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Man Charged With Covid Unemployment Fraud Votes for Bill to Stop Covid Unemployment Fraud

George Santos, everyone.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

A man who says he is from Long Island and charged with committing unemployment fraud has voted to pass a bill to prevent unemployment fraud.

On Tuesday, George Santos was indicted on 13 counts related to money laundering, wire fraud, lying to Congress, and public theft of funds. That includes a charge of fraudulently claiming $24,000 in Covid unemployment benefits while making a $120,000 salary.

Just two days later, House Republicans passed a bill that purportedly aims to recoup Covid-19 unemployment benefits from fraudulent claimants. And Santos—who has either no self-awareness or a really great appreciation of irony—voted with them.

Many Republicans who’ve refused to disavow Santos also voted for the Protecting Taxpayers and Victims of Unemployment Fraud Act, a bill Santos co-sponsored.

Santos has pleaded not guilty to all charges and reached an agreement to be released on a $500,000 bond.

He has received permission to continue campaign activity, being only allowed to travel to New York City and Washington, D.C. To travel outside of those areas, he will need to obtain special permission from the government. The agreement enabled him to return back to the Hill and vote on a bill that, ideally, would stop crimes like the ones he allegedly committed.

The agreement potentially offers House Speaker Kevin McCarthy a smidgen of breathing room, amid Republican efforts to impose work requirements on Medicaid and SNAP benefits during debt ceiling negotiations.

Meanwhile, the unemployment fraud bill, which could in fact weaken the government’s ability to investigate fraud cases, passed 230–200.

At the very least, Santos’s colleagues seem to see it all as validation for the bill:

Republican Who Wants Reparations for White People Gave Max Donation to George Santos

Bernie Moreno and George Santos may have more in common than would appear on first glance.

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Last month, Trump-approved Republican Ohio Senate candidate Bernie Moreno broke ground on his Senate campaign by demanding reparations for white people.

Turns out that Moreno, his daughter Emily, and her congressman husband, Max Miller, each donated thousands of dollars to now criminally indicted Representative George Santos.

In fact, more than 58 percent of Santos’s donations from Ohio came from the trio and the broader Miller family. Representative Miller donated a total of $8,700. His father, Abraham, donated $5,800, while his mother, Barbara, donated $8,700. Moreno capped his donation at a single individual max donation of $2,900, as did his daughter and Miller’s wife, Emily.

The revelations are fascinating for a few reasons. For one, Miller is one of a growing handful of members of Congress who have called for Santos’s removal in light of his spiderweb of lies and, now, criminal charges. Turns out the Miller family spilled nearly $30,000 into a basket case.

Moreover, Moreno thus far does not seem to have echoed his son-in-law’s concerns with Santos. Which is all the more interesting given that the Ohio Senate candidate now faces his own charges of being “Ohio’s George Santos.” Republican strategists in the state leveled the broad accusations in the Daily Mail, arguing that Moreno has flip-flopped on how he describes his background and his family’s supposed wealth.

Recently, Moreno has leaned in to describing his family leaving Colombia in the same vein as Cuban immigrants fleeing “a government that was imprisoning us for our beliefs, that was taking away our businesses, taking away our rights.” (Despite the flimsy comparison, Moreno’s own Colombia was under conservative rule at the time, not scary socialists’.)

The GOP strategists argue Moreno was much more willing before he entered politics to talk about his family’s “privileged” life in Colombia, how he grew up with “multiple” properties” with “staff,” and how his father’s family home was “so large that it was converted into” the German Embassy.

“Bernie Moreno is the second coming of George Santos. God forbid Bernie Moreno ends up as the GOP nominee in Ohio,” one strategist said to the Daily Mail. “This is a s***show waiting to happen.”

It is possible for multiple things to be true: Moreno’s family may have been relatively wealthier in Colombia than in America. After all, upon arriving, for instance, Moreno’s father apparently had to accept a much lower-paying job at a hospital due to not having a U.S. medical license.

But GOP strategists also argue that Moreno’s political posturing is flip-flopped too. In 2015, Moreno wrote in a tweet that Trump, the “bully in chief” who “is now cry baby in chief,” was Hillary Clinton’s “best fundraiser and ally.” He also tweeted that “listening to @realDonaldTrump is like watching a car accident that makes you sick, but you can stop looking.” Since then, Moreno has been hungry for pats on the head from Trump, and enjoyed receiving one via Truth Social a week before he announced his run.

“Word is that Bernie Moreno, the highly respected businessman from the GREAT STATE of OHIO, and the father-in-law of fantastic young Congressman, Max Miller, is thinking of running for the Senate,” Trump posted. “He would not be easy to beat, especially against Brown, one of the worst in the Senate!”

Moreno’s potential exaggeration aside, the family’s previous full-throttle donations to criminally indicted Santos may also serve as a reminder of Representative Miller’s own shady past. Look no further than his being subpoenaed for his potential role in planning rallies leading up to the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

The new face in Congress also reportedly has a history of assault. In high school, he reportedly shoved a woman “effectively down the stairs” after she allegedly resisted his attempts to touch her. In 2007, Miller was charged with assault, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest after punching someone in the back of the head and running from police. And he reportedly pushed against a wall and slapped his former romantic partner, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.

Miller, Santos, and now, perhaps, Moreno. Money flows between the trio, and now further scrutiny of them is welcome.

The Ratings Are In: No One Really Watched CNN’s Trump Town Hall

It seems that Trump’s tired routine isn’t all that interesting to Americans anymore.

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

CNN’s decision to host a town hall with twice-impeached, criminally indicted, convicted sexual abuser Donald Trump did not pay off, with the event garnering just a mere fraction of the former president’s previous viewers.

The Wednesday night event was jam-packed with some of Trump’s greatest hits: lies, misogynistic attacks, election conspiracy theories, and insults leveled at anyone who tried to fact-check him. Countless people in the news media, including CNN employees, have slammed the town hall and the network for hosting it.

But even though many news outlets, The New Republic included, remain absolutely gobsmacked at the prime-time train wreck we witnessed Wednesday night, it turns out that not that many people witnessed it with us. The town hall averaged just 3.1 million viewers.

For comparison, almost 71.5 million people watched Trump win the 2016 election. In 2020, later, an average of 21.6 million viewers watched the Republican National Convention—far fewer than the previous election, but still miles away from Wednesday night.

That’s got to sting for Trump, who cares deeply about television ratings. Throughout his presidency, he was obsessed with how many people tuned in to watch his speeches, more so than the actual content of his speech. This gave us many reality television–style gems intended to attract more eyeballs, such as waving a Q-tip around during a coronavirus briefing or giving Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the State of the Union.

When everyone was either trapped at home or sick with Covid-19, Trump bragged repeatedly that his daily briefings got some of the highest ratings on television. And in February, he posted an internal “viewership report” on Truth Social claiming that the ratings for his visit to East Palestine, Ohio, were “off the charts”—even though no major network covered the trip.

It’s funny that someone so ratings-obsessed got such terrible ratings, but an even better idea would have been not giving Trump that kind of a platform in the first place.

Title 42 Is Ending Today, and Kyrsten Sinema and Thom Tillis Want to Stop It

The senators are aiming to extend the pandemic-era asylum policy to give lawmakers the time to write bipartisan immigration reform legislation.

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Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Thom Tillis hold a “pen and pad” session with reporters to discuss the expiration of Title 42.

The pandemic-era public health emergency measure known as Title 42, which allows officials to turn away individuals at the border regardless of whether they are seeking asylum, is set to expire this evening.

Lawmakers of both parties, particularly those representing states that border Mexico, have worried that the lifting of Title 42 will result in more migrants fleeing their countries seeking to enter the United States, causing bottlenecks at ports of entry and straining resources at the border. Republican Senator Thom Tillis and Democrat-turned-independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema introduced legislation last week effectively extending Title 42 for two years, which the two argue will give Congress the time to negotiate broader immigration reform legislation.

“It is our goal to get a bill to the president’s desk to actually make some meaningful difference in addressing this crisis, and relieve the pressure on border states like Arizona,” Sinema told reporters in a “pen and pad” sitdown—a rare occasion, as Sinema almost never speaks to the press. Sinema also slammed what she saw as the Biden administration’s insufficient response to the end of the policy, saying that the White House’s “willful failure to prepare for the end of Title 42 means that my state bears the brunt of the crisis that is coming.”

The bill is also supported by Democratic Senators Joe Manchin, Sherrod Brown, and Jon Tester, all of whom are up for reelection in 2024 in red states. But multiple attempts to pass immigration reform bills of any significance over the past 15 years have foundered. In 2013, a reform measure that passed on a bipartisan basis was blocked in the House; Congress has only become more polarized, and less amenable to broad bipartisan immigration reform, in the past 10 years. (Sinema did not reply to my question on how the political conditions have changed since 2013, remarking instead that she liked my dress.) Democratic Senator Dick Durbin is also developing his own legislation to address Title 42.

Meanwhile, the House will vote on a sweeping border enforcement bill on Thursday afternoon, which President Joe Biden has vowed to veto—not that it will make it to his desk in the first place, as the measure will be dead on arrival in the Senate.

The Outrage Over Rashida Tlaib’s Palestinian Nakba Event Reveals Everything About U.S. Politics

A Palestinian member can’t even talk about her family’s history without being labeled antisemitic.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

On Wednesday, Representative Rashida Tlaib, the first female member of Congress of Palestinian descent, sponsored an event raising awareness about the Nakba.* Known as “the catastrophe,” the Nakba refers to the ongoing series of events beginning in 1948 that led to the persecution and displacement of Palestinians, and the occupation of Palestine that continues today.

The event, originally planned to take place at the Capitol Visitor Center, sought to “uplift the experiences of Palestinians who underwent the Nakba, and educate members of Congress and their staff about this history and the ongoing Nakba to which Israel continues to subject Palestinians,” according to an event page.

Apparently such a notion—reflection, education, conversation—was too much for some.

First, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy intervened and blocked the event from happening as planned, booking the room where the event was meant to be held.

McCarthy accused the event of trafficking in “antisemitic tropes about Israel.” (If McCarthy was suggesting it’s antisemitic to draw attention to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, well, conflating a state’s violent actions with Jewish people more broadly is actually antisemitic.)

Nevertheless, the event went on. Jewish Senator Bernie Sanders welcomed the event to be held in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Senate committee room, which is under his jurisdiction. But still, the blowback continued.

“I wholeheartedly disapprove of the Majority permitting the use of the HELP Committee room for this divisive event,” Senator Bill Cassidy, ranking member of the HELP committee, said in a statement. “The Capitol Grounds should not be used as a pedestal to legitimize anti-Semitic bigotry.”

Senator Jacky Rosen became the first Senate Democrat to speak against the event. “Calling the establishment of the world’s only Jewish state a ‘catastrophe’ is deeply offensive, and I strongly disagree with allowing this event to be held on Capitol Hill,” she said. Rosen’s comments seemed to erase the core concern that the history of the state has been catastrophic specifically for Palestinians. Instead, Rosen purported that organizers suggest it is catastrophic more broadly for Jewish people to have a safe place to call home.

Shortly after canceling the event, McCarthy pledged to “host a bipartisan discussion to honor the 75th anniversary of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” unwittingly affirming America’s bipartisan commitment to the displacement and violence that has been inflicted upon Palestinians since 1948.

Nevertheless, the lengths McCarthy and anti-Palestinian groups went to to cancel the event did not prevail.

Meanwhile, Thursday marks one year since Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by an Israeli soldier, as she reported on an Israeli military invasion of a refugee camp in occupied Palestine. Independent investigations have concluded she was the victim of a targeted killing, despite (or perhaps because of her) wearing a blue vest with “PRESS” clearly written on it.

And yet, one year later, Israel has faced no consequences for killing an American citizen.

Nor, of course, has Israel faced consequences for its ongoing violence against Palestinians. At least 123 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces this year—about one a day. The number is probably higher, as Israel continues airstrikes on Gaza.

This lack of accountability—all while Israel has ratcheted up its violent attitudes toward Palestinians—reveals why Tlaib’s Nakba event was so needed. America as an entity and as a group of people largely imagines itself to be honorable, pursuant to the light of democracy, at the very least, to be trying its best. It cannot fulfill any of that without knowing the story of the Nakba and how its legacy of displacement and disrespect toward Palestinians is so clearly part of our contemporary times.

* This piece originally misstated that Tlaib is the first member of Congress of Palestinian descent.

It’s Now Legal in Florida for Doctors to Deny Health Care to Anyone If They Feel Like It

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a dangerous bill that would give virtually any health care provider (including insurance companies) the right to deny care.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Thursday that will allow doctors and health insurance companies to deny care to anyone they want.

Under the new law, “a health care provider or health payor has the right to opt out of participation in or payment for any health care service on the basis of a conscience-based objection,” meaning based on their moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.

Providers and insurers will face no consequences under the measure and will not be required to refer patients to a place that would provide the needed care. If they are penalized for denying care or coverage, the doctor or company can sue.

The law makes no mention of protections against gender- or race-based discrimination, leading opponents to rightly worry that the sweeping nature of the text will let providers deny care or coverage to women, people of color, and LGBTQ people. A doctor could deny care, for instance, if they are “morally opposed” to gender-affirming care, or if they don’t like that a patient is having premarital sex. And it’s not just doctors—under the law, insurance companies, nurses, pharmacists, hospitals, ambulances, and more could all also deny care.

“This bill is a broad license for health care providers and insurance companies to refuse services to people. No one should be denied access to medical care,” said Brandon Wolf, the press secretary for Equality Florida. “This puts patients in harm’s way, is antithetical to the job of health care providers, and puts the most vulnerable Floridians in danger.”

Kara Gross, the legislative director and senior policy counsel for the ACLU of Florida, had previously warned that the bill left too much room for subjectivity in determining criteria for care. “There is no definition of ‘moral’ or ‘ethical’ in the bill. Who determines what constitutes a sincerely held moral or ethical belief, and more importantly, why should access to health care be denied based on such vague, imprecise, and subjective terms?” she said in a statement.

This law is one of the latest moves in Florida Republicans’ unrelenting attacks on people’s rights and access to health care. They have taken particular aim at women and LGBTQ people. Just last week, the legislature passed a bill that would let the state take transgender minors away from their families if they are receiving gender-affirming care. DeSantis has also signed a law banning abortion at six weeks, before many people even know they are pregnant, that will decimate abortion access throughout the South.

Louisiana Republicans Cruelly Reject Rape, Incest Exceptions to Abortion Ban

House Republicans heard directly from survivors—and then ignored them.

Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Louisiana House Republicans rejected multiple bills aimed at making abortion marginally easier to access, an unbelievably cruel move that denies exceptions even for child victims of sexual abuse.

Abortion has been banned in Louisiana since Roe v. Wade was overturned, with exceptions only to save the pregnant person’s life or if the fetus is not expected to survive. However, two doctors must agree that the fetus is nonviable, adding a significant burden to the patient.

The House Criminal Justice Committee heard a package of abortion bills on Wednesday intended to barely ease restrictions on the procedure. One bill would have exempted all rape and incest victims from the abortion ban, but it failed in a 10–5 vote, with Republicans voting against the measure and Democrats and the one independent voting for it. Another would have specifically allowed child victims of rape and incest to get abortions. The bill was voted down, again along party lines.

Following those two votes, lawmakers deferred the other bills. One would have only fined doctors for performing an abortion, instead of sentencing them to jail time. It also would have allowed only one doctor to determine that a pregnancy was medically futile, instead of requiring two opinions. The bill’s sponsor deferred the measure so she could write amendments to it that might garner more support from committee Republicans.

Doctors and abortion rights advocates who testified in the committee hearing warned that the bill would have huge negative consequences for all residents of Louisiana, particularly children. They beseeched the committee to think about what would happen if one of their own female relatives were raped.

By forcing survivors to give birth, you are forcing them to forever be connected to their rapist,” said sexual assault survivors’ advocate Morgan Lamandre. “In Louisiana, men are allowed to choose the mother of their children regardless of what the mother wants.”

Democratic Representative Cedric Glover, who sponsored the bill to create exceptions for child victims, pointed out that “if the roles were reversed in regards to which of the sexes have the burden of bearing children, this would be an issue that men would look at differently.”

“This issue is about choices,” he said. The bill’s opponents “spoke of women who regretted having availed themselves of a choice to an abortion after being raped. That was still a choice available to them.”

Although most Louisiana residents support abortion access, the majority of state legislators—both Republicans and Democrats, including Governor John Bel Edwards—oppose it. But Edwards and other members of his party had hoped to ease the state’s draconian restrictions a bit.

“I love Louisiana,” one woman testified during the hearing, after detailing how she survived a decade of sexual abuse at the hands of her grandparents. “For the future survivors that love Louisiana, it’s time Louisiana loved us back.”

CNN Insiders Slam Trump Town Hall: “A Disaster, and Totally Predictable”

CNN execs are facing a stream of criticism from their own employees.

Donald Trump
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

On Wednesday, CNN persisted with hosting a town hall event with twice-impeached, criminally indicted former President Donald Trump, just a day after he was found liable for sexual abuse and defamation.

And it went about as poorly as literally anyone could have predicted. Trump probably told more lies than truths. He smeared E. Jean Carroll and got audience members to laugh and jeer along. He doubled down on January 6 and lies about the 2020 election. And CNN left its own Kaitlan Collins with the remarkably tall task of trying to fact-check it all, while leaving her vulnerable to be called “a nasty person” by Trump in front of an audience that seemed to have no concern with him doing so at all.

And Team Trump was loving it. “Advisers to Trump are thrilled at how this is going so far for him,” The New York Times’ Jonathan Swan reported. “They can’t believe he is getting an hour on CNN with an audience that cheers his every line and laughs at his every joke.”

Early on during the town hall, one CNN employee told The Washington Posts Jeremy Barr it was “a disaster, and totally predictable.”

Another insider told Rolling Stone the evening was “appalling” and that CNN gave Trump “a huge platform to spew his lies,” while “the audience was stacked with his voters.”

“A fucking disgrace,” another CNN insider said. “1,000 percent a mistake [to host Trump]. No one [at CNN] is happy.”

“Just brutal,” another producer added.

Before the event, CNN commentator and retired Washington, D.C., police officer Michael Fanone (who was assaulted by rioters during the January 6 attack, resulting in a heart attack, severe burns, and brain injuries) openly railed against the network, in a Rolling Stone piece titled, “CNN Is Hosting a Town Hall for a Guy Who Tried to Get Me Killed.”

Oliver Darcy, CNN’s senior media reporter, wrote a very critical piece overnight on CNN’s decision to host the town hall. “It’s hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN Wednesday evening,” he wrote. “CNN and new network boss Chris Licht are facing a fury of criticism—both internally and externally over the event.”

What was already a bad idea was made worse by CNN’s tolerance, and therefore affirmation, of a man just found liable for sexual abuse. One could imagine a parallel universe where CNN ideally never hosted Trump at all or at least canceled the event, issuing a strong declaration that the American people are better served with journalism that doesn’t offer open prime time to sexual abusers—far less coup inciters.

Instead, the network dug its heels in, leaving Collins to endlessly parry with Trump’s lies and the rest of America to become even further immersed into the same consent-manufacturing operation that helped lead to Trump’s rise in the first place.

And while many within the walls of CNN appear incensed by what their employer has done, it matters not, unless they make it matter. For their own dignity, and for the dignity of what journalism should aspire toward, these staffers could leave, or strike, or even sabotage the network; make leadership actually feel something other than a stream of reaction articles that only fuel their egotistical presumptions that “if we’re making people mad, we’re doing something right.” Till then, these executives will only further entrench themselves in somehow believing this garbage is good for America. And by then, the opening for the actually good journalists at CNN to make change will be even narrower. The clock is ticking.

Even Fox News Is Sick of Republicans’ Dumb Investigation Into Joe Biden

“You don’t actually have any facts to that point,” Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy pressed.

Fox anchor Steve Doocy
John Lamparski/Getty Images
Fox anchor Steve Doocy

Republicans have no evidence that Joe Biden was involved in shady business dealings, and even Fox News knows it.

House Republicans accused the president and his family Wednesday of engaging in business with foreign entities, but they were unable to provide any actual evidence linking Biden to any wrongdoing.

Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy pressed Representative James Comer about the nothingburger of an investigation. Comer, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, alleged in a 65-page memo that the Bidens were involved in influence peddling in Romania for two years, and claimed that Biden’s son Hunter had business deals in China.

“You don’t actually have any facts to that point. You’ve got some circumstantial evidence,” Doocy said Thursday morning. “And the other thing is, of all those names, the one person who didn’t profit is—there’s no evidence that Joe Biden did anything illegally.”

Comer gave a long, complicated explanation of how Biden was definitely involved, even though his name didn’t come up anywhere in the financial documents he had subpoenaed. In fact, Comer admitted that Republicans have yet to find any proof of their accusations.

“We’re at the very beginning stages of this, but in talking with the informants that we have … we know that Joe Biden was actively involved,” Comer said. “We’re still looking for more bank records that we believe will implicate Joe Biden’s active participation in this.”

Since taking control of the House of Representatives, Republicans have been obsessed with trying to dig up dirt on the Biden family, particularly Biden’s son Hunter. Even though the United States has just weeks before it could default on its debt, the GOP is apparently more interested in personal vendettas than leading the country.

CNN’s Trump Town Hall Was a Total Disaster

Trump told a record number of lies during the town hall, and he got away with it.

Donald Trump
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Twice-impeached, criminally indicted former President Donald Trump had an hour’s worth of exclusive time with CNN—one day after he was found liable for sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll.

Despite CNN’s Kaitlan Collins’s valiant effort with the conditions she was given, the fundamental structure of the night was not complementary to what anyone might imagine “good journalism” looking like. The network gave Trump a friendly audience of voters who seemed to largely agree with him on most things; seldom a “battleground of ideas,” the night’s only challenges came from Collins. But Trump sprayed lie after lie after lie, which is difficult for anyone to fact-check in real time.

Here are just some of the lies Trump threw at the wall, with a jeering and laughing audience buoying him throughout.

  • Doubled down on the Big Lie that the 2020 election was rigged.
  • On pressuring Georgia’s secretary of state to find missing votes: “I didn’t ask him to find anything.”
  • Then-Vice President Mike Pence “should have put the votes back to the state legislatures, and I think we would have had a different outcome.” The vice president does not have such authority, and numerous Trump allies have admitted that such a process would have been illegal.
  • On the January 6 riot: “I offered them 10,000 soldiers.” There is no evidence Trump ever made a request to the National Guard for support, or that Democrats or Washington, D.C., rejected such assistance.
  • “The Presidential Records Act is not criminal. I took the documents. I’m allowed to.”
  • Documents “become automatically declassified when I took them.
  • President Obama took classified documents from the White House.
  • On E. Jean Carroll: “This woman, I don’t know her. I never met her. I have no idea who she is.
  • The judge in the E. Jean Carroll case allowed us to put nothing in” during the defamation and sexual abuse trial.
  • President Obama separated families at the border first.
  • Other countries are sending “migrant families” from mental institutions to the U.S.
  • People don’t speak English in Chinatown [false, and racist].
  • “We created the greatest economy in history. A big part of that economy was I got you the biggest tax cuts in the history of our country, bigger than the Reagan cuts.” Average growth under Trump was lower than in numerous other administrations; moreover, Trump’s tax cut disproportionately benefited the wealthy, rather than low-income or middle-class families. In 2018, after Trump’s tax cuts passed, the richest 400 families in America paid an average effective tax rate lower than what the bottom half of American households paid.
  • I finished the border wall.
  • “They could kill the baby at the ninth month or after it was born” before the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

This is not an exhaustive list of all the lies, especially the more minute ones, Trump told during the town hall. Just during his four years in office, it is estimated that Trump lied to, or misled, the American people over 30,000 times.