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Fact Check: No, Trump Did Not Say 'We've Been Waging an All-Out War on American Democracy'

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Claim:

During a Dec. 2, 2023, campaign speech, former President Donald Trump said "We've been waging an all-out war on American democracy."

Rating:

Rating: False
Rating: False

Context:

Given the context of the remark (he was talking about Democrats), Trump presumably meant to say, "They've been waging an all-out war on American democracy," but flubbed the sentence such that he actually said, per the audio recording, "We've been waging an all-out war in American democracy."

 

Not long after former U.S. President and current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivered a campaign speech in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Dec. 2, 2023, a short video clip made the rounds on social media, particularly among accounts espousing left-leaning views, in which Trump supposedly said, "We've been waging an all-out war on American democracy":

Did Trump actually say that? In Snopes' judgment, based both on what we actually hear on the audio track and on the context of his remark, he did not. Here is our transcription of the statement, drawn from CSPAN's video recording of the event:

For decades, you watched as a corrupt political class in our nation's capitol looted your money, trampled on your dignity and pushed their radical agenda into every aspect of your lives. You know it very well. But in 2016, you voted to stand up to those liars, losers, crooks and creeps, and you elected an outsider as your president. And it was about America first. We want to put our country first. They haven't done that in a long time, but we did it for four years and that's why we did so well. That's why it was one of the great presidencies, they say. Even the opponents sometimes say that he did very well, I have to say, "Take it back," his people scream. His people say "Take it back." From that day on our opponents, and we had a lot of opponents, but we've been waging an all-out war in American democracy. You look at what they've been doing, and becoming more and more extreme and repressive. They have just waged an all-out war with each passing day.

To our ears, Trump unambiguously said, "we've been waging an all-out war in American democracy" (and CSPAN's transcript reflects the same). We did not hear, nor does the context support the claim that he said, "We've been waging an all-out war on American democracy." It's clear that Trump was out to accuse his political opponents of waging war, not himself. Given the context, Trump likely meant to say, "They've been waging an all-out war on American democracy," but those weren't the words that came out of his mouth.

We have reached out to Trump's campaign for comment and will update this article should we hear back.

Sources:

Arnsdorf, Isaac, and Marianne LeVine. “Trump Attempts to Spin Anti-Democracy, Authoritarian Criticism against Biden.” Washington Post, 3 Dec. 2023. www.washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/12/02/trump-speech-authoritarian-criticism-biden/.

Campaign 2024: Fmr. Pres. Trump Delivers Remarks in Cedar Rapids, IA | C-SPAN.Org. https://www.c-span.org/video/?532074-1/fmr-pres-trump-delivers-remarks-cedar-rapids-ia. Accessed 3 Dec. 2023.

Gold, Michael. “Trump’s Defense to Charge That He’s Anti-Democratic? Accuse Biden of It.” The New York Times, 3 Dec. 2023. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/02/us/politics/trump-iowa-biden-democracy.html.

Updates:

Updated Dec. 4, 2023: This fact check was clarified to acknowledge that, given the context, Trump likely intended to say (regarding Democrats), "They've been waging an all-out war on American democracy."