Fact-checking Donald Trump's interview on Fox & Friends
Fox & Friends co-hosts heard from a longtime listener and former caller April 26: President Donald Trump.
In the free-wheeling interview, Trump started by wishing his wife Melania a happy birthday and then launched into his opinions about the Iran nuclear deal, "leaking, lying" former FBI director James Comey, and the 2016 election.
Here’s a fact-checked guide to some of Trump’s remarks.
The Obama administration "made a horrible deal giving $150 billion, giving $1.8 billion in cash — in actual cash carried out in barrels and in boxes from airplanes" to Iran.
This rates Half True. The big number of $150 billion is dodgy. While some conservatives have put the amount released after lifted sanctions that high, a more realistic estimate from Iran’s Central Bank tops out at about $90 billion. Nader Habibi, professor of economics of the Middle East at Brandeis University, believes the actual total is even lower after talking with officials at Iran’s Central Bank, between $25 billion and $50 billion.
In July 2015, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told lawmakers Iran would gain access to $56 billion.
It’s important to know that little of that money was under the control of the United States or any U.S. bank. Most of it, Habibi said, was in central and commercial banks overseas. And furthermore, it was Iran’s money to begin with, not a payment from any government to buy Iran’s cooperation.
As for the $1.8 billion in cash, Trump overshoots the total slightly. The amount was $1.7 billion and it was sent to Iran in euros, Swiss francs and other currencies. Trump embellished when he mentioned barrels and boxes. Reports at the time said the money was packed and loaded onto pallets, similar to how other bulk goods are shipped.
Those funds were also Iran’s. The country had paid America for military equipment in 1979, but then the Iranian revolution came, relations went south, and the hardware was never delivered.
"All they do is scream death to America, death to America. And by the way, they're not screaming it so much anymore."
In Iran, as we’ve noted before, government-sanctioned prayers on Fridays sometimes include chants of "death to America." And as recently as August 2017, the Associated Press reported that members of Iranian parliament chanted it when they voted to increase spending on the country’s ballistic missile program and the foreign operations of its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.
While it’s not immediately obvious whether the frequency of these chants has increased or decreased in recent months, scholars of Iran say the rhetoric has a long history.
"To me — and I've been to the ‘revolution day’ parades in Tehran as well as the Friday prayers in University of Tehran where the main political sermoning is given — it is political theater," said Kevan Harris, assistant professor at UCLA and author of a book on Iranian politics.
"It’s all classified. It was totally classified. So illegally — he did an illegal act, and he said it himself in order to get a special counsel against me."
Big gaps in the public reporting on Comey’s memos — as well as other complicating factors — make it difficult to say for certain if the memos were actually classified.
Comey’s notes cover seven encounters with Trump over a four-month period, starting weeks before Trump was inaugurated. Four memos now bear classification markings, but it is not clear when that designation was made, or who made the decision.
Before the memos became public, Comey shared some of them with Daniel Richman, a law professor at Columbia University who also advises Comey. It’s unclear how many of these written impressions contained classified information.
Bottom line: The issue of whether Comey broke the law is murkier than Trump makes it seem. Read more here.
"Kanye looks, and he sees black unemployment at the lowest it's been in the history of our country, okay? He sees Hispanic unemployment at the lowest it's been in the history of our country. He sees, by the way, female unemployment — women unemployment the lowest it's been in now almost 19 years."
Trump’s statement about why the rapper Kanye West appears warm to his presidency rates Mostly True. The unemployment rates for African-Americans and Hispanics have hit all-time lows in recent months during Trump’s tenure, and the rate for women was recently the lowest it’s been in more than 18 years.
That said, the president is not all-powerful on economic matters; broader factors, from the business cycle to changes in technology to demographic shifts, play major roles. In addition, the heavy lifting in getting these unemployment rates that low occurred before Trump became president.
"Nobody has done what I've been able to do, and I did it despite the fact that I have a phony cloud over my head that doesn’t exist. It was what the Democrats used to try and make an excuse for their loss of an election."
"This was an absolute, total beating in the Electoral College."
Trump’s Electoral College victory (306 votes to Clinton’s 232) was indeed a shocking victory to many commentators. But it was not the huge Electoral College shellacking he has described. While Trump surpassed the required 270 electoral votes with room to spare, his margin ranks no better than the bottom quarter of Electoral College showings in American history, and no better than the bottom one-third of the showings since the end of World War II.
"The people that are doing the investigation — you have 13 people that are Democrats. You have Hillary Clinton people."
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of attorneys does have 13 registered Democrats and no registered Republicans, and several team members made donations to Clinton’s campaign in various amounts.
However, Trump leaves out a crucial registered Republican — Mueller himself — and glosses over the fact that we don’t know the identities, or the partisan affiliation, of other Justice Department or FBI staff who are working with the investigation.
"You know, they (CNN) give Hillary Clinton the questions to the debate."
This claim stems from hacked emails of former Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s email account and published by Wikileaks during the Democratic presidential primary.
CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile sent an email to the Clinton camp on March 12, 2016, with the subject line, "From time to time I get the questions in advance," and included a question about the death penalty.
The next day, at a CNN presidential town hall between Clinton and primary opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton was asked a question by an audience member about the death penalty. Sanders was not presented with the same question.
Brazile gave the Clinton campaign another heads up in another email March 5, before a debate in Flint, Mich. "One of the questions directed to HRC tomorrow is from a woman with a rash," the subject line read.
"Her family has lead poison and she will ask what, if anything, will Hillary do as president to help the ppl of Flint."