Washington (CNN)Here is part two of our fact-checked list of President Donald Trump’s false claims for the seven weeks running from March 16 through May 3.
This focuses on false claims not directly related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Click here for a breakdown of Trump’s dishonesty between January 27 and May 3.
Trump’s popularity and accomplishments
Trump’s rally crowds
“I mean, everybody wants the rallies. The rallies — we never had an empty seat, from the time I came down the escalator with a person that became our great first lady — who people really love, and they love her at those rallies too.” — May 3 remarks at Fox News “virtual town hall” event
Facts First: There have been empty seats at various Trump rallies, including an October rally Minneapolis, a July rally in Greenville, North Carolina, an October 2018 rally in Houston and an April 2017 rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, according to journalists on the scene.
Trump’s rally crowd in Wildwood, New Jersey
Boasting again about his rally crowds before the pandemic, Trump claimed, “In one case, I think they said, in New Jersey, we had 175,000 people show up for an arena that holds 9,000 people.” — April 17 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: Trump was way off. (He appeared to be relying on a figure that had been given to him at the January rally by Rep. Jeff Van Drew, but still, he was repeating it.)
Ben Rose, director of marketing and public relations for the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority, told CNN that the authority estimates that between 3,000 and 3,500 people were in the parking lot outside Trump’s rally venue and between 2,000 and 2,500 people at a park across the street. Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron told CNN that, after speaking with the city’s fire chief and police chief, he estimated there were 14,000 or 15,000 people in town for the rally, including people inside the venue. (Rose said there were 7,725 people inside the venue for the rally.)
A charity gala
Claiming that it has cost him billions of dollars to be president, Trump told a story about how his positions on immigration caused some people to turn against him: “I had just announced that I was running. And we were at the Robin Hood Foundation at the Convention Center…and I was walking in and there was a smattering of boos and a smattering of cheers; I was getting both. And our very popular first lady…said to me, ‘Huh, that’s strange. I’ve never heard anybody booing you.'” — March 22 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: Trump’s details were wrong. Trump has not attended the Robin Hood Foundation charity gala since he launched his campaign in June 2015, though he did attend in 2011; the anti-poverty foundation’s 2015 gala was held in May, a month before he announced his candidacy, so he could not possibly have been booed there for his immigration positions as a new candidate. (Trump might perhaps have been confused, since he was booed elsewhere in New York in 2015.)
MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle, who is part of the foundation’s Leadership Council of prominent donors, and another person connected to the foundation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, both confirmed Trump did not attend the gala in 2015. Ruhle tweeted that Trump’s story about being booed was “entirely fabricated.”
Trump’s approval rating with Republicans
Trump claimed twice on March 18 to have a 95% approval rating with Republicans, then three times (on April 10, April 21 and May 2) to have a 96% approval rating with Republicans.
Facts First: Trump was, as usual, doing minor exaggerations of numbers that were already impressive. While Trump’s approval with Republicans has regularly been high, in the high 80s or low 90s, we could not find any major polls in which it was 95% or 96% at the time he made these claims; he certainly was not at those levels on average. (We will update this item if someone brings to our attention an individual poll we might have missed.) Trump has regularly added points to his actual standing with Republicans.
Trump had 93% approval with Republicans in Gallup polling from April 1-28, 89% in a Monmouth University poll conducted from April 30-May 4, 91% in a CNN poll conducted from April 3-April 6, 89% in a Fox News poll conducted from April 4-7, 92% in a Quinnipiac University poll conducted from April 2-6, 86% in a Washington Post-ABC poll conducted from March 22-25.
A CNN poll conducted May 7-10, after these claims, found that 95% of respondents identifying as Republicans planned to vote for Trump. But Trump’s approval rating among Republicans in the same poll was 92%.
“And Gallup just came out with a poll where I’m leading Biden and pretty substantially too, especially on important elements. But, you know, you don’t even — they don’t put it in, and Gallup is no friend of mine, believe me, they got the first one wrong, and they came out with a poll, I’m leading. You never hear that stuff. It’s all fake. They make it all up.” — May 1 interview with Dan Bongino
Facts First: While Trump did have a relatively strong showing in the most recent Gallup poll — he was at 49% approval in the April 14-28 poll, up from 43% in an April 1-14 Gallup poll — he was not leading Biden in that poll, since the poll did not ask people about Biden at all. In fact, “Gallup has not surveyed on a hypothetical matchup between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden,” Gallup spokeswoman Jennifer Donegan said in an email. “The only data we released around May 1 was President Trump’s job approval rating, but there was nothing on former Vice President Biden in those data.” Biden has led Trump in the vast majority of recent polls.
Judicial appointments, part 1
Trump said, “We’ve gotten judges because we go through the process. I guess we’re up to 448 federal judges.” Moments later, he said, “And we’re close to 250 judges.” — April 15 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: Both numbers were wrong. Under the Trump administration, 193 judges had been confirmed as of the day he spoke here, according to Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who tracks judicial appointments.
Judicial appointments, part 2
“We’ve approved record numbers of federal judges and appellate judges and two Supreme Court judges.” — April 15 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: One part of Trump’s claim was true, but another part was false. As of the day he spoke here, Trump had appointed a record number of appeals court judges but not a record number of total federal judges.
Trump had appointed 51 appeals court judges, beating President Jimmy Carter by one, according to data provided to CNN by Wheeler. He had appointed 193 judges total to district courts, appeals court and the Supreme Court; Carter had appointed 208 on the same date in his term, according to Wheeler.
Trump was also far from the overall record if you look at the percentage of the judiciary he had filled. Trump’s number was 22%, well under President Richard Nixon’s 33% on that date.
Russia, Ukraine and impeachment
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and the rough transcript
“Fortunately, we had a transcript and it was a perfect transcript, because even the lieutenant colonel admitted it was correct. Okay?” — April 4 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: The rough transcript Trump released of his July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was not “perfect.” As we have noted before, the document Trump released explicitly says on its first page that it is “not a verbatim transcript.” Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council Ukraine expert who testified in Trump’s impeachment inquiry, testified that he proposed two “substantive” changes to the document that were not made. Vindman did say the transcript was “substantively correct” and quite accurate even without the two changes, but that is not the same as “perfect.”
“When I first saw the transcript without the two substantive items that I had attempted to include, I didn’t see that as nefarious. I just saw it as, OK, no big deal. You know, these might be meaningful, but it’s not that big a deal,” Vindman told the House Intelligence Committee in November.
The legality of the Mueller investigation
Trump claimed that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was “illegal.” — April 23 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: The Russia investigation was not illegal. Multiple federal courts have upheld the legality of Mueller’s appointment and endorsed actions he took, such as subpoenaing witnesses to testify before a grand jury and bringing criminal charges against some senior Trump aides. The inspector general for the Department of Justice conducted an exhaustive review and determined in a report released in December that the FBI had a legitimate basis for opening the Russia investigation in July 2016, prior to Mueller’s appointment in May 2017, though his report also criticized some FBI officials for how they had handled other aspects of the investigation.
Trump said the whistleblower report on his administration’s dealings with Ukraine “turned out to be a fake report — it was fake. It was totally wrong. It was about my conversation with the President of Ukraine.” — April 4 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: The whistleblower’s account of Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been proven highly accurate. In fact, the rough transcript released by Trump himself showed that the whistleblower’s three primary allegations about the call were correct or very close to correct. You can read a full fact check here.
Rep. Adam Schiff and the whistleblower’s information
“Where’s the informer? Because there was going to be this informer. Maybe Schiff was the informer. You ever think of that?”– April 4 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: This is nonsensical. Schiff, a Democratic congressman and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, did not have access to the internal White House information the whistleblower revealed; he could not have told the whistleblower about the contents of Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president or other information the whistleblower reported. The whistleblower said information about the call came from “multiple White House officials with direct knowledge of the call.”
The second whistleblower
Trump claimed that there was a second whistleblower who appeared before he released the rough transcript of his July call with Zelensky, “but after I gave the conversation, he just went away. He miraculously went away.” — April 4 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: The purported second whistleblower never intended to file a separate whistleblower complaint, merely to offer corroborating information in private, according to comments from this person’s lawyer in October. And it’s not true that this purported second whistleblower had appeared before Trump released the rough transcript of the Zelensky call in September and then “miraculously went away” afterward; the lawyer revealed their existence after Trump released the rough transcript.
“The Russia Hoax is the biggest political scandal in American history. Treason!!!” — May 2 tweet
Facts First: Nothing about the Russia investigation comes close to meeting the definition of treason.
Under the Constitution, treason is narrowly defined: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”
Obama’s infrastructure spending
Asked about whether the country will need “shovel-ready” infrastructure jobs in an infrastructure bill, as it did after the 2008-2009 economic crisis, Trump said March 31, “Well, the problem with that one is they had maybe shovel-ready jobs, maybe not, but they never used it for the purpose of infrastructure. So far, nobody has been able to find any money that was spent on infrastructure. I want to use it for infrastructure.”
Facts First: The 2009 stimulus bill included billions in funding for infrastructure projects, as NPR and FactCheck.org noted in 2017 when Trump made a similar claim. In case there was any doubt that these projects occurred, road signs around the country announced that particular projects had been funded by the bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Department of Transportation used to have a web page that said the law “initiated more than 13,000 projects through the Federal Highway Administration, improving more than 42,000 miles of road and more than 2,700 bridges,” in addition to other infrastructure projects.
FactCheck.org noted that Trump himself noted the infrastructure provisions of the bill in a Fox News interview in 2009, saying, “Well, I think taxes are very good. I think it goes quickly. It is easily done, and etc., etc., but building infrastructure, building great projects, putting people to work in that sense is also very good, so I think you have a combination of both, plus he is doing a rebate system and I think that is good also.”
Obama and North Korea
“No, I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un. That’s not a bad thing to have a good relationship. Obama wanted a relationship; he wouldn’t meet with Obama. Wouldn’t meet with him. Okay? I have a good relationship with him.” — April 18 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: Contrary to Trump’s repeated claims, there is no evidence Obama ever sought a meeting or a relationship with Kim and got turned down. You can read a related fact check here.
“Trump keeps lying about Obama trying to do something that Obama never tried to do,” Ben Rhodes, who served as Obama’s deputy national security adviser, wrote on Twitter after Trump’s latest claim on the subject.
Michelle Obama and the Georgia gubernatorial election
“And, as you know, Brian Kemp, governor of Georgia, I worked very hard for his election. He beat their superstar. He beat the superstar of their party. I think you can say, I helped a lot. Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey — they all went in. They campaigned for him very, very hard, and he lost.” — April 22 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: Michelle Obama did not campaign in Georgia for either of Kemp’s opponents. Kemp beat Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a man, in the primary and Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, a woman, in the general election.
While Trump’s comments here left it unclear which of Kemp’s opponents he’s referring to specifically, he has claimed on multiple occasions that both the Obamas and Winfrey were in Georgia to campaign for Abrams. While Barack Obama and Winfrey did go, Michelle Obama did not.
The Obamacare website
Slamming the Obama-Biden administration, Trump said, “Also, don’t forget their 5 Billion Dollar Obamacare website that should have cost close to nothing!” — April 17 tweet
“I mean, how about — how about the Obama website? The Obamacare website, where they spent $5 billion on building a website that you could have built for — for peanuts.” — April 17 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: The Obamacare website did have major problems when it was unveiled in 2013, but “$5 billion” is an exaggeration. In May 2014, the Obama administration said the website cost $834 million. A September 2014 analysis by the information service Bloomberg Government, which looked at contracts related to the website, put the total at $2.1 billion.
Trump nine times repeated his claim that the military had no ammunition when he took office. As in the past, he sometimes attributed this claim to a remark he claims a military general made to him. Other times, though, he himself asserted that it was true.
Facts First: According to military leaders, there was a shortfall in certain kinds of munitions, particularly precision-guided bombs, late in the Obama presidency and early in the Trump presidency. But the claim that “we didn’t have ammunition” is a significant exaggeration. Military leaders did not say, at least publicly, that they had completely run out of any kind of bomb, let alone ammunition in general.
You can read a full fact check of Trump’s claims about munitions levels here.
The US contribution to NATO
Trump said that, before he got other NATO countries to spend more money, “We were paying for 100% of NATO.” — May 3 remarks at Fox News “virtual town hall” event
Facts First: The US was not “paying for 100% of NATO” before Trump’s presidency, though its defense spending did represent the majority of total NATO defense spending.
NATO countries other than the US spent a total of $262 billion on defense in 2016, according to official NATO figures released in November 2019 (which used 2015 prices and exchange rates). The US spent $651 billion itself that year, about 71% of the total. That’s a large percentage, but “100%” is a significant exaggeration.
NATO also has its own direct budget to fund its operations. While the US was also the biggest contributor to this budget in 2016, covering about 22%, it was, clearly, not alone; Germany covered about 15%, France about 11%, the United Kingdom about 10%, and so on. Countries’ contributions were set based on their national income.
Cost sharing with South Korea
Trump boasted of how much money he has gotten South Korea to pay the US for the American troops stationed in the country, saying, “Last year, I went to them and now they’re paying a billion dollars a year.” Trump also said, “And we think that, before I came aboard, they paid very little, if anything.” — April 20 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: Trump was very roughly correct about the “billion dollars a year” — under a new agreement with South Korea for 2019, South Korea agreed to pay the US about $925 million — but he was incorrect that South Korea paid “very little, if anything” before he came along. The $925 million was an increase from the previous agreed payment of about $855 million; the figure was above $800 million in 2016 as well.
On previous occasions, Trump has wrongly claimed that the new payment level is an increase of $500 million from the year prior.
Trump claimed twice to have gotten the Veterans Choice health care program passed into law. On one occasion, he said others had tried to do so “for over 40 years.” On the other, he said they had tried for “almost 50 years.”
Facts First: The Veterans Choice bill, a bipartisan initiative led by senators Bernie Sanders and the late John McCain, was signed into law by Barack Obama in 2014. In 2018, Trump signed the VA Mission Act, which expanded and changed the program.
The fight against HIV/AIDS
Trump claimed three times that he is the president who “started” the fight against AIDS, specifically claiming the Obama administration did not.
Facts First: Whether Trump was referring to the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa or the fight against HIV/AIDS in the US, as he has when making previous versions of this claim, it’s just not true that previous presidents didn’t even “start” the effort. Under President Barack Obama, for example, the government spent billions of dollars in anti-HIV/AIDS initiatives, both domestically and globally. You can read a longer fact check here.
The situation before Right to Try
Trump spoke of the 2018 Right to Try law he signed, which sought to make it easier for terminally ill patients to get access to experimental medication, and said it was a big improvement from the previous situation.
“That’s where somebody who’s ill, somebody who’s very sick — terminally ill, usually. In past administrations — we signed this a year and a half ago — you wouldn’t be able to even think about getting any of the drugs that may be showing great promise.” — March 19 coronavirus briefing
“So a person would be diagnosed terminally ill from something. And in the old days, meaning before a year ago, they would say, ‘Do you think I could try this — this pill, this whatever, this medicine that’s testing so well?’ ‘No, you can’t do that. You can’t do that under no circumstances.'” — April 5 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: Trump overstated the impact of the Right to Try law he signed in 2018. It is not true that terminally ill patients were not allowed, under any circumstances, to access experimental medications before Trump signed the Right to Try Law in 2018. Prior to the law, patients did have to ask the federal government for permission to access experimental medications — but the government almost always said yes.
Scott Gottlieb, who served as Trump’s FDA commissioner until April 2019, told Congress in 2017 that the FDA had approved 99% of patient requests. “Emergency requests for individual patients are usually granted immediately over the phone and non-emergency requests are generally processed within a few days,” he testified.
“And we will always — I will say this, I can make this commitment to you: the Republican Party is fully backing pre-existing conditions.” — March 22 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: Congressional Republicans have repeatedly put forward bills, supported by Trump, that would weaken Obamacare’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Trump is currently supporting a Republican lawsuit that is seeking to get the courts to declare all of Obamacare void. The party has not issued a plan to reinstate the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions if the suit succeeds.
The Green New Deal, planes and cows
Trump claimed the Democrats’ Green New Deal environmental proposal “says you can’t fly anymore.” He also said, “They didn’t even know how to define it. I said, ‘How do you define the Green New Deal?’ They had no idea how to define it. I said, ‘Which aspect do you want? No more cows? What do you want? No more airplanes? No more flying?’ You shouldn’t be approving because we’re going to save the airlines.” — March 30 interview with Fox News’s “Fox & Friends”
Facts First: The Democrats’ Green New Deal resolution is indeed vague at the moment — different Democrats have different visions for what a sweeping environmental program might entail — but it does not include a proposal to eliminate cows, planes or flying. (Trump did not make up his claim about cows and air travel out of thin air, but he was wrongly describing the facts.)
A Frequently Asked Questions page that once appeared on the website of a leading Green New Deal proponent, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, called for the government to “build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.” In explaining why Green New Deal proponents were aiming to get to “net-zero” carbon emissions in 10 years rather than the more ambitious goal of zero carbon emissions at all, the FAQ also, “We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.”
But the FAQ was not an official party document and has not been broadly adopted by legislators supporting a Green New Deal. Its language about cows and planes does not appear in the text of the Green New Deal resolution many congressional Democrats have endorsed. The resolution simply calls for “overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector” and “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible.”
The Green New Deal and cars
Trump made a false claim about what the Democrats’ Green New Deal environmental plan says about air travel, then added, “One car to a house and it has to be electric.” — March 30 interview with Fox News’s “Fox & Friends”
Facts First: The Green New Deal does not propose any limits on the number of cars a household could own. The proposal calls for “overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; clean, affordable, and accessible public transit; and high-speed rail.”
Democrats and borders
Trump claimed seven times that Democrats support “open borders.”
Facts First: Prominent Democrats, including presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden, do not support completely unrestricted migration, as Trump suggests.
While Biden has proposed a liberalization of immigration policy, including a moratorium on deportations for his first 100 days in office and taking in more refugees, he is not proposing to allow people to walk across the borders unfettered. His immigration plan says, “Like every nation, the U.S. has a right and a duty to secure our borders and protect our people against threats.” In 2019, Biden explicitly opposed Democratic opponents’ proposals to decriminalize the act of crossing the border illegally, saying, “It’s a crime.”
Though the Democratic majority in the House opposes Trump’s signature proposal for a border wall, congressional Democrats have long supported other border security measures.
Chuck Schumer and SALT
Trump three times accused New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate leader, of having brought “SALT” back to New York. Trump’s confusing argument appeared to be that Schumer was responsible for a part of Trump’s 2017 tax law that Schumer actively opposed — a change that imposed a new $10,000 per household per year limit on a federal tax deduction for state and local taxes paid, known as the SALT deduction. (The new cap on the deduction hurt wealthy residents of high-tax states and cities, which are disproportionately Democratic.) Trump said on May 6, for example: “He brought nothing back to New York except SALT. You know what SALT is? Bad tax policy. He brought SALT back. He didn’t even fight it.”
Facts First: This is nonsensical. As Schumer’s office noted to CNN, Schumer spoke repeatedly against efforts to weaken the SALT deduction, and he voted against the Trump law that contained the new limit on the deduction.
The US record at the WTO
Trump claimed three times that the US almost always lost World Trade Organization cases before Trump’s presidency.
Facts First: The US has long won cases at the World Trade Organization, and there is no evidence that WTO adjudicators have suddenly changed their behavior. Trump’s 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%.
A Bloomberg Law review in March 2019 found that the US success rate in cases it brings to the WTO had increased very slightly since Trump took office, from 84.8% in 2016 to 85.4%.
The US and judges at the WTO
Criticizing the World Trade Organization, Trump said, “We had always a minority position, meaning numbers of judges. So we’d have a minority number of judges. I said, ‘How do you win with a minority number of judges?'” — April 10 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: There is no basis for Trump’s claim that “we always had a minority position” in World Trade Organization cases. At the first stage of WTO disputes, disputes are heard by three-member panels of trade experts who are agreed to by the two countries involved “and do not come from the US or any other country involved in the dispute (barring special exceptions),” Jeffrey Kucik, a University of Arizona professor of political science and law, who has studied the WTO, said in an email.
Panel rulings can be appealed to the seven-person Appellate Body on which there has long been an American member. (The Appellate Body is currently in turmoil we won’t get into here; the term of American member Thomas Graham ended in December.) “The United States, in fact, has always had one of the Appellate Body members with U.S. nationality, which is very unusual, but it is the situation,” WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said in 2018 response to an earlier version of this Trump claim.
Also, Kucik said, “American judges aren’t doing the US any favors.” For example, he said, the Obama administration blocked the reappointment of Appellate Body member Jennifer Hillman “precisely because of dissatisfaction with her decisions.”
China and the WTO
“And, by the way, speaking of China: If you look at the history of China, it was only since they went into the World Trade Organization that they became a rocket ship with their economy. They were flat-lined for years and years. Frankly, for many, many decades. And it was only when they came into the World Trade Organization that they became a rocket ship because they took advantage of all there is.” — April 10 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: China’s economy was not “flat-lined for years and years” before it became a member of the World Trade Organization in late 2001. China had experienced significant growth for years prior.
According to World Bank figures, China grew by 7.7% in 1999, 8.5% in 2000 and 8.3% in 2001. It then grew by 9.1% in 2002, 10.0% in 2003 and 10.1% in 2004. Its post-WTO growth peaked at 14.2% in 2007 — almost identical to its growth in 1992.
Nicholas Lardy of the Peterson Institute for International Economics wrote in 2008: “China has been the fastest growing economy in the world over almost three decades, expanding at 10 per cent per year in real terms.” In an email to CNN in July, when Trump made another version of this comment, Lardy said, “Uninformed would be the best characterization of the President’s comment.”
Money from China
Trump, touting his tariffs on China and his trade agreement with China, claimed seven times that China had never before paid the US “10 cents.”
Facts First: Again, study after study has shown that Americans, not China, are bearing the brunt of the tariffs. Aside from that, it’s not true that the Treasury had never previously received “10 cents” from tariffs on China. The US has had tariffs on China for more than two centuries. FactCheck.org reported that the US generated an “average of $12.3 billion in custom duties a year from 2007 to 2016, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission DataWeb.”
Trump was also wrong if he was talking broadly about Chinese spending on American products. China purchased more than $100 billion worth of American exports from 2011 to 2016, and billions per year dating back to at least 1985.
China’s spending in the US
Trump said China is now going to spend billions of dollars on US agriculture and other products, “whereas China never spent money in our country. We spent money.” — April 6 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: Since 1995, China has spent at least $10 billion every year on imported US goods. Since 2011, it is more than $100 billion per year. And that spending on imports doesn’t include tens of billions of dollars in foreign direct investment by China in the United States.
The trade deficit with China
Trump claimed nine times that the US used to have a trade deficit with China of $500 billion or more.
Facts First: There has never been a $500 billion trade deficit with China. (Trump describes trade deficits as “losing,” though many economists dispute that characterization.) The 2018 deficit was $381 billion when counting goods and services, $420 billion when counting goods alone.
Trump’s trade agreement with China
Trump said of his trade deal with China: “It’s the biggest deal probably ever made.” — April 6 coronavirus briefing
“Biggest” can be defined in different ways, but trade experts say Trump’s “phase one” January deal with China is not the biggest in world history either in terms of volume of trade or in terms of the number of subjects covered. You can read a longer fact check here.
Who is paying Trump’s tariffs on China
Trump claimed 11 times that China (not the US) is paying the cost of Trump’s tariffs on imported Chinese products.
Facts First: Study after study has shown that American consumers are bearing most of the cost of Trump’s tariffs. And American importers make the actual tariff payments.
The trade deal with China
Trump said of his trade agreement with China: “It just went into effect four days ago…In fact, I called up just a little while ago, I said, ‘How are the farmers doing with respect to China? Are they buying the product as anticipated?’ And the answer was, ‘Yeah, I think so.’ But it wasn’t the most positive, but it was — it was starting. It was starting. The deal just started.” — April 6 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: The “phase one” agreement took effect on February 14, more than a month and a half prior to these comments from Trump. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters May 15 that China had been “a little slow on the commodity purchases,” saying, “I think that has a lot to do with market and economic positions.”
Some provisions of the deal were subject to a deadline close to four days prior to Trump’s comments; April 1 was the deadline for China to make certain policy changes. But the clock on Chinese agricultural purchases started in mid-February, said Derek Scissors, an expert on the Chinese economy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank. The Office of the US Trade Representative and the Department of Agriculture did not respond to requests for comment.
China’s agricultural spending
“And we ended up making an incredible deal with China for tens of billions of dollars of product: $40- to $50 billion to the farmers. The most they ever spent was $15 [billion] to $16 [billion]; now they’re supposed to spend 40 to 50.” — April 19 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: China spent $25.9 billion on American agricultural products in 2012, according to figures from the Department of Agriculture.
The trade deal with Japan
“The United States is getting ripped off on trade. Now Japan is paying $40 billion and buying a lot. That’s before we even do the deal.” — April 19 coronavirus briefing
“I made a deal — Japan is now paying us $40 billion. They weren’t paying us. They weren’t doing anything.” — May 3 Fox News “virtual town hall” event
Facts First: Experts say that the 2019 deal between the US and Japan does not include a $40 billion payment from Japan. And it is clearly false that Japan “wasn’t paying” anything at all to the US before the 2019 deal, though Trump was vague about what he meant: Japan has purchased more than $60 billion worth of US goods exports every year since 2010.
In prepared remarks in October, Trump himself said the deal “sets standards on the $40 billion in digital trade between the United States and Japan.” In other words, he suggested himself that it contained provisions addressing $40 billion in trade, not that it was a $40 billion payment.
You can read a longer fact check here.
The border wall
Trump exaggerated six times about the number of miles that had been built of his wall on the border with Mexico. Trump said on March 23 that “we’re up to over 150 miles of wall on our southern border,” on March 25 that “now we’re up to almost 164 miles,” on March 30 that it was “161 miles of wall,” on April 1 that it was “161 miles exactly,” on April 6 that “we have 161 miles of wall,” and on April 10 that “we’re up to about 168 miles of wall.”
Facts First: Trump was wrong every time. A March 27 official progress update sent to CNN from the US government’s kCustoms and Border Protection said that 147 miles of new wall had been built, fewer than Trump claimed on March 23 (over 150 miles). Similarly, the April 3 official progress update said that 151 miles had been built — fewer than Trump claimed on March 25 (164 miles), March 30 (161 miles) and April 1 (161 miles). And the April 10 official update said that 158 miles had been built, fewer than Trump claimed on April 6 (161 miles) and April 10 (about 168 miles).
All of the official updates specified that just two of the miles built were in places where no barriers had existed before.
Mexican soldiers and the border
Trump said five times that there are 27,000 Mexican soldiers on the US border.
Facts First: Mexico has deployed around 27,000 troops, but Trump exaggerated how many are being stationed near the US border in particular; Mexico’s defense minister said in October that it was about 15,000 on the US border, about 12,000 on Mexico’s own southern border.
Opinions of the border wall five years ago
Boasting about what he said was the effectiveness of his border wall, Trump claimed, “And the other side knew it worked that well — everybody. Because everybody was for it five years ago. All of a sudden, they changed.” — April 1 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: It’s not true that everybody, including Democrats, wanted a border wall five years ago; four-and-a-half years ago, Trump was campaigning for the presidency on a controversial promise to build a wall, and there is no evidence the Democrats wanted a wall at that time.
Trump would have at least a slightly better case if he spoke of 2013, six to seven years ago, when Democrats supported a comprehensive immigration reform bill that included 700 miles of border fencing. But that was fencing, not the giant wall Trump has proposed — and many Democrats supported it only as part of a package that included provisions they wanted, most notably a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
For example, Mary Landrieu, then a Democratic senator for Louisiana, voted for the final bill that included the fencing. But she said during the debate: “I’m not going to waste taxpayers’ money on a dumb fence…I’ve been in tunnels under the fence. I’ve watched people climb over the fence. I’m not going to send taxpayers’ money down a rat hole.”
Ivanka Trump and jobs
Trump said of his daughter and White House official Ivanka Trump: “And she created over 15 million jobs working with some of you, but working with the biggest companies in the world. They were training and training like nobody has ever seen. But she started off with a goal of 500,000 jobs, and now she’s up to over 15 million.” — April 7 remarks at event on America CARES small business initiative
Facts First: Ivanka Trump has obviously not created more than “15 million jobs.” Before the coronavirus crisis wiped out Trump-era job gains, roughly 7 million jobs had been created during the entire Trump presidency.
Trump was referring to the White House’s Pledge to America’s Workers initiative, in which Ivanka Trump has sought to get companies to commit to providing “education and training opportunities” for workers. As of May 25, 2020, companies had promised to create more than 16.3 million “opportunities” — but many of these opportunities are internal training programs, not new jobs. Also, as CNN has previously reported, many of the companies had already planned these opportunities before Ivanka Trump launched the initiative.
Stock market records, part 1
“Think of it: 22 days ago, we had the greatest economy in the world. Everything was going beautifully, the stock market hit an all-time high again…” — March 27 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: While US stock markets had previously set all-time records under Trump, they were not at an all-time high on March 5, 22 days before Trump’s comments here: that day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 3.6% or 970 points, then its fifth-worst single-day point drop on record, adding to a 3,000-point drop since its peak on February 12.
Stock market records, part 2
Boasting on April 17 about how good the economy was “four or five weeks ago,” Trump said, “The stock market was at all-time highs.” — April 17 coronavirus briefing
Facts First: Trump was wrong again. US stock markets were not at all-time highs four weeks or five weeks prior to April 17; by March, they had already fallen substantially on account of the coronavirus.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average had its record-high close, 29,551, on February 12. On March 13, five weeks before Trump made this claim, the Dow closed at 23,185.62. On March 20, four weeks before Trump’s claim, the Dow closed at 19,173.98.
The US economy versus China’s
“You know, when I came in, when I was elected — and you knew this number — China was going to overtake us in the year 2019. Wasn’t even close. We went way up, and they didn’t. We’ve done great.” — March 24 Fox News “virtual town hall” event
Facts First: This claim is inaccurate in two ways. Experts did not think in late 2016 that China’s economy would be larger than America’s in 2019. And it’s not true that “we went way up, and they didn’t”; though China’s growth has slowed during Trump’s presidency, China was still growing faster than the US at least through 2019.
China reported 6.1% GDP growth in 2019, its slowest rate since 1990. The US reported 2.3% growth in 2019 and 2.9% growth in 2018 — up from 1.6% in 2016 President Barack Obama’s last full year in office. While China’s official figures are widely seen as unreliable, there is no doubt China was still growing faster than the US through 2019.
Nonetheless, China’s economy was still nowhere near the total size of the US economy in terms of raw output. China says its 2019 GDP was about $14.4 trillion. The US says its 2019 GDP was about $21.4 trillion.
“When the President took office, there were no predictions China would surpass the US in GDP within two years. Their GDP was 60% the size of the US at the time and slowing. They would have had to grow $7.5 trillion to catch us in two years even if we didn’t grow at all, which would have required 30 percent annual increases on their part. No one would predict that,” said Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and an expert on the Chinese economy.
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