Fact Check: At briefings, Trump is settling into a routine of false claims and exaggeration
President Donald Trump keeps having afternoon news conferences. And he keeps using them to make the same false claims over and over.
At Wednesday’s edition, Trump repeated at least 12 false claims he’s made before. They were about his usual array of topics: the coronavirus pandemic, mail-in voting, China, and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump devoted a substantial portion of his remarks to the pandemic, but you wouldn’t confuse this event for an informational public-interest briefing. He used most of the time to boast about himself, defend his pandemic response with an array of false and misleading claims, and attack Democrats, including vice-presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris.
Biden tax plan
Trump said that under a Biden administration “everybody’s taxes” would significantly increase.
“If Biden would win,” the President said, “he’s going to double, triple, everybody’s taxes.”
Facts First: Even if this is campaign bluster, it’s incorrect. Biden’s plan would increase taxes for people making more than $400,000 per year. He has promised not to raise taxes for those making less, though they might see an impact through his plan to raise the top corporate tax rate.
Part of Biden’s plan would include adding the 12.4% payroll tax shared by employers and employees to individuals making more than $400,000 a year. He would also raise the top income tax rate for those individuals from 37% to 39.6%.
Biden’s plan to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% could indirectly impact lower- and middle-income households through lower wages.
The liberal-leaning Tax Policy Center think tank estimates that under Biden’s plan middle-income earners would see an average annual tax increase of $260, or 0.4% of after-tax income, while lower-income earners would see an average annual tax increase of just $30, or 0.2% of after-tax income.
According to estimates by the right-leaning Tax Foundation, Biden’s tax plan would lead to “around 0.6 percent less after-tax income” for all income groups below the top 5%.
Trump said he had signed an order to “provide a total of $400 of additional support for Americans who are unemployed” because of the coronavirus.
Facts First: The number will probably be $300 for many Americans seeking the unemployment benefit.
Originally, states were on the hook for 25% of the benefit, but the administration said Tuesday that it had modified the plan so states that had already provided $100 in state unemployment benefits wouldn’t have to add the amount to Trump’s new order.
Trump continued to push the false narrative that several states are in “fantastic shape” when it comes to the coronavirus.
“If you look at some of the states that had a flare-up recently, they’re all doing very well,” the President said. “Florida is going down. Arizona is going down, way down. They’ve done a fantastic job. California, as you know, is going down.”
Facts First: While the numbers of new coronavirus cases in Florida and Arizona are trending downward, they are not back to pre-June levels. California is not “going down”; by some measures, it did experience some periods of brief decline in new cases but currently the average number of daily new cases is again on the rise.
Evictions, Democrats and Trump’s orders
Trump said: “I want to make it unmistakably clear that I am protecting people from evictions. They didn’t want to do that — the Democrats didn’t want to do a protection from evictions.” The President was touting his executive order, which he said “directed” other administration officials to assure “renters and homeowners that they can stay safely in their homes. They are not going to be evicted. They are not going to evicted.”
Facts First: It’s not true that Democrats didn’t want eviction protections. And while we don’t know what Trump has privately told administration officials, his executive order does not in itself prevent anyone from being evicted. Rather, it simply directs administration officials to “consider” whether “any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. …”
When he told people “they are not going to be evicted,” Trump may have been making a future promise rather than simply describing the executive order. But he at least left open the impression that the order itself prevents evictions.
Trump also repeated versions of these false claims that we have fact-checked before:
Trump claimed that mail-in voting is rife with fraud and corruption.
Facts First: It is not; fraud is exceedingly rare.
A New York congressional primary
Trump claimed there were fraudulent ballots in the New York Democratic primary won by Rep. Carolyn Maloney.
Facts First: There is no evidence of fraud in this race. There was a legal dispute about non-fraud ballot issues, such as missing signatures and late postmarks.
The Democrats and the election
Trump said that although the focus is on “Russia, Russia, Russia,” China and Iran with regard to election meddling, “your biggest problem is going to be with the Democrats.”
Facts First: This is nonsense. There is no basis for the suggestion that the Democrats, lawful participants in the election, are doing anything remotely comparable to Russia’s unauthorized interference.
Testing and cases
Trump again suggested that the number of coronavirus cases in the US has increased only “because we do so much testing and we find it” and that the US has more cases than other countries only “because we have far more testing than any country in the world.”
Facts First: Testing does not create cases, only confirms their existence; the number of confirmed cases in the US has increased since mid-June because the virus has been spreading; experts say peer countries have fewer cases because they have done better in managing their outbreaks.)
Trump cited “massive outbreaks” in countries that “the media was putting up as a shining example of success.”
Facts First: While many countries are indeed experiencing upticks in cases, the upticks in countries widely praised by the media pale in comparison with the ongoing US crisis. For example, South Korea reported 54 new cases on Wednesday; that is indeed an increase for South Korea, but the US had tens of thousands of new cases on Wednesday.
Penalties for monument damage
Trump claimed that he had “put on a 10-year prison sentence” for knocking down statues.
Facts First: Trump hasn’t created any new penalties; 10 years is a maximum sentence, not an automatic penalty, under existing laws on damage to federal property and to monuments of US veterans.
Obama, Biden and the campaign
Trump claimed that former President Barack Obama and Trump’s 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, had spied on his 2016 campaign.
Facts First: There is no evidence Obama or Biden was personally involved in the lawful surveillance conducted by the FBI as part of its investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia.
Trump claimed that the Obama administration had claimed manufacturing was “dead” in the United States.
Facts First: That didn’t happen. Obama did say in 2016 that some manufacturing jobs could not be brought back from overseas, but he emphasized how many were being created in the US.
China and the pandemic
Trump claimed that China had allowed the virus to spread internationally but prevented it from spreading within China.
Facts First: Every region of China had confirmed cases by late January. China did take strict measures to slow the domestic spread, but it did not limit the virus to Wuhan, where it originated.
Tariffs on China
Trump said that the money from his tariffs on Chinese products is being paid by China.
Facts First: Study after study has found that Americans are bearing most of the cost of the tariffs, and American importers make the actual payments to the government.