Monday, March 01, 2021

Fact-checker: Trump attacks opponents, spreads falsehoods in CPAC speech

Former President Trump attacked opponents and spread well-refuted falsehoods in his Sunday afternoon speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, his first major address since leaving office, according to fact-checkers.

"Trump's unrepentant repetition of his election fraud claims was noteworthy in light of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which Trump didn't mention," William Cummings reports for USA Today. "And his old attacks on wind energy added overblown claims that it was responsible for Texas' recent outages."

On Sunday, Trump blamed the recent power outages in Texas on iced-over wind turbines. "Traditional sources of energy such as natural gas, coal and nuclear energy systems, were responsible for nearly twice as many outages in Texas as frozen wind turbines and solar panels, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s power grid," Cummings reports. "ERCOT reported that of the 45,000 total megawatts of power that were offline statewide during the winter storm, about 30,000 consisted of thermal sources — gas, coal and nuclear plants – and 16,000 came from renewable sources. Wind only supplies about a quarter of the electricity in Texas."

Trump also "doubled down" on claims that the election was fraudulent, Cummings reports. "Had we had a fair election, the results would have been much different," Trump said. However, Cummings reports, "All 50 states certified the election results, and both state and federal judges (including Trump appointees) rejected scores of court challenges from the Trump campaign. Though isolated cases of fraud and irregularities were uncovered (as they are in every election) none came anywhere near the widespread level that would have been required to alter the result." Cummings also reports that many of the legal challenges mounted against the election results were dismissed based on their merits, meaning they didn't present enough evidence of fraud.

Trump claimed that Democrats used the pandemic as an excuse to illegally change election rules without the approval of their state legislatures. But the rule changes enacted were not illegal, Cummings notes. "Many states, including some controlled by Republicans, expanded mail-in voting in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Those changes were sparked by the very real concerns about the threat posed by the virus, which has killed more than 500,000 Americans," Cummings reports. "The U.S. Constitution leaves the manner of how elections are conducted to state legislatures. While in most cases the changes to mail-in voting were not directly approved by state legislatures, those legislatures had empowered their respective secretaries of state to make such emergency changes through legislation they approved."

The former president criticized the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, saying he's changed his advice on masking now that President Biden is in office. "First Fauci said you don’t need masks, no masks, no good. Then all of a sudden, now he wants double masks," Trump said. But that's misleading or exaggerated, Linda Qiu reports for The New York Times. Though initial government guidance on mask-wearing was "muddled," health agencies urged the practice long before Biden took office. In March 2020, Fauci said he wasn't against the general public wearing masks, but said he worried health-care workers would face a shortage if everyone wore them. By April, both Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began urging the general public to wear cloth masks, Qiu reports.

Trump made several false claims about undocumented immigration and refugees. He said his administration brought illegal border crossings to historic lows, but that's false, Qiu reports (and quotes the numbers to prove it). Trump also claimed that Biden "has effectively ordered a shutdown of ICE, halting virtually all deportations. Everyone, murderers, everybody." Though the Biden administration ordered a 100-day pause on deportations, it didn't apply to "murderers" and everybody. "In a memo in February, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it would 'focus the agency’s civil immigration enforcement and removal resources on threats to national security, border security and public safety.' That would include anyone convicted of an aggravated felony, such as murder," Qiu reports. "Moreover, deporting immigrants is not the agency’s sole function. As ICE has scaled back removal operations, it has continued to conduct investigations into other illegal activity." Trump also said "nobody knows anything about" refugees" and that the U.S. doesn't have criminal records or health records about them. That's false, Qiu reports, since mandatory background checks for refugees take one or two years to complete.

The trade war was also in the cross-hairs, as Trump said his tariffs took "billions and billions of dollars from China." But tariffs are paid for by American consumers, not China, Qiu reports. Additionally, Trump said the U.S. used to have a $504 billion trade deficit with China. But that was "a reference to the trade deficit in goods — which does not include services and is not a 'loss' — with China, which grew to $538 billion under his watch," Qiu reports.

The Times debunked several other claims Trump made during the speech about election security, the U.S. economy, and the number of jobs the Keystone XL Pipeline would provide.

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