Donald Trump made 84 false claims last week
President Donald Trump spent most of last week at his Bedminster golf club, where he sometimes retreats from the public eye. When he left Washington for New Jersey, we thought there was a chance it would be a quiet week in presidential dishonesty.
Naturally, he made 84 false claims.
That was his highest total in the six weeks we’ve been counting at CNN. (The one-week record for his presidency, which came just before the 2018 midterms, was 240 false claims, according to our previous count at the Toronto Star.) He had made a relatively paltry 21 false claims the week before last.
In fairness to Bedminster, most of the 84 false claims last week came when the President was elsewhere. He made 27 at a campaign rally in New Hampshire and 26 in a Pennsylvania speech that was officially about energy but ended up being about assorted other things Trump felt like talking about.
Trump added 15 false claims in exchanges with reporters, six in two interviews with New Hampshire media and 10 on Twitter.
The most egregious false claim: Google and the election
As Politico’s Tim Alberta documented in his book “American Carnage,” Trump’s infamous false tweet in 2017 about former President Barack Obama supposedly wiretapping his phones in Trump Tower came after Trump watched a segment on Fox News.
Coincidentally or not, Trump’s latest sensational and inaccurate allegation of nefarious behavior came after Fox Business aired a segment on the subject.
Trump has found various excuses including imaginary voter fraud for why he did not win the popular vote in the 2016 election. This time, he said his victory would have been bigger if Google had not “manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton.”
This claim was based on a highly flawed study that Trump described inaccurately.
The most revealing false claim: Michigan Man
We’ve already written about this at length, so we’ll be brief here, but let’s pause and think about this one more time: the President of the United States has said at least seven times in three years that he was named the “man of the year” in a state he has never lived in, though it very much seems this has never happened.
From fake magazine covers to fake compliments from the Boy Scouts, Trump has boundless creativity when it comes to trivial self-aggrandizement.
The most absurd false claim: The time of day
In 1991, Spy magazine reported on an anonymous acquaintance of Trump who had supposedly said, “He’d lie to you about what time of day it is — just for the practice.”
During his energy speech on Tuesday, Trump looked at the crowd and said: “That’s a lot of people back there for a — like an 11 o’clock speech. That’s a lot of people.”
We don’t know if he was lying or just confused, but it was not 11 o’clock.
He made the comment at about 2:40 p.m. The speech was scheduled for 2:10 p.m.
Here is this week’s full list:
Voter fraud in California
“Because if you look, Judicial Watch made a settlement with California, I guess, or Los Angeles, where they found over a million names. That was very problematic. A problem. And you just take a look at that settlement. That’s a lot of names. You had people that were well over 100 years old that were voting, but we know they’re not around any longer. So you have a lot of voter fraud.” — August 18 exchange with reporters
Facts First: There is no evidence that there was mass voter fraud involving dead people or anyone else in California in 2016.
Trump was referring to a legal settlement in which California and Los Angeles County agreed with the conservative group Judicial Watch to remove the names of inactive voters from voter lists. But the settlement did not reveal any actual fraud.
“The Judicial Watch settlement provided no evidence of fraud whatsoever,” said Rick Hasen, an expert in elections law and a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine.
Google and votes
“Wow, Report Just Out! Google manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 Election! This was put out by a Clinton supporter, not a Trump Supporter! Google should be sued. My victory was even bigger than thought!” — August 19 tweet
Facts First: Trump was wrong about this study’s findings, and the study itself has major flaws.
Though the study alleges “bias” in Google search results, its author says there is no evidence Google “manipulated” either search results or election results to favor Clinton. Also, critics of the study note that it did not establish a link between search results and voting behavior in presidential elections.
You can read our full fact check on this claim here.
Energy and the environment
“Powerful, clean, natural gas. And when the wind stops blowing, it doesn’t make any difference, does it? Unlike those big windmills that destroy everybody’s property values, kill all the birds. Someday, the environmentalists are going to tell us what’s going on with that. And then, all of a sudden, it stops; the wind and the televisions go off. And your wives and husbands say, ‘Darling, I want to watch Donald Trump on television tonight. But the wind stopped blowing and I can’t watch. There’s no electricity in the house, darling.’ No, we love natural gas and we love a lot of other things, too.” — August 13 energy speech in Monaca, Pennsylvania
Facts First: Using wind power as part of a mix of power sources does not cause power outages, as the federal Department of Energy explains on its website. “Studies have shown that the grid can accommodate large penetrations of variable renewable power without sacrificing reliability, and without the need for ‘backup’ generation,” the Department of Energy says.
The Department of Energy explains that although power grid operators need to account for the variability that comes with using wind and solar power, they know how to manage, since “all forms of power generation,” including non-renewable sources, “may sometimes not operate when called upon.”
James Manwell, professor and director of the Wind Energy Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said in response to a previous version of this Trump claim: “No one is suggesting that the wind alone would supply all the electricity in any large electricity network. It could supply a very large fraction, however, with no adverse impacts.”
While some property values might fall when wind turbines are built nearby, major academic studies have found no statistically significant decrease.
“And we’re not taking chances. And we have the cleanest air and water we’ve ever had in our country right now. The cleanest we’ve ever had.” — August 13 energy speech in Monaca, Pennsylvania
Facts First: By several measures, US air was cleaner under Obama than it’s been under Trump.
Three of the six types of pollutants identified by the Clean Air Act as toxic to human health were more prevalent in the air as of 2018 than they were before Trump took office, according to Environmental Protection Agency data. Additionally, there were more “unhealthy air days” for sensitive groups in 2018 than in 2016 — 799 days across the 35 American cities surveyed by the EPA, up from 702.
Though there were significantly more “unhealthy air days” in Obama’s first term than there have been in Trump’s, the lowest amount of unhealthy air days — 598 — occurred in 2014 under Obama.
Hillary Clinton on coal and steel
“Remember, she wanted to close up all coal. She was in an area where they didn’t do the coal. And she said, ‘Well, I look forward to closing up all coal. It’s going to be closed. Steel — going to be in big trouble.’ She forgot: In three weeks, she was going to West Virginia. That didn’t work out too well.” — August 13 energy speech in Monaca, Pennsylvania
Facts First: While Clinton did make a comment during the 2016 campaign about putting coal miners and companies out of business, she did not say anything in that vein about steel. In fact, she said during her campaign, “Steel is crucial to our manufacturing base, crucial to our national security, and I will not let this vital industry disappear.”
At a CNN town hall on March 13, 2016, Clinton said, “I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right? And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people.”
Later, in West Virginia, Clinton apologized for what she called a “misstatement.” She also said her comments were taken out of context.
Louisiana LNG plant
“But this is just the beginning. My administration is clearing the way for other massive, multi-billion-dollar investments. We just did one in Louisiana. It’s a $10 billion plant. There’s more pipes in that plant that I’ve ever seen in my life…And you haven’t had a plant like that built in this country, really, ever, because there’s never been anything that big. But you didn’t build plants like that because, environmentally, they weren’t letting you. And yet, environmentally, it’s so good what they’ve done and what they can build today.” — August 13 energy speech in Monaca, Pennsylvania
Facts First: The permits for the facility Trump visited were granted by the Obama administration.
Trump spoke at Sempra Energy’s Cameron liquefied natural gas export facility in Louisiana in May. The company says on its website: “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authorized the project in June 2014.” The company confirmed to FactCheck.org: “You are correct, Cameron LNG was approved in 2014.”
The facility made its first shipment in late May.
“We have the greatest resources, which really came about over the last few years. Nobody knew this. Fracking made it possible. Other new technologies made it possible. And now we’re the number-one — think of it, as I said — the number-one energy producer in the world. I’m so proud of that because we wouldn’t have been number five. They were going to close it up. They were going to close it up.” — August 13 energy speech in Monaca, Pennsylvania
“We ended the last administration’s (cruel) war on American energy and we are delivering a policy of American energy independence like you’ve never seen before…And the United States is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world.” — August 15 campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire
Facts First: The US has not just “now” become the world’s top energy producer: it took the top spot in 2012, under the very administration Trump was accusing of perpetrating a “war” on the industry, according to the US government’s Energy Information Administration. The US became the top producer of crude oil in particular during Trump’s tenure.
“The United States has been the world’s top producer of natural gas since 2009, when US natural gas production surpassed that of Russia, and it has been the world’s top producer of petroleum hydrocarbons since 2013, when its production exceeded Saudi Arabia’s,” the Energy Information Administration says.
Trump was clearly exaggerating when he said that “they” were going to “close it up.” In his 2013 State of the Union address, Obama called for the US to go “all in on clean energy,” but he immediately added, “Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. And that’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. That’s got to be part of an all-of-the-above plan.”
China’s oil and gas production
“We’re lucky. You go to places like China, they don’t have oil and gas. They don’t have it under their — they have to go buy it and then they devalue their currency and manipulate their currency. And that costs them a fortune to go out and buy it. They hurt themselves in the long run.” — August 13 energy speech in Monaca, Pennsylvania
Facts First: China is among the world’s leading producers of both oil and natural gas.
The US Energy Information Administration says on its website, “EIA estimates that China holds the largest reserves of technically recoverable shale gas in the world, and China was among the first countries outside of North America to develop its shale resources.” The EIA ranked China the 6th largest producer of natural gas in 2017 and 5th for “total petroleum and other liquids production” in 2018.
The EIA also notes a 2015 estimate that “China holds 24.6 billion barrels of proved oil reserves…the highest in the Asia-Pacific region (excluding Russia).” China’s oil production does not meet the increasing domestic demand, but the government is actively seeking to increase production.
Obama and fracking
“The last administration tried to shut down Pennsylvania coal and Pennsylvania fracking.” — August 13 energy speech in Monaca, Pennsylvania
Facts First: Obama did try to reduce the use of coal, but he did nothing to stop Pennsylvania hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. In fact, the boom in fracking from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale occurred under Obama.
A representative for Marcellus Protest, a volunteer activist group in Western Pennsylvania, called Trump’s claim “pure invention,” saying in an email, “We have no evidence or recollection that the Obama administration did anything at all to ‘shut down…Pennsylvania fracking.’ To the contrary, President Obama will be remembered for describing his energy policy as ‘all of the above.’ ” (The representative asked to be quoted anonymously because the group does not have a single designated spokesperson.)
Obama said in his 2012 State of the Union: “This country needs an all-out, all of the above strategy that develops every available source of American energy…We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years. And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.” Obama boasted in his 2013 State of the Union: “We produce more natural gas than ever before — and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it.”
Obama did put forward new regulations on fracking, such as one requiring companies to disclose the chemicals being used in the fracking process, but this is not even close to an attempt to shut down the whole Pennsylvania industry.
Pennsylvania ethane cracker plant
“It was the Trump administration that made it possible. No one else. Without us, you would never have been able to do this.” — August 13 energy speech in Monaca, Pennsylvania
“And we have incredible things going on in Pennsylvania. We just opened up a $10 billion plant. We have many of them going up. A lot of jobs…Pennsylvania, would have never happened, they wouldn’t have allowed them to frack. So they would have never been able to build it. But what a place that is.” — August 15 campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire
Facts First: Shell announced in June 2016, during the Obama administration, that it had made a final decision to build the plant. A federal regulatory commission chaired by a Trump appointee did approve a pipeline that will feed ethane to the plant, but Trump is wrong to take sole credit for the plant.
Shell has said that the key factors in its decision to build in Pennsylvania were the proximity to low-cost ethane, proximity to customers, and tax incentives from the state government.
Shell’s US president did give Trump credit when introducing him before his speech at the plant on Tuesday, saying, “We couldn’t do this without the President’s focus, also, on energy infrastructure. That focus has enabled us to break ground on the Falcon pipeline.” Still, “no one else” is an obvious exaggeration.
Read our full fact check on this claim here.
“Mortgage rates are at an all-time low.” — August 18 exchange with reporters
Facts First: Certain mortgage rates are the lowest they’ve been during Trump’s administration but not the lowest of all-time.
Last week, Freddie Mac reported that the 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.6%, which was the lowest rate only since November 2016. Freddie Mac said that was “near” a historical low, not a historical low itself. The all-time low was 3.31% in 2012.
“You know, you say you want low taxes, good education, strong military, strong borders, you want to have safe homes, you want a house, you want low interest rates, you got low — hey, you got low interest rates, the lowest ever.” — August 15 campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire
“Borrowing costs are at an all-time low.” — August 18 exchange with reporters
Facts First: Interest rates are low by historical standards, but they are not at a record low.
There are various ways to measure interest rates and borrowing costs, but the major measures aren’t at an all-time low. The effective federal funds rate, the rate banks charge one another for overnight lending, was 2.4% at the end of July; it was well below 1% for the entirety of Obama’s presidency. (It was above 5% in 2007, then plummeted during the recession of 2008.)
Trump himself has contradicted this “all-time low” claim, noting repeatedly that Obama had the benefit of working with lower interest rates than he has had to work with.
“And all of the jobs, you know, we set records on jobs. Jack, we have the highest number of people working in the United States right now that we’ve ever had, almost 160 million people, and unemployment rates at the lowest.” — August 15 interview with Jack Heath of New Hampshire Today
Facts First: It’s true that more people are working than ever before — this number tends to rise with population growth — but not that the US has its lowest unemployment rate ever.
The unemployment rate over this spring and summer — 3.7% each month in July and June, 3.6% each month in May and April — has been the lowest since December 1969, but not the lowest ever. The record is 2.5% in 1953.
Asian American unemployment
“And you’ve heard me say it, but now it’s even better. Numbers just came out. African American unemployment — lowest in history. Asian American, Hispanic American — lowest in the history of our country.” — August 13 energy speech in Monaca, Pennsylvania
“Unemployment for African Americans — you’ve heard me say this many times, I’m very proud of it — Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans have all reached their lowest rates ever recorded in the history of our country.” — August 15 campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire
Facts First: Trump was accurate about the black and Hispanic unemployment rates, but not the rate for Asians.
Black Americans are at their lowest unemployment rate since the government began tracking employment statistics for them using its current methodology (in the 1970s); Hispanic Americans were slightly lower earlier in Trump’s term, but he can still accurately say they have not been lower under a previous president.
However, the rate for Asians was 2.8% in July — higher than the 2.6% rate in December 2016, Obama’s last full month in office.
“The energy revolution is also creating new jobs in West Virginia, [New] Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, all across our beautiful land. You have no idea what’s going on, including, as I said before, car companies. We didn’t make cars.” — August 13 energy speech in Monaca, Pennsylvania