Here's a quick tour of false and misleading assertions made by President Donald Trump in Wednesday's news conference. Many are repeats that The Washington Post covered extensively in its database of his false or misleading statements, which as of Oct. 30 totaled 6,420.
President Donald Trump’s lengthy postelection news conference broke little ground in terms of facts. Many of his assertions are repeats that we have covered extensively in our database of his false or misleading statements, which as of Oct. 30 totaled 6,420. But some of these things may appear new or fresh to readers, so here’s a quick tour of some of them.
The president also opened with a series of statistics to suggest he actually earned a “big victory” at the polls, despite Republicans losing control of the House of Representatives. We will start with those.
“Fifty-five is the largest number of Republican senators in the last 100 years.”
False. Republicans had a 55-seat majority in the Senate from 1997 to 2000 and from 2005 to 2006, according to the Senate Historian’s office. From 1921 to 1927, Republicans held 59, 53 and 54 seats — when the Senate only had 96 seats. (Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states.) Republicans thus represented more than 55 percent of the body in each of those two-year sessions.
“In President Obama’s first midterm election, he lost six Senate seats, including in the deep blue state of Massachusetts. Republicans captured at least four Senate seats held by Democrat incumbents. And these are tremendously talented, hardworking people that did this. Indiana, North Dakota, Florida, Missouri.”
Trump may be jumping the gun. Florida is headed to a recount.
“This election marks the largest Senate gains for a president’s party in a first midterm election since at least President Kennedy’s in 1962. There have been only four midterm elections since 1934 in which a president’s party has gained even a single Senate seat.”
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This is accurate, but the comparison only serves Trump’s purpose if Rick Scott of Florida wins his recount. Otherwise, he would be tied with Bush. The Arizona race is still too close to call, so his number would also decline if the Democrat prevails.
1962 Kennedy (D +3)
1970 Nixon (R +1)
2002 Bush (R +2)
“As an example, of the 11 candidates we campaigned with during the last week, nine won last night.”
13 total, 8 won, 3 lost, Kemp and Scott are still not certain (but ahead). Our colleague Philip Bump calculated that Trump’s endorsement record on Twitter stands at 50-50 — 26 wins, 26 losses, including races where the candidate is either leading or lagging in the count.
Josh Hawley, Mo. (yes)
Mike Braun, Ind. (yes)
James B. Renacci, Ohio (no)
Marsha Blackburn, Tenn. (yes)
Rick Scott, Fla. (maybe)
Matt Rosendale, Mont. (no)
Patrick Morrisey, W.Va. (no)
Jim Jordan, Ohio (yes)
Greg Gianforte, Mont. (yes)
Carol Miller, W.Va. (yes)
Mike DeWine, Ohio (yes)
Brian Kemp, Ga. (maybe)
Ron DeSantis, Fla. (yes)
“People don’t understand tax returns. Now, I did do a [financial disclosure] filing of over a hundred pages, I believe, which is in the offices. And when people went and saw that filing and they saw the magnitude of it, they were very disappointed. And they saw the — you know, the detail. You get far more from that. And I guess we filed that, now, three times. But you get far more from that than you could ever get from a tax return.”
The president has long refused to release a copy of his income tax return, despite previous promises he would do so. Here, he argues that the financial disclosure form, required by the Federal Election Commission from all candidates for federal office, is superior to the information contained in a tax return.
That’s false. A tax return provides a lot of information that is not contained in the disclosure form, including: what, if anything, Trump paid in taxes, what kinds of tax deductions and other tax breaks he took, whether he has offshore accounts, and whether he gave to charity. The president’s effective tax rate would be learned and could be easily compared to that of ordinary Americans. Financial disclosure forms require only that assets be reported with broad ranges; a tax return would have the value to the dollar.
Finally, financial disclosure forms are not audited for accuracy and could easily contain inflated claims of wealth. Falsifying a tax return could result in fines or even prison time, thus a tax return is a more believable document.
“Nobody turns over a return when it’s under audit. OK?”
Wrong. The first president to make public his tax returns was Richard Nixon — and he was under audit at the time, according to a summary on taxhistory.org. Nixon released them as news reports raised questions about extensive tax deductions he had taken to greatly reduce his tax liability. Nixon was ultimately required to pay $465,000 in back taxes and fines. The scandal led Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, to begin the tradition of a president’s releasing his tax returns.
The tax investigation came during the Watergate probe, and Nixon’s famous declaration, “I am not a crook,” is often wrongly attributed to a defense of his actions surrounding Watergate.
In fact, Nixon made the comment while defending his tax deductions. He said he welcomed the scrutiny: “I have never profited, never profited from public service — I have earned every cent. And in all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice,” Nixon told reporters in 1973. “I welcome this kind of examination, because people have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I am not a crook. I have earned everything I have got.”
“You look at the employment and unemployment numbers for African Americans, for Asian Americans, for Hispanic Americans, they’re at a historic high. A poll came out recently where my numbers with Hispanics and with African Americans are the highest — the best they’ve ever been. That had — that took place two or three days ago, the poll. They’re — I have the best numbers with African American and Hispanic American that I’ve ever had before.”
Unemployment rates — which Trump in the 2016 campaign derided as phony — have hit the lowest levels this year since the collection of such data started about three decade ago, though the numbers have ticked up from those lows recently for Asian Americans and African Americans. But that has not translated into greater approval of Trump by those groups.
Trump loves to cite the Rasmussen poll, which already leans heavily toward Republicans. But that’s a cherry-picked result from the poorly-rated outfit that relies heavily on automated dialing. Reputable polls consistently find that Trump has very low support among African Americans. For example, Quinnipiac in August found that 9 percent of black voters approved, compared with 85 percent who disapproved.
Gallup’s monthly tracking surveys, which are based on interviews with roughly 1,000 people each, finds Trump at 13 percent approval among black adults; Trump has never been below 8 percent or above 15 percent in their monthly averages.
Trump’s allies, such as Sean Hannity, had touted the Rasmussen data as news that would spell disaster for Democrats in the midterm elections. But national exit polling reported by CNN found black voters supported Democrats over Republicans by 90 percent to 9 percent.
“We’ve had tremendous support, and tremendous support in the Republican Party, among the biggest support in the history of the party. I’ve actually heard at 93 percent, it’s a record, but I won’t say that, because who knows? But we’ve had tremendous support.”
Actually, eight times previously, Trump has suggested he has had the highest approval rating of any president among Republicans, even higher than Lincoln. But it still does not make it true. George W. Bush had a high of 99 percent after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to Gallup.
“I had a very, very good meeting — a very, very good meeting with President Putin and a lot was discussed about security, about Syria, about Ukraine, about the fact that President Obama allowed a very large part of Ukraine to be taken … No, it was President Obama that allowed it to happen. Had nothing to do with me.”
Perhaps taking a talking point from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump once again accuses Barack Obama of allowing Russia’s annexation of Crimea while he was president. But Russia seized it, and then Obama responded by rallying other countries to impose sanctions, including kicking Russia out of the annual meeting of the Group of Eight — the biggest industrialized democracies.
One can argue whether that response was appropriate, but Obama argued at the time that Ukraine was a core Russian interest but not an American one, so a military confrontation was out of the question. “The fact is that Ukraine, which is a non-NATO country, is going to be vulnerable to military domination by Russia no matter what we do,” Obama told The Atlantic. He noted that Russia also invaded Georgia under George W. Bush’s watch.
“Let me just tell you, Peter, very simple: because they’re [Democrats] very weak on crime. Because they have often suggested, members and people within the Democratic Party at a high level have suggested getting rid of ICE, getting rid of law enforcement.”
Trump was asked about his harsh attacks on Democrats as the “party of crime” in his many rallies before the election. But, as for abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Trump is simply wrong to claim that this idea is on the Democrats’ agenda.
A few prominent liberals, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have called for ICE to be abolished. But they are not members of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s leadership team in the Senate. The handful of Democrats in the House who support abolishing ICE are not members of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team. Many Democrats say ICE should be reformed, not abolished. It was created after the Sept. 11 attacks, in a merging of various investigative arms of other agencies.
“We made more progress [with North Korea] in that four or five months than they’ve made in 70 years.”
Trump may believe this, but he’s ignoring North Korea’s long history of making agreements and then not living up to its obligations.
The document signed by Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was remarkably vague, leaving it open to interpretation and debate, compared to previous documents signed by North Korea. The statement said North Korea (officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK) committed to “work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” The phrase is not defined and “toward” is rather weak. In the past, North Korea viewed “denuclearization” to mean the United States removing the nuclear umbrella it provides to Japan and South Korea; there is no indication its definition has changed.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported in June that U.S. intelligence officials, citing newly obtained evidence, have concluded that North Korea does not intend to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile, and instead is considering ways to conceal the number of weapons it has and secret production facilities. In July, the Post reported Pyongyang is constructing new missiles at a factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.