By: sam doak
May 12 2023
On May 10, 2023, CNN hosted a town hall with former president Donald Trump. During the one-hour broadcast, Trump took questions from the audience, making a series of false and misleading claims. Logically Facts has debunked a selection of his most egregious comments.
Trump opened the town hall by addressing the 2020 presidential election. A favorite habit since his defeat, the former President repeated a number of falsehoods concerning the integrity of the electoral process. Trump baselessly told his audience that the election was rigged, citing discredited narratives by "True the Vote" – a conservative vote-monitoring organization whose leaders were jailed for contempt of court in 2022 – and falsely claiming that millions of fraudulently cast votes were counted across numerous states.
True the Vote is notorious for producing the film "2000 Mules," which attempts to convince viewers that there is evidence of widespread, coordinated electoral fraud during the 2020 election. Despite being well-received by some on the fringe right, the film’s claims have been repeatedly debunked. To date, no evidence has surfaced that supports claims the election was stolen, despite numerous court cases.
Addressing Mike Pence’s role in certifying the election results, Trump repeated a well-worn claim that Pence should have refused and empowered the states to appoint electors in his favor. This is false, as the Vice President’s role in the process is largely ceremonial, and he had no authority to change or reject results.
Since leaving office, Trump has faced a series of legal issues, culminating in being criminally charged in New York and found civilly liable for defamation and sexual abuse.
Trump addressed these developments during his appearance on CNN, particularly his recent civil case. Unrepentant, Trump rejected the jury's verdict, claiming he had never met the plaintiff and that the jury had ruled that "he didn’t rape her." The former president made broader claims about the justice system, stating that his case was "rigged" and that receiving a fair hearing in New York or Washington DC is impossible.
As proven with photographic evidence, Trump has, in fact, met E Jean Caroll, the woman who successfully sued him for sexual abuse and defamation. Despite his claim, the jury did not determine that he "did not rape" Caroll. While they concluded there was insufficient evidence to find Trump liable for such an action, this differs from conclusively stating that no such incident occurred, which is not the role of a jury.
Despite frequently complaining about his experiences with the justice system, there is no evidence that Trump’s case was "rigged" or that he was likely to be denied a fair trial in New York and Washington DC.
A persistent issue since Trump left office has been his actions during his supporters’ violent storming of the U.S. Capitol. During the town hall, Trump told viewers that he authorized the mobilization of the National Guard and that Nancy Pelosi was in charge of security. Both of these claims are false. The Capitol Police Board oversees the Capitol Police, and there is no record of Trump authorizing the mobilization of National Guard personnel. Trump denied his acting Secretary of Defence had confirmed he received no orders to deploy troops, despite this statement being widely reported.
On the actions of his supporters, Trump minimized the violent nature of the crowd, saying that "a couple" of people "probably got out of control." He then insinuated that the prosecution of rioters was politically motivated. Despite Trump’s protestations, hundreds of people have been charged for violent actions during the riot, and there is no evidence that convictions were obtained through political pressure or bias.
During his time on air, Trump was keen to tout his record on the economy, stating that he delivered the largest tax cuts in U.S. history and that the country had "no inflation" during his tenure. This is false. While substantial, the tax cuts introduced were only the eighth largest as a percentage of GDP. Trump was also incorrect on inflation. While it has been significantly higher over the last year, during Trump’s presidency, annual inflation rates ranged between 1.3-2.3%.
Trump also claimed that his administration "took in hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes from China," which is false. Throughout the Trump administration, the U.S. collected around $75 billion from tariffs on products in China. These are paid, however, by the entities importing these goods, so the cost was borne by companies operating in the United States.
Speaking on gun legislation, Trump claimed that Brazil had seen a considerable decline in gun-related violence after loosening its otherwise strict gun laws. Furthermore, Trump pointed to Chicago and New York as the places worst off regarding gun violence despite having some of the country’s strictest gun laws, suggesting that the best cure against gun violence is more guns.
Brazil did see a decline in homicides after former president Jair Bolsonaro loosened the country’s gun laws. However, the decline probably had little to do with the relaxing of laws, criminologists told The Washington Post last year, citing recessions in drug cartel conflicts, decades of investment in policing, and an aging population as more likely explanations.
In the U.S., Illinois and New York, the home states of Chicago and New York City are considered to have some of the country’s strictest gun laws. However, contrary to Trump’s claims, both states also rank low in gun-related deaths when considering population size.
According to the Giffords Law Center, a left-leaning organization with the declared goal of ending gun violence, Illinois does see more gun-related deaths than states with equally strict gun laws, ranking 26th among all 50 states.
On the subject of abortion, Trump claimed that prior to last year’s Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, it was legal to kill a fetus in the ninth month of pregnancy or even after the baby was born.
Although in theory, abortions in the ninth month of pregnancy possible, this is extremely rare and typically only occur because of significant fetal abnormality, experts told the Associated Press. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that only 1 percent of abortions in 2019 occurred later than the 20th week of pregnancy.
Trump went on to claim that, when speaking on abortion, a former governor of Virginia had once stated that "the baby will be born and then we will decide essentially whether or not to execute the baby."
According to Reuters, the claim about former Virginia Governor Ralph Northam likely comes from remarks Northam made in a radio interview where he talked about third-trimester abortions. A spokesperson for the governor stressed afterward that the Governor had not been referring to infanticide.
Speaking on the war between Russia and Ukraine, Trump claimed that the U.S. "are giving away so much equipment we don’t have ammunition for ourselves."
However, military aid to Ukraine amounts to only a fraction of the Pentagon’s defense budget of 858 billion dollars. The U.S. Defense Department is currently spending billions of dollars to increase military production.
Trump also claimed the U.S. had provided 171 billion dollars in aid to Ukraine. However, according to the Kiel Institute, which tracks countries’ aid to Ukraine, the U.S. has provided 78 billion dollars in total aid, by far the most of any country.
Touching upon the classified documents that Trump had kept at his Mar-a-Lago residence after his presidency was over, Trump claimed that he had every right under the Presidential Records Act to remove documents from the White House.
In fact, the Presidential Records Act states that upon the conclusion of a President’s term, the National Archives and Records Administration assumes legal custody and control of all presidential records from the period.
This means that as soon as Joe Biden took office on January 20, 2021, the documents Trump kept at Mar-a-Lago were the property of the National Archives and not, as Trump argues, his to keep.