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Fact-checking Trump’s CNN Town Hall in New Hampshire

CNN hosted a town hall with 2024 Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump on Wednesday night in New Hampshire.

Over the course of the night, Trump took questions from New Hampshire Republicans and undeclared voters who plan to vote in the 2024 GOP presidential primary about a wide range of issues.

Trump made many false and unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 election, violence on January 6, 2021, the economy and his handling of records after leaving the White House.

Here is a fact check of some of Trump’s other claims during the townhall.

2020 Election

Just minutes after the town hall began, Trump claimed the 2020 election was “rigged.”

Facts First: This is Trump’s regular lie. He lost the 2020 election to Biden fair and square, 306 to 232 in the Electoral College. Biden earned more than 7 million more votes than Trump did. Trump’s own campaign and senior officials in his administration found no evidence for his claims of widespread fraud.

From CNN’s Tara Subramaniam

Voter ID

Talking about the upcoming 2024 presidential election, Trump said “I hope we’re going to have very honest elections. We should have voter ID.”

Facts First: It’s misleading at best for Trump to claim voter ID doesn’t currently exist in US election.

There are several situations in which casting a ballot without showing an ID would be legal, specifically in the 15 states (plus Washington, DC) that rely on other forms of voter verification. In the rest of the states, voters are required to present some form of identification before casting ballots.

It is true that most Democrats have been against stricter voter-ID laws in the past, but on grounds that these laws could disenfranchise voters who may not have access to necessary identification – not in order to illegally obtain votes.

Republicans have wielded this Democratic position on voter ID laws to paint Democrats as complicit in election fraud despite the fact that voter fraud is exceedingly rare – and that even states that don’t require ID have other methods to prevent fraud, like signature checks.

From CNN’s Tara Subramaniam

Intelligence agents impact on the election

As part of his argument that the 2020 election was “rigged,” Trump claimed 51 intelligence agents “made a 16-point difference” in the outcome of the election.

Facts First: There is no evidence for this.

Trump appears to have been referring to a letter signed by former intelligence agents weeks before the 2020 election. The letter stated that the release of emails purportedly belonging to then-candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter, which had been generating sensational stories in right-wing media, had “all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”

No proof of Russian involvement in the release of those emails has emerged, and Republicans have argued that the letter helped discredit negative stories about the Biden family just before the election. But there’s also no proof that the letter swayed the outcome of the election.

From CNN’s Curt Devine

Security on January 6

Former President Donald Trump tried to blame then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the violence on January 6, 2021 – when his own supporters stormed the US Capitol, claiming she was “in charge” of security that day.

Facts First: This is false. The speaker of the House is not in charge of Capitol security. That’s the responsibility of the Capitol Police Board, which oversees the US Capitol Police and approves requests for National Guard assistance.

Trump’s former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller also told lawmakers that he was never given a formal order by Trump to have 10,000 troops ready to be sent to the Capitol on January 6. “There was no direct, there was no order from the president,” Miller said.

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows sent an email saying the National Guard would be present to “protect pro Trump people” in the lead up to the US Capitol insurrection, according to the report released by the January 6 committee.

From CNN’s Zachary Cohen

Hear what fact-checker says about Trump’s claims at town hall

Gas prices and energy independence

Trump claimed gas prices are higher under Biden than under his administration, and that Biden ended US energy independence.

Facts First: Trump’s claims about gas prices are misleading. Trump claimed Wednesday that he got gas prices down to $1.87 – and “even lower” – but they increased to $7, $8 or even $9 under Biden. While the price of a gallon of regular gas did briefly fall to $1.87 (and lower) during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the national average for regular gas on Trump’s last day in office, January 20, 2021, was much higher than that – $2.393 per gallon, according to data provided to CNN by the American Automobile Association. On Thursday, the national average for gas was $3.53, per AAA data, not $6, $7 or $8. California, the state with the highest prices as usual, had an average of $4.8, per AAA.

Trump’s claim that Biden shut down American energy is false even if Trump was talking specifically about non-renewable energy. US crude oil production in 2022 was the second-highest on record, behind only production in Trump-era 2019, and production in early 2023 has been near record highsUS production of dry natural gas set a new record in 2022. So did US exports of crude oil and petroleum products.

Biden has also approved some significant fossil fuel projects including the controversial Willow oil drilling project in Alaska, and his administration outpaced Trump’s when it came to approving oil and gas drilling permits in Biden’s first two years in office.

From CNN’s Ella Nilsen

Phone call to Georgia’s secretary of state

Asked about the now-notorious phone call he made to Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and staff about election results, Trump claimed “I didn’t ask them to find anything.”

Facts First: This is a brazenly false claim, as CNN and other organizations obtained recordings of the call, in which Trump repeatedly suggests that Georgia election officials should be able to find thousands of votes and fraudulent ballots. Specifically, Trump said, “I just want to find 11,780 votes,” one more than he lost by.

Trump also told Raffensberger, a GOP official, “We think that if you check the signatures – a real check of the signatures going back in Fulton County you’ll find at least a couple of hundred thousand of forged signatures of people who have been forged.”

It’s worth noting that Trump’s assertions of forged signatures and missing or miscounted votes were also baseless. The state certified its election results three times under Raffensperger’s leadership and found no mass voter fraud.

From CNN’s Tara Subramaniam

January 6 violence

Trump asserted “a couple” of the January 6 rioters “probably got out of control,” comparing the insurrection to left-leaning protests that turned violent in other cities.

Facts First: This statement is false. Hundreds of rioters have been charged with violence toward police on January 6 and Trump downplaying the violence and equivocating the insurrection with social justice protests fails to recognize the severity of the attack on the Capitol.

The January 6 riot of Trump-supporters who overran the Capitol has resulted in the largest law enforcement response in modern history – because of the sheer amount of violence on the ground, especially toward police, that day.

The number of rioters on January 6 who’ve been charged with violence toward police is in the hundreds.

According to the Justice Department this week, 346 people face federal charges for assaulting, resisting or impeding officers or other employees. That includes more than 100 people charged with using a weapon or causing serious injury to an officer. About five dozen have pleaded guilty to felony charges for these types of crimes.

And the FBI is still seeking information to identify more than 220 others who may have committed violent crimes on the Capitol grounds.

Even Trump-appointed federal judges have countered claims that left-leaning rioters in Portland, for instance, acted similarly to the pro-Trump crowd on January 6.

Judge Trevor McFadden wrote when handling a January 6 rioter’s case in 2021: “Although both Portland and January 6 rioters attacked federal buildings, the Portland defendants primarily attacked at night, meaning that they raged against a largely vacant courthouse. In contrast, the January 6 rioters attacked the Capitol in broad daylight. And many entered it.”

And another federal judge in DC, Carl Nichols, wrote: “The Portland rioters’ conduct, while obviously serious, did not target a proceeding prescribed by the Constitution and established to ensure a peaceful transition of power. Nor did the Portland rioters, unlike those who assailed America’s Capitol in 2021, make it past the buildings’ outer defenses.”

Police on January 6

Trump said that the police officer who shot pro-Trump rioter Ashli Babbitt was a “thug” who “went on television to brag about the fact that he killed her.”

Facts First: The US Capitol Police officer involved in the shooting, Lt. Michael Byrd, was defending the Speaker’s Lobby, adjacent to the House chamber in the Capitol building, during the riot. Babbitt’s fatal shooting occurred as a crowd tried to push through the Speaker’s Lobby doorway while the House was in still in session, according to the House select committee investigating January 6.

The Capitol Police declined to pursue any disciplinary action against Byrd, saying that they had “determined the officer’s conduct was lawful and within Department policy.” The Justice Department also said they would not prosecute Byrd, saying there was “insufficient evidence” to support a criminal case.

Byrd later did an interview with “NBC Nightly News,” where he said that he acted because “there was imminent threat and danger to the members of Congress.” Byrd said during the interview that he came forward publicly after being the focus of vitriol in right-wing circles.

From CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz

E. Jean Carroll

A day after a Manhattan federal jury found Trump sexually abused and defamed the writer E. Jean Carroll, Trump claimed that the jury in the civil trial found he did not rape her and said he “didn’t do anything else either.”

“They said he didn’t rape her, and I didn’t do anything else either,” Trump said.

Facts First: This statement requires more context. While the jury did not find that Carroll had proven rape, it did find that she proved Trump committed sexual abuse, sufficient to hold him liable for battery.

Carroll alleged Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store in the mid-1990s and then later defamed her when he denied her claim.

In the civil suit, the jury had to determine whether Carroll’s legal team proved that Trump committed battery against Carroll by a preponderance of the evidence.

While it did not determine that Carroll’s team had proven rape – the state’s law says that a person is liable for rape when a person forces sexual intercourse with another person without their consent – it did find that they proved Trump committed sexual abuse.

The jury had been instructed that a person is liable for sexual abuse when they subject another person without consent to sexual contact, which under New York law means “any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person for the purpose of gratifying the sexual desire of either party.”

From CNN’s Nicki Brown

‘Outrageous’: Legal analyst responds to Trump’s comments on E. Jean Carroll trial

Inflation

Trump claimed that inflation under President Biden has been the highest level in 52 years.

Facts First: This is false. The inflation rate has been high by historical standards but was not close to a half-century high.

Last June, the year-over-year inflation rate hit its highest level since late 1981, 9.1%, a surge that was caused by a variety of factors, including the war in Ukraine, the global pandemic and its effect on consumer behavior, and supply chain disruptions. But about 41 years does not round to 52 years, and more importantly, year-over-year inflation has now declined for 10 straight months, hitting 4.9% in April, as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

From CNN’s Alicia Wallace

Other presidents and records

Trump claimed that other presidents took records with them when they left the White House – including Barack Obama, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

“The Presidential Records Act is not criminal. I took the documents. I’m allowed to. You know who else took them? Obama took them, Nixon took them. Reagan took them.”

Facts First: It is not true that past presidents took documents after they left office, as the National Archives and Records Administration itself pointed out in a statement in 2022. In reality, NARA was granted custody of the presidential records of former presidents (beginning with Ronald Reagan) as soon as these presidents left office, as required by the Presidential Records Act. In addition, it was NARA, not those presidents, that moved those documents out of the nation’s capital to NARA-managed temporary archival facilities near where their permanent presidential libraries would be built.

After Trump began making these false claims last year, NARA issued an October 2022 statement saying that it gained physical and legal custody of the records from Obama, Clinton, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush “when those presidents left office.” It said of the temporary facilities to which the documents were moved: “All such temporary facilities met strict archival and security standards, and have been managed and staffed exclusively by NARA employees. Reports that indicate or imply that those Presidential records were in the possession of the former Presidents or their representatives, after they left office, or that the records were housed in substandard conditions, are false and misleading.”

In other words, there is no equivalence between how Trump handled presidential documents and how those previous presidents did. In Trump’s case, the presidential documents found at Mar-a-Lago, including documents marked classified, were in Trump’s possession despite numerous attempts by both NARA and the Justice Department to get them back.

In an April 24 statement, NARA General Counsel Gary M. Stern clarified that NARA sent staff members to the White House in the final weeks of the Trump Administration “to assist with the move of the physical records (including artifacts), in coordination with the DOD team that NARA employed to transport the records from the White House complex to the National Archives.”

Stern noted that the assistance provided was in line with what NARA had done for the three previous Presidential transitions.

Finally, Trump is correct that the Presidential Records Act is not a criminal law. Yet the Justice Department has made clear Trump is being investigated because of classified records that the NARA found in boxes that he returned a year after he left office, and his subsequent actions. The DOJ’s criminal investigation continues to focus on the possible mishandling of national security information and federal records, as well as possible attempts by Trump or others to obstruct justice after the criminal investigation became known.

From CNN’s Tara Subramaniam

Aid to Ukraine

Trump claimed that the US has provided $171 billion “so far” to Ukraine in its war against Russia, while the European Union cumulatively has given $20 billion in aid. He also claimed that the US is “giving away so much” that “we don’t have ammunition for ourselves right now.”

Fact First: Both assertions are false. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine last February, the US has provided Ukraine $36.9 billion in military aid. And while some US and European weapon stockpiles have been depleted, the claim that the US does not have ammunition is false.

The US military and defense industry are planning to increase production of critical ammunition being sent to Ukraine to fill US stocks. The US Army is planning a 500% increase in 155mm artillery shells, a roughly 33% increase in Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS) surface-to-surface medium-range missiles a year, doubling production of Javelin anti-tank missiles, and increasing production of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to a minimum of 60 a month.
From CNN’s Haley Britzkey

Trump won’t say whether he wants Russia or Ukraine to win war

Classification of documents

Trump claimed that the classified documents from the White House were “automatically declassified” when he took them to Mar-a-Lago.

Facts First: There is no evidence to back up this assertion. Trump and his team have not provided any proof that Trump actually conducted some sort of broad declassification of the documents that ended up at Mar-a-Lago – and, so far, his lawyers notably have not argued in their court filings that Trump did so.

The Justice Department said in an August 2022 court filing that Trump’s representatives never asserted that documents had been declassified—not in January 2022 when they voluntarily turned over 15 boxes that included 184 unique documents with classification markings, nor in June 2022 when Trump’s team responded to a subpoena by returning another batch that included 38 additional unique documents with classification markings.

In addition, 18 former top Trump administration officials, including two former White House chiefs of staff who spoke on the record, told CNN at the time that they never heard of a standing Trump declassification order when they were serving in the administration and that they now believe the claim is false. The former officials used words like “ludicrous,” “ridiculous” and “bullsh*t.”

“Total nonsense,” said one person who served as a senior White House official. “If that’s true, where is the order with his signature on it? If that were the case, there would have been tremendous pushback from the Intel Community and DoD, which would almost certainly have become known to Intel and Armed Services Committees on the Hill.”

From CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz

Border wall

Trump claimed that he had finished his promised wall on the border with Mexico.

“I did finish the wall. I built a wall,” he said. “I built hundreds of miles of wall, and I finished it, and then I said we have to build some more.”

Facts First: It’s not true that Trump finished the border wall. According to an official “Border Wall Status” report written by US Customs and Border Protection two days after Trump left office, about 458 miles of wall had been completed under Trump – but about 280 more miles that had been identified for wall construction had not been completed. The report said that at the time, just 52 miles of new wall had been constructed in locations where no barriers previously existed.

The report, provided to CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez, said that, of those 280 miles left to go, about 74 miles were “in the pre-construction phase and have not yet been awarded, in locations where no barriers currently exist,” and that 206 miles were “currently under contract, in place of dilapidated and outdated designs and in locations where no barriers previously existed.”

From CNN’s Daniel Dale

Clinton, abortion, border wall: CNN fact-checks Donald Trump after town hall

Presidential Records Act

Trump claimed on Wednesday night he had “every right under the Presidential Records Act” to keep classified documents from his White House after he left the presidency. “I have the absolute right to do whatever I want to do with them,” he said.

Facts First: Trump’s claim is false.

The Presidential Records Act says that the moment a president leaves office, the National Archives and Records Administration gets legal custody and control of all presidential records from his administration. Nothing in the law says there should be a negotiation between a former president and NARA over a former president’s return of presidential documents – much less that there should have been a monthslong battle after NARA first contacted Trump’s team in 2021 to try to get some of the records that had not been handed over at the end of his presidency.

The key sentence from the Presidential Records Act is unequivocal: “Upon the conclusion of a President’s term of office, or if a President serves consecutive terms upon the conclusion of the last term, the Archivist of the United States shall assume responsibility for the custody, control, and preservation of, and access to, the Presidential records of that President.”

Jason R. Baron, former director of litigation at NARA, told CNN in a March 2023 email: “The former President is simply wrong as a matter of law. As of noon on January 20, 2021, when President Biden took office, all presidential records of the Trump Administration came into the legal custody of the Archivist of the United States. Full stop. That means no presidential records ever should have been transferred to Mar-a-Lago, and there was no further talking or negotiating to be had.”

Timothy Naftali, a CNN presidential historian, New York University professor and former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, described Trump’s claim as “nonsense” and said the former president’s description of the Presidential Records Act is “a matter of fantasy,” concocted to allow Trump to “pretend that he’s a victim.”

The law, Naftali said in March 2023, makes clear that documents Trump had at Mar-a-Lago are presidential records that legally belong to the public and are legally required to be in NARA’s custody. The law provides “no room for debates and discussions between presidential advisers and the National Archives at the end a presidency” about such records, Naftali said.

In April 2023, the Society of American Archivists, a professional association, published its own fact check of Trump’s claim, saying it is “patently false.”

From CNN’s Katelyn Polantz

Negotiating with NARA over documents

Trump said repeatedly his team was negotiating with the National Archives over his presidential records after he left office, accusing the Justice Department of unnecessarily escalating the situation with the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago in August 2022.

“We were negotiating with NARA. All of a sudden they raid our house,” Trump said on Wednesday night.

Facts First: Trump’s statement has a few problems. First, there’s no provision for negotiating over Presidential records at the end of a term. Second, Trump left out several key events ahead of the FBI’s search of Trump’s Florida beach resort. Trump’s representatives had been in discussions with the National Archives for months before they shipped back 15 boxes. In those, the Archives found many records with classified markings, prompting the agency to get the Justice Department involved.

Federal criminal investigators wanted the FBI and the intelligence community to review the returned documents for possible damage to national security. Around the same time, prosecutors visited Mar-a-Lago to try to make sure all classified records were back in the federal government’s possession, following up on a May 2022 grand jury subpoena seeking all classified records in Trump’s possession.

Trump’s lawyers handed over an envelope wrapped in tape with a few dozen more documents in it.

But then, prosecutors developed additional evidence that even more classified records were still being kept at Mar-a-Lago – and that documents in a locked storage room that the investigators had noticed containing boxes had been concealed and removed from the room.

That series of events during the summer of 2022 – specifically the questions it raised that someone within Mar-a-Lago tried to obstruct federal investigators from finding records Trump failed to turn over in response to a grand jury subpoena – provided some of the basis for the DOJ to get court approval to search the club.

From CNN’s Katelyn Polantz

Abortion

In defending his stance on abortion, Trump accused Democrats and Hillary Clinton of supporting abortion late into the third trimester, saying that “they will kill the baby in the ninth month.”

Facts First: This is misleading.

Clinton’s stance was that mothers whose health or life is in jeopardy should be allowed to terminate a pregnancy at any point up until birth. Later term abortions are rare. In 2020, less than 1% of abortions in the US occurred at 21 weeks or later, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast majority of abortions (93%) occurred at or before 13 weeks.

Under Roe v. Wade, states had the authority to regulate or ban abortion in the third trimester except when necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

Tax cuts

Trump touted that he got Americans the biggest tax cuts in history, which helped spur a strong economy.

“We created the greatest economy in history. A big part of that economy was I got you the biggest tax cuts in the history of our country, bigger than the Reagan cuts,” Trump said, referring to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Facts First: Trump is wrong. At least two analyses have found that the act was not the largest in history, though they differ on where it ranks.

The act made numerous permanent and temporary changes to the tax code, including reducing both corporate and individual income tax rates.

The Treasury Department has examined the size of past tax cuts and found that since 1968, three other tax cut bills have been bigger, including former President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 package and two bills passed by former President Barack Obama to extend earlier tax cuts signed by former President George W. Bush.

Treasury measured the sizes of tax cuts by looking at the revenue effects of the bills as a percentage of gross domestic product – in other words, how much federal revenue the bill cuts away as a portion of the economy. Reagan’s 1981 cut was 2.9% of GDP. Obama’s tax cut extensions in 2010 and 2012 were 1.3% and 1.8%, respectively.

Trump’s tax cut, by contrast, was estimated to be about 1.1% of GDP per year.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget found that the framework for the tax cuts would be the eighth largest since 1918, as a percentage of gross domestic product.

From CNN’s Tami Luhby

Pence on January 6

Trump said that he doesn’t believe then Vice President Mike Pence was “in any danger” during the several hours that a pro-Trump mob laid siege to the Capitol building on January 6, 2021.

Facts First: While Trump’s belief is subjective, this statement leaves out key details.

Although Pence was safely evacuated from the Senate chamber, swarms of rioters were caught on videotape moving through the Capitol building chanting “hang Mike Pence!”

Other threats levied at Pence from members of the mob included “If Pence caved, we’re going to drag m*therf*ckers through the streets,” and that Pence “is nothing but a traitor” and “deserves to burn with the rest of them.”
Pence himself said that the former president’s “reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”

From CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz

Trump was asked if he owes Pence an apology for Jan. 6. Hear his response

NATO

Trump suggested he was able to get European NATO members to increase their defense spending commitments where his predecessors had failed.

“I got them to put up hundreds of billions of dollars that they weren’t paying under Obama and Bush and all of these other presidents,” Trump said.

Facts First: This is misleading. While European NATO members’ defense spending did increase under Trump, their spending had been increasing before he took office, including under Obama.

NATO notes on its website that 2022 was “the eighth consecutive year of rising defence spending across European Allies and Canada.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg did credit Trump for securing increases in European NATO members’ defense spending, but those countries’ spending had also increased in the last two years of the Obama administration following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and the recommitment that year to the guideline calling for NATO members to spend at least 2% of their GDP on military.

From CNN’s Tara Subramaniam

Votes cast in Wisconsin

Among Trump’s litany of falsehoods about the 2020 election, he claimed “so many illegal votes were cast in Wisconsin,” and that “in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, they had so many illegal votes.

Facts First: There is no evidence of illegal votes cast in Wisconsin. A recount requested by the Trump campaign specifically confirmed the initial result establishing Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

Milwaukee County, Wisconsin’s largest, certified its presidential general election results after the requested recount, which found that Biden actually saw a small net gain in votes.

It’s possible Trump was referring to a state Supreme Court ruling from July 2022 that bars the use of most ballot drop boxes in Wisconsin for future elections. Trump has used that ruling to renew his claims that he won Wisconsin because ballot drop boxes were in use.

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican, said Trump even called him after the ruling in hopes of launching a fresh effort to decertify the state’s 2020 presidential election results, which is constitutionally impossible at this time. Additionally, the ruling does not mean the use of ballot drop boxes in the 2020 election were illegal.

Source: CNN

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