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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Trump Wrong on Iran, Polling

Donald Trump made two false statements on ABC’s “This Week” while discussing foreign policy and the Republican presidential primary:

  • He denied saying that Americans detained by Iran would “never” be released during the Obama administration. But that’s exactly what he said. In September, Trump said that “frankly they’re never going to come back with this group.”
  • Trump also claimed “all of the latest polls have me No. 1 in Iowa.” In fact, a poll released Jan. 13 showed him trailing Sen. Ted Cruz by three points.

In an interview that was taped Jan. 16 for “This Week,” Trump was asked about Iran’s announcement that day that it had agreed to release four Americans who had been detained. A day later, President Obama said five Americans were released: former Marine Amir Hekmati, who had been held four and a half years; Pastor Saeed Abedini, three and a half years; journalist Jason Rezaian, one and a half years; student Matt Trevilick, who had been held for 40 days; and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari. (The Washington Post story on the president’s announcement said Trevilick “was not part of the exchange deal,” and the detention of Khosravi-Roodsari “had not been previously publicized.”)

Anchor George Stephanopoulos, Jan. 16: So we have some news. We have four American hostages, including Jason Rezaian, and released by Iran. Now you said that was never going to happen. You blamed Obama. Are you ready to give him credit?

Trump: Absolutely not. And I never said it was never going to happen. I said that if I got in, it would happen immediately.

Actually, Trump said both. He said those detained by Iran would never be released under the Obama administration, and he promised to immediately secure their release if he wins the election. He did so at a Capitol Hill rally in September.

Trump, Sept. 9, 2015: We can talk about the $150 billion, which, by the way, they get even if the deal isn’t approved. They get it just for going to the table. We can talk about the fact that we have four wonderful people over there, and frankly they’re never going to come back with this group. And I will say this. If I win the presidency, I guarantee you that those four prisoners are back in our country before I ever take office. I guarantee that.

As for his standing in presidential primary polls, Trump claimed that “all of the latest polls have me No. 1 in Iowa.” He also accused Cruz of lying during the Jan. 14 Republican debate. Both of those statements are false.

Trump, Jan. 16:  I’m No. 1 in every single place, including Iowa, by the way, as you know, all of the latest polls have me No. 1 in Iowa. And I have a great feeling toward Iowa and a great relationship with the people there, with the evangelicals and the tea party.

Real Clear Politics, which aggregates polling data on its website, shows the most recent Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll put Cruz ahead of Trump by three points, 25 to 22. The poll, released on Jan. 13, had a margin of error of 4.4 percent, so Cruz’s lead is within the margin of error. But Trump is not “No. 1” in “all of the latest polls” in Iowa.

Stephanopoulos also asked Trump about some of the sharp exchanges that Cruz and Trump had during the Jan. 14 Republican debate and the days that followed.

Cruz, who was born in Canada to a U.S. citizen, said during the debate that Trump’s questions about Cruz’s eligibility to be president were politically motivated.

Cruz, Jan. 14: You know, back in September, my friend Donald said that he had had his lawyers look at this from every which way, and there was no issue there. There was nothing to this birther issue. Now, since September, the Constitution hasn’t changed. But the poll numbers have. And I recognize — I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling in Iowa.

Cruz is right. The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll was released a day before the debate and, as we said, that poll showed Cruz ahead of Trump.

In fact, Real Clear Politics lists 16 polls taken in Iowa since December, and Cruz placed No. 1 in eight of them, while Trump was in first place in seven. They were tied in one poll. Cruz topped Trump for the first time in Iowa in a Monmouth University Poll released Dec. 7, so the race in Iowa has tightened considerably.

Nevertheless, Trump accused Cruz of lying in the “This Week” interview when he was asked about his conservative credentials.

Stephanopoulos, Jan. 16: But they are — they’re afraid you’re going to abandon conservative issues if you get the nomination.

Trump: I don’t think too many people are afraid of that, OK, because if you look at the polls, I’m leading Ted Cruz by a lot. He even lied about that. You know, he got up and said, well, the polls — well, the polls are showing that I’m the one that’s on the up swing. He’s the one on the down swing, a big down swing.

It is true that Trump is comfortably ahead in the national polls. But, during the debate, Cruz specifically mentioned Trump’s poll numbers in Iowa, so Trump is wrong to call Cruz a liar.

We asked the Trump campaign in an email about his statements, but we received no response.

— Eugene Kiely, with Chloe Nurik