Fact check: Trump falsely claims Melania Trump has ‘gotten to know Kim Jong Un’

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Trump made at least eight false claims, seven of which he had made before. (The new one was an odd claim about Melania Trump and Kim Jong Un.) And he made at least five claims that we’ll call misleading, questionable or lacking in context.

“The first lady has gotten to know Kim Jong Un, and I think she would agree with me he is a man with a country that has tremendous potential,” Trump said.

Facts First: Melania Trump was not present for any of Trump’s three meetings with Kim Jong Un, and there is no evidence she has ever spoken to Kim.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement later Monday: “President Trump confides in his wife on many issues including the detailed elements of his strong relationship with Chairman Kim — and while the First Lady hasn’t met him, the President feels like she’s gotten to know him too.”

We’re still calling the statement false. Trump’s phrasing, “gotten to know,” clearly suggested some level of personal interaction between Melania Trump and Kim.

The Iran deal and money

Trump said, of the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, that “we gave them $150 billion.”

Facts First: It was not US government money in the first place, and the “$150 billion” figure is an exaggeration. Although the Iran nuclear deal allowed the country to access tens of billions in its own assets that had been frozen in foreign financial institutions because of sanctions, experts say the total was significantly lower than $150 billion.
In 2015, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew put the number at $56 billion. You can read a fuller fact check on this claim here.

The expiration of the Iran deal

Trump said the nuclear agreement is “almost expiring, if you think about it.”

Facts First: While some central provisions were written to expire in the next 10 to 15 years, the deal as a whole — including a blanket prohibition on Iran developing nuclear weapons — was written to continue in perpetuity.

The trade deficit with the European Union

Trump said: “The EU is another one: we’ve been losing $180 billion a year for many years.”

Facts First: The trade deficit with the European Union was $114 billion in 2018, $101 billion in 2017, $93 billion in 2016.

The trade deficit with China

Trump said that China had been “taking” $500 billion from the US for “many, many years” and “every single year.”

Facts First: The trade deficit with China has never been $500 billion. It was $381 billion in 2018 when counting goods and services, $420 billion when counting goods alone.

We’ll ignore Trump’s description of the trade deficit as China “taking” money out of the US, which is rejected by most economists.

Revenue from tariffs on China

Trump said of China: “We have billions and billions coming in.” He also said: “The United States, which has never collected 10 cents from China, will in a fairly short period of time be over $100 billion in tariffs.”

Facts First: Americans make the actual tariff payments, not people in China, and economic studies have concluded that the overwhelming majority of the costs are being eaten by Americans. (Some Chinese exporters are also bearing some of the costs, but it’s certainly not true that they are doing so alone.) It is also not true that the US has never before generated revenue from tariffs on Chinese products: the government had tariffs on China for more than two centuries.
Also, while the tariffs on China might well generate more than $100 billion at some point, that will not happen immediately; the figure was $21 billion as of July, The New York Times reported.

Asian American unemployment

Trump claimed again that unemployment for Asian Americans is at the lowest rate “ever.”

Facts First: While the unemployment rate for Asian Americans hit a low earlier in Trump’s term, the rate in July, 2.8%, was higher than it was in the last full month of Obama’s term, 2.6%.

Energy production

“I feel that the United States has tremendous wealth. The wealth is under its feet. I’ve made that wealth come alive. We will soon be one of the — we will soon be exporting — in fact, we’re actually doing it now. Exporting. But we are now the number one energy producer in the world and soon it will be by far, with a couple of pipelines that have not been able to get approved for many, many years,” Trump said.

Facts First: Contrary to Trump’s suggestion here, the US has not just “now” become the world’s top energy producer: It took the top spot in 2012 under Obama, according to the US government’s Energy Information Administration. The US became the top producer of crude oil in particular during Trump’s tenure.
“The United States has been the world’s top producer of natural gas since 2009, when US natural gas production surpassed that of Russia, and it has been the world’s top producer of petroleum hydrocarbons since 2013, when its production exceeded Saudi Arabia’s,” the Energy Information Administration says.

Misleading, questionable or lacking-in-context claims

Environmental impact statements

“I’m an environmentalist. A lot of people don’t understand that. I have done more environmental impact statements probably than anybody that — I guess I can say definitely, because I’ve done many, many, many of them. More than anybody that’s ever been president or vice president or anything even close to president,” Trump said.

Facts First: Trump’s administration has made a systematic effort to eliminate or weaken environmental regulations. Doing environmental impact statements is not evidence of environmentalism; such statements are required by governments for big development projects.

Trump is the first president or vice president to be a major commercial real estate developer, so it is likely true that he has been involved in more environmental impact statements than the others. But this certainly does not make him the foremost environmentalist in the bunch.

Ireland and the UK

Asked about trade relations with the United Kingdom, Trump said: “I love the UK. I own great property in the UK. I love the UK. I have no idea how my property is doing because I don’t care. But I own Turnberry and I own in Aberdeen and I own in Ireland as you know, Doonbeg.”

Facts First: Ireland, where Trump’s Doonbeg golf club is located, is not part of the United Kingdom.

We won’t call the claim false because it is possible Trump was trying to distinguish his Ireland golf property from the others. But this wouldn’t be the first time Trump suggested he thought Ireland was part of the UK; he also did so last year.

His wealth

Asked about concerns about him profiting from the presidency, given his intention to hold a G7 summit at his Doral resort in Florida next year, Trump said, “I’ve spent — and I think I will, in a combination of loss and opportunity, probably it’ll cost me anywhere from 3 to 5 billion to be president.”
Facts First: We can’t fact-check what might have happened in an alternative scenario in which Trump did not become president, but we should note that Trump has presented no evidence to support this claim. Forbes magazine, which estimates the net worth of the super-wealthy, says the claim is “absurd,” and that “Trump is not losing $3 billion to $5 billion.”

The magazine estimates that his fortune has fallen from $4.5 billion in 2015 to $3.1 billion.

Russia, Crimea and Obama

Trump repeated his claim that Russia was suspended from the G8 because of Barack Obama’s personal embarrassment about being “outsmarted” by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea.

“It was sort of taken away from President Obama. Not taken away from President Trump, taken away from President Obama. President Obama was not happy that this happened because it was embarrassing to him, right? It was very embarrassing to him. And he wanted Russia to be out of the — what was called the G8. And that was his determination. He was outsmarted by Putin. He was outsmarted,” Trump said.

Facts First: Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine. While we can’t definitively fact-check a claim about Obama’s personal feelings about Putin’s move, Russia’s suspension from the G8 was a joint decision of the G8.

Russia’s ouster was endorsed by not only Obama, but the leaders of Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy.

Trade dealings with China

Trump said of his relationship with China: “We’ve had many calls. Secretary Mnuchin is here, and you’ve had many calls over the last 24 hours, but certainly over the last 48 hours. We’ve had many calls, not just one. These are high-level calls.”

Facts First: A spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry said earlier in the day that he was “not aware” of any new phone calls between the two countries. (Reuters noted that China’s Commerce Ministry, not the Foreign Ministry, is the entity that usually provides statements on trade calls, but it had not done so as of 5 p.m. ET on Monday.)
Mnuchin, Trump’s treasury secretary, said there had indeed been “communications” and “discussions,” but he would not confirm that there were actual phone calls. We will update this item if additional information emerges.





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