TRUMP FACT CHECK: Tall tales from the trail

Welcome to ABC's weekly White House fact check.

August 04, 2018, 3:51 AM

President Donald Trump's raucous and freewheeling campaign rallies are fertile ground for misinformation. He held two of them this week, and he's got another in Ohio on Saturday.

And he's not the only one out there pushing false narratives.

Spotted in the crowd on Tuesday were dozens of followers of the "QAnon" conspiracy theory. You can read more about that here, but I'll sum it up quickly: Adherents peddle bizarre claims being pushed by an anonymous internet troll called "Q," who tells his followers Trump's mission in the White House is to unravel a pedophilic "deep state" run by former government officials.

Welcome to Fact Check Friday.

“I'm the most popular Republican ever”

There is no doubt the president can draw a raucous crowd, but the most popular Republican ever? More so than Honest Abe?

Here's Trump at a campaign rally in Tampa, Florida, Tuesday night: "They just came out with a poll, did you hear? The most popular person in the history of the Republican party is Trump! Can you believe this? [Cheers and applause] ... So I said: ‘Does that include Honest Abe Lincoln? He was pretty good, right?’"

Of course, there was no polling when Lincoln was president.

But when we look at polls about other presidents, Trump's claim doesn't hold up. In fact, so far, he's tied with President Richard Nixon at second to last when you look at the highest poll numbers of each post-World War II president.

Trump's highest approval rating to date among Republicans had him at 90 percent. Respectable. But Presidents Reagan, Bush 41 and 43, Nixon and Eisenhower all did better than that at some point during their tenures. Trump does beat President Ford's all-time best approval rating of 80 percent.

7 new steel plants

Speaking at a campaign rally Thursday, in the heart of American steel country in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, President Trump claimed: "U.S. Steel is opening up seven plants."

He upped the number from Tuesday when he told a crowd in Tampa the steel company was building six new mills.

"U.S. Steel just announced that they are building six new steel mills. And that number is soon going to be lifted, but I'm not allowed to say that so I won't."

We're left to suppose he got permission to make the announcement. But when we called U.S. Steel, the company said it wouldn't confirm Trump's claim. Meghan Cox, a spokeswoman for U.S. steel, said all major announcements are made public and posted on its website.

In June, U.S. Steel announced it would restart blast furnace "A" at Granite City Works this fall due to "increased demand for steel manufactured in the United States." The company says the restart will add 300 new jobs on top of 500 new jobs added after it opened blast furnace "B" in March.

There was no mention of seven new steel plants. The White House did not respond to ABC's request for clarification.

Praised for reuniting families

The president took to Twitter this week to let his followers know a federal judge had given his government "great credit" for reuniting children with their families after they were separated at the border.

"A highly respected federal judge today stated that the “Trump Administration gets great credit” for reuniting illegal families. Thank you, and please look at the previous administration's record - not good!"

Judge Dana Sabraw did say "the government deserves great credit" for reuniting most families, but keep in mind the only reason they were in court was to reverse the Trump's policy of separating families.

Plus, in that same proceeding, Judge Sabraw said "the government is at fault for losing several hundred parents in the process," referencing the deportation of hundreds of parents without their children.

Also this: Cmdr. Jonathan White, a senior Health and Human Services official tasked with managing the detention and reunification of these immigrant children, testified to Congress this week that he'd warned the administration in advance that children would suffer under this policy.

"We raised a number of concerns ... about any policy that would result in family separations due to our concerns for the best interest of the child," White told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Separation of children from their parents entails significant risk of harm to children," White said.

Most important, the problem isn't solved. Hundreds of children remain separated from their parents. Here's Judge Sabrow in Friday's hearing: “The reality is that for every parent who is not located, there will be a permanently orphaned child, and that is 100% the responsibility of the administration.”

"Bob Mueller is totally conflicted"

President Trump called for his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to “stop” the Russia investigation this week. One reason, he says, is that special Robert Mueller has “conflicts of interest.”

The problem is, he hasn't offered any evidence to support that claim.

For the purposes of a fact check, it's not possible to disprove the unknown, but consider these known facts:

Trump tweeted, "Is Robert Mueller ever going to release his conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship, I turned him down to head the FBI (one day before appointment as S.C.) & Comey is his close friend.."

First, in the same sentence in which Trump claims he had a "nasty and contentious business relationship" with Mueller, he also claims to have interviewed him to head the FBI. Why would he have interviewed Mueller for that job if he knew that he had conflicts?

Plus, would Mueller even want that job again? He'd already run the FBI for 12 years. And he was even asked to stay on an extra two years past the designated 10-year term, which ended in 2013.

Second, Trump has never said what the alleged “business” problem was. However, the New York Times reported in January that Trump has cited a private dispute Mueller had over dues at Trump's golf club in Sterling, Virginia.

Third, and finally, on June 28, 2018, Trump's own deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, the person who appointed Mueller, testified to Congress that he was "not aware of any disqualifying conflict of interest."

Trump’s claim is ruled highly suspect. But, if the president more clearly states his view of the alleged conflict, we will update this post.

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