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Fact check: President Trump’s Minneapolis rally speech

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President Trump arrives at a campaign rally on Thursday.
President Trump arrives at a campaign rally on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in Minneapolis.
Jim Mone | AP Photo

For 102 minutes Thursday, President Trump railed against investigations into his presidency, attempts to derail his agenda and his political critics.

The president spoke in glowing terms about his stewardship of the economy — the strongest in history, he said. He proclaimed the country to be safer. And he cast himself as the 2020 candidate with “the only positive vision for America.”

Trump’s cascade from one topic to the next meant he often didn’t complete his thoughts. And he laid down fewer statistical markers that can be scrutinized than past speeches in Minnesota.

Here are some Trump remarks worthy of more examination, beginning with his opening comments to a roaring crowd:

What he said: “So we have 20,000-plus inside. We set a new record. And we have 25,000 people we still love outside. And close to 100,000 people wanted to come tonight.”

The facts: The Target Center can hold roughly 20,000 people, matching what a fire department official said was the capacity for Thursday’s rally. Images of the rally showed some empty seats in the upper portion of the arena, but many people stood on the floor of Target Center. That makes a precise count difficult. And he did not say specifically what record he set.

Even if the crowd did top 20,000, that’s happened before at Target Center. A 2017 Timberwolves-Warriors basketball game drew 20,412 and a 2005 U2 concert packed in 20,200.

The president’s assertion that 25,000 people were left on the outside is dubious given that an overflow space wasn’t full and reporters on the outside of the arena saw nothing nearing that number. It’s possible that 100,000 people signed up with the campaign to attend, but those RSVPs don’t always translate into attendance.

Crowd size boasts aren’t new for this administration and began virtually from day one with his insistence of an inauguration record.

What he said: “We are building the wall faster than anyone ever anticipated it could be built.”

The facts: The president raises this claim a lot. PolitiFact, a nonpartisan fact-checking organization, said roughly 60 miles of barriers have been replaced with new fencing. But no new primary barriers have been built under Trump’s administration. In a 5-4 ruling in July, the Supreme Court temporarily allowed Trump to go forward with the wall using $2.5 billion in military funds, but it has not yet decided the final outcome in that case.

What he said: “As Scott reported, everything about Omar is a fraud, including her name. Scott reports his sources told him that Omar’s legal husband was Omar’s brother and that she married him for fraudulent purposes. You mean like coming into the United States, maybe?”

The facts: Trump was quoting extensively from the Power Line blog, where author Scott Johnson first posted about allegations that Omar married her brother as part of an immigration fraud scheme while she was a candidate for the state House in 2016. Power Line said Omar wasn’t legally married to the father of her three children, Ahmed Hirsi, but to another man, Ahmed Nur Elmi. The blog alleged Elmi is her brother.

Omar has said she married Hirsi in her faith tradition in 2002 but they didn’t tie the knot legally. They separated in their faith tradition in 2008 and the following year she legally married Elmi, according to court records. She said she eventually separated from Elmi, a British citizen, in her faith tradition and she reconciled with Hirsi in 2011. She didn’t legally divorce Elmi until 2017 and didn’t legally marry Hirsi until 2018. Records that definitively show family ties between her and Elmi have not surfaced. This week, Omar filed for divorce from Hirsi.

What he said: “I make as president about $450,000. I give it away. I never hear anything. ... You can’t actually make a gift. You can give it to your different agencies. So I can give it to health, I can give it to transportation, I can give it to military. But I give it away all the time.”

The facts: That’s true, and it has been publicized by the White House and widely reported on by news outlets. Trump has donated his presidential salary to a number of government agencies, including the National Park Service and the departments of Veterans Affairs, Transportation and Education. He’s also donated to organizations that fight opioid addiction and alcoholism. Trump’s older brother, Fred Trump, died in 1981 after struggling for years with alcohol abuse.

What he said: On Syria, “We don’t have any soldiers there because we left, we won. We left. Take a victory, United States. We left. Take a victory. Take a victory. Bring our troops back home”

The facts: Trump drew bipartisan backlash this week for giving way to a Turkish operation in northern Syria. The U.S. moved between 50 and 100 special operations forces to other locations in Syria in response to Sunday’s White House directive. But other than that, Trump’s own Defense Department insists there have been “no changes to our force presence in Syria at this time."

Still, members of both parties in Congress have condemned the decision, saying it leaves Kurdish militants who aided the U.S. in the fight against ISIS vulnerable to attack. There are also deep concerns that imprisoned ISIS fighters in northern Syria could go free.

What he said: “Republicans will protect Medicare and we will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions.”

The facts: The budget Trump proposed in February would change the trajectory of Medicare payments to extract savings, but it would come largely on the backs of providers rather than direct reductions for recipients.

Republicans in Congress have tried more than 63 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which contains the protection for pre-existing conditions. There wouldn’t be any firm plan to protect coverage for people with pre-existing conditions if the ACA is repealed. A case is also making its way through the courts challenging the constitutionality of the ACA, and Trump’s Justice Department supports striking the entire law. It’s ultimately expected to be decided in the Supreme Court.