Trump ac­cel­er­ates his flood of mis­in­for­ma­tion in weeks lead­ing up to midterms

The Washington Post Sunday - - ELECTION 2018 - GLENN KESSLER glenn.kessler@wash­post.com

If Pres­i­dent Trump’s tor­rent of words has seemed over­whelm­ing of late, there’s a good rea­son for that.

In the first nine months of his pres­i­dency, Trump made 1,318 false or mis­lead­ing claims, an av­er­age of five a day. But in the seven weeks lead­ing up the midterm elec­tions, the pres­i­dent made 1,419 false or mis­lead­ing claims — an av­er­age of 30 a day.

Com­bined with the rest of his pres­i­dency, that adds up to a to­tal of 6,420 claims through Oct. 30, the 649th day of his pres­i­dency, ac­cord­ing to The Fact Checker’s data­base that an­a­lyzes, cat­e­go­rizes and tracks ev­ery sus­pect state­ment ut­tered by the pres­i­dent.

The flood of pres­i­den­tial mis­in­for­ma­tion has picked up dra­mat­i­cally as the pres­i­dent has barn­stormed across the coun­try, hold­ing ral­lies with his sup­port­ers. Each of those ral­lies usu­ally yields 35 to 45 sus­pect claims. But the pres­i­dent of­ten has tacked on in­ter­views with lo­cal me­dia (in which he re­peats the same false state­ments) and gag­gles with the White House press corps be­fore and af­ter his trips.

So that adds up to 84 claims on Oct. 1, when he held a rally in John­son City, Tenn.; 83 claims on Oct. 22, when he held a rally in Hous­ton; and 78 claims on Oct. 19, when he held a rally in Mesa, Ariz.

Put an­other way: Septem­ber was the sec­ond-big­gest month of the Trump pres­i­dency, with 599 false and mis­lead­ing claims. But that paled next to Oc­to­ber, with al­most dou­ble: 1,104 claims, not count­ing Oct. 31.

The bur­den of keep­ing track of this ver­biage has con­sumed the week­ends and nights of The Fact Checker staff. We orig­i­nally had planned to in­clude Oct. 31 in this up­date, but the prospect of wad­ing through 20 tweets and the nearly 10,000 words Trump spoke that day was too daunt­ing for our dead­line.

The pres­i­dent’s pro­cliv­ity to twist data and fab­ri­cate sto­ries is on full dis­play at his ral­lies. He has his great­est hits: 120 times he had falsely said he passed the big­gest tax cut in his­tory, 80 times he has as­serted the U.S. econ­omy to­day is the best in his­tory and 74 times he has falsely said his bor­der wall is al­ready be­ing built. (Congress has al­lo­cated only $1.6 bil­lion for fenc­ing, but Trump also fre­quently men­tioned ad­di­tional fund­ing that has not yet been ap­pro­pri­ated.)

But there are many cu­ri­ous mo­ments, too, sug­gest­ing the pres­i­dent is walled off from con­tra­dic­tory in­for­ma­tion.

In an in­ter­view with the Wall Street Jour­nal, Trump em­phat­i­cally de­nied he had im­posed many tar­iffs. “I mean, other than some tar­iffs on steel — which is ac­tu­ally small, what do we have? . . . Where do we have tar­iffs? We don’t have tar­iffs any­where,” he in­sisted. The news­pa­per re­sponded by print­ing a list of $305 bil­lion tar­iffs on many types of U.S. im­ports.

Nearly 25 times, he has claimed Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett M. Ka­vanaugh was No. 1 in his class at Yale Univer­sity or at Yale Law School. The law school does not rank, and Ka­vanaugh grad­u­ated cum laude from the col­lege — the third level, be­low summa cum laude and magna cum laude. At the time, Yale granted honors rather lib­er­ally, so nearly 50 per­cent of the class grad­u­ated with honors, with half of those cum laude.

This is one of those facts that can be eas­ily checked with a Google search, yet the pres­i­dent per­sists with his false­hood.

Sim­i­larly, Trump at­tacked Richard Cor­dray, a Demo­crat run­ning for gov­er­nor in Ohio, for hav­ing spent $250 mil­lion on ren­o­vat­ing the build­ing for the agency he once ran, the Con­sumer Fi­nan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau. That was al­most dou­ble the ac­tual cost. Oddly, Trump added that af­ter Cor­dray spent “$50 mil­lion on some el­e­va­tors, it turned out they didn’t work.”

Trump lives in ex­pen­sive hous­ing, but that’s a fan­tasy. The most ex­pen­sive el­e­va­tor ever is the 1,070-foot-high Bai­long El­e­va­tor, set in a Chi­nese mountain range. It cost $20 mil­lion.

Thir­teen times, Trump in­vented whole-cloth sto­ries about Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal (D-Conn.), the lead plain­tiff in a steadily ad­vanc­ing law­suit that could open up the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s books to law­mak­ers. Trump falsely claimed Blu­men­thal said he was a war hero and fought in Vietnam’s Danang prov­ince. “We call him ‘Danang Richard.’ ‘Danang’ — that’s his nick­name,” Trump said. Blu­men­thal de­scribed his mil­i­tary record in mis­lead­ing or false terms on a few oc­ca­sions be­fore he was elected to the Se­nate in 2010, but he never said he fought in the the­ater. Trump also said Blu­men­thal dropped out of the Se­nate race (no), barely won any­way (no) and was cry­ing when he apol­o­gized (no).

“It’s like lib­er­at­ing, like a war, like there’s a for­eign in­va­sion. And they oc­cupy your coun­try. And then you get them out through what­ever. And they call it lib­er­a­tion,” Trump de­clared in Mosi­nee, Wis., on Oct. 24. Some au­di­ence mem­bers be­gan yelling, “Get the hell out.”

This dystopian vi­sion of a vi­o­lent gang over­run­ning cities and towns across the United States is di­vorced from re­al­ity. MS-13 op­er­ates in a few ar­eas such as Los An­ge­les, Long Island, N.Y., and the Wash­ing­ton re­gion. It’s a gross ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say towns are be­ing lib­er­ated from MS-13, as if they had been cap­tured.

Most strik­ing, the tone of Trump’s at­tacks on Democrats es­ca­lated the closer the elec­tion ap­proached. The pres­i­dent al­ways had slammed Democrats, but his rhetoric be­came sharper and in­creas­ingly in­ac­cu­rate in recent weeks.

“They want to erase our gains and plunge our coun­try into a night­mare of grid­lock, poverty, chaos and, frankly, crime, be­cause that’s what comes with it,” he said on Oct. 4. “The Demo­crat Party is rad­i­cal so­cial­ism, Venezuela and open bor­ders. It’s now called, to me — you’ve never heard this be­fore, the party of crime. It’s a party of crime, it’s what it is. And to pay for their so­cial­ism, which is go­ing to de­stroy our coun­try.”

On Oct. 18, in Mis­soula, Mont., Trump falsely said no one even chal­lenges his de­scrip­tion of the Democrats as the party of crime. “Democrats have be­come the party of crime. It’s true. Who would be­lieve you could say that and no­body even chal­lenges it. No­body’s ever chal­lenged it,” he said.

But then he had an un­usual mo­ment of doubt. “Maybe they have. Who knows? I have to al­ways say that, be­cause then they’ll say they did ac­tu­ally chal­lenge it, and they’ll put like — then they’ll say he gets a Pinoc­chio. So maybe they did chal­lenge it, but not very much.”

EVAN VUCCI/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Head­ing to ral­lies in Mon­tana and Florida, Pres­i­dent Trump boards Air Force One on Satur­day.

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