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Veracity of statements by Donald Trump
President of the United States
In the four years of his term as President of the United States, Donald Trump made tens of thousands of false or misleading claims; one report gave the number as 30,573. Commentators and fact-checkers have described this as "unprecedented" in American politics, and the consistency of these falsehoods has become a distinctive part of both his business and political identity. Trump is known to have made controversial statements and subsequently denied having done so, and by June 2019, many news organizations had started describing some of his falsehoods as lies, which are false statements that the speaker knows are false. The Washington Post said his frequent repetition of false claims amounts to a campaign based on disinformation. According to writer and journalist Nancy LeTourneau, the debasing of veracity is a tactic.
Veracity and politics
"It has long been a truism that politicians lie," wrote Carole McGranahan for the American Ethnologist journal in 2017. However, "Donald Trump is different" from other politicians, stated McGranahan, citing that Trump is the most "accomplished and effective liar" thus far to have ever participated in American politics. McGranahan felt that "the frequency, degree, and impact of lying in politics are now unprecedented" as a result of Trump.
Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University stated that past U.S. presidents have indeed "lied or misled the country," but none of them were a "serial liar" like Trump. Donnel Stern, writing in the Psychoanalytic Dialogues journal in 2019, declared: "We expect politicians to stretch the truth. But Trump is a whole different animal," because Trump "lies as a policy," and he "will say anything" to satisfy his supporters or himself.
Heidi Taksdal Skjeseth, writing for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in 2017, described lies having "always been an integral part of politics and political communication". However, Trump was "delivering untruths on an unprecedented scale" in U.S. politics, both during his presidential campaign and during his presidency. Skjeseth also commented that no one in French politics was comparable to Trump in his provision of falsehoods.
"Fabrications have long been a part of American politics," wrote Sheryl Gay Stolberg in The New York Times in 2017, as several presidents in the previous 50 years have lied. Stolberg cited that Dwight Eisenhower lied about a U.S. spy plane shot down over the Soviet Union, Lyndon Johnson lied to justify U.S. policies regarding Vietnam, and Bill Clinton lied to conceal his sexual affair. Meanwhile, Stolberg recounts that Richard Nixon was accused of lying in the Watergate scandal, while George W. Bush was accused of lying about the need for the Iraq War (with Donald Trump being one accuser of Bush lying). However, Stolberg states that "President Trump, historians and consultants in both political parties agree, appears to have taken what the writer Hannah Arendt once called 'the conflict between truth and politics' to an entirely new level ... Trump is trafficking in hyperbole, distortion and fabrication on practically a daily basis."
Mark Barabak of the Los Angeles Times has described in 2017 that U.S. presidents "of all stripes" have previously misled the public, either accidentally or "very purposefully". Barabak provided examples of Ronald Reagan, who falsely stated that he had filmed Nazi death camps, and Barack Obama, who falsely stated that "if you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it" under his Affordable Care Act. However, Barabak goes on to state that "White House scholars and other students of government agree there has never been a president like Donald Trump, whose volume of falsehoods, misstatements and serial exaggerations" is unparalleled.
Within years of expanding his father's property development business into Manhattan in the early 1970s, Trump attracted the attention of The New York Times for his brash and controversial style, with one real-estate financier observing in 1976, "His deals are dramatic, but they haven't come into being. So far, the chief beneficiary of his creativity has been his public image." Der Scutt, the prominent architect who designed Trump Tower, said of Trump in 1976, "He's extremely aggressive when he sells, maybe to the point of overselling. Like, he'll say the convention center is the biggest in the world, when it really isn't. He'll exaggerate for the purpose of making a sale."
In 2018, journalist Jonathan Greenberg released audio recordings from 1984 in which Trump, posing as his own spokesman John Barron, made false assertions of his wealth to secure a higher ranking on the Forbes 400 list of wealthy Americans, including claiming he owned over 90 percent of his family's business.
A 1984 GQ profile of Trump quoted him stating he owned the whole block on Central Park South and Avenue of the Americas. GQ noted that the two buildings Trump owned in that area were likely less than a sixth of the block.
In a 2005 interview with Golf Magazine, Trump said he was able to purchase Mar-a-Lago in 1985 by first purchasing the beach in front of it, then announcing false plans to build large houses between Mar-a-Lago and the ocean.
Alair Townsend, a former budget director and deputy mayor of New York City during the 1980s, and a former publisher of Crain's New York Business, said "I wouldn't believe Donald Trump if his tongue were notarized." Leona Helmsley later used this line as her own when she spoke about Trump in her November 1990 interview in Playboy magazine.
When the stock market crashed in October 1987, Trump told the press he had sold all his stock a month before and taken no losses. But SEC filings showed that he still owned large stakes in some companies. Forbes calculated that Trump had lost $19 million on his Resorts International holdings alone.
Challenging estimates of his net worth he considered too low, in 1989 Trump said he had very little debt. Reuters reported Trump owed $4 billion to more than 70 banks at the beginning of 1990.
After three Trump casino executives died in a 1989 helicopter crash, Trump claimed that he, too, had nearly boarded the helicopter. The claim was denied 30 years later by a former vice president of the Trump Organization.
In 1997, Ben Berzin Jr., who had been tasked with recovering at least some of the $100 million his bank had lent Trump, said "During the time that I dealt with Mr. Trump, I was continually surprised by his mastery of situational ethics. He does not seem to be able to differentiate between fact and fiction."
David Fahrenthold investigated the long history of Trump's claims about his charitable giving and found little evidence the claims are true. Following Fahrenthold's reporting, the Attorney General of New York opened an inquiry into the Donald J. Trump Foundation's fundraising practices, and ultimately issued a "notice of violation" ordering the Foundation to stop raising money in New York. The Foundation had to admit it engaged in self-dealing practices to benefit Trump, his family, and businesses. Fahrenthold won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting for his coverage of Trump's claimed charitable giving and casting "doubt on Donald Trump's assertions of generosity toward charities".
In 1996, Trump claimed he wagered $1 million on 20-to-1 odds in a Las Vegas heavyweight title boxing match between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson. The Las Vegas Sun reported that "while everyone is careful not to call Trump a liar," no one in a position to know about such a sizable wager was aware of it.
A 1998 New York Observer article entitled "Tricky Donald Trump Beats Jerry Nadler in Game of Politics" reported that "Nadler flatly calls Mr. Trump a 'liar'," quoting Nadler stating, "Trump got $6 million [in federal money] in the dead of night when no one knew anything about it" by slipping a provision into a $200 billion federal transportation bill.
Promoting his Trump University after its formation in 2004, Trump asserted he would handpick all its instructors. Michael Sexton, former president of the venture, stated in a 2012 deposition that Trump selected none of the instructors.
In a 2004 book, The Games Do Count: America's Best and Brightest on the Power of Sports, Trump claimed to have hit "the winning home run" when his school played Cornwall High School in 1964, garnering a headline "TRUMP HOMERS TO WIN THE GAME" in a local newspaper. Years later, a journalist discovered that Trump's high school did not play Cornwall that year, nor did any such local headline surface. (Furthermore, a classmate recalled a separate incident in high school in which Trump had hit "a blooper the fielders misplayed," sending the ball "just over the third baseman's head," yet Trump insisted to him later: "I want you to remember this: I hit the ball out of the ballpark!" The event had happened at a practice field, not a ballpark.)
Trump often appeared in New York tabloid newspapers. Recalling her career with New York Post's Page Six column, Susany Mulcahy told Vanity Fair in 2004, "I wrote about him a certain amount, but I actually would sit back and be amazed at how often people would write about him in a completely gullible way. He was a great character, but he was full of crap 90 percent of the time" (Trump told the magazine, "I agree with her 100 percent").
During a 2005 deposition in a defamation lawsuit he initiated about his worth Trump said, "My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings ... and that can change rapidly from day to day".
Barbara Res, a former Trump Organization executive vice president who worked for Trump from 1978 until 1998, said "he would tell the staff his ridiculous lies, and after a while, no one believed a single word he would say".
After purchasing the Trump National Golf Club in 2009, Trump erected The River of Blood monument between the 14th hole and the 15th tee with a plaque describing the blood of Civil War casualties that turned the river red. No such event ever took place at this site.
In The Art of the Deal
Tony Schwartz is a journalist who ghostwrote Trump: The Art of the Deal. In July 2016, Schwartz was interviewed by Jane Mayer for two articles in The New Yorker. In them, he described Trump, who was running for president at the time, highly unfavorably, and described how he came to regret writing The Art of the Deal. When Schwartz wrote The Art of the Deal, he created the phrase "truthful hyperbole" as an "artful euphemism" to describe Trump's "loose relationship with the truth". This passage from the book provides the context, written in Trump's voice: "I play to people's fantasies ... People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It's an innocent form of exaggeration—and it's a very effective form of promotion". He said Trump "loved the phrase".
Schwartz said "deceit" is never "innocent". He added, "'Truthful hyperbole' is a contradiction in terms. It's a way of saying, 'It's a lie, but who cares?'" Schwartz repeated his criticism on Good Morning America and Real Time with Bill Maher, saying he "put lipstick on a pig".
Fearing that anti-German sentiments during and after World War II would negatively affect his business, Fred Trump began claiming Swedish descent. The falsehood was repeated by Fred's son Donald to the press and in The Art of the Deal, where he claimed that his grandfather, Friedrich Trump, "came here from Sweden as a child". In the same book, Donald also said his father was born in New Jersey. Trump later said, "My father is German. Right? Was German. And born in a very wonderful place in Germany, and so I have a great feeling for Germany." Trump's father was born in the Bronx, New York.
September 11 attacks
On September 11, 2001, after at least one of the World Trade Center towers was destroyed, Trump gave a telephone interview with WWOR-TV in New York. He said: "40 Wall Street actually was the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan, and it was actually, before the World Trade Center, was the tallest—and then, when they built the World Trade Center, it became known as the second tallest, and now it's the tallest." Once the Twin Towers had collapsed, the 71-story Trump Building at 40 Wall Street was the second-tallest building still standing in Lower Manhattan, 25 feet (7.6 m) shorter than the building at 70 Pine Street.
At a rally in Columbus, Ohio, in November 2015, Trump said "I have a view—a view in my apartment that was specifically aimed at the World Trade Center." He added "and I watched those people jump and I watched the second plane hit ... I saw the second plane hit the building and I said, 'Wow that's unbelievable." At the time, Trump lived in Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, more than four miles (6 km) away from where the World Trade Center towers once stood.
2016 presidential campaign
Trump has promoted a number of conspiracy theories that have lacked substance. These have included Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories from 2011. Known as "birther" theories, these allege that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. In 2011, Trump took credit for pushing the White House to release Obama's "long-form" birth certificate, while raising doubt about its legitimacy, and in 2016 admitted Obama was a natural-born citizen from Hawaii. He later falsely stated that Hillary Clinton started the conspiracy theories.
Within six months of Trump's announcement of his presidential campaign, FactCheck.org declared Trump the "King of Whoppers" stating, "In the 12 years of FactCheck.org's existence, we've never seen his match. He stands out not only for the sheer number of his factually false claims, but also for his brazen refusals to admit error when proven wrong."
In 2016, Trump suggested that Ted Cruz's father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He also claimed that he lost the popular vote in the 2016 election only because of "millions" of illegal voters.
During his campaign, Trump claimed that his father, Fred Trump, had given him "a small loan of a million dollars," which he used to build "a company that's worth more than $10 billion," denying Marco Rubio's allegation that he had inherited $200 million from his father. An October 2018 New York Times exposé on Fred and Donald Trump's finances concludes that Donald "was a millionaire by age 8," and that he had received $413 million (adjusted for inflation) from his father's business empire over his lifetime, including over $60 million ($140 million in 2018 currency) in loans, which were largely unreimbursed.
Trump claimed repeatedly on the campaign trail in 2015 that the actual unemployment rate of around 5% "isn't reflective [of reality] ... I've seen numbers of 24%, I actually saw a number of 42% unemployment". PolitiFact rated this claim "Pants on Fire," its rating for the most egregious falsehoods. Jeremy Adam Smith, writing for the Greater Good Magazine, said Trump's falsehoods may be "blue lies," which are "told on behalf of a group, that can actually strengthen the bonds among the members of that group". As a result, he posited, Trump's dishonesty does not cause him to lose the support of his political base, even while it "infuriates and confuses almost everyone else".
In November 2015, Buzzfeed News' Andrew Kaczynski reported that Trump, despite having claimed to have the best memory in the world, actually has a history of "conveniently forgetting" people or organizations in ways that benefit him. In July 2016, PolitiFact's Linda Qiu also pointed out that despite Trump's boast for his memory, he "seems to suffer bouts of amnesia when it comes to his own statements". Both Kaczynski and Qiu cited examples of Trump's stating he did not know anything about former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, despite past statements showing he clearly knew who Duke was.
Border wall with Mexico
Throughout his campaign and into his presidency, President Trump has repeatedly claimed that he would "build the wall and make Mexico pay for it". President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto said that his country would not pay for the wall, and to date Mexico has not paid for it. While not unusual for a campaign promise to not pan out, Trump's insistence that Mexico would pay for it was a central element of his campaign and continued for years afterward. At the February 2020 Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump again reiterated that Mexico would be paying for the wall. "Mexico is paying for it and it's every bit—it's better than the wall that was projected."
Trump's statements as president have engaged a host of fact-checkers. Tony Burman wrote: "The falsehoods and distortions uttered by Trump and his senior officials have particularly inflamed journalists and have been challenged—resulting in a growing prominence of 'fact-checkers' and investigative reporting." The situation is getting worse, as described by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ashley Parker: "President Trump seems to be saying more and more things that aren't true."
Glenn Kessler said in 2017 that in his job as a fact-checker for The Washington Post there was no comparison between Trump and other politicians. Kessler gave his worst rating to other politicians 15 percent to 20 percent of the time, but gave it to Trump 63 percent to 65 percent of the time. Kessler wrote that Trump was the most fact-challenged politician that he had ever encountered and lamented that "the pace and volume of the president's misstatements means that we cannot possibly keep up".
The Washington Post fact-checker created a new category of falsehoods in December 2018, the "Bottomless Pinocchio," for falsehoods repeated at least twenty times (so often "that there can be no question the politician is aware his or her facts are wrong"). Trump was the only politician who met the standard of the category, with 14 statements that immediately qualified. According to the Washington Post, Trump has repeated some falsehoods so many times he has effectively engaged in disinformation.
Glenn Kessler wrote:
The president keeps going long after the facts are clear, in what appears to be a deliberate effort to replace the truth with his own, far more favorable, version of it. He is not merely making gaffes or misstating things, he is purposely injecting false information into the national conversation.
Professor Robert Prentice summarized the views of many fact-checkers:
Here's the problem: As fact checker Glenn Kessler noted in August, whereas Clinton lies as much as the average politician, President Donald Trump's lying is "off the charts." No prominent politician in memory bests Trump for spouting spectacular, egregious, easily disproved lies. The birther claim. The vote fraud claim. The attendance at the inauguration claim. And on and on and on. Every fact checker – Kessler, Factcheck.org, Snopes.com, PolitiFact – finds a level of mendacity unequaled by any politician ever scrutinized. For instance, 70 percent of his campaign statements checked by PolitiFact were mostly false, totally false, or "pants on fire" false.
At the end of 2018, Kessler provided a run-down summary of Trump's accelerating rate of false statements during the year:
Trump began 2018 on a similar pace as last year. Through May, he generally averaged about 200 to 250 false claims a month. But his rate suddenly exploded in June, when he topped 500 falsehoods, as he appeared to shift to campaign mode. He uttered almost 500 more in both July and August, almost 600 in September, more than 1,200 in October and almost 900 in November. In December, Trump drifted back to the mid-200s.
Several major fact-checking sites regularly fact-check Trump, including:
- PolitiFact, which awarded Trump its "Lie of the Year" in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
- FactCheck.org, which dubbed Trump the "King of Whoppers" in 2015.
- The Washington Post said in January 2020 that Trump had made more than 16,241 false or misleading claims as president, an average of about 14.8 such statements per day.
- The Toronto Star which said that, as of May 2019, Trump had made almost 5,000 false statements since his inauguration.
As late as summer 2018, the news media were debating whether to use the word "lie" to describe Trump's falsehoods. However, by June 2019, many news organizations, including CNN, Star Tribune, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The New Yorker, and Foreign Policy had started describing some of Trump's false statements as lies. The Toronto Sun was one of the first outlets to use the word "lie" to describe Trump's statements, and continues to do so frequently. Still, some organizations have continued to shy away from the term. Glenn Kessler, author of The Washington Post 's "Fact Checker" column, has used the word lie only once to describe Trump's statements, although he has sometimes used other terminology that implies lying.
As of October 9, 2019, The Washington Post's fact-checking team has documented that Trump has "made 13,435 false or misleading claims over 993 days". On October 18, 2019, the Washington Post Fact Checker newsletter described the situation:
A thousand days of Trump.
We often hear from readers wondering how President Trump's penchant for falsehoods stacks up in comparison to previous presidents. But there is no comparison: Trump exists in a league of his own. Deception, misdirection, gaslighting, revisionism, absurd boasts, and in some cases, provable lies, are core to his politics.
According to a September 2018 CNN-SSRS poll of 1,003 respondents, only 32% percent found Trump honest and trustworthy, the worst read in CNN polling history. The number was 33% on election day, November 8, 2016. In June 2020, a Gallup poll of 1,034 adults within the United States found that 36% found Trump honest and trustworthy. By comparison, 60% of respondents found President Obama honest and trustworthy in June 2012 during his re-election campaign.
Commentary and analysis
As president, Trump has frequently made false statements in public speeches and remarks. Trump uttered "at least one false or misleading claim per day on 91 of his first 99 days" in office according to The New York Times, and 1,318 total in his first 263 days in office according to the "Fact Checker" political analysis column of The Washington Post. By the Post's tally, it took Trump 601 days to reach 5,000 false or misleading statements and another 226 days to reach the 10,000 mark. For the seven weeks leading up to the midterm elections, it rose to an average of 30 per day from 4.9 during his first 100 days in office. The Post found that Trump averaged 15 false statements per day during 2018.
The New York Times editorial board has frequently lambasted Trump's dishonesty. In September 2018, the board called him "a president with no clear relation to the truth". The following month, the board published an opinion piece titled, "Donald Trump Is Lyin' Up a Storm".
Sometimes he's lying in ways that are obvious, sometimes he's saying things that we may not know are true or false and then there's a spectrum in between ... he is someone who is—for whom the truth is not a high value.
Washington Post commentator Greg Sargent pointed out eight instances where government officials either repeated lies or came up with misleading information to support falsehoods asserted by Trump, including various false claims about terrorists crossing or attempting to cross the Mexican border, that a 10% middle class tax cut had been passed, and a doctored video justifying Jim Acosta's removal from the White House press room.
James P. Pfiffner, writing for The Evolving American Presidency book series, wrote that compared to previous presidents, Trump tells "vastly" more "conventional lies" that politicians usually tell to avoid criticism or improve their image. However, Pfiffner emphasized that "the most significant" lies told by Trump are instead "egregious false statements that are demonstrably contrary to well-known facts," because by causing disagreements about what the facts are, then people cannot properly evaluate their government: "Political power rather than rational discourse then becomes the arbiter."
Selman Özdan, writing in the journal Postdigital Science and Education, describes that "many" of Trump's statements in interviews or on Twitter "may now be classed as bullshit," with their utter disregard for the truth, and their focus on telling "a version of reality that suits Trump's aims". These statements are "often" written in a way which criticizes or mocks others, while offering a misleading version of Trump's accomplishments to improve his image.
Trump's presidency began with a series of falsehoods originated by Trump himself. The day after his inauguration, he falsely accused the media of lying about the size of the inauguration crowd. Then he exaggerated the size, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer backed up his claims. When Spicer was accused of intentionally misstating the figures, Kellyanne Conway, in an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd, defended Spicer by saying he merely presented alternative facts. Todd responded by saying, "Alternative facts are not facts; they're falsehoods".
Trump went on to claim that his electoral college victory was a landslide; that three of the states he did not win in the 2016 election had "serious voter fraud"; and that Clinton received 3 million to 5 million illegal votes. Trump made his Trump Tower wiretapping allegations in March 2017, which the Department of Justice has twice refuted. In January 2018, Trump claimed that texts between FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were tantamount to "treason," but The Wall Street Journal reviewed them and concluded that the texts "show no evidence of a conspiracy against" Trump.
On May 9, 2017, Trump dismissed James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, saying he had accepted the recommendations of U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to dismiss Comey. In their respective letters, neither Trump, Sessions nor Rosenstein mentioned the issue of an FBI investigation into links between Trump associates and Russian officials, with Rosenstein writing that Comey should be dismissed for his handling of the conclusion of the FBI investigation into the Hillary Clinton email controversy, while Sessions cited Rosenstein's reasons. On May 11, Trump said in a videoed interview: "... regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey ... in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story". On May 31, Trump wrote on Twitter: "I never fired James Comey because of Russia!".
In 2017 and in the first half of 2018, Trump repeatedly praised his personal attorney Michael Cohen as "a great lawyer," "a loyal, wonderful person," "a good man" and someone Trump "always liked" and "respected". In the second half of 2018, with Cohen testifying to federal investigations, Trump attacked Cohen as a "rat," "a weak person, and not a very smart person" and described Cohen as "a PR person who did small legal work, very small legal work ... He represented me very little".
In May 2018, Trump developed and promoted the false Spygate conspiracy theory alleging that the Obama administration planted a spy inside Trump's campaign to help Hillary Clinton win the 2016 election.
On November 17, 2018, during the 2018 California wildfires which ultimately caused $3.5 billion in damages and killed 103 people, Trump misrepresented a method that Finland uses to control wildfires. Trump said that President of Finland Sauli Niinistö called Finland a "forest nation" and "they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don't have any problem." President Niinistö did not recall mentioning raking Finland's forests, rather Finland uses "a good surveillance system and network." Trump's comments sparked raking memes in Finland and online.
In March 2019, Trump asserted that the special counsel investigation is "illegal"; previously in June 2018, Trump argued that "the appointment of the Special Counsel is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!". However, in August 2018, Dabney Friedrich, a Trump-appointed judge on the DC District Court ruled the appointment was constitutional, as did a unanimous three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit in February 2019.
The Mueller Report asserted Trump's family members, campaign staff, Republican backers, administration officials, and his associates lied or made false assertions, with the plurality of lies from Trump himself (mostly while he was president), whether unintentional or not, to the public, Congress, or authorities, per a CNN analysis.
Also in March 2019, following the release of Attorney General William Barr's summary of the findings of the completed special counsel investigation, Trump tweeted: "No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION". However, Barr had quoted special counsel Mueller as writing that "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him" on whether he had committed obstruction of justice. Barr declined to bring an obstruction of justice charge against the President. In testimony to Congress in May 2019, Barr said he "didn't exonerate" Trump on obstruction as that was not the role of the Justice Department.
Through his first 28 months in office, Trump repeatedly and falsely characterized the economy during his presidency as the best in American history.
As of March 2019, Trump's most repeated falsehoods, each repeated during his presidency more than a hundred times, were that a U.S. trade deficit would be a "loss" for the country, that his tax cuts were the largest in American history, that the economy was the strongest ever during his administration, and that the wall was already being built. By August, he had made this last claim at least 190 times. He has also made 100 false claims about NATO spending, whether on the part of the United States or other NATO members.
Trump claimed during the campaign that the U.S. real GDP could grow at rate of "5 or even 6" percent under his policies. During 2018, the economy grew at 2.9%, the same rate as 2015 under President Obama. Longer-term projections beyond 2019 by the CBO and Federal Reserve are for growth below 2%. President Obama's advisers explained growth limits as "sluggish worker productivity and shrinking labor supply as baby boomers retire".
Trump claimed in October 2017 he would eliminate the federal debt over eight years, even though it was $19 trillion at the time. However, the annual deficit (debt addition) in 2018 was nearly $800 billion, about 60% higher than the CBO forecast of $500 billion when Trump took office. The CBO January 2019 forecast for the 2018–2027 debt addition is now 40% higher, at $13.0 trillion rather than $9.4 trillion when Trump was inaugurated. Other forecasts place the debt addition over a decade at $16 trillion, bringing the total to around $35 trillion. Rather than a debt to GDP ratio in 2028 of 89% had Obama's policies continued, CBO now estimates this figure at 107%, assuming Trump's tax cuts for individuals are extended past 2025.
Trump has sought to present his economic policies as successful in encouraging businesses to invest in new facilities and create jobs. In this effort, he has on several occasions taken credit for business investments that began before he became president.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that China or Chinese exporters were bearing the burden of his tariffs, not Americans, a claim Politifact has rated as "false". Studies indicate U.S. consumers and purchasers of imports are bearing the cost and that tariffs are essentially a regressive tax. For example, CBO reported in January 2020 that: "Tariffs are expected to reduce the level of [U.S.] real GDP by roughly 0.5 percent and raise consumer prices by 0.5 percent in 2020. As a result, tariffs are also projected to reduce average real household income by $1,277 (in 2019 dollars) in 2020." While Trump has argued that tariffs would reduce the trade deficit, it expanded to a record dollar level in 2018.
The following table illustrates some of the key economic variables in the last three years of the Obama Administration (2014–2016) and the first three years of the Trump Administration (2017–2019). Trump often claims the economy is doing better than it was when he was elected.
|Real GDP Growth||2.5%||3.1%||1.7%||2.3%||3.0%||2.2%|
|Job Creation per Month (000s)||250||227||195||176||193||178|
|Unemployment Rate (December)||5.6%||5.0%||4.7%||4.1%||3.9%||3.5%|
|Inflation Rate (CPI-All, Avg.)||1.6%||0.1%||1.3%||2.1%||2.4%||1.8%|
|Real Median Household Income $||$56,969||$59,901||$61,779||$62,626||$63,179||$68,703|
|Real Wage Growth %||0.4%||2.2%||1.3%||0.4%||0.6%||1.3%|
|Mortgage Rate 30-yr Fixed (Avg.)||4.2%||3.9%||3.7%||4.0%||4.5%||3.9%|
|Stock Market Annual % Increase (SP 500)||11.4%||−0.7%||+9.5%||+19.4%||−6.2%||28.9%|
|Budget Deficit % GDP||2.8%||2.4%||3.2%||3.5%||3.9%||4.6%|
|Number Uninsured (Millions)||35.7||28.4||28.2||28.9||30.1||30.4|
|Trade Deficit % GDP||2.8%||2.7%||2.7%||2.8%||3.0%||2.9%|
President Trump has repeatedly and falsely said he inherited his administration's family separation policy from Obama, his predecessor. In November 2018, Trump said, "President Obama separated children from families, and all I did was take the same law, and then I softened the law." In April 2019, Trump said, "President Obama separated children. They had child separation; I was the one that changed it." In June 2019, Trump said, "President Obama had a separation policy. I didn't have it. He had it. I brought the families together. I'm the one that put them together ... I inherited separation, and I changed the plan". Trump's assertion was false because the Obama administration had no policy systematically separating migrant families, while "zero tolerance" was not instituted until April 2018. PolitiFact quoted immigration experts saying that under the Obama administration families were detained and released together and separations rarely happened.
In July 2019, during a speech addressing youth at Turning Point USA Teen Student Action Summit in Washington, The Washington Post reported that, while criticizing the Mueller investigation, Trump falsely claimed Article Two of the United States Constitution ensures, "I have the right to do whatever I want as president". The Post clarified that "Article II grants the president 'executive power'. It does not indicate the president has total power".
As Hurricane Dorian approached the Atlantic coast in late August 2019, Trump presented himself as closely monitoring the situation, tweeting extensively about it as The New York Times reported he was "assuming the role of meteorologist in chief". On September 1, Trump tweeted that Alabama, among other states, "will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated" by Dorian. By that time, no weather forecaster was predicting Dorian would impact Alabama and the eight National Hurricane Center forecast updates over the preceding 24 hours showed Dorian steering well away from Alabama and moving up the Atlantic coast. The Birmingham, Alabama office of the National Weather Service (NWS) contradicted Trump twenty minutes later, tweeting that Alabama "will NOT see any impacts from Dorian." After ABC News White House reporter Jonathan Karl reported the correction, Trump tweeted it was "Such a phony hurricane report by lightweight reporter @jonkarl".
On September 4 in the Oval Office, Trump displayed a modified version of an August 29 diagram by the National Hurricane Center of the projected track of Dorian. The modification was done with a black marker and extended the cone of uncertainty of the hurricane's possible path into southern Alabama. Modifying official government weather forecasts is illegal in the United States. A White House official later told The Washington Post Trump had altered the diagram with a Sharpie marker. Trump said he did not know how the map came to be modified and defended his claims, saying he had "a better map" with models that "in all cases [showed] Alabama was hit". Later on September 4, Trump tweeted a map by the South Florida Water Management District dated August 28 showing numerous projected paths of Dorian; Trump falsely asserted "almost all models" showed Dorian approaching Alabama. A note on the map stated it was "superseded" by National Hurricane Center publications and that it was to be discarded if there were any discrepancies.
On September 5, after Fox News correspondent John Roberts reported about the story live from the White House, Trump summoned him to the Oval Office. Roberts later characterized Trump as "just looking for acknowledgment that he was not wrong for saying that at some point, Alabama was at risk—even if the situation had changed by the time he issued the tweet". Later that day, Trump's Homeland Security Advisor Peter Brown issued a statement asserting Trump had been provided a graphic on September 1 showing tropical storm force winds touching the southeastern corner of Alabama; a White House source told CNN that Trump had personally instructed Brown to issue the statement.
On September 6, at Trump's direction, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross to order acting NOAA administrator Neil Jacobs to fix the contradiction by Birmingham NWS, and Ross threatened to fire top NOAA officials if he did not. NOAA then tweeted a statement by an unnamed spokesman disavowing the Birmingham NWS tweet, asserting "the information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to President Trump and the wider public demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama," adding that the Birmingham tweet "spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time". The president of the NWS Employees Organization responded, "the hard-working employees of the NWS had nothing to do with the utterly disgusting and disingenuous tweet sent out by NOAA management tonight". Former senior NOAA executives were also sharply critical. That evening, Trump tweeted a video of a CNN hurricane forecast from the Wednesday before his Sunday tweet in which the forecaster mentioned Alabama could be affected by Dorian—with the video altered to show "Alabama" being repeated several times; the video ended with a CNN logo careening off a road and bursting into flames. Trump continued to insist he was correct through September 7, asserting "The Fake News Media was fixated" on the matter and tweeting forecast maps from at least two days before his original Sunday tweet, as the media dubbed the episode "Sharpiegate". Numerous commentators expressed bafflement that Trump chose to continue insisting he was correct about what might otherwise have passed as a relatively minor gaffe.
On September 9, NWS director Louis Uccellini said the Birmingham NWS had not tweeted in response to Trump's tweet, but rather in response to numerous phone calls and social media contacts their office had received in response to Trump's tweet. "Only later, when the retweets and politically based comments started coming to their office, did they learn the sources of this information," he said.
On September 16, 2019, Trump tweeted that "the fake news" was incorrectly reporting that he was willing to meet with Iran with no pre-conditions. Trump had said in July 2018 and June 2019 that he was willing to meet with Iran with no pre-conditions, and secretary of state Mike Pompeo and treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed this to be Trump's position during a White House press briefing five days before Trump's tweet.
Trump has made various false, misleading, or inaccurate statements related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as "...we have it under control. It's going to be just fine" (January 22, 2020), "Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away" (Feb. 10), and "Anybody that wants a test can get a test" (March 6).
On February 24, Trump tweeted: "The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA," and the next day Trump said, "I think that whole situation will start working out. We're very close to a vaccine," when none was known to be near production.
In late February, the Trump Administration stated that the outbreak containment was "close to airtight" and that the virus is only as deadly as the seasonal flu. Including that, the administration also stated that the outbreak was "contained" in early March even as the number of U.S. cases continued to increase, regardless of being publicly challenged.
While on Fox News, Trump contradicted the World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that the global mortality rate for SARS-2 coronavirus is 3.4%, saying. ""Well, I think the 3.4 percent is really a false number — and this is just my hunch — but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this, because a lot of people will have this and it's very mild, they'll get better very rapidly. They don't even see a doctor. They don't even call a doctor. You never hear about those people," and said his "hunch" is that the real figure is "way under 1%". Trump also speculated that "thousands or hundreds of thousands" of people might have recovered "by, you know, sitting around and even going to work—some of them go to work but they get better," contradicting medical advice to slow disease transmission. On March 17, Trump stated, "I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic."
Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explained in a Science interview that before coronavirus press conferences, the task force presents its consensus to Trump "and somebody writes a speech. Then (Trump) gets up and ad libs on his speech". Fauci explained that afterwards, the task force tells him to "be careful about this and don't say that," adding "I can't jump in front of the microphone and push him down. OK, he said it. Let's try and get it corrected for the next time".
Trump made 33 false claims about the coronavirus crisis in the first two weeks of March, per a CNN analysis. Trump has made various other incorrect COVID-19 related statements. One false claim was that the United States had the highest rate per capita of COVID-19 testing, which it did not at the time, compared to South Korea, Italy, and Germany. Trump's misrepresentations often attempt to paint the federal coronavirus response in an excessively positive light, such as claiming that hospitals "even in the really hot spots" were "really thrilled" with the level of medical supplies, when in fact hospitals nationwide were concerned about shortages of medications, personal protective equipment, and ventilators.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted from April 13–15, 900 registered voters, found that 36% of Americans trusted Trump for information on the coronavirus, and 52% distrusted him for that information.
On April 14, Trump said that he had "total" authority to reopen states, then said the next day that state governors had to make their own decision on when to reopen.
On April 16, Trump said "Our experts say the curve has flattened, and the peak in new cases is behind us." Trump added that "Nationwide, more than 850 counties, or nearly 30 percent of our country, have reported no new cases in the last seven days." The 30 percent of the counties in the country represented 6 percent of the population. Cases were added in counties where 94 percent of the population lived.
On April 28, while discussing his own response to the pandemic, Trump falsely suggested that in late February, Dr. Anthony Fauci had said that the American coronavirus outbreak was "no problem" and was "going to blow over". Contrary to Trump's claims, Fauci had said in a February 29 interview that "now the risk is still low, but this could change ... You've got to watch out because although the risk is low now ... when you start to see community spread, this could change and force you to become much more attentive to doing things that would protect you from spread ... this could be a major outbreak." Also on February 29, Fauci had stressed during a press conference that "we want to underscore that this is an evolving situation".
On May 19, Trump tweeted a statement claiming that the World Health Organization had consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in December 2019 including reports from The Lancet. The Lancet rejected Trump's claims, saying "The Lancet published no report in December, 2019, referring to a virus or outbreak in Wuhan or anywhere else in China. The first reports the journal published were on January 24, 2020". The Lancet also wrote that the allegations that Trump made against the WHO were "serious and damaging to efforts to strengthen international cooperation to control this pandemic". The Lancet also said that "It is essential that any review of the global response is based on a factually accurate account of what took place in December and January".
On June 20, at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump suggested that America should slow down testing. In response to the high number of tests, he said that "When you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people, you're going to find more cases, so I said to my people, 'Slow the testing down, please.'" White House officials claimed that Trump was only joking. In an interview, Trump said that while he never gave an order to slow down testing, he claimed that if the United States slowed down the testing, they would look like they're doing better. "I wouldn't do that," he said, "but I will say this: We do so much more than other countries it makes us, in a way, look bad but actually we're doing the right thing." At the time, the percentage of positive cases in the United States was over 2 times higher than recommended by the World Health Organization.
On July 4, 2020, Trump falsely stated that "99 percent" of COVID-19 cases are "totally harmless". In the same speech, Trump contradicted several public health experts by saying that the U.S. will "likely have a therapeutic and/or vaccine solution long before the end of the year". FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn declined to state whether Trump's "99 percent" statement was accurate or to say how many cases are harmless. The World Health Organization in March estimated 15% of COVID-19 cases become severe and 5% become critical.
As the U.S. COVID-19 daily new case count increased from about 20,000 on June 9 to over 50,000 by July 7, Trump repeatedly insisted that the case increase was a function of increased COVID-19 testing. Trump's claims were contradicted by the facts that states having increased case counts as well as those having decreased case counts had increased testing, that the positive test rate increased in all ten states with the largest case increases, and that case rate increases consistently exceeded testing rate increases in states with the most new cases.
On August 5, 2020, Trump asserted that children should go back to school and learn in an in-person setting. He said, "If you look at children, children are almost, I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease. So few. Hard to believe. I don't know how you feel about it but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this. They don't have a problem." According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children account for about 7.3% of COVID-19 cases. While children may be less likely to contract the virus than adults, a study in Science Magazine has shown that "children under age 14 are between one-third and one-half as likely as adults to contract the virus." Facebook took action against President Trump's claim that children are "almost immune," removing a video of him making this claim that was posted on his official Facebook account. Twitter took action against a similar tweet made by Trump's campaign, stating that the account would be restricted from tweeting until the tweet is removed. The Trump campaign account removed the tweet later that day.
Trump noted New Zealand's success in dealing with COVID-19 while referring on August 18, 2020 to a "big surge in New Zealand"—on a day when New Zealand had 13 new reported cases of infection, a cumulative total of 1,643 COVID-19 cases and a cumulative total of 22 COVID-19-related deaths, with no new COVID-19-related deaths reported since late May 2020. Local commentators in New Zealand called Trump's terminology into question—Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters noted: "The American people can work out that what we have for a whole day, they have every 22 seconds of the day [...]." (New Zealand has a total population about 1.5 percent of that of the United States.)
In a series of eighteen interviews from December 5, 2019 to July 21, 2020 between Donald Trump and Bob Woodward, Trump admits that he deceived the public about the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. On February 7, he told Woodward, "This is deadly stuff. You just breathe the air and that's how it's passed. And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flu." On March 19, he said in another interview, "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic." Many audio recordings of these interviews were released on September 9, 2020.
Trump and some of his supporters allege that Obama and his administration conspired to politically surveil Trump's presidential campaign and presidential transition through inappropriate investigations by the Department of Justice, the United States Intelligence Community, and the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Trump has nicknamed the series of events, which he calls a major scandal, Obamagate. Trump's critics have called it an unfounded conspiracy theory.
On May 10, 2020—one day after former president Barack Obama criticized the Trump administration's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic—Trump posted a one-word tweet: "OBAMAGATE!" On May 11, Philip Rucker of The Washington Post asked Trump what crime former president Barack Obama committed. Trump's reply was: "Obamagate. It's been going on for a long time ... from before I even got elected and it's a disgrace that it happened.... Some terrible things happened and it should never be allowed to happen in our country again." When Rucker again asked what the crime was, Trump said: "You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody. All you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours." On May 15, Trump tweeted that Obamagate was the "greatest political scandal in the history of the United States". This was the third time Trump claimed to be suffering from a scandal of such magnitude, after previously giving Spygate and the Russia investigation similar labels. Also on May 15, Trump linked Obamagate to the "persecution" of Michael Flynn, and a missing 302 form.
Trump called for Congress to summon Obama to testify about "the biggest political crime". Senator Lindsey Graham, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that he did not expect to summon Obama, but would summon other Obama administration officials. Meanwhile, Attorney General William Barr stated that he did not "expect" Obama to be investigated of a crime. Some of Trump's allies have suggested that the "crime" involved the FBI launching an investigation into incoming national security advisor Michael Flynn, or possibly the "unmasking" by outgoing Obama officials to find out the name of a person who was reported in intelligence briefings to be conversing with the Russian ambassador.
In a May 2020 op-ed at the news website RealClearPolitics, Charles Lipson, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Chicago analyzed the content of "Obamagate". He claimed that the concept refers to three intertwined scandals: (1) The Obama administration conducted mass surveillance through the NSA; (2) the Obama administration used surveillance against Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, and (3) the Obama administration did not transfer power seamlessly to the new Trump administration. Lipson further claimed that "these abuses didn't simply follow each other; their targets, goals, and principal players overlapped. Taken together, they represent some of the gravest violations of constitutional norms and legal protections in American history".
The Associated Press (AP) in May 2020 addressed Obamagate in a fact check, stating that there was "no evidence" of Trump's suggestion that "the disclosure of Flynn's name as part of legal U.S. surveillance of foreign targets was criminal and motivated by partisan politics." AP stated that there is not only "nothing illegal about unmasking," but also that the unmasking of Flynn was approved using the National Security Agency's "standard process." Unmasking is allowed if officials feel that it is needed to understand the collected intelligence. AP further pointed out that the Trump administration was conducting even more unmasking than the Obama administration in the final year of Obama's presidency. In May 2020, attorney general Bill Barr appointed federal prosecutor John Bash to examine unmasking conducted by the Obama administration. The inquiry concluded in October with no findings of substantive wrongdoing. By October 2020, the complex "Obamagate" narrative served as an evolution and rebranding of the "Spygate" conspiracy.
Trump has repeatedly advocated a baseless conspiracy theory that suggested Joe Scarborough was involved in the 2001 death of a staffer who worked for Scarborough while he was a member of Congress. Trump labeled the woman's death an unsolved "cold case" in one of multiple tweets, and called on his followers to continue to "keep digging" and to "use forensic geniuses" to find out more about the death. Scarborough's wife and Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski called the president a "cruel, sick, disgusting person" for his tweets, and urged Twitter to remove Trump's tweets. Scarborough called Trump's tweet "unspeakably cruel".
Lori Klausutis was a constituent services coordinator in one of Scarborough's congressional offices in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Klausutis was found dead on the floor near her desk in that office on July 19, 2001. An autopsy by Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Berkland revealed a previously undiagnosed heart-valve irregularity, floppy mitral valve disease, that caused a cardiac arrhythmia that in turn halted her heart, stopped her breathing, and caused the 28-year-old to lose consciousness, fall, and hit her head on the edge of a desk. Klausutis' cause of death was determined at the time of death to be due to natural causes, and local authorities have never attempted to re-investigate because there was no evidence of an alternative explanation for her death. Scarborough was in Washington, D.C. at the time of her death in Florida.
In May 2020, Klausutis's widower, Timothy Klausutis, called for the removal of Trump's tweets. He wrote a letter to Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, saying: "I'm asking you to intervene in this instance because the President of the United States has taken something that does not belong to him—the memory of my dead wife—and perverted it for perceived political gain". Twitter refused to take down Trump's false tweets, and the White House Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, only stated that her heart was with the family. Twitter stated that statements by the President, even false ones, are newsworthy.
In 2020, Trump had claimed multiple times that he or his administration has "done more for the black community than any president," in some cases compared to all presidents, and in other cases to all presidents "since Abraham Lincoln" (who abolished slavery in the United States). Prominent historians instead pointed to Lyndon B. Johnson as the president who did most for the black community since Lincoln, for his Civil Rights Act of 1964 and his Voting Rights Act of 1965. The historians also highlighted that the presidencies of Harry Truman, Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama had done much for the black community. Trump's own achievements were dismissed as minor, while Trump was faulted for racially divisive rhetoric and attacks on voting rights.
Since Trump took office in 2017 he has routinely tweeted an approval rating between 94% and 98% in the Republican Party without citing a source. Trump has tweeted these approval ratings almost weekly with a percentage around 96%. For example, a tweet from June 16, 2020 by Trump says "96% Approval Rating in the Republican Party. Thank you!" Another tweet from August 23, 2019 says "94% Approval Rating within the Republican Party. Thank you!" Trump's approval rating in the Republican Party was found to be around 88% in a Fox News poll, 90% in a Gallup poll and 79% in an AP-NORC poll but there is no evidence to support his tweets of the approval ratings around 96%.
In 2014, a bipartisan initiative for veterans' healthcare, led by Senators Bernie Sanders and John McCain, was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The Veterans Choice program enables eligible veterans to receive government funding for healthcare provided outside the VA system. In 2018, Trump signed the VA MISSION Act to expand the eligibility criteria. Over the next two years, Trump falsely claimed over 150 times that he had created the Veterans Choice program itself. When reporter Paula Reid questioned him about this in August 2020, noting that he repeatedly made a "false statement" in taking credit for the program, Trump abruptly walked out of the news conference.
In a speech given at Al Asad Airbase to US military personnel on Christmas 2018, Trump boasted that the military had not gotten a raise in ten years, and that he would be giving them a raise of over 10 percent. In fact, American military personnel received a pay hike of at least one percent for the past 30 years, got a 2.4 percent pay increase in 2018, and would receive a 2.6 percent pay increase for 2019.
President Trump has repeatedly made false, misleading or baseless claims in his criticism of voting by mail in the United States. This included claims that other countries would print "millions of mail-in ballots", claims that "80 million unsolicited ballots" were being sent to Americans, and claims that Nevada's presidential election process was "100% rigged". Another claim was alleging massive voter fraud. In September 2020, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, who was appointed by Trump, testified under oath that the FBI has "not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it's by mail or otherwise".
On November 4, Trump delivered a speech inside the White House claiming he had already won the 2020 presidential election. He made numerous false and misleading statements to support his belief that vote counting should stop and that he should be confirmed as the winner. After Joe Biden was declared the winner of the election, Trump falsely claimed he had won claiming ballot fraud against him. In the month after the election, Trump continued to baselessly claim there was fraud and corruption in the election. He repeated and tweeted false and misleading claims about vote counting, Dominion Voting Systems, poll watchers, alleged voting irregularities, and more.
A May 2020 SRSS poll for CNN concluded that 36% of people in the U.S. trusted Trump on information about the COVID-19 outbreak. Only 4% of Democrats trusted that information, compared to 84% of Republicans.
- Big lie – propaganda technique used for political purpose
- Donald Trump on social media
- Fake news
- Fear: Trump in the White House
- Fire and Fury
- List of conspiracy theories promoted by Donald Trump
- Post-truth politics
- Reality distortion field
- The Making of Donald Trump
- Trump derangement syndrome
- Truth Decay
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Donald Trump lies so often that some have wondered whether he has poisoned the well [...] We expect politicians to stretch the truth. But Trump is a whole different animal. He lies as a policy.
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... a president who is delivering untruths on an unprecedented scale. Mr Trump did this both while running for president, and he has continued to do so in office. There is no precedent for this amount of untruths in the US
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How would they know that? Were they there?
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