Fact check: Trump makes six false claims in tweets on why he shouldn't be impeached
Posted September 13, 2019 4:35 p.m. EDT
CNN — President Donald Trump made a three-tweet argument Friday morning about why he should not be impeached, touting what he said were his accomplishments. Over the course of 139 words, he made six false claims -- plus three others that aren't false but could benefit from additional context.
Let's go claim by claim. First the false claims, in the order he tweeted them:
Unemployment for Asian Americans and women
"All time best unemployment numbers, especially for Blacks, Hispanics, Asians & Women," Trump said.
Facts First: The unemployment rates for black and Hispanic people are indeed at record lows, at least since the government adopted its current methodology for tracking those figures in the 1970s. But the rates for Asian Americans and women are not at their "all time best."
The unemployment rate for Asian Americans was 2.8% in August, higher than the 2.6% in December 2016, Obama's last full month in office. The rate did fall to a record low under Trump in May 2018, 2.0%, but it then increased; Trump continued claiming he had the record even after that ceased to be true.
The unemployment rate for women was 3.6% in August, the lowest since 1953 if you ignore the 3.4% in April of this year. But the record, set in 1953, was substantially lower, 2.7%.
"Became Number 1 in the World & Independent in Energy," Trump said.
Facts First: These are separate claims, and they are both false. The US became the world's top energy producer under Obama, not Trump; it is crude oil production in particular in which it took the number-one spot under Trump. And the US has not yet become "independent in energy," though government forecasters predict that US energy exports will exceed US energy imports next year.
The US claimed the top spot on energy production in 2012. This is particularly noteworthy because Trump has accused Obama's administration of perpetrating a "cruel war on American energy."
"The United States has been the world's top producer of natural gas since 2009, when US natural gas production surpassed that of Russia, and it has been the world's top producer of petroleum hydrocarbons since 2013, when its production exceeded Saudi Arabia's," the Energy Information Administration says.
The US is close to energy independence, according to one common definition, but it hasn't happened yet: the US is expected to export more energy than it imports by 2020, according to the Energy Information Administration. Still, Trump is stretching when he claims this has already occurred.
We should also note that the decrease in US imports and increase in exports began before the Trump administration; Obama presided over a boom in liquefied natural gas exports and signed a bill lifting a 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports.
"The truth is that both of the presidents of this decade (President Obama and President Trump) have presided over an incredibly brisk expansion of our capacity to produce oil and refined products. Executive policy has had little to do with the explosive gains, which are attributable to technology and price," said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service.
Definitions of "energy independence" vary. Even if US exports do exceed US imports, the US will still, of course, be using a substantial quantity of resources from other countries.
"Will soon have record number of Judges, 2 SC Justices," Trump said.
Facts First: Trump might indeed break the record if he gets reelected, given his current pace, but it would almost certainly take him years; at present, he has appointed less than half the number of judges Ronald Reagan did over Reagan's eight years, according to data from Russell Wheeler, a Brookings Institution visiting fellow who is an authority on judicial confirmations.
Wheeler's data shows that Reagan got 373 judges confirmed to district courts and courts of appeal, Bill Clinton 371, George W. Bush 321. As of Monday, it was 142 for Trump, Wheeler says. Reagan, Clinton and Bush, of course, served for eight years to Trump's less-than-three so far, so we're not saying Trump will never get there -- if he won the 2020 election and kept up his current pace of more than 50 per year, he would do so by 2024. But getting there over a number of additional years does not count as "soon" by any reasonable definition.
Trump could factually make a more narrow boast: in an August article, Wheeler noted that Trump had seated a record number of appeals court judges through that point in his presidency, leaving his predecessors "in the dust." But Wheeler also noted that Trump had not set an overall record, when you include district courts, and had not set a percentage record regardless.
The Russia investigation
"Done more than any President in first 2 1/2 years despite phony & fraudulent Witch Hunt illegally led against him," Trump said.
Facts First: "Done more" is subjective, so we'll let it slide. But there is no evidence the investigation into the Trump campaign's relationship with Russia, which he calls a "Witch Hunt," was illegal.
Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed by a Republican whom Trump appointed, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Trump has questioned the motives and tactics of Mueller's team, but he has provided no evidence of illegality.
"No Obstruction, No Collusion, only treasonous crimes committed by the other side, and led by the Democrats," Trump said.
Facts First: Mueller's report laid out multiple cases of possible obstruction; Trump's appointee as attorney general, William Barr, concluded the evidence was insufficient to establish a crime was committed, though other prominent lawyers disagreed. Regardless, there is no evidence of "treasonous crimes" by "the other side," whether Trump means Mueller's team or Democrats -- and there is no evidence any such crimes were "led by the Democrats."
"Treasonous" can be read at least slightly softer than Trump's periodic claim that people involved in the investigation committed actual "treason." Still, he is baselessly, though vaguely, suggesting some sort of treason conspiracy involving Democrats.
Former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig, someone who can be said to be on the "other side," was charged in a case arising from the Mueller investigation, but he was acquitted last week. And Mueller secured convictions from multiple people from Trump's own orbit: former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former deputy chairman Rick Gates, former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former lawyer and Trump Organization executive Michael Cohen.
Claims that need more context
"More people working today than ever before," Trump said.
Facts First: This is true, but Trump is basically taking credit for the population growing. As you can see from the government's official chart, the number of people working tends to rise steadily with population growth.
The military and veterans
"Rebuilt Military & Choice for Vets," Trump said.
Facts First: It is debatable how much Trump has "rebuilt" the military, though he has increased military spending. Contrary to his frequent claims, Trump did not get the Veterans Choice health program passed: it was signed into law by Obama in 2014. Trump did sign the VA MISSION Act in 2018, which expanded and modified the Choice program.
This was a more grammatically ambiguous version of the Choice claim than usual, so we won't call it false. If Trump was claiming that he "rebuilt" Choice, not that he got it passed himself, that is basically true. The VA MISSION Act makes substantial changes to the Obama version of the program, allowing a greater number of veterans to reimbursed for seeing private doctors.
The report on James Comey
"WIN on Mueller Report, Mueller Testimony & James Comey......IG Report, which showed him to be a Disgraced & Dirty Cop," Trump said.
Facts First: Trump can fairly claim a "WIN" on the inspector general's report on Comey, which did rebuke Comey for violating FBI policy and his employment agreement when he retained and leaked memos he wrote about his interactions with Trump in 2017. It's worth noting, though, that the inspector general found that a frequent Trump accusation -- that Comey had leaked classified material to the media -- was not true.
The inspector general, Michael Horowitz, said Comey set a "dangerous example" for FBI employees in an attempt to "achieve a personally desired outcome," the appointment of a special counsel. This lent credence to Trump's accusations that Comey behaved improperly.
At the same time, Horowitz rejected one of Trump's favorite charges against Comey, finding "no evidence that Comey or his attorneys released any of the classified information contained in any of the memos to members of the media."