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Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, April 27, 2023, in Manchester, N.H. (AP) Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, April 27, 2023, in Manchester, N.H. (AP)

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, April 27, 2023, in Manchester, N.H. (AP)

Matthew Crowley
By Matthew Crowley May 11, 2023
Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson May 11, 2023
Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman May 11, 2023

In a raucous town hall where an audience of invited Republicans often cheered him on, former President Donald Trump insisted he didn’t know the woman who won a $5 million sexual abuse and defamation verdict against him, suggested the U.S. might as well default on its debt and dodged questions about whether he would sign a federal abortion ban.

The day before the CNN town hall, a jury reached a verdict against Trump in a civil case. E. Jean Carroll said Trump had assaulted her in a New York City department store dressing room about three decades ago.

When asked about the case, Trump continued to say he’d never met Carroll —  "I have no idea who she is" —  which is a claim he has used often when confronted with accusations from women or to distance himself from people in his orbit whose association may embarrass him.

During the town hall, Trump mocked Carroll’s account of their encounter.

"What kind of a woman meets somebody and brings him up and within minutes you're playing hanky-panky in a dressing room?" Trump asked.

Answering a question about the looming national debt default deadline, Trump said Republicans should stand firm in their demands for spending cuts and that Democrats would "absolutely cave." 

CNN moderator Kaitlan Collins pressed Trump on several falsehoods, and the former president more than once turned to the crowd in apparent exasperation and said, "She doesn’t understand." At one point, he told Collins, "You’re a nasty person."

Here are several falsehoods that stood out to us.

Speaking about Jan. 6, 2021, rioters who were convicted: "A couple of them probably they got out of control."

This is a major distortion of the assault on the U.S. Capitol. Approximately 140 police officers were assaulted and rioters smashed windows, broke doors and ransacked offices. They chanted "Hang Mike Pence!" and caused the House and Senate to shut down for several hours.

More than 1,033 defendants have been arrested including 108 individuals who have been charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer.

Before Roe v. Wade was overturned, "they could kill the baby in the ninth month or after the baby was born."

Trump misleads on ninth-month abortions and is wrong about killing after a baby is born.

Before the landmark abortion case was overturned in 2022, ninth-month abortions were exceedingly rare and not done legally except in the case of serious health risks to the mother. Killing a baby after it is born has always been homicide and against the law.

Historically, less than 1% of abortions have been performed at or after 21 weeks of pregnancy. During the ninth month — which is even later than that, starting around 33 weeks — abortions are even rarer; they are often difficult to obtain because the procedure is costly, time-sensitive and only performed by a small subset of abortion providers.

Abortions that late in pregnancy are not allowed on a whim. Roe allowed states to restrict abortions — including banning them altogether — after the point of fetal viability (approximately 24 weeks) with one key exception: when the mother’s life or health was at stake.

Meanwhile, multiple federal laws protect against killing a child after birth as well as many state laws. State laws "are the primary source of protection against active or negligent killing of infants born during the process of abortion," Teresa S. Collett, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas and director of the university’s Prolife Center, told PolitiFact in 2019.

"Actively killing an infant born alive is a crime," said Lois Shepherd, a University of Virginia professor of law and biomedical ethics, in 2019. "Under the law, living infants are just like other living people. They are children. Children are people."

Classified documents "become automatically declassified when I took them" after leaving the White House.

This is unsupported by legal precedent.

Presidents have an unusual degree of authority to declassify documents. But there’s judicial precedent that counters Trump’s belief in what might be called "in-brain declassification."

In three legal cases during the Trump presidency, courts rejected the idea that a president can declassify simply by tweeting or issuing a news release and not following up through more formalized processes involving executive agencies. That’s more concrete action than the "automatic" declassification Trump cited. 

"Merely proclaiming a document or group of documents declassified and doing nothing more would not suffice," Bradley Moss, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who works on national security cases, told PolitiFact last August. 

"He had to identify the specific documents he was declassifying, he needed to memorialize the order in writing for bureaucratic and historical purposes, and he needed to have staff physically modify the classification markings on the documents themselves," Moss said. "Until that was done, the documents, per the security classification procedures, still have to be handled, transmitted and stored as if they were classified."

In August, the FBI, with search warrant in hand, searched Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida estate, removing boxes of documents including some that were classified. The attorney general named a special counsel to investigate the handling of the documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

The 2020 election was "rigged."

Less than two minutes into the town hall, Trump repeated this familiar talking point that we have rated Pants on Fire.

Rigging an election would require thousands of people conspiring across multiple jurisdictions to commit felonies. There’s no evidence it happened.

After Trump lost, Attorney General Bill Barr told Trump that he did not agree with calling the election "stolen" and that Trump’s statements were "bull----." 

Republican state officials in Nevada, Georgia and Arizona said the election was secure. Dozens of judges, including GOP appointees, rejected Trump’s claims of widespread fraud. 

Regarding the border wall: "I did finish the wall… I built hundreds of miles of wall"

PolitiFact tracked Trump’s promise to "build a great wall" and have Mexico pay for it and rated it a Promise Broken

Trump mainly replaced barriers installed by previous administrations. When he took office in 2017, the U.S. had 654 miles of primary border barriers; some sections of the border have up to three layers of barriers that run parallel to the border, and the first impediment a migrant may face is the primary barrier. By January 2021, the month Trump left office, that number increased to 706 miles, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 

Trump replaced about 184 miles of dilapidated primary barriers with updated fences. When Trump says his administration "build hundreds of miles," he's referring to the replacement of older barriers with new fences, not hundreds of miles of barriers protecting the border for the first time.

About his 2021 phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and other election officials: "Nobody said, ‘Oh gee, he shouldn't have said that … I didn't ask him to find anything. I said you owe me votes because the election was rigged. If this call was bad, why didn't him and his lawyers hang up?"

This is a distortion of Trump’s call with Georgia election officials after he lost the state.

On Jan. 2, 2021, Trump was part of an hourlong phone call with Raffensperger and his general counsel Ryan Germany. Trump repeated debunked claims about dead voters and corrupted machines and the Pants on Fire falsehood that he won Georgia.

Raffensperger, a Republican, disputed Trump’s allegations, telling Trump, "We believe that we do have an accurate election."

Throughout the phone call, Trump prodded Georgia officials to act, repeatedly suggesting there were more votes to find in his favor.

Trump told the officials that they would find "dumped ballots" in Fulton County that were unsigned and forgeries. "You know that. You have no doubt about that. And you will find you will be at 11,779 within minutes because Fulton County is totally corrupt," Trump said.  (Trump lost the state by 11,779 votes.)

Trump also said "I don’t know, look, Brad. I got to get …  I have to find 12,000 votes." 

PolitiFact Staff Writer Maria Ramirez Uribe contributed to this article. 

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