Donald Trump on the campaign stump: His most glaring falsehoods
President Donald Trump’s midterm push has few equals in recent American politics. In an effort to energize his base, defy history and stave off congressional losses, he has held rallies across the country — often leaving the truth in the dust.
Trump talks a lot about winning while emphasizing how much the country would lose under shared Democratic control, whether the issue is immigration, health care or the economy.
Here’s our top examples of Trump’s final fibs. (Warning, this story might be updated as we hear more in the final stretch.)
1. "The Democrats want to invite caravan after caravan of illegal aliens into our country. And they want to sign them up for free health care, free welfare, free education, and for the right to vote."
False. We could find no example of any Democrat recruiting caravans into the country. Democratic leaders don’t cast the group as law breakers and criminals as Trump does, but that’s not the same as encouraging them.
American law requires people seeking asylum to physically present themselves at the border. Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez told CNN it is a matter of being humanitarian and treating people with dignity.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi noted "those migrating for economic reasons will not qualify for asylum."
The freebies Trump listed are broadly prohibited, but there are exceptions that matter. They can receive free school lunches, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and emergency medical care.
As for voting, that would only come to pass at the state and national level should any of these people become citizens some day. A few localities allow noncitizens to vote in local elections.
2. "Bob Casey voted in favor of deadly sanctuary cities that released thousands upon thousands of illegal alien criminals and vicious gang members to prey on Pennsylvania."
False. Trump’s "thousands upon thousands" figure is cut from whole cloth, whether it applies to Pennsylvania or the entire country. The only data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows perhaps 142 gang members released over a nine-month period, though ICE itself offered warnings that made even that figure dicey. Sometimes local jails notified ICE and the agency couldn’t muster a team in time. And ICE also said it wasn’t sure all those people belonged to gangs.
ICE has no other statistics on releases.
On top of that, every sanctuary policy says jails can hold felons for deportation by ICE. The general Democratic approach is to get dangerous people out of the country.
3. "The Democrat plan would just obliterate Medicare and terminate Medicare Advantage ... seniors who have been paying for this for years (and) will not be taken care of anymore."
False. In his early rallies, Trump would say that Democrats wanted to destroy Medicare. Later, he began to specify that he was talking about the Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., bill to create a Medicare for All program.
But Trump’s attacks are over the top. We rated his Charlotte comment False.
The Sanders plan would establish a national health insurance program. It would replace just about all private insurance and, ultimately, fold in Medicare as well. About a third of Senate Democrats have endorsed Sanders’ bill. A companion measure in the House enjoys the backing of a majority of Democrats, which leaves it more than 90 votes shortage of passage.
Should the measure pass, it would offer much more than the current Medicare program, including dental, vision, hearing and long-term care. With few exceptions, there would be no premiums, no co-pays or other out-of-pocket expenses. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, however. The price tag would be in the multiple trillions of dollars.
At one level, Trump has a point. The current Medicare program, including the subsidized private insurance option called Medicare Advantage, would be replaced with a more generous program. The overall impact on services is unclear, as is how the effort would be paid for.
But on paper at least, it isn’t accurate to say that providing a better insurance package amounts to obliterating the present one.
4. "Republicans are also strongly protecting Medicare."
Preserving the government’s largest insurance program for the elderly and the disabled is a core promise from Trump. The reality is that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act undercut revenues to the Medicare Trust Fund. The program’s chief actuary reported that the tax cuts trimmed the expected solvency of the fund by one year.
Trust fund revenues are pegged to income taxes. When those tax rates were cut, so was the flow of money into Medicare. Instead of the fund remaining solvent until 2029, the actuaries estimated it would be depleted in 2026. The tax law accounted for one of the lost years, and regardless of the causes, it lost a total of three years under Trump and the Republicans.
When Trump claimed that Republicans had strengthened Medicare, we rated that claim False.
5. "When we had NAFTA, we lost millions and millions of jobs."
False. Trump said this in a speech to the Future Farmers of America. He said the same thing in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity before a rally in Las Vegas.
Estimates of jobs lost from NAFTA ranges widely, but we have not seen any estimate as high as "millions."
The biggest number comes from a report by the liberal Economic Policy Institute, which receives support from labor unions. A 2014 report from the group found that from 1993 to 2013, "the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico and Canada increased from $17 (billion) to $177.2 billion, displacing 851,700 U.S. jobs. All of the net jobs displaced were due to growing trade deficits with Mexico."
But this isn’t the only estimate that’s been offered. The Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan policy arm of Congress, concluded that "the net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest." So, neither positive nor negative in any great degree.
No estimate put the total at millions and millions.
6. "We passed the biggest tax cuts and reforms in history."
This staple of Trump’s speeches is simply False.
The Treasury Department has published a list of the biggest tax bills between 1940 and 2012, measured not only by contemporary dollars but also by inflation-adjusted dollars and as a percentage of gross domestic product (a measure of the size of the overall economy).
Depending on what projection of the current bill you use and what yardstick you measure it by, several bills since 1980 were larger. Here’s the list by inflation-adjusted dollars:
Inflation-adjusted dollars (per year)
American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (enacted in 2013)
Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010
Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981
Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017
By this measurement, the recent tax bill ranks as the fourth-biggest since 1940. But judged as a percentage of GDP, the recent tax bill ranks seventh. The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 came in first at 2.89 percent. The Tax Cut and Jobs Act amounted to 0.9 percent of GDP.
7. "US Steel is now building seven plants."
One of Trump’s earliest trade moves aimed to boost the American steel industry by putting a 25 percent tariff on imported steel. Since then, he has spoken expansively about the impacts.
The iconic US Steel is on his list. A few months ago, Trump said the company was opening seven new plants. Then he dropped that to six. Now, he’s back up to seven.
The reality is that US Steel isn’t opening any new plants. It is working to restart two existing blast furnaces that had been idled, and it is adding a line at an existing subsidiary facility for steel-coating. Those project will add jobs, but are a far cry from opening new plants.
When Trump claimed six new US Steel plants, we rated that False.
8. "We passed veterans' choice, giving our veterans the right to see a private doctor, rather than waiting on line for weeks and weeks and weeks. 44 years they've been trying to pass that. I got it passed."
False. At rally after rally, Trump tells the crowd that under his leadership, Republicans finally got veterans the choice to see a private doctor.
This ignores that Congress and the Obama administration passed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. By February 2018, program had spent over $10 billion so veterans could do exactly what Trump said he had delivered.
The program isn’t new. Congress passed a new version of a Choice program in June 2018 — but the program itself has been around since 2014.