Fact check: 20 false and misleading claims Trump made in his announcement speech
By Daniel Dale and Paul LeBlanc, CNN
(CNN) -- Former President Donald Trump began his 2024 presidential campaign just as he ended his presidency in 2021: with a whole lot of inaccuracy.
Like many of Trump's speeches as president, his announcement speech at his Mar-a-Lago resort on Tuesday was filled with false claims about a variety of topics -- from his record in office to his Democratic opponents to the economy, the environment and foreign policy.
Here is a fact check of 20 false or misleading things he said. This is not a comprehensive list.
Trump claimed Tuesday evening that the US left $85 billion worth of military equipment in Afghanistan upon its military withdrawal in 2021.
"Perhaps the most embarrassing moment in the history of our country, where we lost lives, left Americans behind and surrendered $85 billion worth of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world," Trump said.
Facts First: Trump's figure is false. While a significant quantity of military equipment that had been provided by the US to Afghan government forces was indeed abandoned to the Taliban upon the US withdrawal, the Defense Department has estimated that this equipment had been worth about $7.1 billion — a chunk of about $18.6 billion worth of equipment provided to Afghan forces between 2005 and 2021. And some of the equipment left behind was rendered inoperable before US forces withdrew.
There is not any basis for Trump's claim that $85 billion worth of equipment was left behind. As other fact-checkers have previously explained, that was a rounded-up figure (it's closer to $83 billion) for the total amount of money Congress has appropriated during the war to a fund supporting the Afghan security forces. Only part of this funding was for equipment.
Strategic Petroleum Reserve
Trump claimed his administration "filled up" the Strategic Petroleum Reserve but it has now been "virtually drained" by the Biden administration.
Facts First: Both parts of Trump's claim are false. He didn't fill up the reserve, and the reserve is not "virtually drained."
Though Trump has repeatedly boasted of supposedly having filled up the reserve, it actually contained fewer barrels of crude when he left office in early 2021 than when he took office in 2017. That's not all because of him -- the law requires some mandatory sales from the reserve for budget reasons, and Democrats in Congress blocked the funding needed to execute Trump's 2020 directive to buy tens of millions more barrels and fill the reserve to its maximum capacity -- but nonetheless, it didn't get filled.
As CNN's Matt Egan and Phil Mattingly reported in mid-October, the US reserve remains the largest in the world even though it was at a 38-year low after President Joe Biden released a major chunk of it to help keep oil prices down in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine (and, coincidentally or not, prior to the midterm elections). The reserve had more than 396 million barrels of crude oil as of the week ending November 4.
Tariffs on China
Trump also boasted about his tariffs on China, claiming that "no president had ever sought or received $1 for our country from China until I came along."
Facts First: As we have written repeatedly, it's not true that no president before Trump had generated any revenue through tariffs on goods from China. In reality, the US has had tariffs on China for more than two centuries, and FactCheck.org reported in 2019 that the US generated an "average of $12.3 billion in custom duties a year from 2007 to 2016, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission DataWeb."
Sea level rise
Trump claimed that unnamed people aren't talking about the threat of nuclear weapons because they are obsessed with environmental issues, which he said, "they say may affect us in 300 years." He added, "They say the ocean will rise 1/8 of an inch over the next 200 to 300 years. But don't worry about nuclear weapons that can take out entire countries with one shot."
Facts First: Trump's claims are false -- even if you ignore the absurd contention that people aren't paying attention to nuclear threats because they're focused on the environment. Sea levels are expected to rise much faster than Trump said. The US government's National Ocean Service said on its website that "sea level along the U.S. coastline is projected to rise, on average, 10 - 12 inches (0.25 - 0.30 meters) in the next 30 years (2020 - 2050), which will be as much as the rise measured over the last 100 years (1920 - 2020)."
And though Trump didn't use the words "climate change" in this claim, he strongly suggested that people say climate change may only affect us in 300 years. That is grossly inaccurate; it is affecting the US today. The Department of Defense said in a 2021 report: "Increasing temperatures; changing precipitation patterns; and more frequent, intense, and unpredictable extreme weather conditions caused by climate change are exacerbating existing risks and creating new security challenges for U.S. interests."
Drug use and punishment in China
Trump claimed that Chinese leader Xi Jinping had told him that China has no "drug problem" at all because of its harsh treatment of drug traffickers. Trump then repeated the claim himself, saying, "if you get caught dealing drugs in China you have an immediate and quick trial, and by the end of the day, you are executed. That's a terrible thing, but they have no drug problem."
Facts First: Trump's claim is not true, just as it was when he made similar claims as president. Joe Amon, director of global health at Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health, said that "yes, China has a drug problem" and that "China, like the US, has a large number of people who use (a wide range of) drugs." The Chinese government has itself reported that "there were 1.49 million registered drug users nationwide" as of the end of 2021; in the past, officials in China have acknowledged that the number of registered drug users are a significant undercount of actual drug use there.
And while Trump solely credits harsh punishments for what he claims is China's success in handling drugs, the Chinese government also touts its rehabilitation, education and anti-poverty efforts.
Complaining about how he is under criminal investigation for taking presidential documents to his Florida home and resort, Trump repeated a debunked claim about former President Barack Obama's handling of presidential documents.
"Obama took a lot of things with him," Trump said.
Facts First: This is false -- as the National Archives and Records Administration pointed out in August when Trump previously made this claim. Though Trump claimed that Obama had taken millions of records to Chicago, NARA explained in a public statement that it had itself taken these records to a NARA-managed facility in the Chicago area -- which is near where Obama's presidential library will be located. It said that, as per federal law, "former President Obama has no control over where and how NARA stores the Presidential records of his Administration."
NARA has also debunked Trump's recent claims about various other presidents having supposedly taken documents to their own home states; in those cases, too, it was NARA that moved the documents, not the former presidents. It is standard for NARA to set up temporary facilities near where former presidents' permanent libraries will eventually be located.
As he has on other occasions during Biden's tenure, Trump used misleading figures when discussing the price of gas. He said: "We were $1.87 a gallon for gasoline, and now it's sitting five, six, seven and even eight dollars, and it's gonna go really bad."
Facts First: This is so misleading that we're classifying it as inaccurate. While the price of a gallon of regular gas did briefly fall to $1.87 (and lower) during the depths of 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. And while there are some remote gas stations where prices are always much higher than the national average, the national average Tuesday is $3.759, per AAA data, not $5, $6, $7 or $8. California, the state with the highest prices as usual, has an average of $5.423.
Deportations under Obama
Trump claimed Tuesday evening that his administration, unlike Obama's administration, had convinced countries like Guatemala and Honduras to take back their gang members that had come to America.
"The worst gangs are MS-13. And under the Barack Hussein Obama administration, they were unable to take them out. Because their countries where they came from wouldn't take them," Trump said from Mar-a-Lago.
Facts First: It's not true that, as a rule, Guatemala and Honduras wouldn't take back their citizens during Obama's administration, though there were some individual exceptions.
In 2016, just prior to Trump's presidency, neither Guatemala nor Honduras was on the list of countries that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) considered "recalcitrant," or uncooperative, in accepting the return of their nationals.
For the 2016 fiscal year, Obama's last full fiscal year in office, ICE reported Guatemala and Honduras ranked second and third, behind only Mexico, in terms of the country of citizenship of people being removed from the US. You can read a longer fact check, from 2019, here.
Missile landing in Poland
Trump claimed Tuesday that a missile that was "sent in probably by Russia" landed 50 miles into Poland. "People are going absolutely wild and crazy and they're not happy," Trump said from Mar-a-Lago.
Facts First: This claim is false. While Poland said a Russian-made missile did land in their territory Tuesday, killing two Polish citizens, the explosion happened about four miles west from the Ukrainian border.
Additionally, it remains unclear where the missile was fired from, and why it fell in Poland.
Finishing the border wall
Trump made a false claim about one of his signature policies, a wall at the border with Mexico.
"We built the wall, and now we will add to it. Now, we built the wall -- we completed the wall -- and then we said let's do more, and we did a lot more. And we did a lot more. And as we were doing it, we had an election that came up. And when they came in, they had three more weeks to complete the additions to the wall, which would've been great, and they said no, no, we're not going to do that," he said.
Facts First: It's not even close to true that Trump "completed" 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 completed. The report, provided to CNN's Priscilla Alvarez, said that, of those 280, about 74 miles of barriers 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."
Democratic leaders and the National Guard
Trump claimed that Democratic governors and mayors refused to ask for "help" even during "a total breakdown of law and order," and "don't want to ever ask to do anything," so "we sent in the National Guard in Minneapolis and in other places."
Facts First: This is a false claim Trump liked to make during his presidency. It's not true that Trump sent in the National Guard to Minneapolis and that Democratic leaders there refused to ask; it was actually Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, not Trump, was the one who deployed the Minnesota National Guard amid unrest in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Walz, who served in the Army National Guard for more than two decades, first activated the Guard more than seven hours before Trump publicly threatened to deploy the Guard himself.
When Trump made this false claim in 2020, Walz's office told CNN that the governor activated the Guard in response to requests from officials in Minneapolis and St. Paul -- cities also run by Democrats.
Mocking Biden's mental acuity, Trump said, "There are a lot of bad things, like going to Idaho and saying 'Welcome to the state of Florida, I really love it.'"
Facts First: This never happened. Biden, like Trump, has made occasional gaffes in referring to places, but this one is fiction. At a rally earlier this month, Trump claimed that Biden had gone to Iowa and wrongly claimed to be in Idaho; that false claim was published by a satirical website in 2020.
Lamenting illegal immigration, Trump said, "I believe it's 10 million people coming in, not three or four million people. They're pouring into our country."
Facts First: False. "There is no empirical basis at all for the idea that 10 million undocumented people have entered under President Biden," Emily Ryo, a professor of law and sociology at the University of Southern California's law school, who studies immigration, said in a Monday email when CNN asked her about Trump making this claim earlier in November. Julia Gelatt, an expert at the Migration Policy Institute think tank, concurred: "Based on the data available, it is not possible that 10 million unauthorized immigrants have come across the border to the U.S. under President Biden. In fact, the reality is a fraction of that."
Mark Morgan, who served as acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection under Trump (and head of the Border Patrol under Obama), told The Arizona Republic in an early-November article that the "worst case scenario" for the number of illegal border crossings under Biden through October "could be 6.2 million." Trump's estimate was not close even to that estimate.
And there are a bunch of important nuances here. Customs and Border Protection has recorded more than 4.3 million total nationwide border "encounters" under Biden, but that number includes people who presented themselves to the authorities to begin the process of seeking humanitarian protection. And while Trump used the word "people," Ryo emphasized that the number of "encounters" is not the same as the number of separate individuals who have crossed the border. Because many people encountered at the border are rapidly expelled under the Title 42 policy -- including more than half of those encountered in the 2021 fiscal year -- lots of the same people quickly come back to the border and try again. In the 2021 fiscal year, the recidivism rate was 27%, according to official data.
Inflation in turkey prices
Trump claimed, "Good luck getting a turkey for Thanksgiving. Number one, you won't get it and if you do, you're gonna pay three to four times more than you paid last year."
Facts First: This isn't even close to true. Turkey prices have increased since last Thanksgiving season, but they haven't come close to tripling or quadrupling. The weighted average advertised supermarket price of a whole frozen hen is 97 cents per pound as of the most recent US Department of Agriculture report -- up about 10% from the same time last year. The price of a whole frozen tom was up by about 7%.
And though Trump made these comments while criticizing the Biden administration over inflation, it's worth noting that the turkey market in particular has been significantly impacted by avian flu.
Trump and wars
Trump said that his critics claimed during the 2016 presidential campaign that there would be a war within weeks if Trump was elected -- "and yet I've gone decades, decades without a war. The first president to do it for that long a period."
Facts First: This is nonsense. Trump was president for four years, so he could not possibly have gone "decades, decades" without a war. Also, Trump presided over the US involvement in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, though he obviously didn't start any of these wars and withdrew some troops from all three countries. And he was commander-in-chief for dozens of US airstrikes, including drone strikes, in Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Pakistan, plus a drone strike in Iraq that killed Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, that prompted Iranian retaliation against US service members.
Trump and ISIS
Trump gave himself credit for the liberation of ISIS's "caliphate" in Syria, saying "the vicious ISIS caliphate, which no president was able to conquer, was decimated by me and our great warriors in less than three weeks."
Facts First: This is a major exaggeration. The ISIS "caliphate" was declared fully liberated more than two years into Trump's presidency, in 2019, not "less than three weeks" into his presidency in 2017; it's not entirely clear what Trump meant by "decimated," but the fight continued long after Trump's first weeks in office. And Trump gave himself far too much credit for the defeat of the caliphate, as he has in the past. There was major progress against the caliphate under Obama in 2015 and 2016 -- and Kurdish forces did much of the ground fighting.
IHS Markit, an information company that studied the changing the size of the caliphate, reported two days before Trump's 2017 inauguration that the caliphate shrunk by 23% in 2016 after shrinking by 14% in 2015. "The Islamic State suffered unprecedented territorial losses in 2016, including key areas vital for the group's governance project," an analyst there said in a statement at the time.
Terrorism under Trump
Trump claimed: "We had practically, just about, not that I can think of, no Islamic attacks, terrorist attacks, during the Trump administration."
Facts First: Trump did qualify the claim by saying "practically, just about, not that I can think of," but it's not true that there were no terrorist attacks carried out by Islamic extremists during his presidency. Trump's own Justice Department alleged that a terror attack in New York City in 2017, which killed eight people and injured others, was an act of Islamic extremism carried out in support of ISIS. In fact, Trump repeatedly lamented this attack during his presidency. And Trump's Justice Department alleged that a 2019 attack by an extremist member of Saudi Arabia's military, which killed three US servicemembers and injured others at a military base in Florida, "was motivated by jihadist ideology" and was carried out by a longtime "associate" of al Qaeda.
The military's use of old bombers
Boasting of how he supposedly rebuilt the military, Trump said, "When I got there, we had jet fighters that were 48 years old. We had bombers that were 60 years old, we had bombers where their grandfathers flew them when they were new. And now the grandchild is flying the bomber -- but not anymore."
Facts First: It's not true that Trump ended the use of 60-year-old bombers. The military continues to use B-52 bombers that old; they are now being outfitted with new Rolls-Royce engines to prolong their life even further. (And the B-52 isn't the only decades-old plane still in use.)
Trump's popularity along the border
After boasting of how he is viewed by Latinos, Trump claimed that "along the border in Texas, won every single community -- I won -- every single community." He said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told him that he had "won every single area along the border, the longest since Reconstruction."
Facts First: We don't know what Abbott told Trump, but it's not true that Trump won every single area along the border with Mexico. Trump lost border states in both of his previous races -- California and New Mexico in both 2016 and 2020, Arizona in 2020 -- and also lost numerous border communities in Texas and elsewhere both times, as you can see in these New York Times maps here and here.
Trump did make major gains with some Texas border counties between 2016 and 2020, becoming the first Republican in decades to win some of them, but his claim was about how he supposedly won them all. That's inaccurate.
Trump claimed about inflation: "As we speak, inflation is the highest in over 50 years."
Facts First: This is not true; Trump exaggerated a statistic that would have worked in his favor even if he had recited it accurately. October's year-over-year inflation rate of 7.7% is the highest since 1982, if you don't count previous months this year when it was higher. So, ignoring those other Biden-era months, it is the highest in 40 years, not the highest in "over 50 years."
We might let this go if Trump did not have a years-long pattern of exaggerating numbers to suit his purposes.
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