FACT CHECK: Did The National Debt Increase By 7 Trillion Under Donald Trump’s Presidency?

Anna Mock | Fact Check Reporter

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie claimed the national debt has increased by $7 trillion under Donald Trump’s presidency in an interview with NBC News’ Kristen Welker. 

Verdict: True 

Trump raised the national debt by $7.8 trillion during his tenure in office, mostly spearheaded by pandemic relief efforts and the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs act.

Fact Check: 

During the second Republican debate last Wednesday, Christie claimed Trump added $7 trillion to the national debt, according to Mediaite. Gov. Ron DeSantis, too, made the same claim during the debate, and also attacked Trump for not being present that night, The Washington Examiner reported.

A few days prior, Christie made the claim during an interview with Welker. “Kristen, he said he’s going to balance the budget in four years and he added $7 trillion to the national debt, the worst record of any president in four years in American history,” he said.

The claim is accurate. The U.S. saw  a $7.8 trillion rise in the national debt during Trump’s presidency, according to the Fiscal Data, a website maintained by the Treasury Department. On January 20, 2017, the day Trump took office, the debt was $19,947,304,555,212.49. On January, 20, 2021, the day he left office, the debt was $27,751,896,236,414.77. 

CNN also reported on the statistic in January 2021. A spokesperson for the Cato Institute directed Check Your Fact to a blog post on the institute’s website when asked to comment. 

“When President Trump left the White House, the deficit had reached the largest peacetime level as a share of the economy, in U.S. history, as the federal debt exceeded 100 percent of the economy for the first time since World War II,” the blog post reads. 

The post also referenced a report from the Manhattan Institute, which shows a figure that legislative and White House costs were nearly $8 trillion.

“President Trump signed legislation and approved executive actions costing $7.8 trillion over the decade—compared to $5.0 trillion for President Obama and $6.9 trillion for President Bush, and he enacted these costs in just a single four‐​year presidential term, compared to his predecessors’ eight years in the Oval Office,” the report reads. (RELATED: Is Donald Trump Unable To Purchase Firearms Due To His Felony Indictments?)

The report states that pandemic relief-based legislation, most of it being done in 2020, added $3.9 trillion alone with most funds being used for the Paycheck Protection Program and stimulus payments for families.

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act added another $1.9 trillion by reducing the corporate tax rate and other changes to the tax code, which was hinted at by the Congressional Budget Office in 2019.

“All in all, President Trump signed expensive legislation and left even modest future budget savings increasingly dependent on assumptions of faster economic growth, declining interest rates, and technical savings such as slower growth of health care costs,” the report concludes. “President Trump leaves a federal budget with surging debt, unprecedented peacetime deficits, and a daunting $112 trillion baseline shortfall over the next three decades.”

ProPublica, an independent and non-profit investigative journalism outlet, wrote in January 2021 that projections from the Congressional Budget Office had increased the federal budget deficit from 2 to 3% in January 2017 to 4.6% in 2019. The report suggested federal deficits were approximately 130% to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product on Dec. 31, 2020.

“Trump had the third-biggest primary deficit growth, 5.2% of GDP, behind only George W. Bush (11.7%) and Abraham Lincoln (9.4%). Bush, of course, not only passed a big tax cut, as Trump has, but also launched two wars, which greatly inflated the defense budget,” the article states. “Lincoln had to pay for the Civil War. By contrast, Trump’s wars have been almost entirely of the political variety.”

Check Your Fact has reached out to Christie and multiple economic think tanks for comment and will update this piece if responses are provided. 

Anna Mock

Fact Check Reporter