President Trump talked with TIME Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer for an interview about the use of truth and falsehoods in his political career.
In a 20-minute phone conversation, Trump doubled down on some of his past controversial statements, but as Scherer noted in this week’s cover story, he also showed the “telltale sign of a veteran and strategic misleader who knows enough to leave himself an escape route when he tosses a bomb.”
“Trump has in this way brought to the Oval Office an entirely different set of assumptions about the proper behavior of a public official, and introduced to the country entirely new rules for public debate,” Scherer wrote.
Here’s a look at some of the statements Trump made during the interview and the facts behind them.
The claim that 3 million people voted illegally in 2016
What Trump said: After votes in the 2016 general election revealed that Trump’s rival former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote by more than 2 million ballots, the President began suggesting that he would have won the popular vote if “you deduct the millions who voted illegally.” In his conversation with TIME on March 22, the President repeated that claim, arguing it might be even more than that, though he also softened the claim to say that many of them may have just registered to vote improperly or illegally. “We are going to do a study on it, a very serious problem,” he said.
The facts: There is no factual evidence that millions voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election. In fact, widespread voter fraud is rare and there were only a handful of cases of fraud in the 2016 election. PolitiFact and Washington Post fact checkers have labeled the President’s claim as false—the former called the claim “pants on fire“—based on interviews with the presumed sources of Trump’s information and data provided by election officials in several states.
The claim that President Obama ‘wiretapped’ Trump Tower
What Trump said: In the early morning hours on a Saturday in March, Trump tweeted that President Obama had ordered a “wiretap” on his New York City apartment, calling his predecessor a “bad (or sick)” person. The President later said that because wiretap was in quotes in his tweets, he was talking about a broad range of surveillance. In the interview Trump also cited a claim from Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News pundit, that Obama asked British intelligence services to conduct the surveillance. In his interview with TIME, Trump said “I have a lot of respect for Judge Napolitano, and he said that three sources have told him things that would make me right. I don’t know where he has gone with it since then. But I’m quoting highly respected people from highly respected television networks.”
The Facts: In sworn testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Monday, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations said there is no evidence that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. Fox News anchor Shep Smith said the organization “knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-President of the United States was surveilled at any time, in any way.” The Los Angeles Times has reported Napolitano was taken off the air over the claims. The British intelligence agency, the GCHQ, has called the report “utterly ridiculous.”
The claim that a Republican lawmaker proved him right on wiretapping
What Trump said: Trump also cited statements made by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes in his efforts to defend his wiretap claims. “Nunes said, so that means I’m right, Nunes said the surveillance appears to have been … incidental collection, that does not appear to have been related to concerns over Russia,” Trump told TIME.
The Facts: In a conference with reporters on Wednesday, Nunes said there was evidence that conversations between Trump campaign associates were “incidentally” collected during ongoing surveillance being conducted on other people. The chairman said the intelligence gathering is outside of the investigation into ties with Russia and said some of Trump’s personal communications could have been picked up as well. But Nunes did not say the President was surveilled under Obama’s orders and has said there is no evidence that Trump was wiretapped.
The claim that Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was associated with Lee Harvey Oswald
What Trump said: “Well that was in a newspaper. No, no, I like Ted Cruz, he’s a friend of mine. But that was in the newspaper. I wasn’t, I didn’t say that. I was referring to a newspaper. A Ted Cruz article referred to a newspaper story with, had a picture of Ted Cruz, his father, and Lee Harvey Oswald, having breakfast.”
The Facts: The newspaper President Trump is referring to is the National Enquirer, a tabloid famous for its unconventional editorial standards. Cruz and his representatives have repeatedly denounced Trump’s claims. In May, Cruz said, “let’s be clear, this is nuts. This is not a reasonable position, this is just kooky.” At the time, a Cruz campaign spokesperson called it “another garbage story in a tabloid full of garbage.” Alice Stewart went on to say,“the story is false; that is not Rafael in the picture.” For what it’s worth, PolitiFact also rated the claim “pants on fire” after consulting with facial-recognition experts.
The claim that thousands of Muslims celebrated in New Jersey after 9/11
What Trump said: During the primary, Trump said he watched the cheering on television. He said, “there were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down.” In the interview with TIME, he defended it by saying, “well if you look at the reporter, he wrote the story in the Washington Post.”
The Facts: An early 2000s report by MTV debunked the claims. The Washington Post fact checked the then-candidate’s claims, revealing that the buried reference did not indicate “thousands” were cheering.