Fact Check Friday: Election deception

ABC's weekly fact check of the Trump administration.

November 9, 2018, 6:19 PM

President Donald Trump may have spun the midterm elections as "very close to complete victory," but he suffered a major setback on Tuesday night when his party lost control of the House of Representatives and Democrats gained six governorships.

And although Republicans gained in the Senate, by week's end the president was facing criticism over his new pick to lead the Department of Justice and rising vote tallies for Democrats in races that have been too close to call.

Trump wasn't happy.

On Friday he unleashed, insulting members of the press as he tossed out falsehoods about his top law enforcement officer and unverified conspiracy theories about election fraud.

Welcome to Fact Check Friday.

"I don't know Matt Whitaker"

On Friday, the president falsely claimed he does not know Matt Whitaker, the man he tapped on Wednesday to lead the Department of Justice. He made the claim five times as he spoke to reporters at the White House before leaving for Paris amid calls for Whitaker to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation given his past comments on the matter.

Setting aside the question of why the president would want people to believe he's appointed someone he doesn't know to head the Justice Department, the more important point is that the claim simply isn't true.

In fact, according to our sources, they've met several times in the Oval Office. It's also a statement that stands in absolute contradiction to what he told Fox News less than a month ago, responding to a report in the Washington Post that he was considering appointing Whitaker to the job.

On Oct. 11, he told Fox and Friends: "I can tell you Matt Whitaker's a great guy. I mean, I know Matt Whitaker."

"Finding new votes out of nowhere"

The Florida Senate race still hasn't been called and Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson is edging closer to GOP Gov. Rick Scott. On Friday morning, the president suggested, citing no evidence, that Democrats are engaged in a voter fraud.

"All of a sudden, they're finding votes out of nowhere," the president said. "I say this: [Gov. Scott] easily won, but every hour, it seems to be going down. I think that people have to look at it very, very cautiously." On Thursday, he tweeted that he was sending lawyers to "expose the FRAUD!"

In reality, it appears Broward County simply hasn't finished counties its ballots.

It's fair to say that the county election officials are slow, and there could even be incompetence, but to suggest there is fraud without providing evidence is irresponsible. It's important to note that, by law, the officials have until Saturday at noon to submit the county's vote totals.

Further, coming from the president, the claim is hard to believe.

Shortly after the 2016 election, Trump claimed there were more than three million illegal votes cast, but his own voter fraud commission disbanded over the summer after many governors refused to cooperate and the group was unable to provide any evidence to back up that claim.

And in Arizona, where votes are still being counted and Democrat Krysten Sinema on Friday held the lead by a tenth of a percent, Trump claimed they are "all of a sudden" finding votes "out of the wilderness." In fact, as of Thursday evening, Maricopa County said it still had over half a million votes to count.

Stick with me

The day after the election, the president falsely claimed that all those who campaigned with him and supported him did well, adding those who did not, lost.

This was the president's tweet the morning after the election: "Those that worked with me in this incredible Midterm Election, embracing certain policies and principles, did very well. Those that did not, say goodbye!"

He claimed later Wednesday morning in a press conference that of the 11 candidates he campaigned with, nine won. In fact, he campaigned with 13 candidates, three lost, and two races are still too close to call. It's likely they'll go Republican, though.

More significant, in the end, 33 out of the 61 candidates Trump endorsed ended up winning their races. That's just over half. Twenty-two out of 61 were losers. And six races remain undecided.

"They come back and they're never the same"

Finally, as we approach Veterans Day, it's important to examine the accuracy of a claim the president made Friday about service members and their mental health. Some veterans are saying he missed the mark. This Fact Check item comes courtesy of ABC News' Pentagon reporter, Elizabeth McLaughlin.

In the wake of the Thousand Oaks shooting in California, committed by a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan, President Trump told reporters about service members: "They come back and they're never the same."

That people are impacted by their time in the military may be true, but the president’s comment sparked criticism from some veterans who felt that the president had propagated an unfair and negative stereotype about vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

The former spokesman for the Marine Corps and Defense Department spokesman tweeted, "If one wants to say 'those who serve in combat are forever changed in some way by the experience,' that's true, but in the context of this mass murder, that comment is both inaccurate and wrong."

A 2012 report by the Center for New American Security found that negative stereotypes about combat veterans can become a detriment to their ability to gain employment after military service. "Although companies mentioned a range of negative stereotypes, concerns about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in particular were a consistent theme..." the report said.

For veterans who have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, about 11 to 20 percent experience PTSD, compared to 7 to 8 percent of the overall U.S. adult population, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Focus among veterans groups has been on the high rate of veteran suicides -- about 20 every day -- not violence perpetrated against others.