August 30 exchange with reporters
China’s economic performance
“A lot of companies have left China and a lot more are leaving. And they are not doing well. They are having the worst year they’ve had, I understand, in 61 years.” — August 30 exchange with reporters
Facts First: China’s official second-quarter GDP growth rate, 6.2%, was the worst since 1992, 27 years ago. Though experts say China’s official economic statistics are unreliable, there is no basis for the “61 years” claim.
The history of tariffs on China
“…the United States, which has never collected 10 cents from China…” — August 26 G7 press conference
“Because of the tariffs, we’re in an incredible negotiating position, and we happen to be taking in billions and billions and billions of dollars. And we haven’t taken in 10 cents from China.” — August 30 exchange with reporters
“You know, we’re getting in tens of billions of dollars from China. We never got 10 cents from China in tariffs.” — August 29 interview with Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade
Facts First: The US government has been charging tariffs on imported Chinese goods for more than two centuries, and it took in hefty sums from such tariffs long before Trump imposed his own tariffs. (As always, we’ll note it is US importers and consumers, not China, who have paid these tariffs.)
Facts First: The dollar is not the strongest it has ever been against other currencies.
Unions and the USMCA
“Well, the USMCA has become very popular. That’s our deal with Mexico and with Canada. Unions are liking it.” — August 30 exchange with reporters
“Yes. The US, and it’s Mexico and Canada, USMCA, is a very popular deal. The farmers love it. The unions like it.” — August 29 interview with Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade
As The New York Times has reported, the United Automobile Workers and United Steelworkers, among other unions, have also demanded changes to the agreement.
Who pays for Trump’s tariffs on China
Trump claimed on six occasions that the revenue from his tariffs on China is coming in from China.
Trade deficit with China
Trump said on three occasions that the trade deficit with China has been $500 billion or more for years.
Popularity and polls
Facts First: Trump’s approval with Republicans is very high, regularly in the 80s and sometimes creeping into the 90s, but it has not been 94% in any recent poll.
“We have very strong polls in-house, but I see these phony polls, that’s another form of fake news. You know, it’s called suppression. They suppress … feelings.” — August 29 interview with Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade
Facts First: There is no evidence for Trump’s repeated suggestion that pollsters are falsifying their numbers to dampen the enthusiasm of his supporters.
Robert Jeffress’ quote
Facts First: Trump combined and re-ordered various parts of Jeffress’s comments in this interview on “Lou Dobbs Tonight” — and, most significantly, added words Jeffress did not say. While Jeffress has been supportive of Trump’s two Supreme Court appointments, he did not talk about them in this interview.
A quote on James Comey
Facts First: Trump quoted Wright imprecisely, combining different parts of an extended commentary on Fox News to make Wright’s remarks seem at least slightly more accusatory than they were. Although Wright suggested that he believes Comey tried to “kneecap” Trump, he did not say the words “he tried to kneecap our duly elected president.”
Wright said he was concerned about Comey setting a bad example for FBI and CIA employees. He asked, “What example does it set for them such that in 2020 or 2024 they can choose to use that information however they want to kneecap whoever they want whenever they want?” Wright continued later in the segment: “But what I fear, for my country — forget parties, for my country — is a precedent where somebody can break the law and kneecap a duly elected president and face absolutely no consequence for it.”
We tend to be generous in fact-checking Trump’s quoting of people on television; we don’t call it false when he lightly edits quotes in a way that does not change their meaning. In this case, though, his changes were substantial.
“The truth is that both of the presidents of this decade (President Obama and President Trump) have presided over an incredibly brisk expansion of our capacity to produce oil and refined products. Executive policy has had little to do with the explosive gains, which are attributable to technology and price,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service.
“The US is still a net importer of crude and refined products, although the trend of declining dependence on imports should continue due to increased domestic production of unconventional oil and biofuels and growing investment in export infrastructure following the 2015 repeal of the crude export ban,” said Josh Price, a senior analyst for energy and utilities at Height Capital Markets. “Most of these factors preceded President Trump and have not been significantly altered by administration policies.”
Renewable fuel waivers
Facts First: Trump was vague here, but energy experts were confident he was referring to his administration’s controversial decision, announced in August, to exempt 31 small oil refineries from the requirement to blend biofuels like ethanol into their fuel. Four experts told us they did not believe the decision saved any refineries from shutting down.
“As far as I know, there were no refineries on the brink of closing last year,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service.
Refiners are able to buy credits from other companies instead of meeting their obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard.
“I haven’t heard of any closures President Trump has prevented through issuing RFS waivers. Especially given how cheap RINs (Renewable Identification Numbers, or credits) have been over the past year or so,” said Josh Price, a senior analyst for energy and utilities at Height Capital Markets.
“The refineries in question were likely not in serious danger of closing as a result of (Renewable Fuel Standard) compliance cost,” said Eric Lundin, director for biofuels at Stratas Advisors, “due to the fact that the RFS obligations for a majority of them have now been waived for two consecutive years. In addition, the costs associated with RFS compliance for the 2018 compliance year would be no more than one-third to one-half of what they were in the 2016 and 2017 compliance years due to far lower RFS credit prices.”
The White House did not respond to a request to identify any refineries Trump had supposedly prevented from closing. Since the government does not release the list of refineries to which it has granted waivers, only the number, it is not possible to go down the list ourselves.
Frank Maisano, spokesman for Fueling American Jobs Coalition, whose members include small refineries, said the issue is more complicated than simply counting the number of refineries saved.
“Small refiner exemptions are proprietary, so you won’t be able to identify any specific facilities at risk, but refineries that qualify are constantly under strain from the costs of the RFS,” Maisano said.
“I feel that the United States has tremendous wealth. The wealth is under its feet. I’ve made that wealth come alive … But we are now the number one energy producer in the world. And soon, it will be by far, with a couple of pipelines that have not been able to get approved for many, many years.” — August 26 G7 press conference.
Conditions at Doral
The G7 climate meeting
Question: “Mr. President, were you able to attend the working session on climate and oceans earlier?” Trump: “We’re having it in a little while.” — Exchange with reporters at August 26 meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Question: “Did you make it to the climate session? Were there any conclusions that you took away from it?” Trump: “I’m going to it. In fact, it’s going to be our next session. But we haven’t had it yet.” — Exchange with reporters at August 26 meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Facts First: The climate session had already begun at the time Trump spoke here; it was not “in a little while” or “the next session.”
Trump might have been confused about his schedule rather than deliberately dishonest, but he was wrong regardless. (He ended up missing the session, though Merkel and Modi both attended.)
Air and water
“No, I want clean air and clean water. And we’re, right now, having the cleanest air and cleanest water on the planet.” — Exchange with reporters at August 26 meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
It’s also worth noting that this Trump answer came in response to a question about climate change, which he did not address.
Foreign and military affairs
ISIS fighters and Europe
“Well, we talked about that just a few minutes ago. We’ve captured thousands of ISIS fighters. We have them now. They’re captured. They’re in various locations, but predominantly in one. They came from Europe, in almost all cases.” And: “We have a lot from a lot of different countries. And, for the most part, all in Europe.” — Exchange with reporters at August 26 meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The length of the Iran deal
Trump said twice that the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran “expires in a very short period of time.”
The Iran deal and money
On two occasions, Trump claimed that the US “gave” or “paid” Iran “$150 billion” as part of the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Melania Trump and Kim Jong Un
“Kim Jong Un — who I’ve gotten to know extremely well; the First Lady has gotten to know Kim Jong Un, and I think she’d agree with me — he is a man with a country that has tremendous potential.” — August 26 G7 press conference.
Facts First: Melania Trump was not present for any of Trump’s three meetings with Kim Jong Un, and there is no evidence she has ever spoken to Kim.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement later Monday: “President Trump confides in his wife on many issues including the detailed elements of his strong relationship with Chairman Kim — and while the First Lady hasn’t met him, the President feels like she’s gotten to know him too.”
We’re still calling the statement false. Trump’s phrasing, “gotten to know,” clearly suggested some level of personal interaction between Melania Trump and Kim.
Position on the Iraq war
“…look, we should have never been in Iraq. I’ve said that from day one and I was a civilian and it was covered but it was — you know, I was a civilian so who cares, right? But I said from day one, we should not go to Iraq.” — August 29 interview with Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade
“Well the whole Bowe Bergdahl thing was a disgrace. He left. We may have lost as many as six people going out and looking for him … People were probably killed, and it could have been as many as six, trying to find him and then he gets a slap on the wrist. It was a disgrace, in my opinion.” — August 29 interview with Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade.
“Look, Lawrence O’Donnell has been lying about me. If you remember, we had a big dispute on “The Apprentice.” He said I was never paid anything. And I said I was paid a fortune. And then the statement came out, it was released; he had to apologize, just like he did last night. And when he apologized, he was crying, because it was very embarrassing to him, because we — I made a big bet. I said if it wasn’t a certain amount, I’ll pay your whole year’s salary for you. And he had to apologize.” — August 29 interview with Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade.
Chris Isidore, Nicole Gaouette, Zachary Cohen and Geneva Sands contributed to this report.