US presidential debate: fact-check on Trump and Clinton’s claims
Is the Clinton Foundation a ‘criminal enterprise,’ and has Trump ever spoken with Putin?
Republican US presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks as Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens during their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, US, October 19th, 2016. Photograph: Mark Ralston/Reuters
Donald Trump’s claims
“We will have a second amendment that is a very small replica of what it is now” in a Clinton administration
Trump is being reductive: Clinton has never called for abolishing the second amendment, the right to bear arms, though she does support gun control measures such as an assault weapons ban, increased background checks and greater liability for manufacturers.
As moderator Chris Wallace noted, Clinton has said she disagrees with the supreme court’s 5-4 decision in 2008 to broadly affirm the personal right to gun ownership. Her campaign has said Clinton would prefer states have the right to enact as strict gun control laws as they see fit.
“Chicago has the toughest gun laws and the most gun deaths”
Chicago police have pushed back on the notion that the city’s gun laws have proven ineffective, noting that a huge number of gun seizures were of firearms purchased outside the city or outside Illinois, where laws are more lax. Trump is largely correct about Chicago’s homicide problem: the city is on pace to have more than 600 gun deaths in 2016.
“If you go with what Hillary is saying in the ninth month you can rip the baby out of the womb of the mother, up to the last day.”
Clinton does not support such an extreme view on abortion, nor have courts ever ruled such a late term operation legal, or suggested that they would. States vary on how late they allow abortions, ranging from a ban six weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period (North Dakota) to three states with third-trimester abortion bans. There are nine states without specific term prohibitions, but clinics do not abort at such late terms: only 1.2 per cent of abortions occur after 21 weeks,according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute.
“Clinton wants open borders”
Clinton does not want “open borders”. She supports reform to let people pass background checks and pay back taxes in order to stay in the US, and she supports Obama’s executive actions to shield some migrants, such as people who were brought to the US as children. Like Obama, she supports deportation for people with criminal records.
“Obama has moved millions of people out”
Trump is correct: Barack Obama has deported more than 2.5 million people, more than any other recent president, but he has prioritised migrants with criminal records. “Millions and millions”, however, is an exaggeration, and Obama also supports shielding millions of undocumented immigrants without criminal records, and reform for citizenship.
Obama “has thousands and thousands of people, they have no idea where they come from”
Ten thousand Syrian refugees have come to the United States in 2016, but Trump makes it sound misleadingly large.
He is patently wrong about the screening process. The US has among the most intensive screening process in the world for refugees: it requires they register and interview with the United Nations, which then must refer them to the US. Refugees who pass this test then interview with state department contractors and have at least two background checks, then they have three fingerprint and photo screenings, then US immigration reviews the case, then Homeland Security interviews the refugee, then a doctor examines the refugee, and finally several security agencies perform one last check after the refugee has been matched with a resettlement agency.
The process takes 18 months to two years. The US has a very clear idea about which refugees it allows into the country.
“I don’t know Putin. He said nice things about me. He has no respect for our president.”
It’s not clear whether Trump has ever spoken with the Russian president. Putin was invited to but did not attend a 2013 beauty pageant in Moscow, according to one of the oligarchs who helped organise the event. “Will he become my new best friend?” Trump wondered beforehand.
The pair may have communicated through intermediaries. In 2014, Trump told a National Press Club lunch: “I was in Moscow recently and I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer, and we had a tremendous success.” A year earlier, Trump told MSNBC: “I do have a relationship and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today.”
Last November, Trump claimed in a debate that he “got to know him very well because we were both on 60 Minutes”. They appeared in separate, pre-taped segments and were not on set together.
Trump has repeatedly tried to do business in Russia, and his refusal to release tax returns prevents him proving that he has no assets there.
Putin has never called Trump “a genius”; he used the Russian word which means “colorful” or “flamboyant”. Trump likely heard the word translated as “bright” or “brilliant”, though its connotations are often more pejorative than not: bright in the sense of glaring and gaudy, brilliant in the sense of dazzling light. Putin also called him “talented, undoubtedly”.
“It’s not our business to decide his merits; that’s for US voters,” Putin said earlier this year. He did say, however, that he would welcome the rapprochement in Russian-American relations that Trump has suggested.
“She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China or somebody else. Our country has no idea”
US intelligence officials have formally accused Russia of hacking Democratic organisations, saying they have “high confidence”that the Kremlin is behind cyberattacks on the US government, Democratic organisations and polling centers.
Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on this claim, despite personal briefings with US intelligence officials.
Even his running mate, Mike Pence, has accepted the briefings, and told NBC on Sunday: “I think there’s more and more evidence that implicates Russia.” Earlier on Wednesday a Russian man suspected of involvement in the hacks was arrested in Prague.
“The border patrol agents, 16,500 plus, ICE, endorsed me. First time they’ve ever endorsed a candidate”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a government agency. It does not endorse political candidates. A union representing about 7,600 ICE officials endorsed Trump in September. A group representing 16,500 of 21,000 border patrol agents similarly endorsed Trump; this does not represent all the agents.
Clinton called for “open borders”
Clinton is correct that Trump took the quote out of context: she was talking primarily about trade to Banco Itau, a Brazilian bank that eventually became Unibanco. Here’s what she said, according to a hacked email released by Wikileaks:
“My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.”
Clinton has flip-flopped on free trade since 2013, most notably supporting and then rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“I’m a big fan of Nato but they have to pay up”
Trump is not necessarily a big fan of Nato, which he has called “obsolete”, and he is wrong that allies do not pay for US military bases, though they do not pay perhaps as much as some Nato commanders want.
The US has urged its Nato allies to pay more for years, especially as eastern and central European allies have loudly warned about aggressive Russian action. The US currently pays about 22 per cent of overall Nato spending, compared to Germany’s 15 per cent, France’s 11 per cent, the UK’s 10 per , etc, and most Nato members fail to pay the 2 per cent of GDP into defense as the alliance’s guidelines dictate. But the US does receive payments for military bases abroad from countries like Japan and South Korea, and takes profits from arms deals (sometimes to controversial clients, such as Saudi Arabia).
The US also benefits strategically through foreign military bases, which have acted as foundations for American influence abroad.
“I never said Japan should have nuclear weapons”
Trump has suggested Japan and South Korea should develop their own nuclear weapons. He toldthe New York Times in March: “Well I think maybe it’s not so bad to have Japan - if Japan had that nuclear threat, I’m not sure that would be a bad thing for us.”
“Obama has doubled the debt”
Trump has the raw numbers just about right. When Obama took office on 20 January 2009, the federal debt was $10.63tn. As of 28 September 2016,it was $19.5tn. Trump omits, however, two key points: Congress controls the government’s wallet (ie Obama cannot spend or tax without approval from lawmakers), and Obama took office during the financial crisis, when Republicans, Democrats and most economists agreed that the US needed to spend in order to counteract the collapsing economy. Pence has the right numbers but imputes too much responsibility on the president.
“When you ran the state department, $6bn was missing. Maybe it was stolen, nobody knows”
This is not correct. Trump is alluding to a March 2014 alert, about contractor spending in the Middle East and Africa, by the state department’s inspector general, who was so perturbed by careless language around the $6bn figure that he wrote the Washington Post a letter that April.
His alert did not conclude that the money was “missing” he told the Post, but rather that officials had failed “to adequately maintain contract files” that created “significant financial risk”. Files were missing or incomplete regarding several dozen contracts, not the money itself, and the state department agreed to his recommendations.
“Clinton flip-flopped on the Trans-Pacific Partnership”
Trump is right: Clinton has not been consistent on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and her language from 2010 through 2014 suggests she was broadly in support of Barack Obama’s trade deal, before eventually opposing it as a presidential candidate. As secretary of state in 2012, she said: “This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field. And when negotiated, this agreement will cover 40 per cent of the world’s total trade and build in strong protections for workers and the environment.”
She continued to praise it while she worked for the Obama administration, variously calling it “high quality”, “cutting edge”, “groundbreaking” and “high standard”.
“She gave us Isis, she created a vacuum”
The claim that Hillary Clinton “gave” the world Islamic State, also known as Isis, condenses and distorts a conservative view that, closer to its original form, says that that by withdrawing American forces from Iraq, Barack Obama created a power vacuum in which Islamic State could rise.
This argument ignores that Islamic States first segments formed out of Iraq’s civil war, while George W Bush was president, that the group gained strength in Syria’s civil war, where the US did not intervene until 2014, that Obama withdrew American forces in 2011 under the timeline agreed on by Bush and Baghdad, and that both Bush and Obama failed to come to an agreement with Baghdad over troops - in large part over a disagreement about whether American troops could be prosecuted by Iraq.
Trump supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and “surgical” intervention to remove Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, though he now claims otherwise. He also supported withdrawal from Iraq in 2007 and 2008.
“Those stories have been largely debunked”
The sexual allegations against Trump have not been “debunked”, though they have not been proven, either. For context, Jill Harth sued Trump in 1997 for “attempted rape” and earlier this year told the Guardian he had “me up against the wall” of a child’s bedroom “and had his hands all over me and tried to get up my dress”. Jessica Leeds and Rachel Cooks recounted to the New York Times that Trump had groped the former “like an octopus” and kissed the latter without consent.
Journalist Natasha Stoynoff has said Trump cornered her in a room in 2005 and “within seconds, he was pushing me against the wall, and forcing his tongue down my throat”. Mindy McGillivray told the Palm Beach Post a similar story, saying that Trump groped her 13 years ago, also at his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida. Summer Zervos, a former Apprentice contestant, has alleged that he groped and kissed her without consent in 2007. Temple Taggart accused Trump of advances at rehearsal for the 1997 Miss USA pageant, photographer Kirsten Anderson said Trump groped her at a nightclub in the 1990s, and Cathy Heller said he grabbed and kissed her at a Mar-A-Lago brunch in 1997.
The Trump campaign has denied the allegations. It has produced a self-professed witness, who has a history of making unproven claims, from the flight with Leeds, and a letter from the cousin of Zervos expressing doubt about her claim but not calling her a liar. “I can only imagine that Summer’s actions today are nothing more than an attempt to regain the spotlight at Mr Trump’s expense,” his letter said.
“I did not say that [women were not unattractive enough for him to advance on].”
Trump clearly suggested that he did not find at least one of his accusers attractive, saying “She would not be my first choice, believe me.”
“They hired people [to incite violence at rallies], they gave them $1,500, she caused the violence, it’s on tape!”
Trump appears to be alluding to an edited video that suggests a few Democratic staffers had hired people to incite violence. One of those staffers has resigned, and said that “none of the schemes described in the conversations ever took place”.
So far there is no proof that anyone was actually hired to cause violence.
“Criminally, after getting a subpoena by the United States Congress, [Clinton deleted emails]. One lie.”
Trump has the timeline correct, but not the criminality. He omits the FBI’s conclusion that there was no evidence of an intentional effort to conceal anything, and the FBI learned that a Clinton aide had asked for the emails unrelated to government work to be deleted in December 2014, months before the March 4th, 2015 subpoena.
The emails were deleted at the end of March, according to the FBI, when an employee had what he called an “oh shit” moment about his previous order from Mills. The state department first agreed to produce records in July 2014.
“General David Petraeus faces a worse deal than Clinton”
The justice department’s lenience toward Petraeus actually made it more difficult, in part, for prosecutors to recommend charges against Clinton.
In 2015 Petraeus, a former CIA director and a four-star general,pled guilty to giving a large amount of classified information- including the identities of covert officers and war strategy - to his biographer, with whom he was having an affair. During the FBI investigation, Petraeus lied to agents, according to the plea deal. But the justice department only sentenced Petraeus to two years’ probation and a $100,000 fine , provoking accusations that this relatively lenient sentence was evidence of a double standard for the powerful.
“The Clinton Foundation is a ‘criminal enterprise’
There is no evidence that the Clinton Foundation is a “criminal enterprise”, or that its donors or the Clintons profit from the charity.
Trump appears to be alluding a garment factory built after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake in the town of Caracol, while Bill Clinton was the UN’s special envoy to Haiti and co-chairman of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), an organization that approved US government funded projects that added up to hundreds of millions of dollars. The IHRC approved a project between the US, Haiti’s government and Sae-A Trading, a South Korean clothing company, and it now provides 8,900 jobs to Haitians.
An eventual review by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found “mixed results” with the project, including “unrealistic initial timeframes”, delays, incomplete information in the feasibility study, and funding problems. Earlier in October, labor organisers alleged that factory managers were mistreating workers there, but an ABC News investigation found no evidence that Clinton Foundation donors profited from the project, though some were involved in the project. The US committed funding but did not participate in building the industrial park; a labor group that reviewed the factory found it had adequate oversight and had dealt with concerns, though the factory remains within the range of the often grueling garment industry.
He was correct, at least, that the Clinton Foundation has accepted millions from Middle East countries with records of repression of women and gay people.
“I don’t buy boats, I don’t buy planes [with money the Trump Foundation], we put up the American flag, and that’s it? We fought for the right in Palm Beach to put up the American flag”
Trump is not being wholly honest about his charitable foundation, at least according to the Trump Foundation own documents, which show that he used its money to pay for legal settlements and even self-portraits, as Clinton said and the Washington Post has reported at length.
“I started with a small $1m loan”
Trump does not come from modest beginnings. In 1978 his father gave him a loan totaling almost $1m - about $3.7m today - and acted as guarantor for the young Trump’s early projects. A 1981 report by a New Jersey regulator also shows a $7.5m loan from the patriarch, and years later he bought $3.5m in gambling chips to help his son pay off the debts of a failing casino, a transaction found later found illegal . Trump also borrowed millions against his inheritance before his father’s death, a 2007 deposition shows. Trump has not proven that he is worth $10bn, though his tax returns, which he has refused to release, could provide a clearer picture of his worth. His financial filings suggest he has less than $250m in liquid assets , according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. Trump has a history of overstating his properties: he has, for instance, told the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that a New York golf club is worth $50m but also argued in court that it is worth only $1.4m.
“These people have all left. The element of surprise? All she had to do was stay there”
Islamic State has not left Mosul: several thousand fighters remain there and are fighting the coalition of Iraqi and Kurdish troops, backed by US airstrikes and special forces. Islamic State leaders have known for years that Baghdad would try to retake the city, if they have not known since they took the city.
Trump did not support leaving a residual American force in Iraq, but actually called for a complete withdrawal from Iraq, despite the likelihood of civil war or an authoritarian coup. “You know how they get out? They get out. That’s how they get out. Declare victory and leave,” he told CNN in 2007. “This is a total catastrophe, and you might as well get out now because you’re just wasting time, and lives.”
The argument that Islamic State rose out of the vacuum of post-withdrawal Iraq also ignores that its origins were in the country’s civil war, while George W Bush was in office, and that the terror group concentrated strength in Syria’s civil war before Barack Obama began a bombing and special forces campaign there.
Trump, told he was for the invasion of Iraq: “Wrong”
This is a lie. In the months before the Iraq war began, Trump mildly endorsed invasion to radio host Howard Stern, who asked him whether US forces should attack. “Yeah, I guess so,” Trump answered. A few weeks later he told Fox News that George W Bush was “doing a very good job”. Several weeks after the invasion, Trump told the Washington Post: “The war’s a mess.” In August 2004 he told Esquire: “Two minutes after we leave, there’s going to be a revolution, and the meanest, toughest, smartest, most vicious guy will take over.”
Even in an interview cited by the Trump campaign, Trump expressed impatience with Bush for not invading sooner. “Whatever happened to the days of the Douglas MacArthur? He would go and attack. He wouldn’t talk.”
“Our country is stagnant. We’ve lost our jobs”
About 10.7 million people have gained jobs since Barack Obama took office in 2009 (not 15 million as the Clinton campaign sometimes claims). Growth is not stagnant, though it is not significant, and it requires context: the 2008 financial crisis that nearly collapsed the economy. According to a 2015 nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus may have increased GDP buy up to 0.2 per centage points. US growth in the second quarter of 2016 was 1.4 per cent.
“Their [the people of New Hampshire’s] single biggest problem is heroin that pours across our southern borders, just pouring and destroying their youth”
Trump is correct that heroin deaths have increased dramatically since 2007, in part because of the abuse of painkillers and the growth of a number of powerful heroin-related drugs, such as fentanyl. According to the DEA, 10,574 Americans died from heroin-related overdoses in 2014, more than three times the number in 2010.
“Next week [the healthcare premiums] are going to go up 100 per cent”
Trump and Clinton both accept the reality that healthcare premiums have increased since the Affordable Care Act was enacted, but Trump appears to be exaggerating wildly. On average, premiums have risen by about 5.8 per cent a year since Barack Obama took office, compared with 13.2 per cent in the nine years before Obama, Politifact found earlier this year. Trump, however, is cherry-picking data from various states and providers where rates have had higher jumps. The most common healthcare plans will increase 9 per cent on average, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“We take care of illegal immigrants better than we take care of our vets”
This claim flies in the face of evidence and logic. Like all US citizens, veterans enjoy the basic rights and benefits granted by US law (voting rights, social security, Medicaid, etc), while undocumented migrants (non-citizens) do not. Trump has in the past tried to justify this claim by saying the US spends more on undocumented people than on veterans, but has drawn a $113bn price tag from an explicitly anti-immigration foundation . He also inflated that number.
The campaign has said the US spends $2.8bn on housing migrants in prisons, combining an estimate on prison costs and the 2016 budget for the care and processing of children who came to the US without adults. The Veterans Affairs administration has a 2016 budget of $69.7bn. Veterans and undocumented migrants alike have access to K-12 education, though few veterans would likely seek it, and veterans have access to the Affordable Care Act, military benefits and health benefits, while migrants do not.
“Our inner cities are a disaster. You get shot walking to the store, you have no education, no jobs”
Trump’s repeated claim that “African Americans, Hispanics, are living in hell “defies most of American history, from antebellum slavery through the Jim Crow decades, great depression and segregation. Even if Trump is only referring the past half century, he is still wrong by most metrics.
Data on employment, education and health show empirical evidence for thepersistent reality of discrimination against black Americans, but also show major gains in the last few decades. In 2015, black people earned just 75 per cent as much as whites in median hourly earnings, whether full- or part-time,according to a Pew Research analysis. The black unemployment rate in August 2016 was 8.1 per cent, compared with 4.4 per cent for white people, but still lower than for most of the last 40 years.
Black life expectancy has increased from the mid-30s around 1900 to the mid-70s in 2016, according to the CDC . Education rates have similarly increased in the last 40 years, according to the census.
Hillary Clinton’s claims
“We have 33,000 people a year who die from guns”
Clinton is broadly correct. The Centers for Disease Control reported 33,636 firearm deaths in 2013, and similar figures in the years preceding it.
“Trump exploited undocumented workers”
Clinton is not quite right. A Trump contractor hired undocumented Polish workers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and in 1983 union members sued one of their organizers. Trump appeared in court in 1990 and blamed the contractor overseeing the project, which was for Trump Tower.
“I will not add a penny to the debt”
Estimates suggest Clinton is not wholly correct. Her proposed tax plan would add $191bn to the debt over the long term, according to the Committee for a Responsible Budget, a conservative thinktank. The Tax Policy Center, however, estimates that she would add $1.1tn in revenue in a decade, though much of that would be offset by increased spending. The Tax Foundation estimated that Trump’s plan would add $5.3tn to the debt.
“We at the Clinton Foundation spend 90 per cent [of what’s given] and have the highest rating from watchdogs”
The Clinton Foundation does have high marks from charity watchdogs, which also show that the group does spend the vast majority of its donations on its own charitable programs.
Clinton says Trump has called the election ‘rigged’, while Trump says he won’t necessarily accept the election results
All available evidence shows that in-person voter fraud is exceedingly rare: you are more likely to be struck by lightning in the next year (a one in 1,042,000 chance, according to Noaa) than to find a case of voter fraud by impersonation (31 possible cases in more than a billion ballots cast from 2000 to 2014, according to a study by Loyola Law School).
Voter fraud would have to happen on an enormous scale to sway elections, because the electoral college system decentralises authority: each of the 50 states has its own rules and local officials, not federal ones, run the polls and count the ballots. This complexity makes the notion of a “rigged” national election, at least in the US, logistically daunting to the point of practical impossibility. Thirty-one states have Republican governors, including the swing states of Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, Nevada and Ohio; Pennsylvania only elected a Democratic governor in 2015. Polls show Trump losing even in some states where governors have strongly supported him. In Maine, for instance, the Real Clear Politics average shows him down five points.
About 75 per cent of the ballots cast in federal elections have paper backups, and most electronic voting machines are not connected to the internet - though they have other flaws and may be vulnerable to tampering. But voter fraud to swing a major election, whether by tampering, buying votes or official wrongdoing, would quickly attract attention by its necessarily large scale.If Trump loses the presidential election, it will be because American voters do not want him in the White House, not because of a conspiracy involving Republicans and Democrats alike at state and city levels around the nation - a conspiracy for which Trump has provided no evidence.
“Trump’s plan largely helps the wealthy and add $20tn in debt”
Clinton is correct that although Trump’s tax plan would cut taxes for everyone, it would disproportionately help the wealthiest Americans, saving them millions of dollars and adding $5.3tn to the national debt, according to an analysis by the Tax Foundation, a conservative thinktank. She seems to be citing another analysis, by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, about the debt, and possibly overstates its estimated consequences.
That center warned that without severe spending cuts, the plan would balloon national debt “by nearly 80 per cent of gross domestic product by 2036, offsetting some or all of the incentive effects of the tax cuts”. According to that group, half of Trump’s tax cuts would go to the top 1 per cent of earners, and most families below the top 20 per cent of earners would have income gains of less than 1 per cent.