Trump faces criminal charges in court after historic indictment

Former President Donald Trump applauds at an event at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday.
Former President Donald Trump applauds at an event at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday. (Ricardo Arduengo/Reuters)

Former President Donald Trump made a speech at his Mar-a-Lago resort on Tuesday night after he was arraigned in Manhattan on felony charges of falsifying business records — and delivered a barrage of false claims that have been previously debunked.

Trump pleaded not guilty to all the charges Tuesday.

The former president was repeatedly inaccurate when he pivoted to the subject of the federal investigation into his handling of official governments. He also repeated some of his favorite falsehoods on a variety of other subjects.

Here is a fact check of some of Trump’s claims:

George Soros and the district attorney: As he has on social media in the last month, Trump invoked liberal billionaire donor George Soros while criticizing District Attorney Alvin Bragg in his speech on Tuesday night — claiming that Bragg is a “radical left, George Soros-backed prosecutor.”

Facts First: This needs context. Soros did not make any donations to Bragg’s 2021 election campaign, and a Soros spokesperson, Michael Vachon, told CNN that the two men have never once communicated in any way; there is no evidence that Soros had any role in Bragg’s decision to prosecute Trump. However, Soros, a longtime supporter of Democratic district attorney candidates who favor criminal justice reform, did support Bragg’s election campaign indirectly: he was a major donor to a liberal political action committee, Color of Change PAC, that says it spent just over $500,000 on an independent expenditure effort in support of Bragg’s candidacy.

Vachon told CNN: “Between 2016 and 2022, George Soros personally and Democracy PAC (a PAC to which Mr. Soros has contributed funds) have together contributed roughly $4 million to Color of Change’s PAC, including $1 million in May 2021. None of those funds were earmarked for Alvin Bragg’s campaign. George Soros and Alvin Bragg have never meet in person or spoken by telephone, email, Zoom etc. There has been no contact between the two.”

Former presidents’ handling of documents after leaving the White House: Defending his handling of government documents, which is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, Trump repeated his false claim that that several other former presidents took documents with them upon leaving the White House.

Trump claimed in his Tuesday speech that “openly taking boxes of documents and mostly clothing and other things to my home” is something “which President Obama has done.” He continued, “The Bushes have done. Jimmy Carter’s done. Ronald Reagan is done. Everybody’s done.”

Facts First: This is false, as the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) itself pointed out in a statement last year; there is no evidence that previous presidents did anything like what Trump did after the Presidential Records Act took effect in 1981 (beginning with the Reagan administration). In reality, NARA was granted custody of the presidential records of former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama and both George Bushes as soon as these presidents left office, as required by the Presidential Records Act, and it was NARA, not those presidents, that moved those documents to temporary archival facilities — facilities managed by NARA.

NARA said in an October statement that it gained physical and legal custody of Obama, Reagan, H.W. Bush and W. Bush’s records, as well of those of President Bill Clinton, “when those presidents left office.” It said of the temporary facilities to which the documents were moved: “All such temporary facilities met strict archival and security standards, and have been managed and staffed exclusively by NARA employees. Reports that indicate or imply that those Presidential records were in the possession of the former Presidents or their representatives, after they left office, or that the records were housed in substandard conditions, are false and misleading.”

Inflation: Trump claimed that the United States has “an economy that has been crippled by the biggest inflation we have seen in more than 60 years.”

Facts First: Trump’s “60 years” claim is an exaggeration, though the inflation rate does remain high by historical standards.

Last June, the year-over-year inflation rate hit its highest level since late 1981, 9.1%. But about 41 years does not round to “60 years,” much less “more than 60 years”. The actual highest year-over-year inflation rate for the last 60 years is 14.8% (in early 1980), far higher than mid-2022 levels. More importantly, year-over-year inflation has now declined for eight straight months, hitting 6% in February 2023 — not even close to the 60-year high.

This Trump claim is an example of how the former president tends to increase his exaggerated figures over time. At a campaign rally in Texas in late March, he claimed — also incorrectly — that the country had the highest inflation in “50 years.”

Read more here.

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