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Trump fills his CNN town hall with a fire hose of old and new false claims

For more than an hour, former president Donald Trump sent forth a torrent of false and misleading claims during a CNN town hall. Here’s a roundup of some of the more notable ones, arranged by subject matter.

Trump repeated many of his familiar lies about the 2020 election.

“That was a rigged election, and it’s a shame that we had to go through it. … If you look at True the Vote, they found millions of votes on camera, on government cameras, where they were stuffing ballot boxes. … If you look at what happened in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, if you look at what happened in Detroit, Michigan, if you look at what happened in Atlanta, millions of votes, and all you have to do is take a look at government cameras.”

We have looked at these claims many times in detail, and as CNN moderator Kaitlan Collins noted, they have been repeatedly debunked.

Trump has claimed that in Philadelphia, there were more votes than voters. This falsehood is based on a misunderstanding of an incomplete voter registration database, which was missing numbers for some of the most populous counties in the state. “To put it simply, this so-called analysis was based on incomplete data,” said Pennsylvania’s Department of State, which labeled the claim “obvious misinformation.”

He also made the same claim about Detroit — more votes than there were voters. Detroiters cast 257,619 ballots in the Nov. 3 election. There are 506,305 registered voters in the city. Trump’s falsehood is based on a ridiculous misunderstanding: An affidavit filed in a Georgia election case that made this claim mixed up two states that started with “Mi.” The precincts were not in Wayne County, Mich., but in some of the reddest parts of Minnesota — Trump country.

As for Georgia, Trump appears to be referring to another one of his favorite falsehoods — that Republican poll watchers were ejected in Fulton County and that video showed suitcases of ballots had been hidden under tables — but it’s been repeatedly debunked.

First of all, there was no “water main break.” A urinal simply leaked in the State Farm Arena, where absentee and military ballots were counted in the state.

The Fact Checker investigated at the time, and the surveillance video — which comprises four security camera feeds — showed no irregularities, illegal behavior or evidence of malfeasance on the part of poll workers. The “boxes” have been repeatedly identified by election officials as the standard boxes used in Fulton County to transport and store ballots.

Additionally, the video doesn’t even prove Trump’s frequent assertion that GOP monitors were told to leave the counting room for poll workers to engage in illegal ballot counting. Georgia elections official Gabriel Sterling, a Republican, at the time said no formal announcement to clear the room was ever made. Sterling added that the full surveillance feed shows workers handling ballots that were stored and processed in full view of the news media and partisan monitors earlier in the evening.

“Even if you just look recently with the 51 intelligence agents, that made a 16-point difference.”

Trump is referring to a letter signed by more than 50 former senior intelligence officials, including five CIA chiefs, that said the release of the emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” Joe Biden cited the letter in a presidential debate to dismiss allegations Trump made regarding the laptop. But there’s no evidence it made a difference in the election result.

Twitter briefly blocked users from sharing the New York Post story on Hunter Biden’s laptop — a decision officials later said was a mistake. We’ve previously examined a poll often cited by Trump allies that suggests telling the tale would have swayed the election. The poll was done by the Polling Company, a conservative pollster founded by Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, on behalf of the Media Research Center. Our analysis found that the poll conveniently supported a line that Republicans are pushing — that a lack of media coverage related to the Hunter Biden laptop made a difference in the presidential election.

But when you dig into the results, which are swayed by aggressively misleading questions, it shows that for all but a tiny percentage of Biden voters, the story would not have made a difference — even if framed as a still-unproved scandal. The questions in the poll are similar to messages the Trump campaign used in the final weeks before the election — and it still fell short.

“The Constitution says that we’re supposed to have legal and well-maintained and well-looked-at elections.”

The Constitution has a number of provisions on elections, such as “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof,” but it does not say what Trump claimed.

Trump continued to repeat previously debunked statements about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.

“January 6, it was the largest crowd I have ever spoken to. That was prior to the walk down to the Capitol building. I don’t think — and I have spoken to hundreds of thousands of people. I have never spoken to a crowd as large as this.”

Trump routinely exaggerates the size of crowds attending his rallies. At the time he claimed the crowd was about 250,000 people. The Associated Press estimated the crowd at Trump’s rally on The Ellipse was about 10,000 people. The final report of the Jan. 6 select congressional committee quoted one official as saying the crowd was 30,000 to 35,000.

“Well, I offered them [Rep. Nancy Pelosi and District Mayor Muriel E. Bowser] National Guard. I said, we will give you soldiers. We will give you National Guard. We will give you whatever you want. … I offered them 10,000 soldiers. I said it could be 10,000. It could be more. But I offered them specifically 10,000 soldiers.”

This is false. The evidence shows Trump did not issue any formal request — so there was nothing for Pelosi or Bowser to heed. The Jan. 6 committee report says it found “no evidence” to support the claim that he ordered 10,000 troops.

Moreover, the committee said that when he referenced so many troops, it was not because he wanted to protect the Capitol. He “floated the idea of having 10,000 National Guardsmen deployed to protect him and his supporters from any supposed threats by left-wing counterprotesters,” the report says.

The report says that Trump brought up the issue on at least three occasions but in such vague and ambiguous ways that no senior official regarded his words as an order.

Trump repeated a number of exaggerated claims about his presidential record.

“We were energy-independent.”

Trump often made this claim as president, basing the statement on the fact the United States exported more crude and refined products than it imported. (The United States still relied on other countries for its energy needs.) But he’s wrong to suggest that the situation has changed under Biden. In 2022, the United States imported about 8.32 million barrels per day of petroleum and exported about 9.58 million barrels per day of petroleum, according to the Energy Information Administration, making the United States still a net exporter.

“We had the greatest economy in the history of our country, probably the greatest economy in the history of the world.”

Trump made a variation of this claim almost every other day in the last two years of his presidency, even after the pandemic tanked the economy — about 500 times. It’s wrong. By just about any key measure in the modern era, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton presided over stronger economic growth than Trump. The gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2.3 percent in 2019, slipping from 2.9 percent in 2018 and 2.4 percent in 2017. But in 1997, 1998 and 1999, GDP grew 4.5 percent, 4.5 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively. Yet even that period paled in comparison with the postwar boom in the 1950s or the 1960s. Growth between 1962 and 1966 ranged from 4.4 percent to 6.6 percent. In 1950 and 1951, it was 8.7 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate reached a low of 3.5 percent under Trump, but it dipped as low as 2.5 percent in 1953.

“I got you the biggest tax cuts in the history of our country, bigger than the Reagan cuts.”

Trump’s tax cut amounted to nearly 0.9 percent of the gross domestic product, meaning it was far smaller than President Ronald Reagan’s tax cut in 1981, which was 2.89 percent of GDP. Trump’s tax cut is the eighth largest tax cut — and even smaller than two tax cuts passed under Barack Obama. Trump’s tax cut was heavily tilted toward the wealthy and corporations.

“We got the biggest regulation and regulatory cuts.”

Trump may have grounds to brag about his efforts to peel back regulations, but his claim of the most or biggest regulation cuts cannot be easily verified and appears to be false. There is no reliable metric on which to judge this claim — or to compare him to previous presidents. Many experts say the most significant regulatory changes in U.S. history were the deregulation of airline, rail and trucking industries during the Carter administration, which are estimated to provide consumers with $70 billion in annual benefits. A detailed November 2020 report by the Penn Program on Regulation concluded that “without exception, each major claim we have uncovered by the President or other White House official about regulation turns out to be exaggerated, misleading, or downright untrue.” The report said that the Trump administration had not reduced the overall number of pages from the regulatory code book, and it completed far more regulatory actions than deregulatory ones once the full data were examined.

“I took in hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes from China.”

Through the end of his presidency, Trump-imposed tariffs garnered about $75 billion on products from China. But tariffs — essentially a tax — are generally paid by importers, such as U.S. companies, who in turn pass on most or all of the costs to consumers or producers who use Chinese materials in their products. So, ultimately, Americans footed the bill for Trump’s tariffs, not the Chinese. Moreover, the China tariff revenue was reduced by $28 billion in payments the government made to farmers who lost business because China stopped buying U.S. soybeans, hogs, cotton and other products in response.

“We were going to make so much money from oil, we were going to start paying off [national] debt.”

The federal budget deficit soared under Trump and the United States was never close to paying off any debt.

Trump reprised false talking points about the criminal investigation into whether he failed to return presidential documents he took to his estate in Florida.

“I had every right to under the Presidential Records Act. You have the Presidential Records Act. I was there and I took what I took and it gets declassified … it says you talk, you negotiate, you make a deal. It’s not criminal, by the way.”

As Collins noted, this is not what the PRA says. Under the PRA, a president has a lot of leeway to deem something a presidential paper while he is president. But the possibility of such give-and-take ended when the clock struck noon on Jan. 20, 2021. “Upon the conclusion of a President’s term of office, or if a President serves consecutive terms upon the conclusion of the last term, the Archivist of the United States shall assume responsibility for the custody, control, and preservation of, and access to, the Presidential records of that President,” the law says.

For all of Trump’s focus on the PRA, there is another law at play here — the Federal Records Act. The PRA does not have a criminal enforcement provision. But a 2012 ruling by Judge Amy Berman Jackson — rejecting a lawsuit by a conservative group that Clinton’s sock-drawer tapes should be part of the Archives — said that the FRA grants the National Archives and Records Administration the authority to initiate “action through the Attorney General for the recovery of records wrongfully removed and for other redress provided by law.”

In other words, NARA cannot act alone but must work with the Justice Department. That’s what NARA did when it concluded Trump had not returned all of the records sought by the agency. The case eventually moved beyond a possible failure to comply with the PRA — or even whether the documents Trump kept were classified. The FBI’s search warrant cited statutes related to three possible offenses, such as willfully retaining national defense information and destruction of evidence in a criminal investigation.

“Biden, on the other hand, he has 1,850 boxes. He had boxes sent to Chinatown, Chinatown, where they don’t speak even English in that Chinatown we’re talking about. … And nobody even knows where they are, 1,800. … Why is it that Biden had nine boxes in Chinatown? And he gets a lot of money from China.”

Biden in 2012 provided 1,850 boxes of files from his decades as a senator to the University of Delaware. The university has said that public access has been prohibited until “they have been properly processed and archived,” unless Biden gives his express consent. The files will be opened “two years after the donor retires from public life.” Contrary to Trump’s claim, in February the FBI searched the university documents. “Agents initially did not find classified information, but the material is still being reviewed,” The Washington Post reported.

After his term as vice president ended, Biden had a temporary office in Chinatown in the District. There is no evidence he has received money from China.

“The other thing, the vice president cannot declassify. He didn’t have the right to declassify.”

This is false. Under an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2009, the vice president has original classification authority. Trump has claimed that he declassified the documents he kept. Biden, while vice president, had the right to declassify material if he had classified the material in the first place.

“NARA has red-flagged a thing called the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights, because they consider them dangerous documents.”

Trump is exaggerating. NARA does not single out the founding documents. Instead, it offers a warning on every page of its online catalogue: “The Catalog and webpages contain some content that may be harmful or difficult to view. NARA’s records span the history of the United States, and it is our charge to preserve and make available these historical records. As a result, some of the materials presented here may reflect outdated, biased, offensive, and possibly violent views and opinions. In addition, some of the materials may relate to violent or graphic events and are preserved for their historical significance.”

“Millions and millions of people are coming here. They’re being released from prisons. They’re being released from mental institutions. And we have millions of people pouring into our country.”

Trump reprises a line from his 2015 campaign announcement speech, in which he falsely claimed that Mexico was “sending people that have lots of problems … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He still has no evidence to back up these claims. CNN recently reported that his campaign failed to provide proof that leaders of unnamed South American countries are deliberately emptying mental institutions and sending patients as migrants.

“My poll numbers went up and they went up with the other fake charge, too, because what’s happening is they’re doing this for election interference.”

Trump falsely suggests E. Jean Carroll filed suit against him for defamation because he’s doing well in GOP presidential preference polls. She first filed suit against him in November 2019.

“If you look at Chicago, Chicago has the single toughest gun policies in the nation. They are so tough, you can’t breathe … All of those places are the worst and most dangerous places.”

This claim about the impact of Chicago’s gun laws on gun violence relies on outdated gun laws and shoddy data. The state of Illinois has tough gun laws, but several of the most restrictive laws, such as a ban on handguns and a gun registry, are no longer in use. And while the city may have high instances of gun violence, it does not have the highest rate of gun violence.

“We’ve given [to Ukraine] so far $171 billion. They’ve given — they, meaning European Union, which is approximately the same size, altogether, as our economy, they’ve given about 20.”

Trump often exaggerates U.S. military spending and shortchanges European contributions to global security. An April report by the Rand Corporation said: “Although U.S. military aid since the war began exceeds Europe’s (about $45 billion to $20 billion), Europe has provided more financial and humanitarian aid (about $40 billion to $30 billion).”

“When you have that policy, people don’t come. If a family hears they’re going to be separated, they love their family, they don’t come. So I know it sounds harsh, but if you remember, remember they said I was building prisons for children? It turned out that it was Obama that was building the prisons for the children.”

As president, Trump repeatedly sought to deflect criticism over his separation policy by noting that the Obama administration used cage enclosures to hold migrants before he did. The Obama administration never separated families systematically like Trump; there may have been some separation if there was suspicion that the children were being trafficked or a claimed parent-child relationship did not actually exist. A 2021 Justice Department Inspector General report documented that the separation policy was implemented after pressure from Trump for more dramatic action on the southern border. After the report was released, former deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein issued a statement: “It was a failed policy that never should have been proposed or implemented. I wish we all had done better.”

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This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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