A New York Times columnist went after President Donald Trump on Wednesday, accusing him of making a false statement that he didn't actually make.
In her Wednesday column "Trump Gets Terrible," Gail Collins voiced her hope that Trump would avoid violent or divisive rhetoric when he spoke at rallies ahead of the 2020 election. Instead, she wrote, "All we can do is hope he sticks to his less dangerous form of awfulness."
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"We want the Donald Trump who yowls about wildly overestimated crowd sizes and nonexistent achievements. For instance, on Monday in Houston he bragged about Brett Kavanaugh and gave the audience a primer on Supreme Court appointments…" she wrote.
Here's how Collins summarized Trump's remarks:
Who — who appointed the highest percentage of judges? No, no, no, it wasn’t Hillary Clinton. No, she didn’t make it, remember? She didn’t make it. No, you know who it is? You’ll never guess. It’s called George Washington. And we’re after George Washington. So, a very big thing, no, George Washington, why? Because he just started. He did 100 percent. Nobody’s ever going to break that record. Nobody’s ever going to break the record of George Washington.
Collins correctly pointed out that Trump is nowhere near the highest percentage of Supreme Court nominations. "In actual reality, Trump is not after George Washington. Franklin Delano Roosevelt placed eight justices on the Supreme Court and Ronald Reagan got four. Trump has gotten two, the same number as George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama."
But Collins left off part of Trump's remarks that make it clear he wasn't talking only about "Supreme Court appointments," like she claimed. Trump prefaced his remarks with the following [emphasis added]:
I’ve been there less than two years and I already have two of them cause we also have a fantastic new justice in Neil Gorsuch. We had him just approved, he was just confirmed and we have a record number of circuit court judges for the time that we’ve been in office. And that we fully expect to go to the all-time record. Percentage-wise it’s right up there and we’ve only been here a short — okay ready, here’s a question: Percentage-wise, who has more justices, federal judges appointed percentage-wise than any other president? Who is it?
In context, Trump was clearly speaking about all federal judges, not just his two Supreme Court nominations. The Republican president has had a higher-than-average 84 judges confirmed 21 months into his presidency.
Collins would have been on solid ground if she followed in the steps of an Associated Press fact-check that ruled Trump "over-reached" in his remarks. While "we're after George Washington" implies his administration had the second-highest percentage of judges confirmed, Trump also trails the percentages of Democrats John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton at this point in their presidencies.
Even Collins' fact-check of the claim Trump didn't make was initially incorrect. "A previous version of this article misstated the number of justices placed on the Supreme Court by President Franklin D. Roosevelt," reads a Thursday correction. "He appointed eight justices, not nine."