Breaking News Emails
From sweeping mischaracterizations of the Russia investigation to petty fibs about the size of his inauguration crowd, President Donald Trump told many tall tales to the American people this year.
Here are the nine biggest falsehoods of Trump's presidency so far.
Breaking News Emails
1. More people watched the inauguration than ever before
“The overall audience was, I think, the biggest ever to watch an inauguration address, which was a great thing,” the president said on Jan. 26, six days after he was sworn in.
Ample evidence refutes this claim. From the crowds to the television ratings, Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration attracted a bigger audience than Trump’s.
The White House said 720,000 people attended the Jan. 20 inauguration in person, while Trump estimated 1.5 million. Both figures were disputed by fact checkers. But even if you take the White House at face value, that's still fewer than the 1.8 million who attended Obama’s first inauguration — the District of Columbia's estimate.
Approximately 30.6 million people tuned in to watch Trump’s inauguration on television, down from the 37.8 million viewers who watched Obama’s 2009 inauguration. (Ronald Reagan's 1981 inauguration still holds the record, with 41.8 million TV viewers.)
The White House spokesman at the time, Sean Spicer, pointed to 17 million streaming starts of the inauguration reported by CNN, suggesting it was live streaming that made it the “largest audience to witness an inauguration, period.”
These numbers aren’t an exact science — a page reloading counts as a second stream, as does an accidental click, and most networks did not release streaming numbers — but that same inexact science showed bigger numbers for Obama. In 2009, even amid the early days of live streaming, CNN reported 21 million streams for Obama's inauguration.
2. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote because of fraud
Millions of illegal votes cost the president the popular vote, Trump told lawmakers in a meeting on Jan. 23.
There is no evidence that there were millions of fraudulent ballots cast, let alone enough to make up the nearly 3 million votes separating Clinton and Trump in the popular vote. Voter fraud is extremely rare, and the president appears to have acknowledged the reality of the 2016 election at least once — in legal filings.
“All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake,” his own lawyers wrote in a court filing opposing the recount efforts by a third party, as posted by The Washington Post.
3. Michael Flynn didn't do 'anything wrong'
"When I looked at the information, I said, I don't think he did anything wrong. If anything, he did something right,” Trump said in an interview on Feb. 16. “The thing is, he didn’t tell our vice president properly.”
After asking for the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn — Trump said he did so for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his sanctions-related discussions with Russian officials — the president said his adviser had done nothing wrong.
But Flynn had done something "wrong," and Trump knew about at least some part of it 18 days before he fired Flynn. The White House was informed in meetings on Jan. 26 and Jan. 27 that Flynn had exposed himself to blackmail by lying to the vice president about his conversations with Russians, the acting attorney general at the time, Sally Yates, later testified under oath. Trump was briefed by the White House attorney on Jan. 26, NBC News reported.
"We felt like it was critical that we get this information to the White House, in part because the vice president was unknowingly making false statements to the public and because we believed that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians," Yates said.
Flynn also committed a crime when he lied about the same conversation to the FBI, and he pleaded guilty to doing so as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia. The president’s lawyers won’t say whether Trump knew Flynn had lied to the FBI at the time of Flynn's firing.
4. 'Look what's happening last night in Sweden'
"We've got to keep our country safe. You look at what's happening in Germany, you look what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this?" Trump said Feb. 18.
The truth? Nothing happened "last night in Sweden."
Trump, criticizing Europe's refugee policy at a rally in defense of his travel ban, appeared to invent a terrorist attack in Sweden to make his point.
According to the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, the Friday night in question was marked by mostly unremarkable news including an alleged drunken driver, an avalanche warning and a famous singer having technical problems in rehearsal.
5. Obama bugged Trump Tower
On March 4, Trump tweeted that his predecessor had wiretapped him.
This is false.
On March 5, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told NBC News in an exclusive interview that "there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign."
Later, the Justice Department confirmed this in a lawsuit in September saying that the department and the FBI “have no records related to wiretaps as described."
6. Russia investigation is 'a made-up story'
“You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,” the president told NBC News’ Lester Holt on May 11.
"This Russia thing" is very real.
The U.S. intelligence community confirmed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in a interagency report released in early January, and the FBI was investigating Russian efforts to aid the president before the outcome of the election was decided, The New York Times reported. A probe is being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller — in which four former Trump campaign officials have already been charged — while the House and Senate intelligence committees continue to investigate as well.
What's more, Trump was warned by the FBI in the weeks after he secured the Republican nomination that Russians would try and infiltrate his campaign.
And despite the Trump team’s insistence that they had no ties to Russia, The Washington Post reported that at least nine people in his circle had contact with Russians during the campaign and transition.
Those include Flynn (who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI); a foreign policy adviser named George Papadopoulos (also charged as part of Mueller's probe); former campaign chairman Paul Manafort (charged on multiple counts, including conspiracy against the U.S.); Trump's oldest son, Donald Jr.; Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner; Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen; and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was an adviser and U.S. senator during the campaign.
7. Counterprotesters in Charlottesville lacked a permit
“There were people in that rally — and I looked the night before — if you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day it looked like they had some rough, bad people — neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them. But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest, and very legally protest — because I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit,” Trump said Aug. 15.
These comments — an apparent efforts to defend the white nationalists who rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia — set off a political firestorm. They were also false.
There were two protests that weekend: one on Friday at the University of Virginia, and the other on Saturday in a park near the Robert E. Lee statue in question. The first required no permits — it began on the UVA campus, where none are needed — and at the second, both groups had permits. The Washington Post published the counterprotesters' permit, with some personal information removed, and an NBC affiliate reported on the white nationalist group's permit here. Anti-white nationalist protesters did not rally without permission.
And counter to Trump's defense, the white nationalists were also not particularly quiet in the first protest Friday. Men with torches marched while chanting “blood and soil” — a Nazi slogan — and “Jews will not replace us.”
8. America pays the most in taxes
"We pay more tax than anybody in the world. We’re going to reduce taxes," Trump said Aug. 10.
This was one of Trump's most frequent complaints on the campaign trail and one of his most repeated falsehoods.
Tax experts say that no matter how you do the math, Americans do not pay more in taxes than their international peers.
9. Tax reform will 'cost me a fortune'
Tax reform “is going to cost me a fortune — this thing, believe me, believe me, this is not good for me,” the president told a Missouri crowd on Nov. 29.
This is false. An NBC News analysis of the House tax plan — the only piece of tax-related legislation that had passed in Congress at the time of Trump's statement — found that it would personally save the president $20 million. His family was estimated to save more than $1 billion based on his reported wealth and his 2005 tax return, the only publicly available return.
The tax bill has been modified since then, but the president still stands to gain personally: His limited liability companies will be taxed at a lower rate, thanks to the changes on how pass-through income is treated, while the larger commercial real estate industry is expected to significantly benefit.