Analysis by Daniel Dale, CNN
Updated: Sun, 27 Oct 2019 14:58:12 GMT
President Donald Trump told a story in January about the farmers, ranchers and builders who stood behind him at a 2017 event where he signed an executive order to weaken an Obama-era environmental regulation.
"They were strong, tough men and women. And half of them were crying," Trump told an American Farm Bureau convention.
We checked the video of the signing ceremony. Nobody standing behind Trump was crying. Most of them were smiling.
Trump told the story again at a shale industry conference Wednesday. This time, there were even more imaginary tears.
"Many of them were tough, strong men and women. And almost all of them were crying," Trump said.
Trump makes some of his false claims with remarkable consistency, repeating the same invented tales and figures almost verbatim dozens of times. In other cases, his fiction gets more dramatic with additional renditions -- because the President wants to embellish, because he can't remember the set of non-facts he has made up, or because he just doesn't care about accuracy.
This is Trump's lie-flation.
There have been at least four other cases in October alone.
Obama and North Korea
In June 2018, Trump made a case for diplomatic engagement with North Korea. He criticized former President Barack Obama for never speaking to dictator Kim Jong Un -- baselessly saying Obama was "essentially" ready to go to war without having tried talking.
"I did ask him: 'Have you spoken to him?' He goes, 'No,'" Trump said on Fox News. "I said, 'Do you think it would be a good thing to speak to him, maybe?'"
By June 2019, the complaint about Obama not talking to Kim had become a baseless tale about Obama unsuccessfully begging Kim for a meeting.
"President Obama wanted to meet, and Chairman Kim would not meet him. The Obama administration was begging for a meeting," Trump said at a news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. "They were begging for meetings constantly. And Chairman Kim would not meet with him. And for some reason, we have a certain chemistry, or whatever."
During a highly dishonest Cabinet monologue on Monday, Trump returned to the structure of the original story about Obama not speaking to Kim -- except there was a new addition.
"I said, 'Did you ever call him?' 'No.' Actually, he tried 11 times," Trump said. "But the man on the other side -- the gentleman on the other side -- did not take his call. Okay? Lack of respect. But he takes my call."
In summary: Obama not talking to Kim morphed into Obama unsuccessfully begging Kim for a meeting, which morphed into Obama unsuccessfully trying to call Kim "11 times."
There is no evidence Obama ever sought a meeting with Kim or tried to call Kim even once.
"Obama never called Kim Jong Un. Obama never tried to meet Kim Jong Un. Trump is a serial liar and not well," Ben Rhodes, who served as deputy national security adviser to Obama, said on Twitter on Monday.
The deal with Turkey
Sometimes the lie-flation happens over a period of months. Sometimes it happens in a flash.
At 2:13 pm last Thursday, Trump tweeted that people had been trying to make his deal with Turkey for "many years." (As we explained here, this was nonsensical.)
Then, starting at 2:17 pm, Trump spoke to reporters in Texas. He called the deal "something that they've been trying to get for 10 years."
Later in the exchange, Trump said, "Everybody has tried to make this deal for 15 years." Moments after that, Trump said, "Because the conventional solution is to sit down, negotiate, and they've done that for 15 years. Actually more than that, I understand."
The increase from "many years" to "10 years" to "15 years" to "more than" 15 years took 12 minutes.
China's economic performance
In July, China released official data that showed its second-quarter GDP growth rate was the lowest since 1992. Trump crowed, "China's 2nd Quarter growth is the slowest it has been in more than 27 years."
Trump accurately said "27 years" in another tweet two weeks later. Then the lie-flation began.
Trump told reporters August 9: "Now, China has had their worst year in 35 years now. It was in 26 years, but now it's in 35 years." Eleven days after that, in another exchange with reporters, he said, "China has had the worst year they've had in 27 years. And a lot of people are saying the worst year they've had in 54 years. OK?"
Trump raised the figure to its apex -- so far -- on August 30: "They are having the worst year they've had, I understand, in 61 years."
He toned it down a notch on September 4: "China has now had the worst year that they've had in 57 years." He then settled on "57 years," a figure he used once more in his Cabinet meeting on Monday.
China's official economic statistics are notoriously dodgy, but there's no apparent basis for the "57 years."
Trump's approval rating with Republicans
At a campaign rally in October 2018, Trump tentatively referred to what he claimed was his new approval rating with Republicans: "Just came out -- was it 93%?... It's like a record or something like that: 93% have a high approval rating of Trump."
Trump's Republican approval rating was very high at the time -- 89% in Gallup polling -- but not 93%. Still, by January, he was confidently tweeting this "93%" figure.
By June, Trump was citing a "94%" Republican approval rating. We kept fact checking the number every new time he said it; it kept being wrong. And then, in early October and again this week, Trump tweeted: "95% Approval Rating in the Republican Party."
He is still in the 80s. But don't be surprised if he gets to "96%" sometime soon.