Fact-checking Trump's campaign rallies: the final stretch

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Macon, Ga. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Macon, Ga. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

We're fact-checking the biggest falsehoods from President Donald Trump's final push of rallies before Election Day. This story will be updated as Trump moves around the country in support of Republican candidates for Congress and state governor.

NOV. 5 — CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO.
NOV. 5 — CLEVELAND, OHIO
NOV. 4  CHATTANOOGA, TENN.
NOV. 4  MACON, GA.
NOV. 3  PENSACOLA, FLA.

NOV. 3 — BELGRADE, MT.
NOV. 2 — INDIANAPOLIS, IND., AND HUNTINGTON, W.VA.
NOV. 1 — COLUMBIA, MO.
OCT. 31 — FORT MYERS, FLA.

"And you saw what happened on Friday, also. We had great jobs numbers, but we also had something else. The accuser of Brett Kavanaugh, a man who is a fine man, the accuser admitted she never met him, she never saw him, he never touched her, talked to her, he had nothing to do with her, she made up the story, it was false accusations, it was a scam, it was fake, it was all fake."

Nov. 5, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

This makes it sound like Christine Blasey Ford, or one of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s other two prominent accusers, backtracked their allegations of sexual assault. That’s not the case.

Trump is talking about a much lesser known accuser. He’s referring to a letter Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley sent the Justice Department and FBI on Nov. 2.

According to Grassley’s account, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., received an anonymous letter from a Jane Doe on Sept. 25 that claimed Kavanaugh had raped the letter’s author and her friend in the backseat of a car. It did not specify when or where that happened.

The Judiciary Committee received a letter a week later from Judy Munro-Leighton, a Kentucky woman who claimed she was the accuser. When they got in touch with Munro-Leighton on Nov. 1, she said she was not Jane Doe; she had falsely claimed to author the letter to Harris because she "was angry" and "wanted to get attention." She said she had never met Kavanaugh.

So Trump was right that one accuser recanted, but it wasn’t one of the three most prominent accusers.

— Manuela Tobias

"If Democrats gain power on Tuesday, one of their very first projects will be a socialist takeover of American health care. You know what's happening. And your taxes are going to triple, maybe quadruple. You're not going to be happy."

Nov. 5, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

While some might describe Medicare or Medicaid as socialism, because the government is providing health insurance to citizens, the health care delivery system -- hospitals, doctors and labs -- would remain in private hands under Medicare for All.

There are a wide array of approaches Democrats have proposed to expand health care coverage. Medicare for All is the most aggressive plan that offers most benefits to seniors, but it is certainly not supported by all Democrats.

The revenue options have not been incorporated in the legislative language. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has proposed funding it through payroll taxes as well as income taxes for the highest earners. That would only affect the highest-earning seniors.

— Manuela Tobias

"Democrats are openly encouraging millions of illegal aliens to violate our laws and break into our country, and they want to sign them up for free welfare, free health care,  free education and, of course, the right to vote. And it's the right to vote that they like the best."

Nov. 5, Cleveland, Ohio

That's a slew of misleading claims about illegal immigration and the migrant caravan.

Some Democrats have said that immigrants seeking asylum should be allowed to go through that legal process, but that’s not the same thing as extending an invitation to break into the country.

Democrats also aren’t saying they want to sign up caravan members for perks upon arrival, much less the right to vote without being U.S. citizens. PolitiFact has repeatedly debunked Trump’s claims of mass voter fraud.

Even if some caravan members won asylum and became citizens, it would take years before they are able to vote for candidates for federal office.

Federal law bars immigrants in the country illegally from most public assistance programs. However, they can receive free school lunches, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and emergency medical care.

— Amy Sherman

"Thanks to our tariffs and taxes and trade policies, which are tough, America’s steel mills are roaring back to life."

Nov. 5, Cleveland, Ohio

Recently, Trump has claimed some of Ohio’s industrial jobs had since been resurrected. He said the United States was now "taxing the hell out of the dumpers" that were "hurting your steel industry."

Earlier this year, Trump announced a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum, which he argued would protect American metals industries in competing with foreign imports.

While experts have mixed impressions about the long-term job growth from Trump’s steel tariffs, we found several examples of steel mills reopening or expanding in the two years, both before and after Trump announced the steel tariffs.

— Amy Sherman

Democrat Rich Cordray "is going to drive your taxes right through the roof."

Nov. 5, Cleveland, Ohio

Cordray’s Republican opponent for governor, Attorney General Mike DeWine, has portrayed Cordray as a fan of tax hikes, but that’s misleading.

While Cordray has repeatedly bashed the federal tax bill for helping the rich, he hasn’t laid out any specific suggestion for changing the federal tax law. Perhaps more importantly, if Cordray wins the governorship, he would not have a say in federal tax policy.

Cordray has criticized state tax cuts because they has trickled down to local governments facing choices about whether to raise their own taxes. However, Cordray has also said several times that he doesn’t see a need for tax increases.

— Amy Sherman

Says the United States has "the worst immigration laws anywhere in the world."

Nov. 4, Chattanooga, Tenn.

Trump routinely describes U.S. immigration laws as weak and ineffective. In a narrower claim earlier this year, he said Mexico has "very strong border laws" compared to "pathetic" laws in the United States. We rated that claim Mostly False.

In defense of Trump’s claim, the White House in April pointed to a 2010 Washington Times article that said Mexican law since 2000 "mandates that federal, local and municipal police cooperate with federal immigration authorities in that country in the arrests of illegal immigrants."

However, the 2000 law has largely been supplanted by a 2011 law that decriminalized the act of entering the country without documentation. The law also allowed undocumented immigrants to use education and health services.

Trump’s comparison also omitted increased border security efforts in the United States. The U.S. Border Patrol "has 19,000 officers with a budget of $3.8 billion," Douglas S. Massey, a professor of public policy and sociology at Princeton University who specializes in immigration between the United States and Mexico, previously told us.

"It is the most controlled and hardened border anywhere in the world with the exception of Korea's DMZ," Massey said.

— Miriam Valverde

Georgia Democrat "Stacey Abrams wants illegal aliens to vote."

Nov. 4, Macon, Ga.

Georgia’s governor race is between Democrat Stacey Abrams, a former State House leader, and Republican Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state.

Kemp has similarly claimed that Abrams wants people in the country illegally to vote. But both Trump and Kemp appear to be taking out of context remarks Abrams made at an October campaign event. At that event, Abrams mentioned groups that make up the so-called "blue wave," saying it included people in the country illegally.

Here’s the full context of what Abrams said:

"We are 28 days from real change. 28 days before we tell Georgia who we are. And when we change Georgia we change the South. And when we change the South we change America. And that change starts right here. Because the thing of it is blue waves aren’t blue. That’s what we use ‘cause that’s the color that we embrace. But the thing about it is, a blue wave is African-American. It’s white, it’s Latino, it’s Asian Pacific Islander, it is disabled, it is differently abled, it is LGBTQ. It is law enforcement. It is veterans. It is made up of those who’ve been told that they are not worthy of being here. It is comprised of those who are documented and undocumented. It is made of those who’ve been told they are successful and those who’ve been told they are left behind. But the real wave is when we come together and we tell Georgia we’re here and we’re not going anywhere."

Abrams has said Kemp misstated and misled the public about what she said. "I only believe that those who have the legal eligibility to vote should cast a ballot," Abrams said during an Oct. 23 gubernatorial debate.

— Miriam Valverde

"We started the wall."

Nov. 4, Macon, Ga.

This often repeated claim is Mostly False. So far, Congress has appropriated $1.6 billion for new and replacement fencing along the southwest border. But that money isn’t being used to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall Trump promised during his presidential campaign.

Contractors built eight border wall prototypes, but the Department of Homeland Security said it did not anticipate that a single prototype would be selected as the design standard for a border wall. Rather, the prototypes are "anticipated to inform future border wall design standards in some capacity," a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman told PolitiFact earlier this year.

Trump’s administration received $1.6 billion for border barriers, but it’s disingenuous to claim they amount to Trump’s promise of a border wall.

— Miriam Valverde

Says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is deporting MS-13 gang members "by the thousands."

Nov. 4, Macon, Ga.

We’ve rated a similar claim Mostly False. ICE tracks deportations of gang members; but it does not break down that data by gang affiliation, the agency previously told PolitiFact.

ICE began tracking gang removals in fiscal year 2014 and since then has deported more than 12,000 gang members, but it’s difficult to say how many were MS-13.

The Justice Department estimates there are more than 10,000 MS-13 gang members in the United States.

— Miriam Valverde

"If you want to pay high taxes you ought to vote for the mayor of Tallahassee, Fla,. because you will pay high taxes."

Nov. 3, Pensacola, Fla.

That was an exaggerated attack on Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democrat running for governor against Trump-backed Ron DeSantis, a former congressman.

Gillum has said he wants to raise the corporate tax rate from 5.5 to 7.75 percent to generate about $1 billion extra for public education. The tax wouldn’t directly target the average Floridian, but experts say at least some of the cost could trickle down.

Gillum has repeatedly said that he doesn’t want to add a state personal income tax. Even if he wanted to do that, he couldn’t on his own because the state constitution bans such a tax. It would require approval of 60% of voters to amend the constitution.

— Amy Sherman

"Gillum wants to abolish ICE. …. Gillum pledged his support to end all borders."

Nov. 3, Pensacola, Fla.

Gillum joined some Democrats in calling for abolishing ICE this summer as a result of the Trump administration’s policy of separating undocumented immigrant children from their parents.

"It's time to abolish ICE in its current form to be replaced with a more compassionate and focused agency that actually keeps us safer," Gillum posted on Facebook on July 3. "Donald Trump has turned ICE into a police and child separation agency — not a border enforcement agency that treats people humanely and compassionately."

However, Gillum also said ICE needed to be replaced with a more "focused agency." He has spoken against "mass deportations", but he hasn’t advocated against the enforcement of all immigration laws.

Gillum has said he "believes that a decision between security or compassionate immigration policy is a false choice; we can have them both."

— Amy Sherman

"They will impose socialism on the state of Florida. Welcome to Venezuela."

Nov. 3, Pensacola, Fla.

The definition of socialism is a government takeover of production, and Gillum and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., haven’t called for that.

It’s also ridiculous to suggest that Democrats want to turn Florida into Venezuela, a country rife with problems. Venezuela has devolved because it mismanaged its oil resources. Democrats aren’t calling for creating an economy that is heavily dependent on one industry or nationalizing industry.

Trump appeared to be speaking broadly about Democrats -- he didn’t name anyone in particular in this attack. This is a familiar red scare talking point during the midterms that has been leveled by Republicans against Gillum and Nelson.

"I don’t think Gillum is talking about nationalizing industries and taking over hotels," Eduardo A. Gamarra, a political science professor at Florida International University, previously told PolitiFact. "That’s just not going to happen."

— Amy Sherman

Says there are 300 people with criminal records in the caravan now in southern Mexico.

Nov. 3, Belgrade, Mont.

This can’t be independently verified.

Right now, caravans that sprang up in Guatemala and El Salvador are walking north through Mexico. According to aid workers, the loosely organized march is made up of families with young children and young teens without their parents. Trump claims the caravans are a threat to national security.

"There's some bad hombres in that group," he said in Montana. " So (the Department of Homeland Security) came out with a list of 300 really bad ones."

The Department of Homeland Security in a Nov. 1 "myth vs. fact" statement said, "Over 270 individuals along the caravan route have criminal histories, including known gang membership."

PolitiFact asked the department how it determined that number and their criminal background. An official said only that it was "law enforcement sensitive."

So Trump rounded up a figure that DHS declined to explain.

— Jon Greenberg

"The economy was heading down when I took over."

Nov. 3, Belgrade, Mont.

That’s wholly inaccurate. The economy grew every quarter from the second quarter of 2014 through 2016. Unemployment declined steadily after September 2011.  The median sales price of homes rose from about $220,000 in 2012 to over $320,000 in 2016. The economy added over 11 million jobs during Obama’s second term.

When Trump told Congress that he had inherited a mess, we offered eight graphs that showed otherwise.

— Jon Greenberg

Democratic plans "include raiding Medicare to fund benefits for illegal immigrants."

Nov. 3, Belgrade, Mont.

There’s nothing to back this up, though Trump has been saying it at several of his rallies. People over 65  who snuck across the border don’t qualify for Medicare. There are no Democratic proposals to pull funds out of the Medicare program, much less redirect money from Medicare to help people in the country without permission.

It’s also worth noting that most undocumented workers pay into both Medicare and Social Security. The IRS estimates the amount at $9 billion a year.

There might be one indirect link between undocumented people and Medicare, but it’s convoluted. Medicare gives extra help to hospitals that are especially burdened by giving uncompensated care. If part of the unpaid care is due to people in the country illegally, then you could argue that to some degree, Medicare helps cover the gap.

But that’s hardly a benefit as Trump described it, since the hospital would provide care regardless.

And this is not part of any Democratic plan. It’s just the way Medicare works.

— Jon Greenberg

"Jon Tester tried to ruin" Adm. Ronny Jackson, Trump’s one-time nominee to head up the Department of Veterans Affairs

Trump holds Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., personally responsible for scuttling his first choice to head up the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In March, Trump tapped Adm. Ronny Jackson, his White House physician, for the role. Less than a month later, Jackson’s nomination was withdrawn. This came after reports surfaced alleging Jackson drank excessively on the job, created a hostile work environment and prescribed drugs too freely.    

Tester, the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, sounded the alarm about Jackson’s allegedly improper dispensing of prescription drugs, telling CNN that Jackson was known inside the White House as "the candy man."

Jackson withdrew his name as the Senate panel began to formally investigate the accusations.

— John Kruzel

"We gave our warriors the largest pay raise in more than a decade."

Nov. 2, Indianapolis, Ind.

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act includes a 2.6 percent pay raise for the military. That’s a bit more than a year ago, when the hike was 2.4 percent.

But Trump is wrong when he says it’s the largest in more than a decade. In 2010, Congress upped military pay by 3.4 percent. In 2009, it was even higher, 3.9 percent, and the year before that, 3.5 percent.

When Trump said he signed the first pay raise in 10 years, we rated that Pants on Fire. The armed forces has been getting raises every year. So what he said in Indianapolis is closer, but still not right.

— Jon Greenberg

"The Democrat plan would obliterate Medicare."

Nov. 2, Indianapolis, Ind.

Trump has focused on the Medicare for All proposal authored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. While Trump says it would destroy Medicare, that’s not what’s in the bill.

While the Sanders bill would change Medicare, it would not get rid of it or "obliterate" it. The Sanders bill would transform the health insurance system from a mix of private and public coverage options that depend on age, employment and income, to a single-payer system where everybody would be insured through the government.

Medicare would be expanded to cover more services, such as dental, hearing, vision and long-term care. And it would cover more people.

It has no clear funding mechanism and is a long way from passage. Sanders’ bill has support from about a third of Senate Democrats.

— Jon Greenberg

"But I can tell you, they will shut down your coal mines. They want to take away your good health care and essentially use socialism to turn America into Venezuela."

Nov. 2, Huntington, W.Va.

Socialism refers to the government owning (or at least controlling) the means of production. No mainstream Democrat has called for a government takeover of businesses.

While some might describe Medicare or Medicaid as socialism, because the government is providing health insurance to citizens, the health industry remains in private hands, said Sean D. Ehrlich, a Florida State University political science professor.

"The government doesn’t control the production of health care," Ehrlich said, "they merely regulate some elements and reimburse providers and consumers for their health care costs."

University of Miami professor Merike Blofield, an expert in Latin American and comparative politics, said that by the standards of other wealthy liberal democracies with public, universal health care, typical Democratic policy proposals are conservative.

— Louis Jacobson and Davis Versprille

"Democrats want to abolish (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). They want to turn America into a giant sanctuary for criminal aliens, drug dealers, and MS-13 killers."

Nov. 2, Huntington, W.Va.

A few Democrats seem to want the agency shuttered, but most -- including congressional leaders -- talk of restructuring or a new focus.

In July, we found six additional Democrats in the House and Senate who have said they want to "abolish," "dismantle" or replace ICE.

Rep. Mark Pocan, of Wisconsin, said he planned to introduce legislation to abolish ICE, because the Trump administration had "so misused ICE that the agency can no longer accomplish its goals effectively."

But that’s hardly all Democrats, and it’s not an invitation for mass migration of criminals and killers.

— Louis Jacobson and Julia Mellett

"U.S. Steel is now building seven plants"

Nov. 1, Columbia, Mo.

Trump has repeatedly exaggerated the scale of U.S. Steel’s expansion.

Between restarts, new mills and expansions, the steel industry has seen significant investment this year. But Trump is wrong: U.S. Steel is restarting two shuttered mills, not seven. Other companies are re-opening or building a few other mills. We have rated similar claims by Trump False.

— John Kruzel

Trump said that after 44 years of trying to pass the Veterans Choice program, "I got it approved"

Nov. 1, Columbia, Mo.

Trump is wrong that Veterans Choice wasn’t passed until he came into office.

Congress passed a new version of a Choice program in June 2018 — but the program itself has been around since 2014.

After the scandal of long waits and the efforts of administrators at some facilities to cover that up, Congress and the Obama administration passed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. We rated a similar claim by Trump False.

— John Kruzel

"I want the cleanest water on the planet. We want the cleanest air on the planet. And we've got it. But we want to keep it just that way."

Nov. 1, Columbia, Mo.

This is misleading.

The United States has ample room to improve on air quality when it comes to other developed democracies. While some cities’ water systems violate domestic environmental standards, the United States overall ties for best when it comes to drinking water. We rated a similar statement Mostly False.

— John Kruzel

"We passed a massive tax cut, biggest tax cut, for working families."

Oct. 31, Fort Myers, Fla.

Trump repeated the false claim that the 2017 Republican tax plan was the biggest tax cut in U.S. history.

There’s no question the tax bill was a significant piece of legislation. But even by estimates most favorable to the president, we found the Trump tax cut is exceeded in size by other historical examples.

In inflation-adjusted dollars, the recent tax bill is the fourth-largest since 1940. As a percentage of GDP, it ranks seventh.

— John Kruzel

"Congress has never passed a law requiring birthright citizenship for illegal aliens, and the Constitution does not — I say that to the media — does not require it — read it — because illegal aliens are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States."

Oct. 31, Fort Myers, Fla.

Most legal scholars disagree.

The question of whether Trump could undo the policy through executive order — which he’s claimed he has the authority to do — would ultimately be for the Supreme Court to resolve. But the consensus view is that virtually anyone born on U.S. soil has citizenship.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution says that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."

One constitutional scholar told us this unquestionably covers the children of unauthorized migrants. Others cited prior Supreme Court decisions interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment as additional support for the view that birthright citizenship can only be undone by amending the Constitution.

— John Kruzel

"Democrats want open borders."

Oct. 31, Fort Myers, Fla.

This is wrong. We found no examples of Democratic candidates pushing for open borders.

Some top Democratic lawmakers have called for a restructuring of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. A few other Democrats seem to want the agency shuttered.

Still, that’s a far cry from calling for immigrants to freely cross the border.— John Kruzel