WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Trump doesn't like the message, he shoots the messenger.
So it was last week when he took personally a scientific study that should give pause to anyone thinking of following Trump's lead and ingesting the risky drug hydrochloroquine for the coronavirus. He branded the study's researchers, financed in part by his own administration, his "enemy."
Boastful on Memorial Day, Trump exaggerated his accomplishments for veterans' health care. Over the weekend, he also repeated a baseless allegation of rampant mail-in voting fraud and resurrected claims of unspecified conspiracies against him in 2016.
Here is a look at the rhetoric and reality as the pandemic's death toll approached 100,000 in the United States.
TRUMP: "The United States cannot have all Mail In Ballots. It will be the greatest Rigged Election in history. People grab them from mailboxes, print thousands of forgeries and 'force' people to sign. Also, forge names. Some absentee OK, when necessary. Trying to use Covid for this Scam!" — tweet Sunday
THE FACTS: Voting fraud is rare.
It's true that some election studies have shown a slightly higher incidence of mail-in voting fraud compared with in-person voting, but the overall risk is extremely low. The Brennan Center for Justice said in 2017 the risk of voting fraud is 0.00004% to 0.0009%.
"Trump is simply wrong about mail-in balloting raising a 'tremendous' potential for fraud," Richard L. Hasen, an elections expert at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, recently wrote in an op-ed. "While certain pockets of the country have seen their share of absentee-ballot scandals, problems are extremely rare in the five states that rely primarily on vote-by-mail, including the heavily Republican state of Utah."
Trump's push for in-person voting runs counter to the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which urges Americans to maintain 6 feet of separation and avoid crowds.
The CDC guidelines "encourage mail-in methods of voting if allowed in the jurisdiction," given the coronavirus threat. Last week, Trump threatened to "hold up" funding for Michigan and Nevada if they allow more residents to cast mail-in or absentee ballots due to pandemic safety concerns. He later backed off the threat.
Trump cast an absentee ballot by mail in the Florida Republican primary in March.
A commission Trump convened after the 2016 election to investigate alleged voting fraud disbanded without producing any findings.
The ‘Deep State’
TRUMP, on the 2016 election: "I'm fighting the deep state. I'm fighting the swamp. ... They never thought I was going to win, and then I won. And then they tried to get me out. That was the 'insurance policy.' She's going to win, but just in case she doesn't win we have an insurance policy." — interview aired Sunday on "Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson"
THE FACTS: He's repeating a false claim that there was a conspiracy to take him out if he won the 2016 presidential race, based on a text message between two FBI employees.
Trump has repeatedly depicted the two as referring to a plot — or insurance policy — to oust him from office if he beat Democrat Hillary Clinton. It's apparent from the text that it wasn't that.
Agent Peter Strzok and attorney Lisa Page, both now gone from the bureau, said the text messages reflected a debate about how aggressively the FBI should investigate Trump and his campaign when expectations at the time were that he would lose anyway.
Strzok texted about something Page had said to the FBI's deputy director, to the effect that "there's no way he gets elected." But Strzok said that the FBI should not assume Clinton would win: "I'm afraid we can't take that risk." He likened the situation to "an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40." He has said he was not discussing a post-election plot to drive Trump from office.