President Donald Trump turned a hastily scheduled Friday night “news conference” at his New Jersey golf club into a surreal kind of campaign rally — uttering the usual boasts and false claims, except with polo-clad club members standing at the back of the room.
Trump also introduced a new, wildly inaccurate claim: an allegation that Democrats are cheating in the election via their negotiations with Republicans over a new coronavirus relief bill.
Democrats and the election
After talking about what he said was the risk of foreign countries using mail-in ballots to cheat in the election — which, as usual, he vastly overstated — Trump accused the Democrats of doing their own election cheating.
“The Democrats are cheating on the election. Because that’s exactly what they’re doing. If you look at what they’re doing even with these negotiations. That’s an influence, and an unfair influence, on an election,” he said.
Facts First: This is nonsense. Participating in a legislative negotiation is simply not cheating in an election; Trump did not even attempt to explain his allegation.
In addition, it is not as if Democrats are conspiring to harm the Trump-era economy before Election Day: The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has already passed its own relief bill, and Senate Democrats are proposing to spend more money than the White House and Senate Republicans are proposing to spend.
Trump promised that he would be issuing an executive order to require health insurers to “cover all pre-existing conditions for all customers.”
He then added, “This has never been done before.”
Facts First: This is highly misleading. It’s true that previous presidents have not tried to use an executive order to force health insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions — but strong protections for people with pre-existing conditions were signed into law by President Barack Obama via legislation: the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Trump is currently backing a Republican lawsuit seeking to get the Affordable Care Act voided as unconstitutional.
We won’t get into the question of the legality of a presidential attempt to use an executive order, rather than a law, to order health insurers to create such protections.
The federal health department explains on its website, Obamacare exempted certain “grandfathered” individual insurance plans from its rules on covering people with pre-existing conditions — so perhaps, if Trump is going to issue an order with no exemptions at all, he can make an argument that his plan is unprecedented.
Still, though, his Friday claim created the impression that he was going to be the pioneer of protections for people with pre-existing conditions. That is not true at all.
Trump also repeated numerous false claims he has made before, including his claims that:
- The coronavirus is “disappearing” (It is plainly not; the US had reported more than 42,000 new cases on Friday before Trump began his news conference)
- Prescription drug prices declined last year for the first time in 51 years (The decline, of 0.7%, happened two years ago; by the same measure, prices rose 3% last year)
- More testing leads to more cases (Testing doesn’t create cases, merely shows them, and tests are a pandemic-fighting tool that should help reduce cases)
- Foreign countries can easily forge mail-in ballots (Experts say this is simply not true because of various ballot security measures)
- China is paying the cost of his tariffs on imported Chinese products (Study after study has shown Americans pay the tariffs)
- China was having its worst year economically in 67 years prior to the pandemic (Its 2019 growth was the lowest in 29 years)
- Trump has always been strongly in favor of protecting pre-existing conditions (He has repeatedly backed Republican bills that would have significantly weakened those protections in Obamacare)