Fact checking Trump’s ‘Meet the Press’ interview

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Former President Donald Trump made a spate of false and misleading comments about immigration, foreign policy, abortion and more in a wide-ranging interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” moderator Kristen Welker that aired Sunday morning.

“I have all the facts,” he said at one point, falsely claiming that the 2020 election was rigged and there was broad evidence of it.

Watch the full interview and read the transcript here.

NBC News has also extended an invitation to President Joe Biden to sit down with Welker for an interview.

Trump’s presidency was marked by repeated false, exaggerated and misleading claims. Some of those claims drove policy, while another triggered an impeachment. Trump’s false view that the election was stolen helped land him and dozens of others in legal trouble in Georgia. One senior aide — during a “Meet the Press” interview — even coined the phrase “alternative facts” in defense of the president.

Let’s review what Trump told “Meet the Press.”

Are immigrants ‘flooding’ the U.S.?

Trump claimed there were “millions of illegal immigrants coming into our country, flooding our cities, flooding the countryside. I think the number is going to be 15 million people by the time you end this, by the end of this year. I think the real number is going to be 15 million people.”

Border crossings are up significantly in the last two years. In fiscal year 2023 so far, U.S. border patrol apprehended or turned away more than 2.5 million people. In fiscal year 2022, border crossings topped 2.7 million, breaking the previous record by more than a million. Because some migrants make multiple border crossings, these numbers are slightly higher than the true total of immigrants at the southern border.

Still, there’s no evidence that 15 million people will cross the border this year. That’s more than the total number of people, 11.4 million, that the U.S. government estimates are here without legal authorization.

Are there are a record number of terrorists crossing the border?

Speaking about immigration, Trump also said there was a surge in terrorists crossing the border — seemingly referring to the southern border.

“I saw some statistics and it said in 2019, there were no terrorists. They caught no terrorists,” he said. “And now this year, it’s a record number like they’ve never seen before.”

Trump is right that border patrol is seeing an uptick of encounters with people on the terrorist watchlist at the southern border, but there were more such encounters in 2019, when he was president.

The number of all people, including U.S. citizens, on the terrorist watchlist who were stopped at the southern border as of July of this fiscal year was 216, compared with 165 in all of fiscal year 2022.

But the number of border crossers on the watchlist was higher in fiscal year 2019 — during the Trump administration — at 280 individuals.

Did the U.S. give $85 billion worth of equipment to the Taliban?

“We gave $85 billion worth of equipment to the Taliban,” Trump said, speaking about the Afghanistan withdrawal.

This is false. The Defense Department estimated last year that the Afghan government had more than $7.1 billion of U.S.-funded military equipment in its possession when it fell to the Taliban in August 2021 amid the withdrawal.

Trump’s figure more closely mirrors the total costs of training, equipping and supporting Afghanistan’s security forces over the last two decades: $83 billion, per a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Did people who never entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 receive long sentences?

“These people on Jan. 6,” Trump said. “Some of them never even went into the building, and they’re being given sentences of many years.”

This is missing critical context. Some of the defendants who received some of the longest sentences of any Jan. 6 participants — including Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes — did not enter the Capitol building themselves but received lengthy sentences after they were convicted of seditious conspiracy.

Some of the most vicious assaults of the Capitol attack were committed by Jan. 6 participants who never stepped foot in the building, and some of those individuals received significant sentences, too.

Was the 2020 election ‘rigged,’ ‘so rigged’ and ‘crooked’?

There is extensive proof that the 2020 election was not marred by fraud, but Trump nonetheless said more than a dozen times in his interview that the election was “rigged.”

“If this were ever before a court, we would win so easy. There is so much evidence that the election was rigged,” he said at one point.

Trump and his supporters brought more than 50 lawsuits aimed at overturning the results of the election; none were successful in overturning the results.

Trump said said there was proof of fraud in “2000 Mules” and tapes of “ballot stuffing,” referring by name to the widely debunked film by conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, which showed people depositing multiple ballots into drop boxes in Atlanta’s suburbs. According to the Associated Press, a Georgia State Election Board investigation determined that they were following the law and submitting ballots for themselves and family members who lived with them.

Is bacon five times more expensive than it used to be?

“Things are not going right now very well for the consumer. Bacon is up five times. Food is up horribly — worse than energy,” Trump said.

Inflation has absolutely raised the cost of many consumer goods, including food.

But Trump’s exaggerating the the price of salt-cured pork: In U.S. cities on average, the cost of sliced bacon is up by about 12% from the end of Trump’s term in office, though at one point in 2022, it was 30% more expensive than it was at the end of 2020.

Trump is correct, however, to note that food inflation is far outpacing energy costs, which fell from August 2022 to August 2023, while food prices rose 4.3%.

Did Trump’s tax cuts bring in more revenue?

Trump said he’d like to further lower corporate tax rates but said he wanted more income first.

“You have to get some income coming in. You know, when I lowered taxes, we took in more revenue,” Trump said. “When I lowered taxes, I cut taxes tremendously, created tremendous jobs, but more importantly, we had more revenue with lower taxes than we did with higher taxes.”

Tax receipts typically grow year-over-year when the economy is growing — and they did after Trump’s tax cuts too — but Trump’s claim linking his tax cuts to higher revenue is belied by independent studies. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that the law would raise the deficit by $1.4 trillion in its first decade, even after factoring its boost to economic growth. When debt service costs are included, that deficit figure grows to $1.9 trillion. And those numbers will continue to grow if the temporary tax cut in Trump’s tax law are extended.

Did Covid, not Trump, drive up the deficit?

“We had the greatest economy in history, and then we got hit with Covid. And we had to keep this, this beautiful thing going,” Trump said. “We had to do things that were very severe. We had to let some money come out.”

Trump went on to claim that deficit-reduction efforts — linked to American energy — were underway but blocked by Covid.

His argument that the national debt rose only because of Covid-19 pressures is false. The national debt rose each year during the Trump presidency — in 2017, 2018 and 2019 — before the pandemic hit in 2020, and Congress poured trillions of dollars into relief measures. Even before Covid-19 hit, the U.S. was nowhere close to paying down its debt.

That increase in debt was due to a mix of existing obligations and further fueled by Trump’s deficit-raising policies, including his tax law that Republicans passed along party lines in late 2017.

In addition, the Trump White House budgets sought higher military spending — which led to bipartisan deals in Congress that granted his wish — and boosted domestic spending to satisfy Democrats. Trump never seriously pursued in a deficit-reduction deal over his four years.

Trump claimed Democrats want to murder babies. What’s he talking about?

Asked about abortion, Trump claimed that Democrats support infanticide.

“The radical people on this are really the Democrat that say after five months, six months, seven months, eight months, nine months, and even after birth, you are allowed to terminate the baby,” he said. “You have a Virginia governor, previous governor, who said after the baby is born, you will make a determination and if you want, you will kill that baby.”

While some Democrats support broad access to abortion regardless of gestation age, infanticide is illegal and there are no Democrats advocating for it. Just one percent of abortions are performed after 21 weeks of gestation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Trump first made this claim in 2019, after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam made controversial remarks when discussing an abortion bill. NBC News debunked the claim then, reporting that Northam’s remarks were about resuscitating infants with severe deformities or nonviable pregnancies.

Asked on a radio program what happens when a woman who is going into labor desires a third-trimester abortion, Northam noted that this kind of procedure occurs only in cases of severe deformities or a nonviable pregnancy. He said that in this scenario, “the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

Did Trump build 500 miles of border wall?

“I built 500 miles of border wall,” said Trump during his interview. “I built almost 500 miles of wall.”

Almost. A Customs and Border Protection spokesman told NBC News during Trump’s final days in office that the Trump administration has built 453 miles of new “border wall system,” which includes barriers as well as patrol roads for patrol cars and other surveillance efforts.

The vast majority of it replaces pedestrian and vehicle barriers erected during previous administrations with much taller steel bollard fencing. Trump specifically and falsely claimed he was building a completely new border wall throughout much of his administration, when in fact he was replacing older fences.

Is the media ignoring the war in Ukraine?

Trump claimed in his interview that “the news is no longer reporting about the war.”

“They don’t report about the war anymore,” he continued. “You don’t find much reporting. That means that Ukraine’s losing. Okay? I see very little reporting from NBC, your network. I see very little reporting from NBC, ABC, from CBS, from anyone about the war.”

This is demonstrably false. In the last two weeks alone, NBC News has published dozens of stories and broadcasts on all platforms about the Ukraine war, including Richard Engel’s exclusive interview with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Yahidne, Ukraine, which aired on NBC News’ Nightly News, and a 60-minute NBC News NOW documentary following the lives of five Ukrainian mothers.

CBS News and ABC News have had dozens of articles and videos on their websites, too.

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