It was kind of horrible hearing Trump declaring his run for president again— like a slow motion, slow energy nightmare. Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen noted that Trump’s team understood that Trump had been “bleeding support among Republicans for his wild antics over the past week [and] needed a reset… So the text was deliberately low-key… The tightly scripted, staff-driven speech reflected Trump's weakened position post-midterms…” The tone was flat.
And filled with lies and exaggerations— Trump’s version of his greatest hits, imaginary or not. Daniel Dale reported that “Like many of Trump’s speeches as president, his announcement speech in Florida on Tuesday was filled with false and misleading claims about a variety of topics— from his record in office to his Democratic opponents to the economy, the environment and foreign policy.” Plus, “an apocalyptic picture of American decline under President Biden.” Here are some of the lies:
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, speaking from his Mar-a-Lago resort.
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.
Strategic Petroleum Reserve
Trump claimed his administration “filled up” the Strategic Petroleum Reserve but it has now been “virtually drained” by the Biden administration.
Both parts of Trump’s claim are false. He didn’t fill up the reserve, and the reserve is not “virtually drained.”
Tariffs on China
Trump also boasted about his tariffs on China, claiming, “no president had ever sought or received $1 for our country from China until I came along.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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 misleading. 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.
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.
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.
[This morning, the reports are that the missile was probably fired by Ukraine defending itself.]
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.
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.”
After the speech, one of the biggest GOP donors, Stephen Schwarzman, chairman, CEO and co-founder of private-equity giant Blackstone, issued a statement: “America does better when its leaders are rooted in today and tomorrow, not today and yesterday. It is time for the Republican Party to turn to a new generation of leaders and I intend to support one of them in the presidential primaries.”
Bret Stephens column last night in the NY Times noted that Trump is “finished as a serious contender for high office… Last week, the realization finally dawned on his devoted supporters that Trump can no longer deliver what they want most: power. Or, let me put it in language more congenial to them: Whatever purpose they believe he was meant to serve— bringing working-class voters back to the Republican fold; restoring nationalism to conservative ideology; rejecting the authority of supposed experts— has been served. Others can now do the same thing better, without the drama and divisiveness. He’s yesterday’s man… The sin [in the losing midterms] was not that Trump violated Ronald Reagan’s famous Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” Trump has violated that commandment as freely as he has so many of the others. It’s that he was a loser criticizing a winner— and what Trump’s base wants most of all is a winner.”