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As president, Donald Trump made some of his most thoroughly dishonest speeches at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. As he embarks on another campaign for the presidency, Trump delivered another CPAC doozy Saturday night. Trump’s lengthy address to the right-wing gathering in Maryland was filled with wildly inaccurate claims about his own presidency, Joe Biden’s presidency, foreign affairs, crime, elections and other subjects. Here is a fact check of 23 of the false claims Trump made. (And that’s far from the total.) Crime and civil unrest Crime in Manhattan While Trump criticized Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who has been investigating Trump’s company, he claimed that “killings are taking place at a number like nobody’s ever seen, right in Manhattan.” It isn’t even close to true that Manhattan is experiencing a number of killings that nobody has ever seen. The region classified by the New York Police Department as Manhattan North had 43 reported murders in 2022; that region had 379 reported murders in 1990 and 306 murders in 1993. The Manhattan South region had 35 reported murders in 2022 versus 124 reported murders in 1990 and 86 murders in 1993. New York City as a whole is also nowhere near record homicide levels; the city had 438 reported murders in 2022 versus 2,262 in 1990 and 1,927 in 1993. Manhattan North had just eight reported murders this year through February 19, while Manhattan South had one. The city as a whole had 49 reported murders. The National Guard and Minnesota Talking about rioting amid racial justice protests after the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020, Trump claimed he had been ready to send in the National Guard in Seattle, then added, “We saved Minneapolis. The thing is, we’re not supposed to do that. Because it’s up to the governor, the Democrat governor. They never want any help. They don’t mind – it’s almost like they don’t mind to have their cities and states destroyed. There’s something wrong with these people.” Facts First: This is a reversal of reality. Minnesota’s Democratic governor, Tim Walz, not Trump, was the one who deployed the Minnesota National Guard during the 2020 unrest; Walz first activated the Guard more than seven hours before Trump publicly threatened to deploy the Guard himself. Walz’s office told CNN in 2020 that the governor activated the Guard in response to requests from officials in Minneapolis and St. Paul – cities also run by Democrats. Trump has repeatedly made the false claim that he was the one who sent the Guard to Minneapolis. You can read a longer fact check, from 2020, here. Trump’s executive order on monuments Trump boasted that he had taken effective action as president to stop the destruction of statues and memorials. He claimed: “I passed and signed an executive order. Anybody that does that gets 10 years in jail, with no negotiation – it’s not ’10’ but it turns into three months.” He added: “But we passed it. It was a very old law, and we found it – one of my very good legal people along with [adviser] Stephen Miller, they found it. They said, ‘Sir, I don’t know if you want to try and bring this back.’ I said. ‘I do.’” Facts First: Trump’s claim is false. He did not create a mandatory 10-year sentence for people who damage monuments. In fact, his 2020 executive order did not mandate any increase in sentences. Rather, the executive order simply directed the attorney general to “prioritize” investigations and prosecutions of monument-destruction cases and declared that it is federal policy to prosecute such cases to the fullest extent permitted under existing law, including an existing law that allowed a sentence of up to 10 years in prison for willfully damaging federal property. The executive order did nothing to force judges to impose a 10-year sentence. Vandalism in Portland Trump claimed, “How’s Portland doing? They don’t even have storefronts anymore. Everything’s two-by-four’s because they get burned down every week.” Facts First: This is a major exaggeration. Portland obviously still has hundreds of active storefronts, though it has struggled with downtown commercial vacancies for various reasons, and some businesses are sometimes vandalized by protesters. Trump has for years exaggerated the extent of property damage from protest vandalism in Portland. Russia, Ukraine and NATO Russian expansionism Boasting of his foreign policy record, Trump claimed, “I was also the only president where Russia didn’t take over a country during my term.” Facts First: While it’s true that Russia didn’t take over a country during Trump’s term, it’s not true that he was the only US president under whom Russia didn’t take over a country. “Totally false,” Michael Khodarkovsky, a Loyola University Chicago history professor who is an expert on Russian imperialism, said in an email. “If by Russia he means the current Russian Federation that existed since 1991, then the best example is Clinton, 1992-98. During this time Russia fought a war in Chechnya, but Chechnya was not a country but one of Russia’s regions.” Khodarkovsky added, “If by Russia he means the USSR, as people often do, then from 1945, when the USSR occupied much of Eastern Europe until 1979, when USSR invaded Afghanistan, Moscow did not take over any new country. It only sent forces into countries it had taken over in 1945 (Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968).” NATO funding Trump said while talking about NATO funding: “And I told delinquent foreign nations – they were delinquent, they weren’t paying their bills – that if they wanted our protection, they had to pay up, and they had to pay up now.” Facts First: It’s not true that NATO countries weren’t paying “bills” until Trump came along or that they were “delinquent” in the sense of failing to pay bills – as numerous fact-checkers pointed out when Trump repeatedly used such language during his presidency. NATO members haven’t been failing to pay their share of the organization’s common budget to run the organization. And while it’s true that most NATO countries were not (and still are not) meeting NATO’s target of each country spending a minimum of 2% of gross domestic product on defense, that 2% figure is what NATO calls a “guideline”; it is not some sort of binding contract, and it does not create liabilities. An official NATO recommitment to the 2% guideline in 2014 merely said that members not currently at that level would “aim to move towards the 2% guideline within a decade.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg did credit Trump for securing increases in European NATO members’ defense spending, but it’s worth noting that those countries’ spending had also increased in the last two years of the Obama administration following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and the recommitment that year to the 2% guideline. NATO notes on its website that 2022 was “the eighth consecutive year of rising defence spending across European Allies and Canada.” NATO’s existence Boasting of how he had secured additional funding for NATO from countries, Trump claimed, “Actually, NATO wouldn’t even exist if I didn’t get them to pay up.” Facts First: This is nonsense. There was never any indication that NATO, created in 1949, would have ceased to exist in the early 2020s without additional funding from some members. The alliance was stable even with many members not meeting the alliance’s guideline of having members spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense. We don’t often fact-check claims about what might have happened in an alternative scenario, but this Trump claim has no basis in reality. “The quote doesn’t make sense, obviously,” said Erwan Lagadec, research professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs and an expert on NATO. Lagadec noted that NATO has had no trouble getting allies to cover the roughly $3 billion in annual “direct” funding for the organization, which is “peanuts” to this group of countries. And he said that the only NATO member that had given “any sign” in recent years that it was thinking about leaving the alliance “was … the US, under Trump.” Lagadec added that the US leaving the alliance is one scenario that could realistically kill it, but that clearly wasn’t what Trump was talking about in his remarks on spending levels. James Goldgeier, an American University professor of international relations and Brookings Institution visiting fellow, said in an email: “NATO was founded in 1949, so it seems very clear that Donald Trump had nothing to do with its existence. In fact, the worry was that he would pull the US out of NATO, as his national security adviser warned he would do if he had been reelected.”
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