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 millions 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.”
Also, American importers, not Chinese exporters, make the actual tariff payments – and study after study during Trump’s presidency found that Americans were bearing the cost of the tariffs.
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.
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