Fact check: 14 of Trump's false claims on 'Meet the Press'
By Daniel Dale and Jack Forrest, CNN
(CNN) — Former President Donald Trump delivered a laundry list of his familiar election lies and other false claims – plus some new falsehoods on subjects ranging from abortion laws to his policy on dealing with drug cartels – in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The show’s new moderator, Kristen Welker, promptly corrected some of the false claims; others were aired unchallenged. Here’s a fact check of 14 of the false claims, plus a check on another important claim for which there is no evidence.
This is not a comprehensive list of the inaccurate remarks Trump made in the interview.
Trump, attacking Democrats on abortion policy, claimed, “You have some states that are allowed to kill the child after birth.” He also said specifically, “You have New York state and other places that passed legislation where you’re allowed to kill the baby after birth.”
Facts First: This is false. Killing a child after birth is not allowed in any state, and New York did not pass legislation permitting infanticide.
A law New York approved in 2019 makes abortion illegal after 24 weeks with the exception of cases where the fetus is not viable or the abortion is “necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.” The law does not legalize post-birth murder. Since its passage, however, it has been the subject of online misinformation falsely claiming it does.
There are some cases in which parents decide to choose palliative care for babies who are born with deadly conditions that give them just minutes, hours or days to live. That is simply not the same as killing the baby.
Brad Raffensperger’s comments
Trump, who is facing criminal charges over his efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia, defended the January 2021 phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump told numerous lies about supposed election fraud and pressured Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to give him a victory in the state.
Trump said: “Brad Raffensperger, the head – who, by the way, last week said I didn’t do anything wrong. He said, ‘That was a negotiation.’ Brad Raffensperger, who I was dealing with, I appreciate that he said that. But he said last week, I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Facts First: Trump’s claim is false. Raffensperger did not say Trump didn’t do anything wrong on the January 2021 call; Raffensperger has been sharply critical of Trump’s behavior on the call.
Trump did not specify what he was talking about, but it’s possible he was mischaracterizing Raffensperger’s testimony at a late-August court hearing on the attempt by former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to get his own Georgia criminal case moved from state court to federal court. Nowhere in Raffensperger’s testimony did he say Trump didn’t do anything wrong or defend Trump’s words.
Rather, Raffensperger testified that “I didn’t take it as inappropriate” when Meadows told him on the January 2021 call that he (Meadows) hoped they could reach an agreement to allow the Trump side to look more fully at the election data. (Meadows had asked if, “in the spirit of cooperation and compromise,” they could “at least have a discussion” to seek a “less litigious” path forward.) That Raffensperger remark was in response to a question that was solely about Meadows’ words, not Trump’s words.
Raffensperger published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in early September criticizing efforts to use the 14th Amendment to get Trump disqualified from the 2024 ballot on the grounds that Trump engaged in an insurrection or rebellion against the US – Raffensperger argued that “denying voters the opportunity to choose is fundamentally un-American” – but Raffensperger didn’t even mention the call in that op-ed. When he was then asked about the call in a Fox interview about the op-ed, he said he had done due diligence before the call and knew that Trump’s various fraud claims were unfounded. He offered no defense of Trump’s conduct.
In his 2021 book, Raffensperger criticized Trump’s behavior on the call at length. He wrote “the president was asking me to do something that I knew was wrong, and I was not going to do that.” He wrote that, regarding some of Trump’s language on the call, “I felt then – and still believe today – that this was a threat.” And he wrote that, at another point in the call, Trump was doing “nothing but an attempt at manipulation” by “using what he believes is the power of his position to threaten [another Georgia elections official] and me with prosecution if we don’t do what he tells us to do.”
A New York Times article about presidential records
Trump denounced the criminal charges against him over his retention of classified documents after his presidency. He said, “I fall within the Presidential Records Act. It’s very simple. It’s a civil thing. In fact, The New York Times of all institutions did a story, and it was headlined, ‘Please, please, please, Mr. President, could we take a look at the documents.’ And they said in the story that the only way you can get documents from a president is if you go there and say please. Because this is civil.”
Facts First: Trump inaccurately described this New York Times article. The January article did not say the only way “you” can get documents from a president is saying please. Rather, the article explained that one particular entity, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), lacks “independent” enforcement power and is limited to polite requests – but that another entity, the Justice Department, enforces laws governing presidential documents and classified records. In other words, contrary to Trump’s suggestion here, the article did not say that the existence of the Presidential Records Act means there can be no enforcement, period, over presidential documents.
The Times article, whose online headline is “As Archives Leans on Ex-Presidents, Its Only Weapon Is ‘Please,’” explained that NARA is unable to compel ex-presidents to take action. But then the article said this: “Enforcement of the laws governing presidential records and classified documents is up to the Justice Department, which has opened investigations into the actions of President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump, who have each discovered classified records at their homes.” The article subsequently included a paragraph in which an expert was quoted as saying, “If there are violations of law, they can be referred to the Justice Department for action…But NARA itself has no police force or ability to enforce its own actions.”
Biden’s false claims
Trump said of Biden: “Look at all the lies he’s told over the last couple of weeks. He said he was at the World Trade Center and he wasn’t. He said he flew airplanes, right? He didn’t. He said he drove trucks, and he didn’t. Everything he says is, like, a lie.”
Facts First: Trump made a false claim here while denouncing Biden for making false claims: Biden has not said that he flew airplanes. This was not a one-time Trump mistake; he was even more specific at a September 8 rally, suggesting that Biden had claimed he “used to be a fighter jet pilot.”
It’s true that Biden has falsely claimed to have driven a tractor-trailer truck, though we aren’t aware of him saying this “over the last couple of weeks” as Trump said here. And Biden did make a false claim last week about when he visited the World Trade Center after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001; Biden visited Ground Zero, but he did so nine days after the attacks, not “the next day” as he claimed.
Trump’s comments about drug cartels
Welker said to Trump, “If elected, you say you would order the Defense Department to use special forces to inflict maximum damage on drug cartels.” But Trump responded, “I didn’t say that. No. People said I said that.” He repeated, “I didn’t say that.”
Facts First: Trump said that. In a video he released in January, which remains on his website, he said that, if elected president again, “I will order the Department of Defense to make appropriate use of special forces, cyber-warfare, and other overt and covert actions to inflict maximum damage on cartel leadership, infrastructure and operations.”
The media and the war in Ukraine
Trump claimed, “I will say this: something’s going on, and it’s not good for Ukraine. Because the news is no longer reporting about the war. The fake news. They don’t report about the war anymore. You don’t find much reporting. That means that Ukraine’s losing. Okay? I see very little reporting from NBC, your network. I see very little reporting from NBC, ABC, from CBS, from anyone about the war.”
Facts First: It’s not true that news outlets “don’t report about the war anymore,” though the amount of television coverage on broadcast news networks has certainly declined from the first months after Russia’s invasion in 2022.
CNN continues to do extensive daily reporting on the war on television and online. NBC News wrote in its own fact check of this Trump claim: “That is demonstrably false. In the last two weeks alone, NBC News has published dozens of stories and broadcasts on all platforms about the Ukraine war.” The fact check cited specific examples, then continued, “CBS News and ABC News have had dozens of articles and videos on their websites, too.”
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve
Trump criticized President Joe Biden for releasing a large quantity of crude oil from the national Strategic Petroleum Reserve to try to keep prices down in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and Trump claimed that this is a reserve “I had a lot to do with filling up for the first time ever.” Trump added later in the interview, “He wanted to have low gas prices for an election. And now, we have nothing left.”
Facts First: Trump made two false claims here. First, contrary to his repeated assertions, it’s not true that he filled up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; the reserve actually contained fewer barrels of crude oil when he left office in early 2021 than when he took office in 2017. Second, while the amount of crude in the reserve is at a 40-year low, it’s not even close to true that “we have nothing left” at present; the reserve remains the world’s largest even at its current level, with about 350.6 million barrels of crude as of the week ending September 8.
The fact that the amount of oil in the reserve fell during the Trump presidency is not all because of him. The law requires some mandatory sales from the reserve for budget reasons, and when Trump issued a 2020 directive to buy tens of millions more barrels and fill the reserve to its maximum capacity, Democrats in Congress blocked the required funding. Nonetheless, he didn’t fill up the reserve as he claims.
The size of the national debt
Trump said, “We have to save our country. We have $35 trillion in debt.”
Facts First: The national debt is very large, but Trump exaggerated its size. It is right around $33 trillion (it was $32.99 trillion as of Thursday, the latest day for which we have official data), not “$35 trillion.”
We didn’t publish a fact check when he claimed at a campaign rally on September 8 that it was $34 trillion, but this is now an exaggeration of an exaggeration – and $2 trillion is certainly a significant difference.
The price of bacon
While discussing inflation, Trump said, “Things are not going, right now, very well for the consumer. Bacon is up five times.”
Facts First: Trump’s claim that the price of bacon has quintupled over the last few years – which CNN previously debunked when he made it earlier this month – is grossly inaccurate.
The average price of bacon is higher than it was when he left office, but it is nowhere near “up five times.” The average price of sliced bacon was $6.502 per pound in August 2023, compared with $5.831 in January 2021, according to federal data – an increase of about 11.5%, not even close to the 400% increase Trump keeps claiming.
Military equipment left to the Taliban
Criticizing the way Biden handled the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, Trump repeated a claim about how much military equipment was left to the Taliban when the Afghan government and armed forces collapsed.
“We gave $85 billion worth of equipment to the Taliban,” Trump said.
Facts First: Trump’s $85 billion figure is false. While a significant quantity of military equipment that had been provided by the US to Afghan forces was indeed abandoned to the Taliban upon the US withdrawal, the Defense Department has estimated that this equipment had been worth about $7.1 billion – a chunk of the roughly $18.6 billion worth of equipment provided to Afghan forces between 2005 and 2021. And some of the equipment left behind was rendered inoperable before US forces withdrew.
As other fact-checkers have previously explained, the “$85 billion” is a rounded-up figure (it’s closer to $83 billion) for the total amount of money Congress appropriated during the war to a fund supporting the Afghan security forces. A minority of this funding was for equipment.
Trump and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline
Trump said of Russian President Vladimir Putin: “Look, I had a very good relationship with him. And yet nobody was tougher on Russia than me. I stopped Nord Stream 2. You never heard of Nord Stream 2 – that was the pipeline – until I got involved. I said, ‘Nord Stream 2.’ People that were sophisticated, military people, and political people never heard of Nord Stream 2. I had it ended. The pipeline was dead.”
Facts First: It’s not true that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany was “dead” during Trump’s presidency or that he “had it ended.” While he did approve sanctions on companies working on the project, that move came nearly three years into his presidency, when the pipeline was already estimated to be 90% complete – and the state-owned Russian gas company behind the project said shortly after the sanctions that it would complete the pipeline itself. The company announced in December 2020 that construction was resuming. And with days left in Trump’s term in January 2021, Germany announced that it had renewed permission for construction in its waters.
Second, while we don’t know what any particular “military people” and “political people” might have said to Trump, it’s not true that, in general, “you never heard of Nord Stream 2” before he began discussing it as president. Nord Stream 2 was a regular subject of media, government and diplomatic discussion before Trump took office. In fact, Biden publicly criticized it as vice president in 2016. Trump may well have generated increased US awareness of the project, but he certainly wasn’t the one to bring it to the federal government’s attention.
Trump blames Pelosi for January 6
Trump repeatedly attempted to blame Democratic California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who was speaker of the House on January 6, 2021, for the riot that day at the US Capitol – claiming she rejected his offer, days prior, of 10,000 National Guard troops. Trump said, “Listen: Nancy Pelosi was in charge of security. She turned down 10,000 soldiers. If she didn’t turn down the soldiers, you wouldn’t have had January 6.” He said explicitly, “She’s responsible for January 6.”
Facts First: Trump’s claims about Pelosi are comprehensively inaccurate.
First, the speaker of the House is not in charge of Capitol security. Capitol security is overseen by the Capitol Police Board, a body that includes the sergeants at arms of the House and the Senate. (The Senate was led at the time by a Republican, Sen. Mitch McConnell; McConnell is not at fault either, but Trump has not blamed him while casting blame on Pelosi.)
Second, there is no evidence for the claim that Pelosi rejected a Trump offer of 10,000 National Guard troops in advance of January 6. Her office has explicitly said she was not even presented with such an offer, telling CNN last year claims to the contrary are “lies.” Pelosi said on MSNBC on Sunday: “The former occupant of the White House has always been about projection. He knows he’s responsible for [the riot], so he projects it onto others.”
Third, even if Pelosi had been told of an offer of National Guard troops, she would not have had the power to turn it down. The speaker of the House has no authority to prevent the deployment of the District of Columbia National Guard, which reports to the president (whose authority is delegated, under a decades-old executive order, to the Secretary of the Army).
Fourth, it’s worth noting the House select committee that investigated the attack on the Capitol found “no evidence” Trump gave any actual order for 10,000 Guard troops, and the Biden-era Pentagon told The Washington Post in 2021 it has no record of any such order. Miller testified to the House select committee that investigated the attack on the Capitol that Trump had, in a January 5 phone call, briefly and informally floated the idea of having 10,000 troops present on January 6 but did not issue any directive to that effect. Miller said, “I interpreted it as a bit of presidential banter or President Trump banter that you all are familiar with, and in no way, shape, or form did I interpret that as an order or direction.”
Fifth, at around 3:49 p.m. during the riot, Pelosi was filmed while on the phone with Miller urging him to hurry Guard troops to the Capitol, telling him “just get them there” and to “just pretend for a moment this was the Pentagon or the White House or some other entity that was under siege.” Trump made no such plea; the House select committee that investigated the attack on the Capitol found that Trump did not call any “high-level Defense official” during the riot, that Trump never ordered a Guard deployment – Miller did so – and that Trump never instructed any law enforcement agency to assist.
Pelosi said on MSNBC on Sunday: “Chuck Schumer and I begged him to send the troops, again and again.” She added, “These Trumpites were attacking the Capitol, fighting the police, threatening my life and the life of the vice president — we’re turning down the troops?”
Trump referred to the four indictments against him as “Biden indictments.” He repeatedly claimed that Biden told Attorney General Merrick Garland to “indict him,” saying at one point that Biden “went to the attorney general of the United States, and he told them, ‘Indict Trump.’”
Facts First: This claim is not supported by any evidence. There is no sign that Biden has been involved in the decision to criminally investigate or prosecute Trump, let alone any proof that he personally went to Garland and urged him to indict Trump. Biden said in June that he had not spoken to Garland on the subject and was “not going to speak with him.”
Grand juries made up of ordinary citizens – in New York, Georgia, Florida and Washington, DC – approved the indictments in each of Trump’s criminal cases. The two federal indictments were brought by a special counsel, Jack Smith. Smith was appointed in November 2022 by Garland, a Biden appointee, but that is not proof that Biden was involved in the prosecution effort, much less that Biden directed it.
The 2020 election
Trump repeatedly claimed that the 2020 election was “rigged” against him and he claimed that he was the real winner.
Facts First: These claims are false. The election was not rigged, Trump lost fair and square to Biden by an Electoral College margin of 306 to 232, and there is no evidence of any fraud even close to widespread enough to have changed the outcome in any state.
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