• Sat. Dec 5th, 2020

Fact checking Night 2 of the Republican National Convention

On the second night of the Republican National Convention, several members of the Trump family, including first lady Melania Trump, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, were set to make a case for another four years for the president.

NBC News is fact checking the speeches as they happen.

Bondi repeats baseless claim about Biden’s role in ouster of Ukrainian prosecutor

Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondion Tuesday nightrepeated the president’s evidence-free allegation that Democratic nominee Joe Biden wielded his influence as vice president to benefit his son Hunter’s private-sector work in Ukraine.

Bondi, who was part of Trump’s impeachment defense team during his Senate trial, said Biden used U.S. foreign aid to oust a Ukrainian prosecutor, suggesting that the reason Biden pushed for the prosecutor’s removal was because he was investigating Burisma Holdings, an energy company where son Hunter Biden served on the board.

“Joe Biden — the vice president of the United States — threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine unless that same prosecutor was fired… and then he was fired,” Bondi said Tuesday night.

There’s still no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of either Biden.

That prosecutor, Viktor Shokin was widely believed to be soft on corruption; the United States and other Western countries had called for his removal. Ukraine’s Parliament ultimately voted to remove him.

And while Biden has taken credit for getting Shokin fired by leveraging U.S. foreign aid, there’s little evidence he acted to help his son. In 2019, Bloomberg News, citing documents and an interview with a former Ukrainian official, reported the Burisma investigation had been dormant for more than a year by the time Biden called for the crackdown on corruption. The then-Ukrainian prosecutor general told the news agency he found no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden and his son. And PolitiFact reported it found no evidence to “support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son’s interests in mind.”

Asked if Biden’s work to get Shokin fired raised a conflict of interest, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch said it did not.

“I don’t think that — the view that Mr. Shokin was not a good prosecutor general fighting corruption, I don’t think that had anything to do with the Burisma case,” she said.

Trump was impeached by the House for abuse of power involving Ukraine. Democrats said there was ample evidence that Trump had abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to announce investigations into Biden and his son while withholding almost $400 million in aid, and that he had obstructed Congress by refusing to release any documents related to his actions. Trump was acquitted after a Senate trial.

Kudlow claims Trump inherited ‘stagnant’ economy. That’s false.

President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow claimed Tuesday during his speech at the RNC that Trump, when elected, was “inheriting a stagnant economy on the front end of recession.”

That is false.

Looking at the broadest measure of economic health, gross domestic product, the numbers show that average quarterly economic growth under Trump, 2.5 percent, was almost exactly what it was under President Obama in his second term, 2.4 percent.

In 2016, Trump said he was unhappy that the country’s economic growth rate was under 3 percent a year. Trump said he thought the economy could grow at better-than-4-percent annual rate.

Kudlow also claimed Tuesday night that the economy “was rebuilt in three years,” saying that “unemployment fell to the lowest rate of 3.5 percent.”

The Trump administration rightly takes credit for having low unemployment during his presidency, but the idea that Trump “rebuilt” the economy is misleading. Unemployment under Obama had already been trending downward.

In December of 2019 — before the pandemic hit the U.S. — the unemployment rate was a scant 3.5 percent, the lowest it had been in 50 years.

Aug. 26, 202002:13

However, as good as that number was, when Trump took office the rate was already at 4.7 percent. That figure is quite low by historical standards (lower than all of the 1980s as well as most of the 1990s and 2000s). In fact, Obama saw a much steeper drop in unemployment in his second term, a 3.3 drop in the rate, than Trump did in his first three years, a decline of 1.2 points.

The numbers under Trump appear to be the continuation of a trend, not something new.

Job creation numbers offer more evidence for this.

On average, there were more jobs added monthly in Obama’s second term than there were in Trump’s first three years.

On average, the country created 215,000 new jobs a month in Obama’s second term. In Trump’s first three years, the figure was 182,000. They are both good numbers and if you look at the jobs data plotted on a graph, the rise since 2011 actually looks pretty consistent.

There is one indicator that suggests a change under Trump: the rise in the stock market. On Dec. 31, 2019, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 28,538. That was up 56 percent from 18,332, where it was the day Trump was elected in 2016.

From Obama’s second Election Day until 2016, the Dow climbed 38 percent.

Sen. Rand Paul on Trump’s Iraq War opposition

“Joe Biden voted for the Iraq War, which President Trump has long called the worst geopolitical mistake of our generation,” Paul, R-Ky., said on Tuesday night.

This is true, though the contrast omits some key context. Before the Iraq War began, Trump said he supported the invasion of the country in an interview. He did not express a negative opinion about the war until after it had started, according to previous NBC News fact checks.

Biden, too, has changed his mind. Biden has repeatedly said his vote for the Iraq War was a mistake.

Was Trump first president to talk religious freedom at the U.N.?

Cissie Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of evangelical preacher Billy Graham, said Tuesday night that Trump is the first president “to talk about the importance of religious freedom at the United Nations, giving hope to people of faith around the world.”

This is false. Here’s a clip of Obama talking about religious freedom at the U.N.; here’s a news report of George W. Bush doing the same. At the U.N. last year, Trump said he was the first to host a meeting on religious freedom, but he’s definitely not the first to talk up the issue.