AP FACT CHECK: Trump clings to his core election falsehoods

·6 min read

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump clung to his core election falsehoods in his first post-presidential speech, wrongly blamed wind power for the catastrophic power failures in Texas and revived a variety of the baseless claims that saturated his time in office, on immigration, the economy and more.

A look at Trump's remarks Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference:

WIND POWER

TRUMP, assailing Democrats on energy policy: "The windmill calamity that we’re witnessing in Texas ... it’s so sad when you look at it. That will just be the start.”

TRUMP, on President Joe Biden: "He wants windmills. ... The windmills that don’t work when you need them.”

THE FACTS: “Windmill calamity” is a false characterization. The power outages during the severe February storm in Texas were primarily due to failures in natural gas, coal and nuclear energy systems, not wind and solar.

Those traditional sources were responsible for nearly twice as many outages as frozen wind turbines and solar panels, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s power grid.

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.

“It’s not like we were relying on it to ride us through this event,” Joshua Rhodes, a research associate at the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin, said of wind power. “Nor would it have been able to save us even if it were operating at 100% capacity right now. We just don’t have enough of it.”

Wind power comes from turbines, not windmills. Windmills grind grain. Trump always gets that wrong.

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ELECTION

TRUMP: “Had we had a fair election, the results would’ve been much different."

TRUMP: "You cannot have a situation where ballots are indiscriminately pouring in from all over the country ... where illegal aliens and dead people are voting.”

TRUMP: “This election was rigged and the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.”

TRUMP on Democrats: “They just lost the White House. ... I may even decide to beat them for a third time.”

THE FACTS: All of this is flatly wrong, except it is true that the high court did not intervene, because the justices — Trump nominees among them — saw no reason to.

Biden won the election. It was run and counted fairly. His victory was affirmed in Congress, with Trump's vice-president presiding over the process in the Senate, in the hours after the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection by a mob stoked by Trump.

Trump’s allegations of massive voting fraud were either refuted or brushed off as groundless by a variety of judges, state election officials, an arm of his own administration’s Homeland Security Department, and his own attorney general. His campaign’s lawsuits across the country were thrown out of court or otherwise came to nothing.

No case established irregularities of a scale that would change the outcome — no flood of dead people voting or ballots “indiscriminately pouring in from all over the country."

Biden earned 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232, the same margin that Trump had when he beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, which he repeatedly described as a “landslide.” (Trump ended up with 304 electoral votes because two electors defected.)

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IMMIGRATION

TRUMP, on foreign countries that are the source of migrants to the U.S.: "They're not giving us their best and their finest.”

THE FACTS: This falsehood goes way back in the Trump administration. Foreign countries do not select people to send to the U.S. That is not at all how immigration works.

He is referring to the diversity visa lottery program, although he did not identify it as such in these remarks. As president, Trump routinely assailed the program, mischaracterizing it as one in which other countries pick out undesirable citizens to send to the U.S.

The U.S. government runs the visa program and foreigners who want to come to the U.S. apply for it. The program requires applicants to have completed a high school education or have at least two years of experience in the last five years in a selection of fields identified by the Labor Department.

Out of that pool of people from certain countries who meet those conditions, the State Department randomly selects a much smaller pool of winners. Not all winners will have visas ultimately approved. It's not a pipeline for countries to send their troublemakers to the U.S.

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CHINA

TRUMP: “We took in hundreds of billions of dollars from China during my administration. They never gave us 10 cents.”

THE FACTS: False and false, and very familiar.

It’s false to say the U.S. never collected a dime in tariffs on Chinese goods before he took action. They are simply higher in some cases than they were before.

It’s also wrong to say the tariffs are being paid by China. Tariff money coming into the treasury is mainly from U.S. businesses and consumers, not from China. Tariffs are primarily if not entirely a tax paid domestically.

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ECONOMY

TRUMP: “We built the strongest economy in the history of the world.”

THE FACTS: No, the numbers show it wasn’t the greatest in U.S. history, much less in the history of the world. He was actually the first president since Herbert Hoover in the Depression to leave office with fewer jobs than when he started.

The U.S. did have the most jobs on record before the pandemic, but population growth explains part of that. The 3.5% unemployment rate before the pandemic-induced recession was at a half-century low, but the percentage of people working or searching for jobs was still below a 2000 peak.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer looked at Trump’s economic growth record. Growth under Trump averaged 2.48% annually before the pandemic, only slightly better than the 2.41% gains achieved during Barack Obama’s second term. By contrast, the economic expansion that began in 1982 during Ronald Reagan’s presidency averaged 4.2% a year.

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Yen reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writer Josh Boak contributed to this report.

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EDITOR'S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.

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Hope Yen And Calvin Woodward, The Associated Press