• Sun. Nov 29th, 2020

Fact-checking Night 4 of the Republican National Convention

President Donald Trump closed out the last night of the Republican National Convention with a lengthy, falsehood-laden speech that put partisan politics on full display at the White House and painted his opponent Joe Biden’s agenda as “extreme.”

Other key speakers from the night included Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Trump’s daughter and senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump.

NBC News fact checked the speeches as they happened, including Trump’s remarks accepting his party’s 2020 nomination in primetime. Here are the claims, and the facts.

Trump vows to ‘protect’ Medicare, Social Security. His budgets have sought cuts.

President Trump vowed Thursday that he “will protect Medicare and Social Security” — a promise akin to one he made as a candidate in 2016.

But throughout his first term, he repeatedly tried to cut these programs in his proposed budgets.

His fiscal-year 2018 budget (proposed in 2017) did not include proposed cuts to Medicare and Social Security, but would have made cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance, which would have affected nearly 10 million people.

His fiscal-year 2019 budget (proposed in 2018) proposed massive cuts toMedicare, while his fiscal-year 2020 budget (proposed in 2019) proposed cutting more than $1 trillion from Medicare over a decade, and $26 billion from Social Security programs.

Aug. 28, 202001:10:07

His fiscal-year 2021 budget (proposed earlier this year) would cut hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicare over 10 years.

The reason none of the changes went into effect is that Congress controls U.S. spending, not the president. And the budgets for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are essentially renewed annually, even without congressional approval. A president’s budget proposals are more akin to a picture of the administration’s priorities.

Additionally, the holiday on the payroll tax, which funds Social Security and Medicare, that Trump implemented via executive order earlier this summerin an attempt to stimulate a struggling economy contributes to the depletion of the accounts that fund those entitlement programs.

And Trump has said that he would make “permanent cuts” to the payroll tax — action that would require congressional approval — if he wins in November. Some experts have said that move could, in theory, totally deplete Social Security by 2023.

Trump boasts of ‘record’ job gains that still leave the U.S. labor market in worse shape than Great Recession.

On the last night of his party’s convention, President Trump bragged about “record” job gains in recent months, but the 9.1 million jobs he touts come with some qualifiers.

“Over the past three months, we have gained over nine million jobs, and that’s a record in the history of our country,” Trump said Thursday.

The recent job gains are still less than half the number of jobs the economy shed in March and April at the height of pandemic-ordered lockdowns. From March through July, the economy lost a net 12.9 million jobs, the most in American history.

The nearly 2 million jobs added in July also represent a sharp slowdown from the almost 5 million jobs added in June.

And several major groups of workers are at greater risk of falling behind. Black unemployment, at 14.6 percent in July, registered less than a percentage point of improvement. Among Hispanics, the rate of unemployment also remained elevated at nearly 13 percent, compared to just nearly 9 percent for white workers.

Declaring victory is premature, especially as COVID-19 continues to inflict staggering damage to the economy, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

“It still has a long way to go, and risks falling back in as the pandemic continues to rage and causes more layoffs and curtails hiring,” he said.

Trump claims Biden wants to ‘close all charter schools.’ That’s false.

“Biden also vowed to oppose school choice and close all charter schools, ripping away the ladder of opportunity for Black and Hispanic children,” Trump claimed on Tuesday night.

This is false. The Biden campaign does not oppose charter schools, though they’ve advocated against for-profit charter schools and supported different regulations and oversight of the schools.

And while “school choice” is a buzzy word, it can means different things to different people. Trump supports letting students take federal funds to private schools, something Joe Biden and many Democrats oppose, instead supporting allowing families to make choices within publicly-funded school districts.

Trump boasts of delivering PPE early in pandemic, doesn’t mention ongoing shortages.

“We shipped hundreds of millions of masks, gloves and gowns to our frontline health care workers. To protect our nation’s seniors, we rushed supplies, testing kits, and personal — to nursing homes, we gave everything you can possibly give and we’re still giving it because we’re taking care of our senior citizens,” Trump said on Thursday night, talking up his COVID-19 response.

In the early days of the pandemic, the Trump administration did indeed procure millions of supplies, even flying personal protective equipment (PPE) in from overseas, with much fanfare and often exaggerated numbers.

But Trump fails to mention that the shortages of PPE and critical testing supplies are ongoing.

One in five U.S. nursing homes faced severe shortages of PPE this summer, according to a study released in August. The American Medical Association decried the “persistent shortage” of N95 masks and other protective equipment yesterday.

“It is hard to believe that our nation finds itself dealing with the same shortfalls in PPE witnessed during the first few weeks that SARS-CoV-2 began its unrelenting spread,” the group’s president, Dr. Susan Bailey, said on August 26th. “But that same situation exists today, and in many ways things have only gotten worse.”

Trump hammers Biden on NAFTA support, which he said killed jobs. He’s right.

President Trump used part of his speech Thursday night to hammer Joe Biden on his support of “catastrophic” trade deals he said bled U.S. jobs to other countries.

“Biden voted for the NAFTA disaster, the single worst trade deal ever enacted; he supported China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, one of the greatest economic disasters of all time. After those Biden calamities, the United States lost 1 in 4 manufacturing jobs,” Trump said.

This claim is true, although trade was not the only reason that U.S. companies shed these jobs.

Aug. 28, 202002:24

Job losses resulting from NAFTA tend to be overstated — but one major study found that more than 850,000 jobs were displaced by the pact.

Robert E. Scott of the pro-labor Economic Policy Institute found that about 851,700 U.S. jobs were displaced by the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico from 1993 (shortly before NAFTA was implemented) to 2014. (Other studies, however, have found the job losses to be far less.)

When it comes to normalizing trade relations with China — a status President George W. Bush formally granted in 2001 after China entered the World Trade Organization — U.S. job losses have been larger, according to studies.

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service wrote in 2018, citing a 2014 study by the Economic Policy Institute, that “growth in the U.S. goods trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2013 eliminated or displaced 3.2 million U.S. jobs (three-fourths of which were in manufacturing).”

If you add the 851,700 figure with the 3.2 million figure, you would see a figure that approximates 4 million, which is roughly 25 percent of the estimated 17 million manufacturing jobs that existed in 1994.

Experts have pointed out, however, that technology and automation has likely had at least as much of an effect on these losses in manufacturing jobs, with many noting that the losses would have occurred (although possibly at lower rates) even without NAFTA.

President Trump, arguing that Americans wouldn’t be safe under Joe Biden, repeated a claim Mike Pence made Wednesday, quoting the former vice president as saying, “Yes, absolutely,” as a response to whether he’d broadly support cutting funding for law enforcement.

“When asked if he supports cutting police funding, Joe Biden replied, yes, absolutely,” Trump said Thursday night.

The accusation repeats, nearly verbatim, a false claim touted in a series of ads being run by the Trump campaign and by the pro-Trump PAC America First Action.

In one such ad, a narrator discusses how “the radical left wing of the Democratic Party has taken control” and says, “Joe Biden stands with them and embraces their policies — defunding the police.”

Biden is then heard saying, “Yes, absolutely.” Another ad follows the same pattern, with a narrator saying Biden supports “reducing police funding” and Biden saying, “Yes, absolutely.”

The remark in both ads that Pence cited is taken out of context. It is from a July interview with NowThis News, in which Biden is responding to a question from progressive activist Ady Barkan about whether some government funding for law enforcement should redirected to other areas, like increased social services.

“Yes, absolutely,” Biden replies.

Biden has explicitly said he doesn’t support “defunding” the police. In an interview with CBS News, he said he instead supports “conditioning federal aid to police, based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness.”

No evidence for Trump’s COVID-19 vaccine claim.

“In recent months, our nation, and the entire planet, has been struck by a new and powerful invisible enemy. Like those brave Americans before us, we are meeting this challenge. We are delivering lifesaving therapies, and will produce a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner!” Trump claimed on Thursday night.

This is largely false. The U.S. is still struggling to meet the challenge of the deadly coronavirus, which is still spreading rapidly and killing sometimes more than a thousand people a day while other countries have managed to reduce transmission and dramatically reduce deaths. The U.S. has a quarter of the globe’s confirmed infections, despite having just 4.2 percent of the global population. Meanwhile, testing is limited and shortages of personal protective equipment persist six months after the first days of the pandemic.

Aug. 28, 202001:18

The president boasts of lifesaving therapies, but critics argue there isn’t enough evidence to back up this claim. One treatment, Remdesivir, has been shown to reduce deaths in severely ill patients with COVID-19. The U.S. recently approved the use of convalescent plasma for COVID-19, but without results from randomized clinical trials — the gold standard of medical research — there’s no clear proof the plasma treatment saved lives. Studies have shown that the treatment is safe and other research suggests it holds promise for treating patients, though.

There is also no evidence that an effective vaccine will be delivered by the end of the year. There are four vaccines currently in clinical trials in the U.S, with the one from Moderna furthest along. But it’s impossible to know if these vaccines will prove effective.

“Vaccines don’t always work,” one expert told NBC News earlier this year.

Ivanka Trump mischaracterizes father’s use of Defense Production Act

Ivanka Trump, in her Thursday night RNC speech, claimed that her father “rapidly mobilized the full force of government and the private sector to produce ventilators within weeks.”

This is a substantial mischaracterization of what occurred. Trump did mobilize the private sector within weeks, but given how quickly the coronavirus was spreading early in the year, health officials and experts said it was still too long a period for Trump to take action and that doing so sooner could have saved lives.

Aug. 28, 202018:03

Ivanka Trump’s remarks about the private sector are a reference to the president’s invoking of the Defense Production Act — a 1950 law allowing the president to force U.S. businesses to produce materials in the national defense, such as ventilators and medical supplies for health care workers.

But Trump dragged his feet in actually putting the act into effect.

As NBC News noted in a fact check of remarks Tuesday night by Ivanka Trump’s brother, Donald Trump Jr., the president had said on March 18 that he was going to invoke the DPA. But he waited more than a week to actually invoke it, finally using it on March 27 to force GM to make ventilators.

During that key stretch, hospitals and doctors implored the administration to use the DPA to increase the capacity to produce needed equipment. In a March 21 letter to Trump, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association all urged Trump to “immediately use the DPA to increase the domestic production of medical supplies and equipment that hospitals, health systems, physicians, nurses and all front line providers so desperately need.” The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was found on Jan. 20, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Doctors, public health experts and a prominent Republican governor on the front lines of the pandemic have also sharply criticized how the Trump White House lagged in responding to the coronavirus, including delays in the distribution of ventilators and personal protective equipment.

Ivanka Trump claims Trump built ‘most robust testing system in the world.’ That’s inaccurate.

President Trump built “the most robust testing system in the world,” daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump claimed Thursday night.

This is inaccurate. Experts say U.S. testing is far too limited to gauge the true size of the country’s uncontrolled and fast-moving outbreak, as high rates of positive tests indicate that many milder cases are going undetected. Meanwhile, manufacturers continue to report shortages of supplies and lab backups leave people waiting weeks for test results. The U.S. has actually begun conducting fewer tests than it was in July, even as the outbreak spreads rapidly.

Ivanka Trump says Trump’s actions have cut drug prices. But drug prices have gone up.

“Recently, he took dramatic action cut the cost of prescription drugs despite fielding angry calls from the CEOs of every major pharmaceutical company,” the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump said Thursday night during her primetime address. “Now, when we see an attack ad paid for by Big Pharma, my dad smiles and says to me, “You know we’re doing something really right if they’re hitting us so hard.”

This is misleading. Drug prices have risen during Trump’s administration, and gone up steadily during the pandemic. And while Trump has talked up taking decisive action, his orders remain secret.

Giuliani wrong about ‘riots’ in ‘Democrat’ cities.

Rudy Giuliani made several wrong, exaggerated or misleading claims about policing and law enforcement in the U.S. during his RNC speech Thursday.

Speaking about the protests sparked across the U.S. in response to the death of a Black man, George Floyd, under the knee of a White Minneapolis police officer, Giuliani said, “Soon protests turned into riots in many other American cities, almost all Democrats.”

He blamed the violence on “Black Lives Matter and ANTIFA” who he said “sprang into action” and”hijacked peaceful protest into vicious brutal riots.”

He added that, in those riots, “people [were] beaten, shot, and killed. Police officers routinely assaulted, badly beaten, and occasionally murdered.”

This is all a substantial distortion and exaggeration of the facts.

Aug. 28, 202006:08

Following Floyd’s death, protests took place in at least 450 cities. As NBC News fact checked Wednesday night, those include large demonstrations in Miami, whose mayor is a registered Republican, and smaller ones in smaller cities and towns in regions supportive of Trump.

Furthermore, the protests in recent months have been largely peaceful. Violent incidents did occur, but many were initiated by outside groups with political agendas.

According to multiple reports, including a Washington Post fact check, there were no signs that that antifa was behind violence at these protests. As of earlier this month, federal prosecutors had not been able to link dozens of people arrested in protests in Portland, Ore., to antifa.

In fact, in at least one instance where a police officer was killed during a protest, the suspect was actually aligned with a far-right extremist group. In Oakland, Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo — a member of the “boogaloo,” an online extremist group with violent views — is accused of killing a federal officer. Authorities have said he was using nearby peaceful protests as cover.

And during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, two people were killed and another was injured when someone opened fire.

Police have arrested 17-year-old Illinois resident Kyle Rittenhouse on a first-degree intentional murder charge in connection with those shootings. NBC News has reported that Rittenhouse had promoted “Blue Lives Matter” online.

Giuliani mischaracterizes legislative efforts for police reform.

Rudy Giuliani claimed in his RNC speech Thursday that, following George Floyd’s death, “it seemed, for a few brief shining moments, Democrat and Republican leaders would come together with a unified proposal to reduce police misconduct.”

He added that it didn’t move forward because “this possibility was very dangerous to the left.”

There is no evidence that Democrats and Republicans ever came anywhere close to reaching any kind of bipartisan deal on police reform after Floyd, a Black man, died under the knee of a white police officer. And the pressure to not move forward on a bill came from the White House, not the progressive wing of the party.

On the contrary, the House, in which the Democratic Party holds the majority, passed a sweeping police reform bill in late June largely along party lines to address systemic racism and police brutality.

The legislation would ban all neck restraints, including chokeholds and the kind used on Floyd by a then-Minneapolis police officer, as well as no-knock warrants in drug cases, as was used in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, in March.

The legislation would also require police departments to send data on the use of force to the federal government and create a grant program that would allow state attorneys general to create an independent process to investigate misconduct or excessive use of force. The bill would also make it easier for people to recover damages when police departments violate their civil rights, and, for the first time, make lynching a federal hate crime.

Trump threatened to veto the measure if it passed the Republican-controlled Senate.

Senate Republicans had supported their own, narrower, bill, which wouldn’t ban chokeholds but would withhold federal funding from police departments that don’t stop using the potentially deadly technique.

The Republican bill would collect data on entries using “no-knock” warrants instead of banning them.

And while the Democratic bill would create a national registry for complaints and disciplinary records of officers and also require reporting on use-of-force incidents, the GOP measure would collect data only when police officers use force that results in serious injury or death.

Cotton accurately quotes former Obama defense secretary on Biden.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., leveled several accusations against Joe Biden, mostly regarding his views and actions as vice president on foreign policy. This one, about what a former defense secretary had to say about Biden’s judgment, is accurate.

Cotton said that “Barack Obama’s own secretary of defense said Joe Biden has been wrong on nearly every major national security decision over the past four decades.”

This is true. Robert Gates, who served as President Obama’s secretary of defense for more than two years, wrote in his 2014 memoir, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary At War,” that Biden had “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

Cotton says Biden ‘opposed the mission to kill Osama bin Laden.’ This is misleading.

This is misleading. Biden has offered multiple versions of the advice he provided to Obama regarding whether the then-president should move forward the 2011 mission that ultimately killed bin Laden.

In 2012, Biden revealed what he told Obama during a Situation Room meeting where top administration officials were going around the room offering their advice president should or shouldn’t move forward.

“He got to me. He said, ‘Joe, what do you think?’ And I said, ‘You know, I didn’t know we had so many economists around the table.’ I said, ‘We owe the man a direct answer. Mr. President, my suggestion is, don’t go. We have to do two more things to see if he’s there,'” Biden said, according to reports at the time.

Aug. 28, 202004:00

Five months later, he told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that he’d privately told Obama after that meeting had ended to, “Follow your instincts, Mr. President” and that Biden had “wanted him to take one more day to do one more test to see if he was there.”

He further leaned into that version in a 2015 interview, saying “that I thought he should go, but follow his own instincts.” Biden then contradicted his initial claims, saying, “imagine if I had said in front of everyone, ‘Don’t go,’ or ‘Go,’ and his decision was a different decision. It undercuts that relationship.”

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, in her 2014 book “Hard Choices,” wrote that Biden “remained skeptical” about the raid, while Gates in his 2014 book, wrote that he and Biden were both “skeptics.”

Cotton claims Biden ‘sent pallets of cash to the ayatollahs.’ Needs context.

This claim, from Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., refers to a $400 million paymentthe Obama administration made to Iran in January 2016 on the same day Iran released several American prisoners and implemented the (since disbanded) nuclear deal.

That sum was actually part of a $1.7 billion settlement to Iran for a decades-long legal dispute that was before an international tribunal in The Hague, the State Department said at the time. The agency characterized the timing of the payment and the release of the American prisoners as coincidental.

A Wall Street Journal report at the time characterized the payment to Iran as a “secretly organized” airlift of euros, Swiss francs and other currencies given to Tehran. Cotton has been a vocal critic of the payment for years, calling even in 2016 that it “ransom to the ayatollahs for U.S. hostages.”

McConnell claims Dems want to defund police, give free health to undocumented immigrants

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said during his RNC speech Thursday that Democrats “want to defund the police” and that they “want free health care for illegal immigrants.”

The first claim is misleading, and the second false. Though some progressives within the Democratic Party do support calls to “defund the police,” the official Democratic Party platform, approved last week, includes no reference to it. And, as NBC News has pointed out on the the first, second and thirdnights of the RNC, Joe Biden, the party’s nominee, does not support defunding the police. He has explicitly said so on multiple occasions. (He does support various measures of reform.)

NBC News has an explainer on the different — and sometimes overlapping — proposals from activists on how to address police violence here.

Additionally, while some on the left have called for free health care for undocumented immigrants, Biden has not. He supports allowing undocumented immigrants to purchase health care with their own money, they would not be eligible for taxpayer-funded subsidies. The official Democratic Party platform calls for “extending Affordable Care Act coverage to Dreamers, and working with Congress to lift the five-year waiting period for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program eligibility for low-income, lawfully present immigrants.”

McConnell also said Democrats want to make Washington, D.C., “America’s 51st state.”

This is true. Biden supports this and the Democrats included the stance in their official party platform.