Before President Donald Trump began reading out a list of policy positions he called “extreme,” he said: “These are actual key elements of the Biden-Sanders unity platform.”
Actually, many of them were not.
In a rambling Tuesday speech in the White House Rose Garden, Trump systematically twisted and exaggerated the policy recommendations made by the “unity task forces” appointed by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his longest-lasting rival in the party primary, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Many of the proposals were further to the left than Biden’s own proposals during the primary, when he was running as a relative moderate against the democratic socialist Sanders and other ardent progressives. But while Trump accurately described some of the new proposals — such as ending cash bail, mandatory minimum sentences and the death penalty, providing free community college tuition to all students regardless of immigration status, and transitioning to a zero-emissions government vehicle fleet — he wrongly described numerous others.
And Trump made his false and misleading claims while reading from a prepared text, creating the inaccurate impression that he was reciting the actual words of the task force document.
What Trump claimed the task forces said: “Abolish immigration detention. No more detention. You come in here illegally, no more detention.”
What the task forces actually recommended: Abolishing for-profit immigration detention centers, not all immigration detention.
The task forces did advocate reducing the use of immigration detention, treating it as “a last resort, not the default,” but never proposed doing away with it entirely.
What Trump claimed the task forces said: “Abolish all charter schools.”
What the task forces actually recommended: Banning for-profit charter schools from receiving federal funding, not abolishing all charter schools.
The task forces did take a generally skeptical approach to charter schools, calling for “conditioning federal funding for new, expanded charter schools or for charter school renewals on a district’s review of whether the charter will systematically underserve the neediest students.”
What Trump claimed the task forces said: “Mandate net-zero carbon emissions for homes, offices, and all new buildings by 2030.” He added, “That basically means no windows, no nothing.”
What the task forces actually recommended: Setting a “goal,” not imposing a mandate, of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030. This would not mean an end to windows: buildings with a whole bunch of windows can have net-zero emissions, which means they produce as much renewable energy as the energy they consume.
What Trump claimed the task forces want: “They want to abolish our police departments.”
What the task forces actually recommended: Various policing reforms — such as stricter standards on the use of force, a ban on chokeholds, an end to racial profiling, and stopping the transfer of military equipment to police departments — and federal funding for a new civilian corps of “unarmed first responders such as social workers, EMTs, and trained mental health professionals, who can handle nonviolent emergencies” so that police can focus on violent crimes.
None of this comes even close to abolishing police departments.
The border wall and borders in general
What Trump said the task forces want: “Well, basically, as you know, what they’re going to do is they’re going to rip down the wall. They’re taking it down.” He also said, “They don’t want to have any borders at all.”
What the task forces actually recommended: Ending “the ‘National Emergency’ designation that redirects congressionally appropriated funds for the Department of Defense to build a wall along the southern border.”
The task forces did call the wall “unnecessary, wasteful, and ineffective,” but they did not call for ripping down portions that have already been constructed. And they proposed nothing close to the abolition of borders.
What Trump claimed the task forces said: “Stop all deportation. So if we get a MS-13 gang member, which we’ve taken out of our country by the thousands…can’t do that anymore. Stop all deportations.”
What the task forces actually recommended: A “100-day moratorium on deportations of people already in the United States” to allow for the development of transformative changes to enforcement practices at Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.
So there was some basis for Trump’s claim here, but a moratorium is not a permanent halt. And even the moratorium would not apply to people who are apprehended trying to cross the border during the 100-day period.
What Trump claimed the task forces said: “End prosecution of illegal border crossers. Oh, okay, they come in illegally, and we have to stop the whole process.”
What the task forces actually recommended: Ending the prosecution “of asylum seekers at the border” — not everyone who crosses the border illegally — and otherwise ending “indiscriminate” prosecutions that do not consider the circumstances of individual people’s cases.
What Trump claimed the task forces said: “Expand asylum for all new illegal aliens.” He added, “How about that one? All new illegal aliens, expand asylum.”
What the task forces actually recommended: “Protect and expand the existing asylum system and other humanitarian protections” — but not granting asylum to “all” newly arrived undocumented people, as Trump’s vague words may have suggested.
Welfare for undocumented immigrants
What Trump claimed the task forces said: “Sign new immigrants up for welfare immediately…We sign them up immediately. They get welfare benefits.” He then said, “United States citizens don’t get what they’re looking to give illegal immigrants.”
What the task forces actually recommended: For “lawfully present” immigrants, not the undocumented population, working with Congress to remove the current five-year waiting period to access two health insurance programs, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). (Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for these programs no matter how long they have been in the country.)
Citizens are already eligible for Medicaid and CHIP. The task forces are not proposing to create special benefits for undocumented immigrants.
What Trump claimed the task forces said: “They want government health care for all illegal aliens.”
What the task forces actually recommended: Undocumented people to be allowed to buy insurance coverage through Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) exchange marketplaces — but only without the government subsidies that are available to other purchasers.
A subset of about 650,000 undocumented immigrants, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients — people who came to the US illegally as children — would be generally permitted to obtain coverage through Obamacare. The task forces were not specific about what they meant by this.
It’s debatable whether buying insurance through Obamacare exchanges without subsidies counts as “government health care.” The exchanges were created by an act of government, but undocumented people would be paying out of their own pockets for insurance from private entities.
Housing and the suburbs
What Trump said the task forces want: “Abolish the suburbs” by enforcing an Obama-era fair housing rule, known as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, meant to combat racial segregation.
What the task forces actually recommended: Trump was correct this time on the policy — the task force recommended implementing the Obama-era rule — but wildly exaggerated the effect. It’s racially coded nonsense to claim suburbs would be abolished if they were more integrated.
What Trump claimed the task forces said: “Appoint social justice prosecutors in order to free violent criminals.”
What the task forces actually recommended: “Appoint people committed to criminal justice reform to key prosecutorial positions” in the federal government, including attorney general, and support “progressive prosecutors” at the state level who are looking to “ensure public safety while reducing incarceration.”
The task forces did not recommend that these prosecutors free violent criminals in particular — and Trump himself has boasted of signing a criminal justice reform bill that freed thousands of non-violent prisoners.
What Trump claimed the task forces said: “Abolish educational standards.”
What the task forces actually recommended: “Eliminate high-stakes standardized tests” — not eliminate all standards in the education system — and “encourage states to develop evidence-based approaches to student assessment that rely on multiple and holistic measures that better represent student achievement.”
What Trump claimed the task forces said: “End solitary confinement.”
What the task forces actually recommended: “End solitary confinement in all but rare, exceptional cases.”
Trump was much more accurate with this claim than he was with many of the other claims, but he still omitted the fact that the task forces left the door open to some use of solitary confinement.
You can click here for a list of other fact checks from this Trump speech.