The third — and final — presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump was held Oct. 19 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace. We found plenty of factual inaccuracies:
- Trump defended his recent claims about rampant voter fraud by citing a Pew Charitable Trust report that found millions of errors in voter registration rolls but didn’t allege any actual voting violations.
- Trump falsely claimed that allegations of sexual harassment against him “have been largely debunked.” Trump has eight female accusers. In one case, a man claiming to be an eyewitness offered a conflicting account without providing evidence.
- Trump also denied calling any of his accusers unattractive. But he implied it when he told his supporters, “Yeah, I’m gonna go after her. Believe me, she would not be my first choice.”
- Clinton accused Trump of threatening to deport “undocumented workers” during the Trump Tower project in 1980. There is no evidence that Trump made such threats.
- Clinton claimed she opposed a 2008 Supreme Court decision striking the Washington, D.C., handgun ban, because the city was trying “to protect toddlers from guns.” But she didn’t make that distinction last year in speaking at a private fundraiser.
- Trump wrongly said that $6 billion was “missing” from the State Department when Clinton was secretary of state. The State Department Office of the Inspector General said that department records of $6 billion in contracts — not the money — were missing or incomplete.
- Trump said the federal debt had doubled to $20 trillion under Obama. Clinton said annual deficits had been cut by two-thirds. Both were straining the facts.
- Clinton and Trump disagreed about what Trump had said about more countries getting nuclear weapons. Clinton was closer to the truth. Trump did say perhaps Japan and South Korea should have nuclear weapons to protect themselves.
- Trump falsely claimed that billionaire investor Warren Buffett, a Clinton supporter, did “the same thing” Trump did to avoid paying federal income taxes. Buffett said that’s not true and that he has “paid federal income tax every year since 1944.”
- Trump and Wallace disagreed over whether Trump used money from his own foundation to settle his lawsuits. Trump did.
- Each candidate misrepresented the other’s position on abortion. Trump suggested Clinton supported abortions on the “final day” of pregnancy, when she’s open to some late-term restrictions. Clinton said Trump favored “some form of punishment for women who obtain abortions.” He quickly walked back that comment months ago.
- Trump implied a link between Chicago’s tough gun laws and gun violence in the city. But the opposite correlation — fewer gun laws and higher rates of gun deaths — has been shown, and a causation between the two factors is impossible to prove.
And there were more claims that we have fact-checked before: on NAFTA, NATO, hacking, Iraq and more.
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Note to Readers: Staff writer D’Angelo Gore was at the debate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. This story was written by Gore with the help of the entire staff, based in the Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., areas.
Trump defended his recent claims about rampant voter fraud by citing a Pew Charitable Trust report that found millions of people whose voter registrations contained errors. But that’s not evidence of voter fraud, nor does the report allege wrongdoing. Rather, the Pew report said that it is evidence of the need to upgrade voter registration systems.
In fact, numerous voting experts told us that in-person voter fraud is rare.
In light of Trump’s recent comments about a “rigged” election process, Wallace asked Trump if he would accept the results of the election. Trump responded that he would ” look at it at the time.” Trump then went on to cite the Pew report as evidence of voter fraud.
Trump: If you look at your voter rolls, you will see millions of people that are registered to vote, millions. This isn’t coming from me, it’s coming from Pew report and other places. Millions of people that are registered to vote, that shouldn’t be registered to vote.
In a speech in Wisconsin on Oct. 17, Trump cited the same report as evidence that “people that have died 10 years ago are still voting.” That’s not what the report says.
The report, “Inaccurate, Costly and Inefficient: Evidence That America’s Voter Registration System Needs an Upgrade,” found that approximately 24 million voter registrations in the United States “are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate.” It also found that “more than 1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as voters” and “approximately 2.75 million people have registrations in more than one state.” The report found that these inaccuracies could feed the “perception” that the system “could be susceptible to fraud.” But it did not allege that such voter fraud was occurring.
Indeed, researchers say voter fraud involving ballots cast on behalf of deceased voters is rare, as are instances of people voting in numerous states. In the case of “dead people” voting — typically determined by matching voting records to Social Security death records — a bit of digging almost always reveals these cases to be due to clerical errors or as a result of people who legally voted via absentee ballots or the early voting process but later died before Election Day, said Lorraine Minnite, a professor at Rutgers University and author of “The Myth of Voter Fraud.”
“There are a handful of known cases in which documentation shows that votes have been cast in the names of voters who have died before the vote was submitted,” wrote Justin Levitt in a 2007 report, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” for the Brennan Center for Justice. “It is far more common, however, to see unfounded allegations of epidemic voting from beyond the grave.”
Many election experts say the kind of voter fraud Trump is talking about — voter impersonation — is extremely rare, and not enough to tip even a close presidential election. And there is plenty of research to back that up.
A December 2006 report by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission interviewed more than two dozen researchers and experts on voter fraud and intimidation, including Minnite. That report concluded that “impersonation of voters is probably the least frequent type of fraud because it is the most likely type of fraud to be discovered, there are stiff penalties associated with this type of fraud, and it is an inefficient method of influencing an election.”
We took an in-depth look at this issue and others raised by Trump regarding voter fraud in our story “Trump’s Bogus Voter Fraud Claims.”
Trump’s Female Accusers
Trump has been accused by eight women of sexual harassment — all of them stepping forward after an Oct. 8 story in the Washington Post about a video that shows Trump boasting of groping women and forcing himself on them.
During the debate, Trump denied the allegations and claimed “those stories have been largely debunked.”
Trump: Well, first of all, those stories have been largely debunked. Those people — I don’t know those people.
First of all, Trump does know some of his accusers. They include Natasha Stoynoff, a People magazine writer who wrote that Trump pushed her against a wall and forcibly kissed her on the mouth during a 2005 interview, and Summer Zervos, a former “Apprentice” contestant who claimed Trump “very aggressively” kissed her and “placed his hand on my breast” at a hotel in 2007. (CNN has compiled a list of his accusers.)
We asked the Trump campaign what evidence it has that the allegations made by the eight women “have been largely debunked.” But the campaign had a response for only two of the eight cases, including the allegations made by Zervos.
In Zervos’ case, the Trump campaign put out a statement by John Barry, who said he is a first cousin of Zervos. The statement does not debunk Zervos’ allegations; it merely questions them. Barry said he was “completely shocked and bewildered” by Zervos’ allegations, because in the past “she has had nothing but glowing things to say about Mr. Trump.”
The Trump campaign also pointed us to a man who challenged the story of Jessica Leeds, who claimed that Trump kissed and groped her on a plane more than three decades ago. In that case, the New York Post reported that the Trump campaign arranged an interview with Anthony Gilberthorpe, a 54-year-old British man who claimed to be on the plane with Trump and Leeds.
Gilberthorpe told the Post that he saw nothing inappropriate between the two during the flight and that Leeds “was the one being flirtatious.”
The New York Post also wrote, “Gilberthorpe has no evidence to back up his claim — just his self-described excellent memory.” It also noted that Gilberthorpe “made headlines in 2014, when he went public with a claim that as a 17-year-old he procured boys (some who “could have been” underage”) for sex parties with high-ranking British politicians.”
We also note that six people have stepped forward to corroborate Stoynoff’s story of Trump’s unwanted sexual advances and contact. One of those people — Stoynoff’s former journalism professor Paul McLaughlin — “says that the writer called him in tears looking for advice the very night of the harrowing encounter. However, he cautioned her to remain quiet in fear of how Trump may retaliate,” People wrote in a follow-up story.
The accusations by Leeds and Stoynoff also factored into another debate exchange when Trump denied that he ever described any of his accusers as “not attractive.”
Clinton: Well, he held a number of big rallies where he said that he could not possibly have done those things to those women because they were not attractive enough for them to be assaulted.
Trump: I did not say that. I did not say that.
Trump may not have used the words “not attractive,” but in denying their accounts he told supporters that Leeds “would not be my first choice” and urged them to visit Stoynoff’s Facebook page if they did not believe his denials. “Check out her Facebook page — you’ll understand,” he said.
Trump Tower Laborers
In a discussion about people who live and work illegally in the U.S., Clinton made the unsupported claim that Trump threatened to deport “undocumented workers” who complained about low wages during the construction of Trump Tower.
Clinton: Now, what I am also arguing is that bringing undocumented immigrants out from the shadows, putting them into the formal economy will be good, because then employers can’t exploit them and undercut Americans’ wages.
And Donald knows a lot about this. He used undocumented labor to build the Trump Tower. He underpaid undocumented workers, and when they complained, he basically said what a lot of employers do: “You complain, I’ll get you deported.”
Clinton gets her facts wrong.
As we have written before, Trump was sued in 1983 by union workers who accused him of shortchanging their welfare fund by hiring undocumented workers to help demolish a building in New York City as part of the Trump Tower project.
The New York Times wrote that Trump testified in 1990 that he did not know the workers were in the country illegally and he did not hire them. He said the demolition project and the hiring for it was handled by a subcontractor, Kaszycki & Sons Contractors.
The Times article said the subcontractor hired about 200 undocumented workers and paid them $4 to $5 per hour — far less than the $11 per hour minimum wage that should have been paid to union workers.
The Clinton campaign refers on its website to a story last year by the Daily Beast that says some undocumented workers complained to Trump about not being paid. But the story also said that Trump testified that he did not recall speaking to the demolition workers, and it does not support Clinton’s claim that Trump threatened to deport the workers.
“During the 16-day non-jury trial, a number of the Polish workers testified that Trump underlings had threatened them with deportation if they caused trouble,” the Daily Beast wrote.
The website did not explain the term “Trump underlings” and whether they were Trump employees or subcontractors. Either way, there is no evidence that Trump himself told workers, “You complain, I’ll get you deported.”
Footnote: A federal judge in 1991 ruled against the Trump Organization and its partner in the project, the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States. The judge ordered the plaintiffs to be paid $325,415 plus interest. Trump appealed that decision, and the case was settled in 1999 for an undisclosed sum.
Not Just Toddlers
Clinton claimed she was just sticking up for “toddlers” when she said in 2015 that “the Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment. And I am going to make that case every chance I get.”
Clinton: [W]hat I was saying … was that I disagreed with the way the court applied the Second Amendment in that case, because what the District of Columbia was trying to do was to protect toddlers from guns and so they wanted people with guns to safely store them. And the court didn’t accept that reasonable regulation, but they’ve accepted many others.
The core holding in the court’s landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller was that the city’s total ban on possession of handguns violated the Second Amendment, and that the amendment conferred on individuals a right to bear arms for self-defense.
“In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment,” then-Chief Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the 5-4 majority.
As a secondary matter, the decision also struck down a D.C. requirement than any lawful firearms kept at home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock at all times. Scalia wrote that this prohibition rendered any lawful firearm in the home inoperable for the purpose of immediate self-defense, and also violated the Second Amendment.
But Clinton made no such fine distinction when she spoke in 2015 at a small, private fundraising event in New York City, when she simply said the Supreme Court was “wrong on the Second Amendment.”
Audio of her remarks later was made public. In that private event, she said, “I’m going to speak out, I’m going to do everything I can to rally people against this pernicious, corrupting influence of the NRA [National Rifle Association] and we’re going to do whatever we can.”
That was when she was facing an unexpectedly stiff primary challenge from the left by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom she criticized for voting against gun legislation opposed by the NRA.
State Department ‘Missing’ $6 Billion?
Trump said that $6 billion was “missing” from the State Department when Clinton was secretary of state. That’s inaccurate.
Trump: The problem is you talk, but you don’t get anything done, Hillary. You don’t. Just like when you ran the State Department. $6 billion was missing. How do you miss $6 billion? You ran the State Department, $6 billion was either stolen — they don’t know, it’s gone — $6 billion! If you become president, this country is going to be in some mess. Believe me.
We reached out to the Trump campaign to get the source of his claim, but we did not hear back.
Trump may be referring to reports about a management alert issued by the State Department Office of the Inspector General in March 2014. The alert said that the OIG found that, in the previous six years, the State Department had failed to maintain the complete records of more than $6 billion in government contracts.
Office of Inspector General, March 20, 2014: The Office of Inspector General (OIG), in recent audits, investigations, and inspections, has identified significant vulnerabilities in the management of contract file documentation that could expose the Department to substantial financial losses. Specifically, over the past 6 years, OIG has identified Department of State (Department) contracts with a total value of more than $6 billion in which contract files were incomplete or could not be located at all. The failure to maintain contract files adequately creates significant financial risk and demonstrates a lack of internal control over the Department’s contract actions.
But State Department Inspector General Steve Linick said that his office’s report did not say that $6 billion was “missing.”
In a letter to the editor of the Washington Post in April 2014, Linick wrote:
Linick, April 13, 2014: The April 3 news article “State Department’s IG issues rare alert” reported on the management alert issued recently by my office. In the alert, we identified State Department contracts with a total value of more than $6 billion in which contract files were incomplete or could not be located. The Post stated, “The State Department’s inspector general has warned the department that $6 billion in contracting money over the past six years cannot be properly accounted for . . . .
Some have concluded based on this that $6 billion is missing. The alert, however, did not draw that conclusion. Instead, it found that the failure to adequately maintain contract files — documents necessary to ensure the full accounting of U.S. tax dollars — “creates significant financial risk and demonstrates a lack of internal control over the Department’s contract actions.”
So it was the records of the $6 billion that were either incomplete or missing, not the money.
Furthermore, the Washington Post Fact Checker found that most of the faulty paperwork concerned contracts that were issued when George W. Bush was president.
Debt and Deficit
Trump said the federal debt had doubled to $20 trillion under Obama. Clinton said annual deficits had been cut by two-thirds. Both were straining the facts.
Trump: [D]uring President Obama’s regime, we’ve doubled our national debt. We’re up to $20 trillion.
Clinton: When President Obama came into office, he inherited the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. He has cut the deficit by two-thirds.
First, the debt. Total federal debt hasn’t quite yet reached $20 trillion, and it hasn’t doubled.
It was just under $19.77 trillion as of Oct. 18. That is 86 percent higher than it was when Obama took office. That figure includes money the government essentially owes to itself.
The figure that has doubled — but only to $14.3 trillion — is the more economically important sum that the federal government owes to the public. It’s up 126 percent.
Clinton’s claim is also inflated. The deficit for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 went onto the Treasury Department’s books officially at $587.4 billion.
And that’s a reduction of less than 59 percent — not 66 percent — from the fiscal year 2009 deficit of $1.417 trillion
Furthermore, as we’ve documented elsewhere, Obama didn’t inherit all of that FY 2009 deficit from his predecessor. During his first months in office, he signed spending measures that contributed as much as $203 billion to FY 2009’s red ink. Adjusting for that, we calculate that the deficit last fiscal year was down only 51 percent from the amount Obama inherited.
Clinton claimed that Trump “advocated more countries getting” nuclear weapons, including “Japan, Korea, even Saudi Arabia.” Trump countered that “all I said is, we have to renegotiate these agreements, because our country cannot afford to defend Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany, South Korea, and many other places.” But Trump did say that perhaps Japan and South Korea should have nuclear weapons to protect themselves.
Here’s that exchange, edited:
Clinton: I find it ironic that he’s raising nuclear weapons. This is a person who has been very cavalier, even casual about the use of nuclear weapons. He’s …
Clinton: … advocated more countries getting them, Japan, Korea, even Saudi Arabia. He said, well, if we have them, why don’t we use them, which I think is terrifying. …
Trump: All I said is, we have to renegotiate these agreements, because our country cannot afford to defend Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany, South Korea, and many other places. We cannot continue to afford — she took that as saying nuclear weapons. …
Look, she’s been proven to be a liar on so many different ways. This is just another lie.
Clinton: Well, I’m just quoting you when you were asked …
Trump: There’s no quote. You’re not going to find a quote from me.
Clinton: … about a potential nuclear — nuclear competition in Asia, you said, you know, go ahead, enjoy yourselves, folks. That kind…
Trump: And defend yourselves.
Clinton: … of language — well…
Trump: And defend yourselves. I didn’t say nuclear. And defend yourself.
Let’s start with what Trump did say about Japan and South Korea and nuclear weapons. He’s wrong to claim that “there’s no quote” from him on that topic, and he has gone beyond saying only “we have to renegotiate these agreements.” Clinton “took that as saying nuclear weapons,” as Trump says, because Trump in fact mentioned nuclear weapons.
In an April 3 interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Trump said:
Trump, April 3: So, North Korea has nukes. Japan has a problem with that. I mean, they have a big problem with that. Maybe they would in fact be better off if they defend themselves from North Korea.
Wallace: With nukes?
Trump: Maybe they would be better off — including with nukes, yes, including with nukes.
The New York Times had reported about a week prior that Trump had told the newspaper that “he would be open to allowing Japan and South Korea to build their own nuclear arsenals rather than depend on the American nuclear umbrella for their protection against North Korea and China.”
On March 29, Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper: “I don’t want more nuclear weapons,” but also said, “wouldn’t you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons?” Here’s more of that exchange:
Trump, March 29: At some point we have to say, you know what, we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea, we’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself, we have…
Cooper: Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapons?
Trump: Saudi Arabia, absolutely.
Cooper: You would be fine with them having nuclear weapons?
Trump: No, not nuclear weapons, but they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us.
Here’s the thing, with Japan, they have to pay us or we have to let them protect themselves.
Cooper: So if you said, Japan, yes, it’s fine, you get nuclear weapons, South Korea, you as well, and Saudi Arabia says we want them, too?
Trump: Can I be honest with you? It’s going to happen, anyway. It’s going to happen anyway. It’s only a question of time. They’re going to start having them or we have to get rid of them entirely.
But you have so many countries already, China, Pakistan, you have so many countries, Russia, you have so many countries right now that have them.
Now, wouldn’t you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons? And they do have them. They absolutely have them. They can’t – they have no carrier system yet but they will very soon.
Wouldn’t you rather have Japan, perhaps, they’re over there, they’re very close, they’re very fearful of North Korea, and we’re supposed to protect.
Cooper: So you’re saying you don’t want more nuclear weapons in the world but you’re OK with Japan and South Korea having nuclear weapons?
Trump: I don’t want more nuclear weapons.
So, yes, there are plenty of quotes from Trump suggesting that he would be OK with other countries, specifically Japan and South Korea, having nuclear weapons.
But the one quote that Clinton mentions in this exchange isn’t as clear. She said that Trump said of “nuclear competition in Asia”: “Go ahead, enjoy yourselves, folks.”
Trump said that in an April 2 campaign appearance in Wausau, Wisconsin, in talking about Japan and North Korea potentially fighting.
Trump, April 2: We’re protecting Japan from North Korea. … I would say to Japan you gotta help us out. … And I would rather have them not arm. But I’m not going to continue to lose this tremendous amount of money. And frankly, the case could be made, that let them protect themselves against North Korea. They’d probably wipe them out pretty quick. And if they fight, you know what, that would be a terrible thing, terrible. “Good luck folks, enjoy yourself.” If they fight, that would be terrible, right? But if they do, they do.
Clinton also said that Trump said of nuclear weapons, “Well, if we have them, why don’t we use them.” That’s according to MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and based on an anonymous source, not a verified quote from Trump. Scarborough said in early August that an anonymous source, “a foreign policy expert” who “went to advise Donald Trump” several months earlier, had said that Trump three times asked “if we had them why can’t we use them.” The Trump campaign denied that account.
Trump’s and Buffett’s Taxes
Trump falsely claimed that billionaire investor Warren Buffett — who supports Clinton — did the same thing Trump did to avoid paying federal income taxes.
Clinton first said Trump “has not paid a penny in federal income tax,” a statement Trump did not deny during the debate. Instead he tried shifting the blame to Clinton:
Trump: So let me just tell you very quickly, we’re entitled because of the laws that people like her passed to take massive amounts of depreciation on other charges, and we do it. And all of her donors — just about all of them — I know Buffett took hundreds of millions of dollars. … Most of her donors have done the same thing as I do.
What Trump did of course, as recently reported, was to claim a $916 million loss on his 1995 tax returns, which could erase any federal income-tax liability for as many as 18 years through what are called loss carryforwards. Trump refuses to release his own federal income-tax returns, but he hasn’t denied that he was able to pay zero federal income taxes for many years while amassing a net worth he claims to be over $10 billion.
But he’s wrong to accuse Buffett of doing “the same thing.” Buffett has said publicly that’s not true, and that he has never claimed a loss carryforward like Trump’s in any of his tax returns since the first one he filed as a teenager in 1944. He also said he’s never reduced his tax bill to zero.
Buffett, Oct. 10: I have paid federal income tax every year since 1944, when I was 13. (Though, being a slow starter, I owed only $7 in tax that year.) I have copies of all 72 of my returns and none uses a carryforward.
Trump and Wallace disagreed over whether Trump used money from his own foundation to settle his lawsuits. Trump did.
Trump claimed that the money from his foundation “goes 100 percent — 100 percent goes to different charities.” Wallace responded, “Wasn’t some of the money used to settle your lawsuits, sir?”
Wallace went on to explain that Trump settled a lawsuit with Palm Beach with money from his foundation. Trump replied that “the money that you’re talking about went to Fisher House, where they build houses for veterans and disabled vets.”
In fact, the lawsuit Trump faced from Palm Beach is one example of him using foundation money to settle his business legal issues. In 2007, he paid $258,000 from his foundation to settle various lawsuits, one of which was a settlement with the town of Palm Beach, Florida, over the height of a flagpole at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, the Washington Post reported.
Here are other ways that Trump spent his foundation’s money on noncharitable causes and groups, according to the Post‘s reporting:
- In 2013, the foundation gave $25,000 to a political group connected to Florida’s attorney general, Pam Bondi. This year Trump paid a $2,500 penalty to the IRS because of the improper gift, according to Jeffrey McConney, a senior vice president and controller at the Trump Organization.
- The foundation also famously paid $10,000 for a portrait of Trump, which ended up on the wall of a Florida golf course he owns outside Miami. (A spokesman said Trump was doing the foundation a favor by “storing” it there.)
- The foundation also paid $20,000 for another, six-foot-tall portrait of Trump reportedly shipped to another of Trump’s golf courses in Briarcliff Manor, New York.
Positions on Abortion
Each candidate misrepresented the other’s position on abortion.
Trump claimed that “based on what [Clinton’s] saying … you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day.” But Clinton has said she’s open to restrictions on late-term abortions, with exceptions for cases involving the mother’s health issues. Clinton claimed Trump said “there should be some form of punishment for women who obtain abortions.” He said that, but quickly walked back the comment.
We’ll start with the issue of late-term abortions. First off, they are rare. As we wrote in September 2015, 1.2 percent of all the abortions in the United States occur after 20 weeks gestation, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which conducts research on reproductive health.
Second, Daniel Grossman, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco told our fact-checking colleagues at Politifact: “Nobody would talk about abortion on the woman’s due date. If the mother’s life was at risk, the treatment for that is delivery, and the baby survives.” He added, “Medically, it does not compute.”
Trump repeated his claim during the debate three times, first claiming, “If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.”
But as we wrote during the eighth GOP debate in February, “It is certainly true that Clinton has been a staunch defender of abortion rights. But Clinton has said she’s open to restrictions on late-term abortions, provided exceptions would be given when the health and life of the mother are an issue.”
So Trump skewed Clinton’s position on late-term abortions.
But Clinton also misrepresented Trump’s current position. She claimed that Trump said “there should be some form of punishment for women who obtain abortions.”
He did say that, but he also walked back that statement only hours later.
On March 30, Trump told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that women who get abortions should receive “some form of punishment” if the procedure is banned in the United States. He also added that the man who impregnates the woman should not be responsible under the law for the abortion.
But on the same day, he put out a statement recanting the punishment claim.
Trump, March 30: If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed — like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.
Gun Laws and Gun Violence
When asked about his opposition to gun control measures, Trump said that Chicago “has the toughest gun laws in the United States” and yet “more gun violence than any other city.” That implies a causation between gun laws and gun violence that’s impossible to prove. And even such a correlation is disputed by statistics showing the opposite: that states with fewer gun laws have more gun deaths.
The relationship between gun laws and gun crimes isn’t clear-cut, as Trump suggests.
Moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump about his opposition to measures such as limits on assault weapons and limits on high capacity magazines. Trump responded:
Trump: Well let me just tell you before we go any further, in Chicago, which has the toughest gun laws in the United States — probably you could say by far — they have more gun violence than any other city. So we have the toughest laws and you have tremendous gun violence.
We looked at this issue of gun laws and gun violence last year, when GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina also singled out Chicago, saying: “That is why you see in state after state after state with some of the most stringent gun control laws in the nation also having the highest gun crime rates in the nation. Chicago would be an example.” And we looked at the research again when Sen. Ted Cruz claimed that most “jurisdictions with the worst murder rates” have “the very strictest gun control laws.”
We found both were wrong in stating there was such a clear correlation.
Using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data on firearm death rates for 2013, we found nine of the 10 states with the highest firearm death rates got an “F” for their gun laws, and one got a “D-” from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. And seven of the 10 states with the lowest gun death rates got a “B” or higher.
But homicide rate statistics — with 70 percent of homicides by firearm — didn’t show the same pattern. Eight of the 10 states with the highest homicide rates and eight of the 10 states with the lowest homicide rates all got “D” or “F” grades from the Brady Campaign analysis.
Some research has found a correlation between more gun laws and lower gun fatalities —#8212; but not a causation. For instance, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health looked at all 50 states from 2007 to 2010, concluding: “A higher number of firearm laws in a state are associated with a lower rate of firearm fatalities in the state, overall and for suicides and homicides individually.” But the study said that it couldn’t determine cause-and-effect.
In fact, it’s likely impossible to determine causation, as we’ve also written before. A scientific random study, in which one group of people had guns or permissive gun laws, and another group didn’t, can’t be done.
As for a correlation between gun laws and gun deaths in cities, an August 2013 CDC report found that for 2009-2010, the top gun murder rate areas, among the 50 most populous metropolitan areas, were: New Orleans, Memphis, Detroit, Birmingham, St. Louis, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Chicago. Six of those cities are in states with poor scores for their gun laws, while the other four get a “C” or better. Chicago — the last among the top 10 at the time — had a ban on handguns then, so its gun laws were even tougher then than they are now.
In other words, there’s no discernible pattern among those cities.
Also, while Chicago is often noted for a high number of murders, other cities have a higher murder rate — adjusted for population. The city ranked 35th in 2014 in terms of its murder rate among cities with a population of 100,000 or more.
And There Were Repeats — Again
As in all the other general election debates, the candidates repeated claims we’ve checked before:
NAFTA: Trump repeated again, like in the last debate, that the North American Free Trade Agreement was “signed by her husband,” referring to President Bill Clinton. NAFTA was negotiated and signed by President George H.W. Bush. Clinton signed the implementing legislation. Trump also said “jobs are being sucked out of our economy” because of the trade agreement, but a 2015 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service called the net impact “relatively modest,” saying “NAFTA did not cause the huge job losses feared by the critics or the large economic gains predicted by supporters.”
Father’s loans to Trump: Trump and Clinton disagreed on the size of the loan Trump took from his father to start his business. Trump said, “I started with a $1 million loan,” while Clinton claimed he borrowed “$14 million from his father to start his business.” As we noted when this was brought up during the first debate, Clinton is right and Trump is wrong. According to the Wall Street Journal, “a casino-license disclosure in 1985 … shows Mr. Trump taking out numerous loans from his father and his father’s properties near the start of his career in the late 1970s and early 1980s,” which totaled around $14 million. As Politico points out, that’s $31 million in today’s dollars. And as we wrote during the 11th GOP debate, these loans included more than $3 million illegally transferred to the Trump Castle Casino in Atlantic City in poker chips in 1990. To top it off, Trump’s father also co-guaranteed the construction loan on his first Manhattan project, the Grand Hyatt. So Trump sells his father’s contributions short by a long shot.
Iraq War: As he did in the first and second debates, Trump denied that he supported the invasion of Iraq before it began — interjecting “Wrong!” — when confronted by Clinton. Trump indicated his support for war in a radio interview with Howard Stern on Sept. 11, 2002 — a little more than six months before the war started. Stern asked Trump directly if he supported going to war with Iraq, and Trump hesitantly responded, “Yeah, I guess so.” Trump has in the past cited a January 2003 TV interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. In the TV interview, Trump told Cavuto that President Bush needed to make a decision on Iraq. “Either you attack or you don’t attack,” he says. But he offered no opinion on what Bush should do. We have found no evidence that Trump was publicly against the Iraq War before it began.
Hacked emails: As she did in the second presidential debate, Clinton claimed that “cyberattacks” on email systems, including that of the Democratic National Committee “come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election.” And Trump again contested her assessment, saying, “She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China, or anybody else” and that “our country has no idea.” As we wrote after the second debate, the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security issued a joint statement on Oct. 7 saying they were “confident” that recent hacks into the email systems of the Democratic Party were directed by the Russian government. And, they wrote, “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.” A senior U.S. intelligence official told NBC News that both Clinton and Trump have been briefed extensively about the U.S. intelligence community’s evidence pointing to culpability by the Russian government. “To profess not to know at this point is willful misrepresentation,” the official said.
Clinton’s tax plan: Trump said there would be a “massive, massive tax increase” under Clinton’s tax plan that would “raise taxes and even double your taxes.” But the tax increases Clinton has proposed would fall almost entirely on the top 10 percent of taxpayers, according to analyses by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center and the pro-business Tax Foundation. Hardest hit would be the less than 0.1 percent of taxpayers who earn more than $5 million per year. “Nearly all of the tax increases would fall on the highest-income 1 percent; on average, low- and middle-income households would see small increases in after-tax income,” the Tax Policy Center concluded.
Trump on health care premiums: Trump said that Obamacare “premiums are going up 60, 70, 80 percent,” predicting that they would “go up over 100 percent” next year. These are cherry-picked facts. Some insurers have requested high 2017 premium rates, but the rates vary across states. The Kaiser Family Foundation analyzed preliminary rates in cities in 16 states and Washington, D.C., and found the second-lowest cost silver plan would increase by a weighted average of 9 percent from this year if the rates hold. Additionally, 80 percent of people buying exchange plans receive government subsidies that lower their premium costs.
Open borders: Trump repeatedly claimed Clinton “wants to have open borders,” which Clinton called “a rank mischaracterization.” Wallace asked Clinton to explain comments she made to a Brazilian bank — revealed via WikiLeaks — that “My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.” But as Clinton noted, that wasn’t the whole quote. It continues: “… 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 said she was “talking about energy. … And I do want us to have an electric grid, an energy system that crosses borders.” In fact, Clinton said at the debate, “I have been for border security for years. I voted for border security in the United States Senate. And my comprehensive immigration reform plan of course includes border security.” We have found all of that to be true. Her campaign website says she supports “humane, targeted immigration enforcement,” and that she would “focus enforcement resources on detaining and deporting those individuals who pose a violent threat to public safety.”
NATO: Clinton claimed that Trump is “willing to … break up NATO.” Trump did say NATO is obsolete or may be, because it does not focus enough on terrorism. He also previously suggested in an interview with the New York Times in July that he would not automatically defend NATO allies that do not pay their share of defense costs. But he hasn’t said that the international security alliance should be eliminated, even though he once said that he would “certainly look at” leaving NATO. More recently, during the first presidential debate, Trump said that he is “all for NATO.” And Trump has since said, “When I am president, we will strengthen NATO.”
ISIS: Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton “gave us ISIS” — referring to the terrorist Islamic State. He claimed Clinton and President Obama “created this huge vacuum” when the U.S. left Iraq in 2011. That may be a contributing factor, but as we have written the origin of ISIS dates to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the decision to immediately disband the Iraqi army and ban the Baath Party. Experts also cite the rule of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who alienated and radicalized the Sunnis, and the Syrian civil war that provided the space for ISIS to grow in 2011.
Clinton emails: Trump repeated his claim from the second debate that Clinton “destroyed 33,000 emails criminally, criminally, after getting a subpoena from the United States Congress.” Trump is referring to 31,830 emails that Clinton’s lawyers had deemed personal and, as a result, did not have to be turned over to the government. As we have written, the department’s policy allows its employees to determine which emails are work-related and must be preserved. It is true that the emails were deleted after Clinton received a subpoena on March 4, 2015, from a Republican-controlled House committee investigation into the 2012 deaths of four Americans in Benghazi. But there is no evidence that Clinton knew that the emails were deleted after the subpoena was issued. According to FBI notes of its investigation, an employee of Platte River Networks – which at the time was managing Clinton’s private server – deleted the emails in March. Clinton told the FBI that she was not aware that they were deleted in late March 2015. The FBI did not say when Clinton learned when the emails had been deleted.
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