Fact-Checking Trump’s Campaign Kickoff Rally: Russia, the Wall and More

Fact-Checking Trump’s Campaign Kickoff Rally: Russia, the Wall and More

President Trump officially began his campaign for re-election on Tuesday at a rally in Orlando, Fla. Here’s a fact-check of his remarks.

This article will be updated throughout the event.

“Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.”

Whether Mr. Trump has been “tougher” than any other president is subjective. But it’s worth noting that observers of American relations with Russia point to a disconnect between aggressive policies enacted by the Trump administration and not-so-tough language from Mr. Trump himself.

In his resignation letter in December, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis emphasized that his views on “treating allies with respect and also being cleareyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors” — Russia, for example — were not shared by Mr. Trump.

The Trump administration has indeed imposed sanctions, ordered a missile attack on Syria despite Moscow’s opposition and approved arms sales to Ukraine — actions that could be called “tough.”

Yet Mr. Trump himself has repeatedly denied or played down Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, contradicting his own intelligence agencies.

“My personal view is that his assertion would be laughable if it were not so dangerous,” Harley Balzer, a professor emeritus at Georgetown University and a Russia expert, previously told The Times.

Withdrawing American troops from Syria, where Mr. Balzer said Russia has accused a humanitarian relief group of being terrorists, “hardly sends a ‘tough’ message.”

This view seems to be shared by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who called Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces from Syria “correct.”

“We are building the wall. We will have over 400 miles of wall built by the end of next year.”

Mr. Trump is once again mixing projects to replace existing barriers with construction of entirely new sectors of a wall along the southwestern border — and inflating the mileage.

The Customs and Border Protection agency has received funding for 258 miles of barriers: 175 miles from congressional appropriations, 30 miles from a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund and 53 miles from the Pentagon’s coffers, according to an agency spokesman.

That’s 142 miles less than what Mr. Trump claimed. Even that figure relies on counting replacement projects as new wall, on contracts that have yet to be awarded and on funding that is tenuous. The 40 miles funded in the 2017 fiscal year, for example, is to replace old barriers with new fencing, while a federal judge in May blocked Mr. Trump from using the Pentagon funds to build his wall.

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