Fact check: Trump falsely claims Texas 'made a fortune' on Hurricane Harvey at Dallas rally
Posted October 18, 2019 1:14 p.m. EDT
CNN — President Donald Trump made at least 26 false claims in his 87-minute rally speech in Dallas on Thursday, including an inaccurate declaration that Texas had somehow profited from one of the costliest hurricanes in American history.
Texas and Hurricane Harvey
Touting the "billions and billions of dollars" in relief money he authorized for Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 -- and teasing Texas lawmakers over their requests for him to spend more -- Trump said, "You made a fortune on the hurricane."
Facts First: Texas did not make money from Hurricane Harvey.
Harvey created costs of $125 billion, the federal government estimates. The government says Texas has been allocated $26.6 billion in federal disaster funds since 2017.
The Texas Department of Insurance estimated in April that personal and commercial insurance payouts related to Harvey would total $19.6 billion.
Aside from the personal toll of the disaster, which killed dozens of people, thousands of Texas residents have suffered severe financial losses from which they have not recovered.
The Dallas Morning News described Trump's claim as a joke, but we don't think his intentions were clear enough to brush off the comment as comedy. Texas' Democratic Party did not find it funny, saying on Twitter: "Texans lost everything after Hurricane Harvey. Shame on you, Donald Trump."
Trump exaggerated the number of people rescued by the Coast Guard in response to Hurricane Harvey, saying, as he has before, that they saved "16,000 lives."
Facts First: The Coast Guard says the correct number is 11,022 people rescued.
Trump conflated his accusations against former Vice President Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden -- railing against Hunter Biden's business dealings, then saying that Joe Biden "takes a billion-five" from China and "allows China to rip us off." He added, "So the Bidens got rich while America got robbed."
Facts First: There is no evidence Joe Biden has received large sums of money from China or has otherwise gained wealth as a result of his son's business dealings abroad.
Trump has previously made the "billion-five" accusation against Hunter Biden. While a conservative author has used this figure, it has not been proven. A lawyer for Hunter Biden, George Mesires, says the investment company in which Hunter Biden has an equity stake was capitalized with a total of about $4.2 million at today's exchange rates, "not $1.5 billion." Even this investment was not a direct payment to Hunter Biden; Hunter Biden holds a 10% stake in the firm, Mesires says, and has not made a profit to date.
Obama and AIDS
Vowing to end the AIDS epidemic in the US within a decade, Trump said the Obama administration spent "no money on that."
Facts First: The Obama administration spent $10.8 billion on domestic HIV/AIDS research between the 2013 fiscal year and 2016 fiscal year alone, according to a review by the Kaiser Family Foundation, and $85.1 billion more on domestic HIV/AIDS care, housing and prevention programs in those four years. It also spent $26 billion on international HIV/AIDS initiatives of various kinds over the same time period.
Democrats and undocumented immigrants
Trump noted that all of the 10 Democratic presidential candidates at a debate in June raised their hand to say they would extend health care coverage to undocumented immigrants, then claimed that the Democrats "want to give more to illegal aliens than they give to American citizens."
Facts First: This is false. The Democrats want to give these immigrants the same access to care that citizens have, not more.
The Turkey deal
Hailing his Thursday deal with Turkey, in which Turkey agreed to suspend military operations in northeast Syria for five days to allow Kurdish fighters to leave the area, Trump claimed that others had been unable to make a deal for 15 years or 20 years.
Facts First: Experts told CNN that it is not true that previous presidents had sought any such deal. The deal was narrowly tailored to a Turkish offensive that only began this month; previous presidents had not sought to give Turkish forces control over a part of Syria; and Syria's civil war had not even begun 15 or 20 years ago.
Trump said again that the whistleblower who complained about his dealings with Ukraine "got it all wrong."
Facts First: The whistleblower's account of his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was highly accurate -- as the rough transcript released by the White House confirms.
Trump suggested that he had "caught" Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff by doing "the unexpected" and releasing the rough transcript of the call, thus proving Schiff's exaggerated account of the call was inaccurate.
Facts First: Schiff delivered his rendition of the call the day after Trump released the transcript, not before. Trump initially recounted the timeline correctly, then adopted this incorrect timeline.
The Internal Revenue Service
Trump said, "I will never allow the IRS to be used as a political weapon -- except in the case of myself, where they use it against me."
Facts First: There is no basis for Trump's claim that he is allowing the IRS to be used against himself. The IRS is run by a Trump appointee, Charles Rettig, and there is no evidence it is being used against Trump; Democrats are seeking access to his tax returns, but that is not the same thing.
Trump repeated his promise to "always protect patients with pre-existing conditions."
Facts First: The Trump administration and congressional Republicans have repeatedly put forward bills and filed lawsuits that would weaken Obamacare's protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Trump is currently supporting a Republican lawsuit that is seeking to declare all of Obamacare void. He has not issued a plan to reinstate the law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions if the suit succeeds.
Obama and judicial vacancies
Trump claimed that President Barack Obama left him "142" judicial vacancies.
Facts First: There were 104 vacancies on January 1, 2017, just before Trump was inaugurated, according to Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who tracks judicial appointments.
The history of judicial vacancies
Mocking Obama's record on appointing judges, Trump claimed that presidents before him were "always" left zero judicial vacancies to fill.
Facts First: According to Wheeler, there were 53 vacancies on January 1, 2009, just before Barack Obama took office; 80 vacancies on January 1, 2001, just before George W. Bush took office; 107 vacancies on January 1, 1993, just before Bill Clinton took office. So Trump had the most judges to appoint since Clinton, but, clearly, other presidents also had appointing to do.)
Trump took credit for passing the Veterans Choice program, saying that others had tried and failed to do so for almost "50 years."
Facts First: Obama signed the Choice program into law in 2014. Trump signed a law in 2018, the VA MISSION Act, to expand and change the program.
The unemployment rate
Trump exaggerated as usual on the impressive unemployment rate, saying it was the lowest in "51 years."
Facts First: The September rate, 3.5%, was the lowest since December 1969, just under 50 years ago.
Trump claimed to have ended "the war" on American energy, then boasted of the US "now" being the world's "number one production of oil and natural gas."
Facts First: The US has not just "now" become the world's top energy producer, and it did not achieve this status because of Trump's policies: it took the top spot in 2012, under the very president he has accused of perpetuating the"war." The US became the top producer of crude oil in particular during Trump's tenure.
Trump told his usual semi-comedic story about how, if "windmills" are used for energy as he said Democrats want, people's televisions will go out if the wind is not presently blowing.
Facts First: Democrats support the use of wind turbines. Using wind power as part of a mix of power sources does not cause power outages even when the wind isn't blowing, as the federal Department of Energy explains on its website. "Studies have shown that the grid can accommodate large penetrations of variable renewable power without sacrificing reliability, and without the need for 'backup' generation," the Department of Energy says.
The World Trade Organization
Trump claimed the US did not win "any cases" at the World Trade Organization before he came along -- "anything for years, practically."
Facts First: Trump's own Council of Economic Advisers noted in a February report that the US had won 86% of the cases it had brought since 1995. Like other countries, the US tends to win when it brings the cases, lose when cases are brought against it.
China's agricultural spending
Trump claimed China had never spent more than $20 billion in a year on US agricultural products.
Facts First: China spent $25.9 billion in 2012, according to figures from the Department of Agriculture.
The trade deficit with China
Trump claimed the US trade deficit with China has long been $500 billion per year.
Facts First: Through 2018, there has never been a $500 billion trade deficit with China. The 2018 deficit was $381 billion last year when counting goods and services, $420 billion when counting goods alone.
China and tariffs
Trump said again that his tariffs on imported Chinese products have "cost us nothing," claiming China has "eaten" the cost.
Facts First: A bevy of economic studies have found that Americans are bearing the overwhelming majority of the tariff costs, and Americans make the actual tariff payments.
Trump claimed that there are 27,000 Mexican soldiers "on our border" to help with migration issues.
Facts First: Acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters in September that 10,000 of the approximately 25,000 Mexican troops deployed were on Mexico's own southern border: "They've created a new national guard within their country: 10,000 troops to the southern border; 15,000 troops to the northern border with the United States," he said.
Trump claimed to have spent "more than $2.5 trillion" on the armed forces, increasing this number from the straight "$2.5 trillion" he had cited last week.
Facts First: Defense spending for fiscal years 2017, 2018 and 2019 was $2.05 trillion, and that includes more than three-and-a-half months of Obama's tenure, since the 2017 fiscal year began in October 2016.
Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he thinks Trump must have been including military funding for the 2020 fiscal year to get to "$2.5 trillion" figure -- but since the 2020 fiscal year has just started, and Harrison noted that the defense appropriation has not yet been approved by Congress.
Democrats and borders
Trump claimed Democrats support "open borders."
Facts First: Even the most liberal of Democratic presidential candidates do not advocate unrestricted migration.
Trump said his wall on the Mexican border is "going up rapidly."
Facts First: As of September 30, no additional miles of border wall had been built during Trump's presidency in places where barriers had not existed before, according to a fact sheet from Customs and Border Protection. Over Trump's tenure in office, 69 miles of barriers had been constructed in places where "dilapidated and outdated" barriers had existed before; that's a pace of about half a mile of replacement barrier per week.
Democrats and the wall
Trump repeated his claim that "almost" all of the Democrats wanted a wall on the Mexican border five years ago.
Facts First: Democrats did support Republican demands for fencing in the comprehensive immigration reform bill six years ago, but that was fencing -- and Democrats agreed to endorse it only in exchange for Republican support for their own preferred policies, like a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Urging the fire marshal to let more supporters into the arena, Trump claimed that there were "close to 30,000" outside.
Facts First: Trump's estimate was not even close. "We didn't have 30K outside. Probably had upward of 5K outside," Dallas Police Department spokesman Sgt. Mitchell Warren told CNN in an email.