Written by 11:46 pm News

Fact check: Trump repeats numerous false claims in campaign-style press briefing from White House

In all, CNN counted at least 11 outright falsehoods and a few more that were misleading or lacked context.

Here’s a look at the President’s claims and the facts behind them.

When asked about the Black Lives Matter protests happening across the US, Trump talked about the federal crackdown on protesters who have destroyed monuments, claiming, “We have now over 1,000 people, federal, in jail. We’re prosecuting many people.”

Facts First: This is not accurate based on data from Trump’s own Department of Justice. While it is not clear where the 1,000 number came from, the department reported that as of September 2, a total of 227 people have been federally charged in cities, including Minneapolis, Portland, Salt Lake City and Seattle. The charges vary from arson to assaulting a federal officer.

Cancel culture

After a reporter asked about the President’s calls to investigate the use of the New York Times’ 1619 project to teach students about the country’s history with racism, Trump said he wants “everyone to know everything they can in history,” adding that he is “not a believer in cancel culture.”

Facts First: It’s false for Trump to suggest he doesn’t like “cancel culture,” considering how he has himself explicitly advocated cancellations, boycotts and firings on numerous occasions for what he considers objectionable words and acts.

CNN’s Daniel Dale compiled a list of such instances, countering the President’s assertion.

18 angry Democrats

Trump said special counsel Robert Mueller’s team — which investigated Russian interference in the 2016 US election — included “18 angry Democrats.”

Facts First: Mueller himself is a longtime Republican. The majority of the lawyers on his team had registered as Democrats, but not all of them.

The Washington Post found in 2018 that 13 of the 17 lawyers then on the special counsel’s team had registered as Democrats; the Post said the other four had no affiliation or their affiliations could not be found.

In his testimony on July 24, 2019, Mueller said he hires people for their capabilities and integrity and had “not had one occasion to ask somebody about their political affiliation” in his 25 years working “in this business.”

Trump used to reference Mueller’s “13” angry Democrats, but appears to have inflated the number by an additional five.

Cost of Mueller investigation

According to Trump, Mueller spent $48 million over the course of his investigation.

Facts First: The Mueller investigation actually cost $32 million, according to figures released by the Justice Department, and the government is expected to recoup millions of dollars as a result of the investigation, most from former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to a CNN analysis of the sentences handed out to people charged by Mueller.
Trump has previously misstated the cost of the investigation but his current claim is $3 million more than before.


Trump once again alleged that President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden had spied on his 2016 presidential campaign.

Facts First: This is comprehensively false. There is no evidence that Obama or Biden personally directed the FBI to surveil people in the Trump campaign.

History of tariffs

Trump spent a long time touting his achievements against China, namely that the US has taken in billions from China under his administration after previously never receiving so much as 10 cents.

Facts First: It’s not true that the Treasury has never received “10 cents” from China. The US has had tariffs on China for more than two centuries.

It’s also misleading for Trump to suggest that the Chinese are paying for the tariffs. American importers make the tariff payments in the form of customs duties.

You can read more about the history of US tariffs on China here.


Echoing comments he made in August, Trump claimed “Biden’s plan for the China virus is to shut down the entire US economy.”

Facts First: Biden has not announced any such plan for combating the coronavirus pandemic but has said he would be prepared to call for a shut down if scientists recommended doing so. It’s also worth noting that presidents cannot single-handedly “shut down” the country.

You can read more about Biden’s comments on his plan for addressing the pandemic if elected here.


Trump again claimed that he instituted a law that would send people to prison for 10 years if they tore down a monument or statue.

Facts First: The President’s executive order doesn’t create new laws or possible prison sentences, it simply directed the attorney general to enforce already-existing laws.

Trump issued an executive order on June 26 to, among other things, direct the attorney general to “prioritize” investigating and prosecuting certain cases of vandalism — especially of monuments and memorials of US veterans — in accordance with “applicable law.”
One of the laws cited in the order is the “destruction of government property,” which carries a potential “fine of up to $250,000, ten years imprisonment, or both” if the purposeful damage to government property exceeds $100. The law has been around since 1964.
Trump also cited the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act, passed in 2003, which carries a fine and/or imprisonment of up to 10 years for those convicted of vandalizing or destroying monuments, plaques, statues or other property “commemorating the service of any person or persons in the armed forces of the United States.”

These laws have been on the books for years. Trump has not recently authorized the Department of Justice to pursue these cases but has ordered the attorney general to prioritize them.

Pillows and tank busters

In referencing US aid to Ukraine, Trump compared his record to President Obama’s.

“They used to send pillows and we send tank busters,” Trump said.

Facts First: While the Obama administration was criticized for its refusal to provide lethal assistance to Ukraine, it did provide more than $100 million in security assistance, as well as a significant amount of defense and military equipment.

NATO spending

Trump said twice that NATO member countries were increasing their spending to $400 billion a year.

Facts First: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said during a meeting with Trump on December 3, 2019 that, by 2024, non-US members will have spent a total of $400 billion more on defense than they did in 2016 — not that they will be spending $400 billion more “a year.” And since these predictions were made prior to the coronavirus they don’t take into account the possible impact of the current pandemic, NATO spokeswoman Peggy Beauplet noted in an email to CNN in August.

You can read more about Trump’s claims on NATO spending here.

WTO record

Trump said he’s “looking at the World Trade Organization” out of concerns the US is not being treated fairly because “we never used to win anything.”

Facts First: Contrary to Trump’s repeated assertion, the US has long won cases at the World Trade Organization. Trump’s own Council of Economic Advisers even said in a February 2018 report that the US had won 86% of the cases it has brought since 1995. The global average was 84%, according to the council.

You can read more about the US history with the WTO here.

Case fatality rates

The President claimed that the US has one of the lowest case fatality rates for Covid-19 among developed countries.

Facts First: The US does have one of the lowest rates of case fatalities — which measures the number of deaths from the virus over the number of cases. But Trump fails to mention that the US has among the highest mortality rates — a measurement of the number of deaths per 100,000 people — in the world with over 100 countries with lower death rates.

Vaccine timeline

Trump suggested that it is possible a vaccine is approved before election day, November 3.

Facts First: Experts who are currently running some of the vaccine trials tell CNN that this timeframe is unlikely. Even when one is approved, it will likely still be many months before a vaccine is widely available across the US.

Sen. Kamala Harris

Trump said that Harris was “the most liberal person in Congress.”

Facts First: Harris’ voting record in the Senate is certainly one of the most liberal, though her record prior to the Senate is more moderate on some issues.

This story has been updated

CNN’s Maggie Fox contributed to this article.

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