Donald Trump Jr. Spreads His Father’s False Russia-Related Claims on Facebook

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Former President Donald Trump repeated false claims about a Russian natural gas pipeline, U.S. energy production and the 2020 U.S. presidential election in a four-minute video clip posted to Facebook by his eldest son, Donald Jr. YouTube removed the full video from its platform for spreading misinformation.


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In “Season 2, Episode 5” of her podcast “Real America,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel interviewed former President Donald Trump. But YouTube removed that interview from its platform on April 1 for violating its terms of service, McDaniel told the Washington Times.

“YouTube said the video was removed for violating the site’s ‘election integrity policy, which prohibits content that advances false claims that widespread fraud changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, such as claiming that the election was rigged,’” the conservative news outlet wrote in its April 1 article.

Three days later, Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., posted a four-minute video clip of that interview on his Facebook page. The video is titled “Trump: This is what the media isn’t telling you about Ukraine and Biden.”

In the video, which has nearly 790,000 views, the former president claimed Russia would not have invaded Ukraine “if the [U.S. presidential] election had not been rigged.”

As we have written many times before, there is no evidence to support claims of widespread fraud that would have changed the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, which Joe Biden won with 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.

In his book, William Barr, who served as U.S. attorney general under Trump, writes that he told Trump at a Dec. 1, 2020, meeting at the White House that the Trump campaign’s claims of widespread fraud are “bullshit.”

“Our mission is to investigate and prosecute actual fraud,” Barr recalls telling Trump. “The fact is, we have looked at the major claims your people are making, and they are bullshit.”

But election claims weren’t the only false claims made by the former president in his interview with McDaniel.

Nord Stream 2

Trump falsely claimed that he “ended” Nord Stream 2 — the Russian pipeline that would double the export of Russian natural gas to Germany. He then wrongly added that President Joe Biden “opened it up.” He made the same inaccurate claims at the Conservative Political Action Conference in late February.

Trump: I was the one that ended Nord Stream. … Nobody ever even heard of it until I came along and complained. And then I shut it down. And there was never anything so big that happened to Russia, shutting down Nord Stream 2 and then Biden came in and he opened it up almost immediately. I couldn’t believe it.

As we explained before, Trump signed into law a defense bill in December 2019 that included sanctions against companies building Nord Stream 2. Construction of the pipeline — which runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany and parallel to the operational Nord Stream 1 — was suspended in response to the sanctions. But the pipeline was about 90% complete at the time, and construction started up again in December 2020, while Trump was still in office.

The Biden administration also opposes the project, but, according to a Congressional Research Service Report, “U.S. officials have suggested the Administration’s ability to prevent the pipeline from becoming operational is limited, even with additional sanctions.”

Biden waived sanctions against those involved in the Nord Stream 2 project in May 2021, and the pipeline was completed in September 2021. But it’s still not operational, and only Germany controls that. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stopped the required certification process on Feb. 22, the day that Putin recognized two separatist territories in eastern Ukraine as independent states and sent Russian troops into the Donbas region of Ukraine. 

Still Wrong on Energy Independence

The former president again pushed a Republican talking point, saying the U.S. was “energy independent” when he was in office. But the country still relied on foreign sources of energy, including oil. 

Trump is likely talking about the U.S. being a net energy exporter during his administration, which was the case in 2021 under Biden, too.

Trump: We are and were just a little while ago energy independent. We were producing more energy by far than Russia or Saudi Arabia. We were going to be double the size of both in a very short period of time, probably within 12 months. But we were energy independent for the first time in more than 72 years, and that was a killer for Russia because we brought the price of energy down.

As we’ve written, some people may get the false impression from such claims that “energy independent” means the U.S. was relying only on energy it produces. It wasn’t, and some energy analysts say that is not likely to happen anytime soon.

However, U.S. exports of primary energy exceeded imports under Trump in 2019 and 2020. Those were the first times that had happened since 1952, nearly 70 years ago, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. But the U.S. also was a net exporter of energy in 2021, under Biden, the EIA’s latest figures show

In 2020, the U.S. also was a net exporter of petroleum for the first time since at least 1949. (The U.S. continued to be a net importer of crude oil, specifically.)

The United States’ net imports of petroleum began declining in 2006. The EIA said a decline in global demand during the COVID-19 pandemic finally made the U.S. a net exporter. The country was still a net exporter in 2021 under Biden. 

Trump is correct that the U.S. produced more energy than Russia or Saudi Arabia in his term, but that has been the case since at least 1980 for Saudi Arabia and 1992 for Russia, as far back as EIA data go. For petroleum and other liquids alone, it depends on how that form of energy is measured. In Btu, or British thermal units, the U.S. produced more than Russia but not Saudi Arabia in 2015. In 2018 and 2019, the U.S. produced more than either country. The EIA chart only goes through 2019.

Measured in million barrels of oil per day, the U.S. has outproduced either country for petroleum and other liquids in most years dating back to 1973 for Saudi Arabia and 1992 for Russia. In recent years, the U.S. has outproduced Saudi Arabia from 2013 through 2021 and Russia from 2012 through 2021.

In 2020, Trump’s final year in office, the U.S. produced 18.6 million barrels of oil per day, while Russia produced 10.5 million and Saudi Arabia produced 10.8 million. The figures were similar for 2021.

U.S. Has Purchased Russian Oil for Years

Trump may have left the wrong impression with viewers when he said that now “we’re buying energy from Russia,” emphasizing the word “Russia.”

The U.S. has been buying oil from Russia for years, including when Trump was in office. See this chart from the EIA, which shows the imported oil from Russia rising through most of the 2000s, dipping after 2011, and then starting to rise again in 2019. As we’ve reported before, Russia accounted for 7% of total U.S. imports of crude oil and petroleum in 2020, and about 7.9% in 2021.

However, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Biden signed an executive order on March 8 blocking new U.S. purchases of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal.

Sources

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Alic, Haris. “YouTube removes RNC podcast with Trump, claiming ‘misinformation’.” Washington Times. 1 Apr 2022.

Trump: This is what the media isn’t telling you about Ukraine and Biden.” Donald Trump Jr.’s Facebook account. 4 Apr 2022.

Kiely, Eugene et al. “Trump’s ‘Most Important’ Speech Was Mostly False.” FactCheck.org. 3 Dec 2020.

Robertson, Lori et al. “Trump Repeats Baseless, False Claims About the Election.” FactCheck.org. 30 Nov 2020.

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