FactChecking Trump on ‘Meet the Press’

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Kristen Welker’s first week as the new moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press” featured an interview with former President Donald Trump, and she was busy trying to push back on his numerous false and misleading statements.

Here are some that we identified:

  • Trump denied that he asked a staffer at Mar-a-Lago to delete security camera footage, arguing that the recordings were provided to federal investigators. The indictment alleges Trump tried, through intermediaries, to convince an IT staffer to delete the footage, but the staffer refused.
  • He said that if reelected he “certainly might” pardon some of those convicted for crimes related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, because “some of them never even went into the building” and were sentenced to “many years” in prison. That’s true, but those people were convicted for helping to plan the attack or committing violent acts outside the building.
  • Trump falsely claimed that then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned down his offer to provide 10,000 National Guard members at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and that the House Jan. 6 committee destroyed all the evidence about it.
  • The former president said he could have pardoned himself before he left office and “saved me … all of these fake charges.” Legal experts say it’s dubious that Trump could have pardoned himself, and in any case, it would not have saved him from the state indictments he faces or the federal classified documents case, which pertains mostly to actions Trump took after he left office.
  • Trump misleadingly claimed that Democrats want to allow abortions “after five months, six months, seven months, eight months, nine months,” and he falsely claimed that they say “even after birth, you’re allowed to terminate the baby.”
  • He overstated and understated the respective amounts of financial assistance that the U.S. and European nations have allocated to help Ukraine in the war with Russia.

Trump Denies Asking Staff to Destroy Security Tapes

Trump denied that he asked a staffer at Mar-a-Lago to delete security camera footage, saying repeatedly that no footage was ever deleted and that recordings were provided to federal investigators.

But the federal indictment regarding Trump’s handling of presidential documents does not allege that Trump deleted the security footage, only that he tried — through intermediaries — to get a staffer to delete the recordings. The indictment says the staffer refused.

Welker: A new charge suggests you asked a staffer to delete security camera footage so it wouldn’t get into the hands of investigators. Did you do that?

Trump: That’s false. …

It’s a fake charge by this deranged lunatic prosecutor, who lost in the Supreme Court nine to nothing. And he tried to destroy lots of lives. He’s a lunatic. So it’s a fake charge. But, more importantly, the tapes weren’t deleted. In other words, there was nothing done to them. And they were my tapes. I could’ve fought them. I didn’t even have to give them the tapes, I don’t think. I think I would have won in court. When they asked for the tapes, I said, “Sure.” They’re my tapes. I could have fought them. I didn’t even have to give them. Just so you understand, though, we didn’t delete anything. Nothing was deleted.

Welker: So that’s false. The people who testified —

Trump: Number one, the statement is false. Much more importantly, when the tapes came, and everybody says this, they weren’t deleted. We gave them 100%. … And, and, and, just so you know, I offered them. I said, “If you want to look at tapes, you can look at them.”

The superseding indictment, filed by the Department of Justice on July 27, alleges that Trump, Walt Nauta, an executive assistant to the former president, and Carlos De Oliveira, property manager at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, conspired to delete security camera footage at the club to conceal it from the FBI and grand jury.

Setting the timeline, the indictment says FBI agents who went to Mar-a-Lago to pick up subpoenaed documents from a Trump attorney on June 3, 2022, noticed that there were surveillance cameras located near the storage room where classified documents were stored. Later that month, the Department of Justice issued a subpoena for the security camera footage between Jan. 10, 2022, and June 24, 2022.

The indictment documents a series of meetings, phone calls and text messages involving Trump, Nauta and De Oliveira that ended with Nauta making an unscheduled and secret trip to Mar-a-Lago in late June 2022 and meeting with De Oliveira.

According to the indictment, on the morning of June 27, 2022, De Oliveira went to the IT office where a man identified as “Trump Employee 4” was working. That man was later identified by the New York Times as Yuscil Taveras, an IT worker at Mar-a-Lago.

According to the indictment, the two men walked through a basement tunnel to “a small room known as an ‘audio closet,’” where De Oliveira told Taveras their conversation should remain between the two of them. De Oliveira told Taveras “that ‘the boss’ wanted the server deleted. [Taveras] responded that he would not know how to do that, and that he did not believe that he would have the rights to do that.” Taveras said that De Oliveira would need to reach out to a supervisor of security for Trump’s business organization.

According to the indictment, “De Oliveira then insisted to [Taveras] that “the boss” wanted the server deleted and asked, “What are we going to do?” (For more information, read our article “Timeline of FBI Investigation of Trump’s Handling of Highly Classified Documents.”)

Taveras’ attorney confirmed in early September that Taveras has agreed to testify for the government after he was offered a non-prosecution agreement, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

The indictment notes that the FBI and grand jury obtained the surveillance footage in July. The fact that it was ultimately provided does not prove whether or not Trump attempted to have it destroyed.

Considering Jan. 6 Pardons

If reelected president, Trump said he “certainly might” pardon some of those convicted for crimes related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol because, he said, “some of them never even went into the building, and they’re being given sentences of, you know, many years.”

Trump: We have to treat people fairly. These people on January 6th, they went – some of them never even went into the building, and they’re being given sentences of, you know, many years.

More than 1,100 people have been charged with crimes related to the Capitol attack. And about 110 of them have been sentenced so far to two or more years in prison.

But Trump is right that a few who did not enter the Capitol were sentenced to “many years” in prison. However, those people who got lengthy prison sentences were charged with helping to plan the attack or for committing violent acts outside the Capitol in furtherance of the assault on the Capitol.

One example is Enrique Tarrio, the former national leader of the Proud Boys.

On Sept. 5, Tarrio received the longest sentence handed down yet for those involved in the Capitol attack — 22 years in prison — for seditious conspiracy and organizing the plan to block the presidential transfer of power. He wasn’t even in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021; he had been arrested two days earlier for burning a “Black Lives Matter” banner stolen from a historic African American church in Washington, D.C., and was banned from the city. But District Court Judge Timothy Kelly said Tarrio “was the ultimate leader, the ultimate person who organized, who was motivated by revolutionary zeal.” 

Likewise, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was sentenced to 18 years in prison following his conviction on charges that included seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding. Although he never entered the Capitol, Rhodes directed his team via a walkie-talkie app, the Hill reported. Beginning in late December 2020, Rhodes used “encrypted and private communications applications” to coordinate and plan travel to Washington, D.C., according to the Justice Department.

In a sentencing memo, the Justice Department said Rhodes “exploited his vast public influence as the leader of the Oath Keepers and used his talents for manipulation to goad more than twenty other American citizens into using force, intimidation, and violence to seek to impose their preferred result on a U.S. presidential election.”

Guy Reffit, who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but never entered it, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison. Prosecutors said Reffitt, who had a handgun, body armor, a helmet, radio and flex cuffs, “lit the match” of the Capitol attack. Prosecutors said he helped instigate the crowd “into an unstoppable force” against police officers who were blocking doors to the Senate wing, according to the Texas Tribune.

Sean McHugh was sentenced on Sept. 7 to more than six years in prison. Although his attorney said McHugh never actually entered the Capitol, prosecutors said he “actively participated” in at least four attempts to breach the police perimeters set up outside the Capitol. He was accused of spraying police officers with bear spray and wrestling an officer.

About 140 officers were assaulted — about 80 Capitol Police officers and 60 D.C. Metropolitan Police Department officers — at the Capitol during the attack, the Justice Department has said.

Trump Wrongly Blames Pelosi for Jan. 6

Trump falsely claimed that then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned down his offer to provide 10,000 National Guard members at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and that the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol destroyed all the evidence about it. Therefore, he concluded, Pelosi was “responsible for Jan. 6th.”

None of that is true.

Trump: Listen. Nancy Pelosi was in charge of security. She turned down 10,000 soldiers. If she didn’t turn down the soldiers, you wouldn’t have had January 6th. … Listen to me. I understand that the police testified against her – the chief, very strongly against her. Capitol Police, they’re great people. They testified against her. And they burned all the evidence. Okay? They burned all the evidence. … They destroyed all the evidence about Nancy Pelosi. 

Welker: What do you say to people who wonder why you, as commander-in-chief, you have authorities that Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have, as commander-in-chief?

Trump: No, no. She has authority over the Capitol. 

Welker: Why didn’t you send help in that moment, though? 

Trump: Frankly, just so you understand, I assumed that she took care of it. …

Welker: She says that that request was never officially made, just so you know. 

Trump: Oh, stop it. … The mayor of D.C. gave us a letter, saying that she turns it down, okay? We have it. Nancy Pelosi also was asked, and she turned it down. The police commissioner of Capitol Police – … Capitol Police said that he wanted it. And Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t accept it. She’s responsible for Jan. 6th. 

As we have written, the claim that Pelosi “has authority over the Capitol” is overstated. The speaker does not oversee security of the U.S. Capitol. The speaker appoints one member of the four-member Capitol Police Board, which oversees Capitol security. Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, also appointed a member.

As for Trump’s claim that Pelosi turned down his request for 10,000 National Guard troops, the House select committee said it found “no evidence” of that, and noted that then-Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said there was “no direct order from the president” to put 10,000 National Guard troops on the ready.

Then-White House Senior Adviser Max Miller and Katrina Pierson, one of the rally organizers, testified that two days before the Jan. 6 rally, Trump talked about his intent to march with the supporters to the Capitol, but was warned about safety concerns. They testified that Trump “floated the idea of having 10,000 National Guardsmen deployed to protect him and his supporters from any supposed threats by leftwing counter-protestors,” the committee’s report on its findings said. Miller said he rejected the idea.

In other words, the committee noted, “Trump briefly considered having the National Guard oversee his procession to the U.S. Capitol” but he “did not order the National Guard to protect the U.S. Capitol, or to secure the joint session proceedings” to count the Electoral College votes and certify the presidential election.

In a book released earlier this year, former Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund reiterated his claim — made to the Jan. 6 committee — that he requested National Guard troops two days before the Jan. 6 event, but that the House and Senate sergeants at arms rejected it.

In testimony to the Jan. 6 committee, Sund said House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving “stated that he was concerned about the ‘optics’ of having National Guard present and didn’t feel that the intelligence supported it.” According to a Washington Post article on March 2, 2021, Sund said in his book that he “later learned the two (sergeants at arms) believed that Pelosi would never allow it.” But Sund did not say that Pelosi was ever asked about the request or that she blocked it.

A spokesperson for Pelosi told the Washington Post at the time that the claim that Pelosi rejected the assignment of National Guard troops due to the optics was “completely made up,” and repeated that response when asked about Trump’s latest comments.

In a Sept. 17 interview on MSNBC, Pelosi responded to Trump’s claim that she is “responsible for January 6th” by saying the former president “has always been about projection. He knows he’s responsible for [the Capitol attack], so he projects it onto others.”

“Now, he used to say, ‘Well, she turned down my troops.’ No,” Pelosi said. “We begged him. [Democratic Sen.] Chuck Schumer and I begged him to send the troops, again and again.”

We reached out to a spokesman for Trump for clarification or backup for the former president’s claim that the Jan. 6 committee “burned all the evidence” from Capitol Police that implicated Pelosi, but we did not get a response.

However, it seems likely Trump was referring to allegations Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk made in a Fox News interview in August that the Jan. 6 committee failed to adequately preserve some documents, data and video depositions. That led to Trump posting this on social media: “The January 6th Unselect Committee got rid of EVERYTHING! Discarded, Deleted, Thrown Out. A Flagrant Violation of the law.”

To be clear, Loudermilk did not allege that all of the committee’s records were not preserved, as Trump claimed. Much of the committee’s work was released publicly in its nearly 850-page report, as well as more than 140 publicly released transcripts and documents. Rather, the issue comes down to a debate over the committee rules for what documents and materials need to be archived.

As the Los Angeles Times noted, Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat and the committee chairman, wrote that, consistent with guidance from the House Office of the Clerk, “the Select Committee did not archive temporary committee records that were not elevated by the Committee’s actions, such as use in hearings or official publications, or those that did not further its investigative activities.”

Specifically, the House committee did publicly release a transcript of Sund’s interview.

On Pardoning Himself as President

Trump said he could have pardoned himself before he left office and “that would’ve saved me all of these lawyers, and all of these fake charges, these Biden indictments. They’re all Biden indictments, political.”

But experts say it’s not clear that Trump could have pardoned himself, and in any case, it would not have saved him from the state indictments he faces in New York and Georgia, nor would it have prevented an indictment in the federal classified documents case, which mostly pertains to actions Trump took after he left office.

Trump: I could’ve pardoned myself. Do you know what? I was given an option to pardon myself. I could’ve pardoned myself when I left. People said, “Would you like to pardon yourself?” I had a couple of attorneys that said, “You can do it if you want.” I had some people that said, “It would look bad, if you do.” Because I think it would look terrible. … The last day, I could’ve had a pardon done that would’ve saved me all of these lawyers, and all of these fake charges, these Biden indictments. They’re all Biden indictments, political. … So, ready? I never said this to anybody. I was given the option. I could’ve done a pardon of myself. You know what I said? “I have no interest in even thinking about it.” I never even wanted to think about it.  

As we have written, whether a president could pardon himself remains an unresolved legal issue. In July 2017, one of Trump’s personal attorneys at the time, Jay Sekulow, said on ABC’s “This Week” that the power to pardon oneself has “never been adjudicated” and would likely be decided by the Supreme Court.

“It isn’t clear that the president has the power to pardon himself,” Brian Kalt, a professor at Michigan State University College of Law who has written about self-pardons, told us via email. “He could have tried, but prosecutors could have pursued him anyway and then the courts would have had to decide whether the pardon was valid or not.”

But in any case, such a pardon would not have had any effect on three of the four indictments Trump now faces.

“Even if the pardon was valid it would not have affected state prosecutions at all,” Kalt said.

So a pardon would not have affected the 34-count indictment brought by the Manhattan district attorney’s office. That case centers on allegations that Trump conspired to pay porn star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet during the 2016 presidential election about an alleged sexual encounter and then falsified business records to cover up state and federal election law violations. 

A presidential pardon also would not have prevented an indictment brought by a special state grand jury in Georgia that alleges Trump and 18 co-defendants “refused to accept that Trump lost” the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden and conspired “to unlawfully change the outcome.”

“The president’s pardon power applies to ‘offenses against the United States,’ or federal crimes, so it would not help him in Georgia or New York, where he faces state charges,” Jeffrey Crouch, an assistant professor of American politics at American University and an expert on the presidential pardon power, told us via email.

Harvard constitutional scholar Mark Tushnet said Trump’s lawyers “might argue that the state indictments in both New York and Georgia rest on state statutes that have been preempted (that is, entirely displaced) by federal law and so are in effect indictments for offences against the United States, but I won’t expect that any reasonable court would accept that argument.”

Moreover, Kalt said, even if such a self-pardon was valid for federal charges, “it could only cover actions done before the pardon was issued, so it would not be able to be applied to anything he did after leaving office.”

So a self-pardon in Trump’s final days in office would not have prevented a 44-page federal indictment against Trump that alleges he unlawfully possessed and mishandled sensitive classified documents after he left office, and obstructed federal officials who tried to get them back.

“The classified documents controversy happened after Trump left the White House, so he would need to become president again in order to try to grant clemency to himself concerning that event,” Crouch said. “Although the president does not need to wait for someone to be formally charged, stand trial or be sentenced, he does need to have something to pardon. He could not have granted clemency for a ‘future’ crime.”

Ukraine Aid

Trump called out Europe, which he said has not provided nearly as much financial support as the U.S. to Ukraine amid its war with Russia.

“I think that Europe has to do more,” Trump said, when Welker asked if the security of the U.S. “is linked to Ukraine’s security.” He continued: “We’re in for $200 billion. They’re in for $25 billion. And it affects them more than it affects us.”

Those figures are not accurate.

As we have written, the U.S. already has authorized about $113 billion for Ukraine — most of which, $67 billion, is military aid, according to an analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The overall total is about 44% less than what Trump claimed the U.S. has given.

In August, Biden requested a reported $24 billion in additional Ukraine-related funding, including about $13 billion in security assistance. But that money so far has not been approved by Congress.

Meanwhile, as of July, the European Union, which includes 27 member nations, had “made available over $88 billion in financial, military, humanitarian, and refugee assistance,” since the start of the war, according to the EU Delegation to the United States. About $27 billion of the EU’s aid to Ukraine was for military assistance, the delegation said.

Also, the EU total does not include aid offered by European countries that are not EU members, such as the United Kingdom and Norway.

The U.K. has committed at least 4.6 billion pounds, or about $5.7 billion, in military assistance for Ukraine. Meanwhile, Norway contributed 10.7 billion kroner, or nearly $1 billion, in 2022 to Ukraine and other countries affected by the war, and it has pledged to contribute another 75 billion kroner from 2023 to 2027, which would be about $7 billion.

Abortion

Welker pushed back on Trump’s distorted claim that “radical” Democrats “say, after five months, six months, seven months, eight months, nine months, and even after birth, you’re allowed to terminate the baby.”

“Democrats aren’t saying that. That’s not true,” she told him.

As we have written, many Democrats, including Biden, support codifying the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortions up until the point of fetal viability. The ruling defined viability as generally from 24 to 28 weeks of gestation, although a court ruling three years later said viability should be determined by the attending physician.

The Roe ruling, and the decision in a companion case, Doe v. Bolton, also required post-viability exceptions for the life and physical and mental health of the mother.

House Democrats also passed the Women’s Health Protection Act in 2021. It would allow states to restrict or prohibit abortions after viability except in cases where the life or health of the mother is jeopardized. Republicans claimed that bill would permit abortion “until birth for any reason,” but Democrats said that was not the intent.

Furthermore, less than 1% of abortions in 2020 were performed at or after 21 weeks, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over 93% were performed at or before 13 weeks of gestation.

Later in the interview, Trump told Welker that “you’re allowed to kill the baby after birth” in New York and other states — which is false.

So-called “post-birth abortion,” otherwise known as infanticide, is not legal in any U.S. state. “No such procedure exists,” the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says on its website.

In addition, we have written that New York’s 2019 Reproductive Health Act permits abortions after 24 weeks when a health care professional determines the health or life of the mother is at risk, or the fetus is not viable. The law does not say that abortions after birth are allowed.


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