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President Donald Trump speaks following a tour of Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wis. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images) President Donald Trump speaks following a tour of Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wis. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump speaks following a tour of Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wis. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Eric Litke
By Eric Litke June 26, 2020

Resuming campaigning after an extended hiatus for the pandemic, President Donald Trump made Wisconsin one of his first stops.

Trump won battleground Wisconsin by less than 20,000 votes in 2016, but Democrat Joe Biden leads Trump 49% to 41% in the latest Marquette University Law School Poll.

On June 25, 2020, Trump made stops in Marinette and Green Bay. He conducted a town hall aired on Fox News and toured Fincantieri Marinette Marine, which recently received a defense contract worth up to $5.5 billion.

In comments at both locations, Trump tackled an array of topics — the wave of protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the coronavirus response, the economy and mail-in voting. But his descriptions often strayed from reality. Here’s what we found fact-checking the president.

"Criminal justice reform — Obama and Biden never even tried it."

One can debate the effectiveness of various measures, but President Barack Obama and Biden, his vice president, did take steps in this area. 

Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, reducing the disparity in sentences between crack and powder cocaine (long criticized as discriminating against Black offenders). His Department of Justice launched the Smart on Crime initiative, which directed prosecutors nationwide to stop bringing charges that carry harsh minimum sentences except in the most extreme cases.

Obama also convened the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which produced a lengthy report on improving policing. And in a key step Obama could take on justice directly, he granted clemency to 248 federal inmates, more than the past five presidents combined, according to the Washington Post.

Before the pandemic, "We were going through the single greatest year we’ve ever had" for employment, stock market

There’s a lot of truth to this claim. The stock market, based on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, was at historic highs in late 2019, even when adjusted for inflation.

The employment element is more nuanced. PolitiFact Wisconsin rated Mostly True a Trump claim from a January 2020 visit to Milwaukee that the 160 million people working at the time were the most in history. But examining employment as a rate instead — that is, as a percentage of the population — shows the U.S. was actually at its peak around 2000.

"If we didn’t test, we wouldn’t have cases."

This statement, from the Marinette remarks, is nonsense. Conducting fewer tests doesn’t reduce the number of cases, it just reduces the number we know about. This is nevertheless a claim Trump has recycled frequently, including May 14 and 15.

PolitiFact National has rated variations of the claim False and Pants on Fire.

Trump walked back this line of reasoning in the Green Bay town hall, saying: "Sometimes I jokingly say or sarcastically say, if we didn’t do tests we’d look great. You know what? It’s not the right thing to do."

Though, as we wrote in rating True an attack ad zeroing in on such statements by Trump, the president has also said he wasn’t joking when he made them.

"We have one of the lowest mortality rates" for COVID-19

The opposite is actually true. Among the 20 nations most affected by COVID-19 worldwide, the U.S. has among the highest death rates — whether calculated as a percentage of known cases or as a percentage of the population as a whole, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Mortality Analyses.

Across all 161 countries tracked by the site, the U.S. is ninth-highest for deaths by population (38 per 100,000) and 33rd-highest for death frequency by case (5.1%).

The U.S. also has the highest raw number of coronavirus deaths in the world at 124,000, more than double any other country.

Said Wisconsin state senator attacked by protesters was "rooting them on"

State Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, was assaulted in Madison two days before Trump’s visit after taking a picture of a group of protesters who were vandalizing buildings and destroying statues.

Trump described it this way: "The person they beat up was a Democrat who happened to be gay, and he was probably out there rooting them on or something, because Democrats think it’s wonderful that they’re destroying our country."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted this unsupported claim flies in the face of multiple eye-witness, video and audio accounts of the events in Madison. Carpenter was not part of the protest. Rather he said he was headed to the Capitol to do some work.

The $5.5 billion shipbuilding deal is "one of the biggest contracts you’ve ever seen in this state."

The massive deal announced in April awarded Fincantieri Marinette Marine a contract to build the service's first new frigate, with options for up to 10 total ships, according to the Green Bay Press Gazette. The deal that will keep the company's shipbuilders working for the next two decades and lead to the hiring of about 1,000 new workers in Marinette.

A review of past news reports showed Oshkosh Corp. received a $6.75 billion contract in 2015 to build 17,000 light trucks. And they were awarded a $3 billion contact in 2010 to build medium tactical vehicles. But the new Marinette deal certainly appears among the largest the state has seen.

"The mail-in ballots, they mail them to anybody."

This claim is in line with an array of past statements from Trump, who has alleged mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud.

PolitiFact California rated Pants on Fire a claim Trump made in May that California is sending ballots "to anyone in the state." Mail-in ballots in California, like other states, are only sent to active registered voters.

(In Wisconsin, election officials decided this month to send absentee ballot request forms — not actual ballots — to the 2.7 million voters who are registered)

Trump also raised the spectre of people taking the ballots from mailboxes or foreign nations printing millions of ballots and sending them in. Experts consulted by said mail-in voter fraud is rare, though it is more common than fraud in person.

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Our Sources

White House YouTube channel, President Trump Delivers Remarks at Fincantieri Marinette Marine, June 25, 2020

Fox News YouTube channel, President Trump Town Hall hosted by Sean Hannity | FULL, June 25, 2020

The White House, President Obama Signs the Fair Sentencing Act, Aug. 3, 2010

U.S. Department of Justice, The Attorney General’s Smart on Crime Initiative, updated March 9, 2017

The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Final Report, May 2015

The Washington Post, Obama’s crusade against a criminal justice system devoid of ‘second chances,’ April 22, 2016

Macrotrends, Dow Jones - DJIA - 100 Year Historical Chart, June 25, 2020

PolitiFact Wisconsin, President Trump scores with claim on number of U.S. workers, Feb. 7, 2020

PolitiFact Wisconsin, Yes, Trump said positive COVID-19 tests are making the U.S. "look bad," referenced slowing testing, June 24, 2020

PolitiFact, Donald Trump wrong that greater testing is driving coronavirus case load, June 24, 2020

PolitiFact, Trump’s take on COVID testing gives short shrift to public health realities, June 17, 2020

Johns Hopkins University, Mortality Analyses, updated June 25, 2020

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Madison protesters tear down Capitol statues, attack state senator from Milwaukee as fury erupts again, June 24, 2020

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Trump falsely claims Wisconsin lawmaker was 'rooting on' destruction of Madison statues before being assaulted, June 26, 2020

Wall Street Journal, Oshkosh Wins $6.75 Billion Military Contract to Replace Humvee, Aug. 25, 2015

Defense Industry Daily, FMTV 2010-2018: Pyrrhic Victories? Oshkosh Wins The Re-Compete, Feb. 12, 2018

PolitiFact California, No, California Is Not Sending Mail-In Ballots "To Anyone In The State," As Trump Falsely Claimed, May 26, 2020, More False Mail-In Ballot Claims from Trump, May 27, 2020

Green Bay Press Gazette, Economic boom from Marinette Marine's new naval contract will be heard around the state, May 2, 2020

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