Fact Check Friday: A look at Trump’s frequently fact-challenged week
Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Even for President Donald Trump, whose casual relationship with the facts has been well documented, this has been a remarkably fact-challenged week.
ABC News counted at least eight public statements the president made this week that simply are not true, or are not supported by any known evidence.
The president also did some successful fact-checking of his own this week, twice correcting his critics. See numbers nine and 10.
It’s “Fact Check Friday.”
After a relatively quiet Sunday and Memorial Day, President Trump started the week at a high-octane political rally in Nashville, Tenn., where he revved up the crowd with a speech riddled with mistruths and inaccuracies. The highlight: his claim that his presidential campaign was infiltrated by the FBI, an unproven allegation he’s dubbed “Spygate.”
“So how do you like the fact they had people infiltrating our campaign?” President Trump asked the crowd. “Can you imagine? Can you imagine? People infiltrating our campaign.”
Well, they’d have to imagine, because so far there is no known evidence to support that claim.
Four top Democratic lawmakers and one top Republican briefed on classified information by the Department of Justice that the president insisted would show the FBI spied on his campaign all said the FBI did nothing wrong.
One of them, Rep. Trey Gowdy, is no ordinary Republican. He’s an ardent Trump supporter and he led the congressional inquiry into the events of the Benghazi attack during Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state. He told Fox News earlier this week he’s “convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do.”
2. “She loves MS-13”
At that same Tennessee rally for Senate candidate Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Trump falsely labeled House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as an “MS-13 lover,” claiming she defended the violent street gang after he described them as “animals.” Aside from the obvious point that it stretches credulity to believe that an elected official would openly support a criminal street gang, Pelosi, in fact, never defended the gang.
Two weeks ago, she lashed out at the president after he said some undocumented immigrants are animals, without specifically referencing MS-13. The president later clarified that his remarks were directed at MS-13.
He’s been running with that ball ever since.
3. “I never fired Comey because of Russia.”
Following a New York Times report that says the president originally asked his Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to make a reference to the Russia investigation in a memo that was used as justification to fire James Comey last year, the president tweeted: “Not that it matters but I never fired James Comey because of Russia! The Corrupt Mainstream Media loves to keep pushing that narrative, but they know it is not true!”
While it’s not clear what reference to Russia the president was asking Rosenstein to make, the problem with the president’s tweet is that it stands in direct contradiction to his own words.
In May 2017, he told NBC’s Lester Holt that the Russia investigation was on his mind when he fired Comey.
“I was going to fire Comey knowing, there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,” Trump said.
It’s also worth noting that the New York Times reported that the president bragged about firing Comey in an Oval Office meeting with top Russian officials. Citing a White House summary of the meeting, the Times quoted the president as saying, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
4. “phony sources”
In a tweet on Saturday (ok, technically last week), President Trump accused the New York Times of using a “phony source” who he said “doesn’t exist” in a story the paper published about an expected North Korea summit.
This one is simple.
The alleged “phony source” does exist. He is a senior White House official who briefed reporters “on background” (meaning not for attribution) in the White House briefing room. Those terms for attribution, along with the briefing itself, were organized by the White House press office.
Not phony, very real.
In response, some news outlets eventually named the official and published the transcript of the briefing in defense of the New York Times.
5. “Meddling with the mid-terms”
President Trump erroneously claimed this week via Twitter that special counsel Robert Mueller “will be meddling” with the midterms elections coming up in the fall.
“The 13 Angry Democrats (plus people who worked 8 years for Obama) working on the rigged Russia Witch Hunt, will be MEDDLING with the mid-term elections, especially now that Republicans (stay tough!) are taking the lead in Polls. There was no Collusion, except by the Democrats!”
By co-opting the term “meddling,” which is often used by government officials to describe the role allegedly played by the Russian government in the 2016 presidential elections, the president is saying essentially that Mueller intends to release a damaging report that could hurt him and the Republican party ahead of the elections. There is no known evidence to support that claim that Mueller, a registered Republican, is on a mission to hurt the party.
6. He “voted for Tax Cuts”
In a series of tweets on Monday, President Donald Trump endorsed GOP Rep. Dan Donovan R-N.Y., praising the congressman for supporting his tax cut plan even though Donovan voted against the bill three times.
“There is no one better to represent the people of N.Y. and Staten Island (a place I know very well) than @RepDanDonovan, who is strong on Borders & Crime, loves our Military & our Vets, voted for Tax Cuts and is helping me to Make America Great Again. Dan has my full endorsement!”
Donovan was among 12 House Republicans who voted against the tax bill. In December, Donovan released a statement outlining his reasons for voting “no,” saying that the tax bill “doesn’t equal relief for far too many.”
7. & 8. “We’ve started the wall… and San Diego wants a border wall.”
During his rally in Nashville, the president made two glaringly false claims relating to his desired border wall.
“We have $1.6 billion for the wall. We’ve started the wall,” he said. The $1.6 billion dollars he referred to was included in the massive spending bill signed into law earlier this year, but the money was designated for fencing and other security measures.
No funding was included for the construction of a new wall as envisioned by Trump. The projects underway are to replace or improve existing border fencing.
No construction has begun on the prototypes ordered by the Trump administration and promised during his campaign.
The claim is misleading.
He also falsely claimed that San Diego wants a border wall. “In San Diego, they came to us. They wanted the wall in California,” Trump said. In fact, neither San Diego County nor the city has requested a wall. Last September, San Diego city officials approved a resolution opposing the president’s border wall.
9. & 10. Score 2 for Trump
To the president’s credit, he did some successful fact-checking of his own this week.
On Wednesday, he called out the New York Times for falsely estimating the crowd size at his Nashville rally at about 1,000 people. He lashed out on Twitter, once again attacking the “Failing and Corrupt” New York Times, saying “they are very dishonest people..”
The New York Times reporter quickly responded to the president’s tweet, saying “President @realDonaldTrump is correct about his crowd last night. My estimate was way off, and we have corrected our story to reflect the fire marshal’s estimate of 5,500 people. When we get it wrong, we say so.”
And earlier in the week, the president corrected Democrats who were spreading a misleading photo of immigrant children being held in prison cells. Democrats were using the photo to argue that children were being harshly treated under Trump’s new “zero tolerance” enforcement of immigration laws.
But the photo was taken in 2014 during the Obama administration.
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