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Fact-checking Donald Trump’s Super Bowl interview
Allison Graves
By Allison Graves February 5, 2017

President Donald Trump said in a taped interview ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl that he had respect for Russian President Vladimir Putin despite Putin being described as a killer.

"We have a lot of killers, got a lot of killers," Trump told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. "What, you think our country is so innocent?"

In the interview, O’Reilly and Trump discussed the president’s claims of widespread voter fraud, Trump’s plans to replace the Affordable Care Act and his immigration plans. Here are the facts behind Trump’s Super Bowl interview. (The O’Reilly Factor will air more of the interview this week.)

‘You think our country is so innocent?'

Trump said he wasn’t sure if he would get along with Putin but that he would try, because Trump thinks Russia could help fight terrorism and the Islamic State.

O’Reilly: "He’s a killer though. Putin’s a killer."

Trump: "We have a lot of killers, got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?"

O’Reilly did not mention specifically who Putin has killed, and he has not been formally charged with anyone’s murder. However, experts have told PolitiFact that the political climate in Russia is responsible for a sizable amount of journalists murders in the country. As of early January 2016, about 34 journalists had been killed since 2000, which is the year Putin took power. Many of the suspected perpetrators are military officials, government officials or political groups.

Moderators challenged Vice President Mike Pence to explain Trump’s comment based on Putin’s record in Russia, such as promoting separatists in Eastern Ukraine, the downing of MH17 by a Russian-made missile and his former role in the KGB.

On CBS, host John Dickerson asked Pence three times whether the United States is morally superior to Russia. Pence did not directly answer the question the first two times, but finally agreed after Dickerson asked: "Shouldn't this be just a yes answer?"

Trump still wasn’t against the Iraq war ‘from the beginning’

O’Reilly and Trump went back and forth a bit after Trump’s "are we so innocent" answer. O’Reilly said, "I don’t know of any government leaders that are killers."

Trump: "Well, take a look at what we’ve done too -- made a lot of mistakes. I’ve been against the war in Iraq from the beginning-- made a lot of mistakes, but a lot of people were killed, so. A lot of killers around, believe me.

Trump snuck in a whopper from the campaign: There is no evidence he was against the war before it started. Trump has a hard time getting past a September 2002 interview with shock jock Howard Stern. Stern asked Trump if he supported the looming invasion. Trump responded, "Yeah, I guess so."

Trump dialed that back a bit in another interview in January 2003, a few months before the invasion. But the earliest evidence of Trump’s outright opposition to the war came in that August 2004 article in Esquire: "Look at the war in Iraq and the mess that we're in. I would never have handled it that way," Trump said.

‘Sanctuary cities breed crime’

O’Reilly asked Trump about a push by Democratic lawmakers in California to make their state a "sanctuary state."

Trump signed an executive order in his first week in office directing the attorney general's office and the secretary of Homeland Security to withhold grant money from cities that protect undocumented immigrants, otherwise know as "sanctuary cities."

Trump said he would be willing to "defund."

"As you know, I’m very much opposed to sanctuary cities," Trump said. "They breed crime, there’s a lot of problems."

There is not a lot of research on sanctuary cities and their impact on crime (read about them here and here). But one recent study by academic researchers found that sanctuary policies have no effect on crime rates.

Other studies have found a reduction in crime as a result of cooperation between immigrant communities and law enforcement. Scholars also say immigrants, including those in the country illegally, are less likely to commit crimes than the native-born population.

‘Many people’ say Trump’s right about massive voter fraud

O’Reilly asked Trump about making claims without facts to back them up. As an example, O’Reilly pointed to Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that more than 3 million undocumented immigrants voted in the election.

Trump defended his claim about the 3 million undocumented immigrants voting.

Trump: "Many people have come out and said I’m right. You know that.""

O’Reilly: "I know, but you’ve gotta have data to back that up."

In November, we rated claims about 3 million "illegal aliens" voting in this year’s election False.

Erroneous reports on the subject point back to tweets from Gregg Phillips, who has worked for the Republican Party and has a voter fraud reporting app. Phillips has still not provided any evidence to support his claim. In addition, Trump’s claim is undermined by years of publically available information such as a report that found just 56 cases of noncitizens voting between 2000 and 2011.

Non-citizens on voter rolls is a ‘really bad situation’

Trump pivoted to another issue he sees with the election system: voter rolls that include people here illegally or who have died.

"When you see illegals — people who that are not citizens — and they’re on the registration rolls. Look Bill, we can be babies, but you take a look at the registration, you have illegals, you have dead people, you have — it’s really a bad situation. It’s really bad."

While there is room for concern about poorly maintained voter rolls, there is little to no evidence that those erroneous registrants turned into votes, which would be voter fraud. During the election, Trump said "14 percent of noncitizens are registered to vote." We rated that False. Trump was citing a highly contested study, which used a small sample size and an unreliable database of Internet respondents.

A few months later, White House press secretary Sean Spicer wrongly cited a 2008 Pew research study to support the same 14 percent figure in late January. We rated his claim False, too, as no study supports that statistic. If 14 percent of all voters in 2008 were noncitizens, that would have to mean that more than 80 percent of America’s noncitizen population voted.

‘Obamacare is a disaster’

O’Reilly asked Trump if Americans can expect a new health care law in 2017. Trump said "maybe it will take until sometime into next year," because of how complicated the Affordable Care Act is.

"Obamacare is a disaster," Trump said. "You have to remember Obamacare doesn’t work, so we are putting in a wonderful plan."

Premiums in several states have gone up, but Trump is repeating a misleading GOP talking point. We recently rated a claim that the health care law "has failed" as Mostly False.

The Affordable Care Act did not meet all its promises, including a big one — that you could keep your insurance plan if you liked it. But health care costs have risen more slowly since the law took effect and the law has met its major goal of getting more people insured — an estimated 20 million.

Iran deal

Trump continued his criticism of the Iran Deal, saying "We gave them $1.7 billion in cash, which is unheard of, and we put the money up and we have really nothing to show for it."

Trump was referring to the part of the deal that includes the State Department agreeing to pay Iran $1.7 billion — $400 million plus $1.3 billion in interest — to settle a 35-year-old legal dispute over a trust fund that had been frozen since Iran's revolution. Trump has previously referred to this as paying "ransom" because on the same day Iran released several American prisoners. We rated that Mostly False when experts pointed out that Iran had a legitimate claim to the money.

Throughout the campaign Trump has promised to renegotiate the Iran Deal, but Trump wouldn’t reveal any more details about his plans when asked by O’Reilly if he would "tear it up."

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