The Trump team’s falsehoods of 2017

PolitiFact's 2017 Lie of the Year award is given to Donald Trump, for claiming Russian election interference is a "made-up story."

President Donald Trump made many inaccurate statements in 2017. His White House team seems to be following in his footsteps when defending him.

Some of Trump’s staffers have made the argument that it is valid to use inaccurate facts to bolster larger narratives — like when press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently told reporters that even if the authenticity of anti-Muslim videos videos was questionable, "the threat is real."

In other cases, they doubled down on exaggerations, as when former press secretary Sean Spicer repeated that Trump’s inauguration saw the largest audience ever, period.

To help you keep the facts straight, we’ve compiled a list of our most significant fact-checks of the staff of the Trump administration in the first year.

Sean Spicer: "That was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period."

Side-by-side photos of the National Mall showed the attendance of Trump’s inauguration was noticeably smaller than Obama’s inaugurations. But in the first press briefing of the new administration, Spicer accused the media of misleading the public about the crowd size.

"Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular Tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall," Spicer said on Jan. 21. "That was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe."

We rated his claim Pants on Fire.

Spicer offered that floor coverings highlighting empty spaces on the National Mall had not been previously used, but in fact they were in place for Obama’s 2013 inauguration. Spicer also said metro ridership was higher during Trump’s than Obama’s 2013 inaugural, but that’s only if you’re comparing the morning of Obama’s inaugural to the whole day of Trump’s.

Spicer’s and Trump’s highest estimates for the inauguration were all lower than the 1.8 million people who attended Obama’s 2009 inauguration.

Kellyanne Conway came out in their defense, labeling the falsehood as an "alternative fact" necessary to combat what she considered the media’s misleading portrayal of the administration.

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Pants on Fire
"That was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period."
In a press conference
Saturday, January 21, 2017
 
Steven Mnuchin said Trump "has given more financial disclosure than anybody else."

Following a question about Trump’s missing tax returns during an April 26 news conference, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Trump "has no intention" of releasing his tax returns.

(Trump broke his repeated promise to release his tax returns to the public.)

"The president has released plenty of information and, I think, has given more financial disclosure than anybody else," Mnuchin said. "I think the American population has plenty of information."

Trump was the first major presidential nominee in 40 years not to release his tax returns. Instead, he released a financial disclosure report all presidential candidates are required to complete.

Former President Barack Obama released tax returns for 16 years (2000-15), and George W. Bush and Bill Clinton released tax returns for every year in office except for their last. George H.W. Bush released three years of returns, and Ronald Reagan released six years worth of returns.

Trump’s tax returns would allow the public to see his tax rate, the types of taxes he paid, his charitable giving, his income-producing assets, and even pin down how the Republican tax bill would affect his finances.

We rated his claim False.

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False
Says President Donald Trump "has given more financial disclosure than anybody else."
a press conference
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
 
Sean Spicer said Paul Manafort "played a very limited role" in the Trump presidential campaign.

On top of Trump’s Lie of the Year that Russia "is a made-up story," his top advisers have repeated several false claims in attempts to dispel the story.

Spicer tried to distance the president from his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort after a report and repeated references to Manafort during a House Intelligence committee on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"Obviously there’s been discussion of Paul Manafort, who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time," Spicer said in a March 20, 2017, White House press briefing.

But even Spicer admitted that characterization was incorrect. Trump praised Manafort as "a great asset and an important addition" in consolidating the support during the primary season. Manafort was promoted to campaign chairman in May 2016 and resigned in August, in the wake of falling poll numbers and ongoing controversy.

We rated his claim False.

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False
Says Paul Manafort "played a very limited role" in the Trump presidential campaign.
a press briefing
Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrongly sourced Trump’s Obama wiretapping claim

In March, Trump tweeted, "Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"

Trump provided no evidence of his claim, and intelligence agencies found nothing to back it up, either.

Sanders nonetheless came out in Trump’s defense, repeating Trump’s other false claim that the New York Times initially reported the wiretapping.

"Everybody acts like President Trump is the one that came up with this idea," Huckabee Sanders said. "There are multiple news outlets that have reported this."

A few reports alluded to the FBI’s requesting permission from the court that handles the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor members of Trump’s teams interactions with Russia. But only a November 2016 blog post on HeatStreet based on anonymous sources that has not been corroborated claims the probes centered on Trump himself or came from Obama.

We rated her claim False.

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False
"Everybody acts like President Trump is the one that came up with this idea. ... There are multiple news outlets that have reported" former President Barack Obama ordered wiretapping on Trump.
in a segment on ABC's "This Week"
Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sanders said Trump never encouraged violence

Following hostile tweets directed at MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-hosts in the wake of the shooting in June that hospitalized House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., Huckabee Sanders vehemently denied the suggestion Trump’s tweets could be conducive to violence.

"The president in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence. If anything, quite the contrary. And he was simply pushing back and defending himself," Huckabee Sanders said.

But we then found Trump had repeatedly — if only once explicitly — displayed tolerance for, and a favorable disposition toward, physical violence. The most notable statement came from a February 2016 campaign rally.

"So I got a little notice," Trump told a crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "We have wonderful security guys. It said, ‘Mr. Trump, there may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience.’ So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Just knock the hell .... I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise."

Again, we rated her claim False.

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"The president in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence."
a White House briefing
Thursday, June 29, 2017
 
John Kelly said Rep. Frederica Wilson bragged about getting funding for an FBI building

After receiving (and dishing out) criticism for not calling families of fallen soldiers in October, Trump reached out to the widow of deceased Sgt. La David Johnson in a phone call that became infamous after U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., a close friend to the widow, disparaged its contents publicly.

Wilson, who overheard the call, said Trump told the widow her husband "knew what he signed up for … but when it happens it hurts anyway."

"I think it’s so insensitive," Wilson told the Miami Herald. "It’s crazy. Why do you need to say that? You don’t say that to someone who lost family, the father, the breadwinner. You can say, ‘I’m so sorry for your loss. He’s a hero.’ "

A few days later, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly fired back at Wilson for listening in on Trump’s call to the widow, and took it further by saying Wilson had bragged about herself at the dedication of a new FBI field office in Miami.

"And a congresswoman stood up, and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there and all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call he gave the money -- the $20 million -- to build the building," Kelly said of Wilson. "And she sat down, and we were stunned."

But that’s not at all what Wilson said, as a video clip of the speech showed.

Wilson didn’t mention funding for the building, claim credit for it, or tell the audience how she leveraged influence with Obama to secure it.

Wilson instead described how she, alongside several other lawmakers, helped secure legislation to name the building for two slain agents. She also discussed the bravery of the slain agents and the FBI.

That, too, earned a False.

Read the 'Lie of the Year': Russian election interference is a 'made-up story'

More 'Lie of the Year' coverage: The readers' poll

Notable misstatements about Donald Trump from 2017​

A look back at Lie of the Year, 2009 to 2016

The original fact-check: Donald Trump's Pants on Fire claim Russia story 'made-up' by Democrats