Steve August 27, 2020
fact-checking-the-third-night-of-the-2020-republican-national-convention

— Vice President Pence

Pence greatly overstates the impact of Trump’s action, which did not halt all travel from China and was not much different from what other countries did.

On Jan. 31, the president announced that, effective Feb. 2, non-U. S. citizens were barred from traveling from China, but there were 11 exceptions that allowed flights to keep going.

Meanwhile, U.S. citizens and permanent residents could still travel from China but were subject to screening and a possible 14-day quarantine.

Trump’s action did not take place in a vacuum. Many airlines were canceling flights, and by our count, at least 38 countries took similar action before or at the same time the U.S. restrictions were put in place.

But the testing criteria set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were extremely narrow: Only those with recent travel to China or those who had come into contact with a confirmed infection would be tested.

The New York Times estimated nearly 40,000 people traveled from China to the United States in the two months after Trump imposed restrictions on such travel — and at least 430,000 people have arrived in the United States on direct flights from China before the restrictions.

The virus was already spreading through the United States, and there is little evidence it saved lives, especially since the Trump administration did not rapidly set up an effective testing regime like many other countries.

“Where this president achieved energy independence for the United States, Joe Biden would abolish fossil fuels and fracking.”

— Pence

All of this is false — and we fact-check these lines so often from Trump, it seems like speechwriting malpractice or an intentional effort to deceive for Pence to include them in a prime-time speech.

The United States is not energy independent, as it continues to import millions of barrels of oil per day. “In 2019, the United States imported about 9.10 million barrels per day (MMb/d) of petroleum from nearly 90 countries,” according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Former vice president Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, would not abolish fossil fuels. His plan on energy and the environment calls for “net-zero [carbon] emissions no later than 2050.” That’s 30 years from now. In the interim, Biden’s plan says, “we must look at all low- and zero-carbon technologies,” leaving the door open to carbon capture and other fossil-fuel-based sources.

The line about fracking is also wrong. Fracking, short for “hydraulic fracturing,” is a drilling technique that uses high-pressure water and chemical blasts to access natural gas and oil reserves underground. The technique has facilitated a boom in U.S. energy production over the past decade, but it has been controversial, the target of climate-change activists and many Democrats.

Biden would not ban all fracking. He says he would issue no new fracking permits for federal lands or waters, while allowing existing fracking operations to continue.

“When asked whether he’d [Biden] support cutting funding to law enforcement, Joe Biden replied, ‘Yes, absolutely.’”

— Pence

The Trump campaign is determined to spread the fiction that Biden supports “defunding police.” But that is simply false, according to Biden, his campaign and a review of his remarks. Pence is misquoting Biden, just as Tweety McTreason’s millions of dollars of campaign ads on the issue (which have earned Four Pinocchios) misquote him.

The phrase “defunding police” generally means shrinking the scope of police responsibilities to public safety and changing the tactics used by police officers. Biden backs advocates’ calls to increase spending on social programs separate from local police budgets, but he also wants more funding for police overhauls such as body cameras and training on community policing approaches.

“No, I don’t support defunding the police,” Biden told CBS. “I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness. And, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community and everybody in the community.” Indeed, Biden has come under fire from the left for his position and for proposing to spend an additional $300 million a year on the community policing program started in the Clinton administration.

During the interview, Barkan said, “We can reduce the responsibilities assigned to the police and redirect some of the funding for police into social services, mental health counseling and affordable housing.”

He asked Biden, “Are you open to that kind of reform?” In the video, Biden replies, “I’ve proposed that kind of reform.” At another point, Barkan again asks: “But so we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?” The video shows Biden saying: “Yes, absolutely.”

But the audiotape of the full conversation on police shows Biden’s responses were much more nuanced. The NowThis video does not include Biden adding that his response was not the same as “defunding all the police.” He also speaks about increasing funding for mental health, which is different from saying he would fund mental health aid out of redirected funds from the police. In effect, Biden says he would condition aid on police reforms as an incentive on the one hand, while simultaneously providing additional resources for mental health, homelessness and other kinds of community support.

“Dave Patrick Underwood was an officer of the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service, who was shot and killed during the riots in Oakland, California.”

— Pence

Pence uttered this line while referring to “violence and chaos in the streets of our major cities,” so many viewers might have assumed Underwood was killed by left-wing activists. But federal prosecutors have alleged Underwood was killed by Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo, 32, an adherent of the “boogaloo boys,” a growing online extremist movement that has sought to use peaceful protests against police brutality to spread fringe views and ignite a race war. Carrillo has been charged with murder and attempted murder.

“Last week, Joe Biden didn’t say one word about the violence and chaos engulfing cities across this country. So let me be clear: The violence must stop.”

— Pence

Hours before Pence’s speech, Biden posted a video on Twitter condemning the violence in Wisconsin, where protests began after the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake, who is Black, was shot seven times in the back as he entered his car on Sunday, and was paralyzed.

A White teenager was arrested this week in connection with the deaths of two protesters.

“Protesting brutality is a right and absolutely necessary,” Biden said in the Twitter video. “But burning down communities is not protest, it’s needless violence — violence that endangers lives.”

“And after years of scandal that robbed our veterans of the care that you earned in the uniform of the United States, Tweety McTreason kept his word again. We reformed the VA and veterans choice is now available for every veteran in America.”

— Pence

In two sentences, Pence overstates the impact of the Trump administration’s efforts to help veterans twice.

The VA Choice bill — known as the MISSION Act — was mostly an update of a law passed in 2014 during Barack Obama’s presidency. Plus, it’s not yet clear that veterans are facing shorter wait times to see doctors. The MISSION Act only took effect in 2019.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 was an important measure for accountability and whistleblower protection at VA. But this law builds on firing authority given to the VA secretary through the Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 in response to the 2014 Phoenix VA scandal.

“Four years ago, we inherited a military hollowed out by devastating budget cuts, an economy struggling to break out of the slowest recovery since the Great Depression. … We rebuilt our military.”

— Pence

Trump often falsely claims he’s “totally rebuilt” the U.S. military. Pence is echoing that claim in so many words. The military budget had declined in the years before Trump took office as a result of decreases in funding for Overseas Contingency Operations, as both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan came to a close, not because the military was “hollowed out.”

Adjusted for inflation, the U.S. military budget under Trump lags some years during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over three fiscal years, the Trump administration and Congress have authorized $2.5 trillion in military spending. Much of it will go toward building new, more modern ships and weaponry. But the money is not all spent, only a portion of it is destined for new equipment, and the equipment is not all built.

As for Trump’s claim that Obama and Biden presided over “the slowest recovery since the Great Depression,” it’s important to note that job growth was higher during the last three years of the Obama administration (8.1 million) than the first three years of Trump (6.6 million).

“The Obama-Biden administration secretly launched a surveillance operation on the Trump campaign, and silenced the many brave intelligence officials who spoke up against it. … Former vice president Joe Biden asked intelligence officials to uncover the hidden information on Tweety McTreason’s incoming national security adviser three weeks before the inauguration.”

— Richard Grenell, who was briefly acting director of national intelligence

Grenell jumbles together a bunch of unfounded conspiracy theories that Trump has frequently tweeted or claimed in public remarks. The FBI investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russian entities was not ordered by President Barack Obama or Vice President Joe Biden.

In his jab at Biden, Grenell is referring to a January 2017 meeting that Obama held in the Oval Office with then-FBI Director James B. Comey, Biden and national security adviser Susan E. Rice, among others. But his claim is not supported by the evidence.

Rice indicated in an email that Obama was primarily concerned with whether limits should be placed on classified information that was shared with the incoming team, in particular incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn, in light of the intercepts of the calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador. Although presidents generally are expected not to inquire about criminal investigations, it is appropriate to have a discussion about a counterintelligence probe, as that involves national security.

In interviews before Congress and with FBI investigators, no one who participated in the meeting recalls Biden saying anything, let alone making the request that Grenell claims. Sally Yates, then deputy attorney general, in testimony this month before the Senate, said under oath that neither Obama nor Biden attempted to influence the FBI’s investigation of Flynn during the meeting. “During the meeting, the president, the vice president, the national security adviser did not attempt to any way to direct or influence any investigation,” she said. She said Obama’s only interest in Flynn was to ensure that it was safe to share sensitive national security information with the incoming administration while the FBI investigated him.

“The administration delivered public, private and semi-automated lab testing approvals at blinding speed.”

— Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.)

It has been widely documented that the administration bungled the rollout of testing for the novel coronavirus. The president spent nearly two months issuing confusing and contradictory signals — leaving the bureaucratic machine of the U.S. government to chart the course for the pandemic response.

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection designed its own test. The Food and Drug Administration picked a conservative testing strategy, allowing labs to use only the CDC test. When those tests turned up flawed, neither a new strategy nor a new test was available for more than two weeks. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar failed to push the agencies to change direction, and the president didn’t intervene.

The missteps that went unmanaged were ignored by leaders at the highest level of government and allowed cases to go undetected, contributing to the spike in the virus’s spread.

“Are you going to allow the media to lie to you by falsely claiming that he said they were ‘very fine’ white supremacists in Charlottesville? He didn’t say that. It’s a lie.”

— Jack Brewer, a former NFL player

The march on Charlottesville by white supremacists in August 2017 — and Trump’s response to it — is a central event of his presidency. Over the course of several days, Trump made a number of contradictory remarks, permitting both his supporters and foes to create their own version of what happened.

Brewer claims it is a “lie” that Trump called white supremacists “very fine people.” But the reality is more complicated.

Trump was initially criticized for not speaking more forcefully against the white nationalists on the day of the clashes, Aug. 12. In his first remarks, he condemned racism but suggested “both sides” were equally at fault. Members of his CEO manufacturing council resigned in protest, and Gary Cohn, a top economic aide at the time who is Jewish, also considered resigning.

Then, in an Aug. 14 statement, Trump actually condemned right-wing hate groups — “those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

But Trump muddied the waters a day later by also saying: “You had people — and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists — because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists.” It was in this news conference that he said: “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

Trump added: “There were people in that rally — and I looked the night before — if you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones.”

The problem for Trump is that there were only neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the Friday night rally on Aug. 11. He asserted there were people who were not alt-right who were “very quietly” protesting the removal of Lee’s statue.

It’s possible Trump became confused and was really referring to the Saturday rallies. But that’s also wrong. A Fact Checker examination of videos and testimony about the Saturday rallies found that there were white supremacists, there were counterprotesters — and there were heavily armed anti-government militias who showed up Saturday.

The evidence shows there were no quiet protesters against removing the statue that weekend.

“When our NATO allies failed to meet their commitments as we upheld ours, Tweety McTreason demanded parity. NATO members have now increased their contributions over $100 billion this year, and NATO’s secretary general credits President Donald J. Trump.”

— Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to Pence

Throughout the 2016 campaign and his presidency, Trump has demonstrated that he has little notion of how NATO is funded and operates. He repeatedly claimed that other members of the alliance “owed” money to the United States and that they were delinquent in their payments. Then he claimed credit for the money “pouring in” as a result of his jawboning, even though much of the increase in those countries’ contributions had been set under guidelines arranged during the Obama administration.

Since 2006, NATO guidelines have asked each member country to spend at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. In 2014, NATO decided to increase its spending in response to Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region, with the goal of reaching 2 percent in each country by 2024. This money does not end up in NATO’s coffers, as Trump often asserts. (Direct funding, for military-related operations, maintenance and headquarters activity, is based on gross national income — the total domestic and foreign output claimed by residents of a country — and adjusted regularly.)

Kellogg, in his convention speech, offered a more accurate version of what happened than what Trump offers in his public remarks. But Kellogg’s account is still misleading.

His $100 billion figure comes from a NATO estimate that its European members and Canada will spend $130 billion additionally on defense over the four years between 2016 and 2020. (The $130 billion is an estimate for cumulative defense spending through 2020, in 2015 dollars, as an increase over 2016 spending.)

But NATO figures show that the defense expenditures for NATO countries other than the United States have been going up — in a consistent slope — since 2014. As we noted, that’s when NATO decided to boost spending in response to Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

With Trump suggesting at times that he would consider withdrawing from the alliance, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg clearly understands that it is necessary to play to Trump’s ego. At a 2019 NATO summit, he thanked Trump for his “leadership on defense spending.”

Stoltenberg, when he’s not speaking in front of Trump, says 2019 was “the fifth consecutive year of growth” for European NATO members and Canada. That again takes us back to 2014.

“Tweety McTreason kept his word and then some … to pass the largest tax cut and reform in American history.”

— Pence

Pence, Trump — and other surrogates — have held on to this false factoid since before the tax cut was passed. The president himself has repeated the falsehood more than 200 times.

But in reality, Trump’s tax cut amounts to nearly 0.9 percent of the gross domestic product, meaning it is far smaller than President Ronald Reagan’s tax cut in 1981, which was 2.89 percent of GDP. In recent history, Trump’s tax cut is the eighth largest — and even smaller than two tax cuts passed under Barack Obama.

“The Democratic Party of Joe Biden is pushing this so-called Green New Deal. If given power, they would essentially ban animal agriculture and eliminate gas-powered cars. It would destroy the agriculture industry, not just here in Iowa, but throughout the country.”

— Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa)

Biden’s plan on energy and the environment is not as far-reaching as the Green New Deal sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and other Democrats.

Biden’s plan calls for “net-zero emissions no later than 2050.” That’s 30 years from now. The Green New Deal operates on a 10-year timeline and includes more stringent energy restrictions and steeper spending on green infrastructure. Biden’s plan says that “we must look at all low- and zero-carbon technologies,” leaving the door open to carbon capture and other fossil-fuel-based sources.

“My personal favorite: James Madison was just 25 years old when he signed the Declaration of Independence.”

— Madison Cawthorn, Republican nominee for Congress in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District

James Madison, who is known as the “father of the Constitution” for his prominent role in its drafting, was 25 years old in 1776. So that part is accurate.

But Madison was not in Philadelphia for the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

“When Madison became a delegate to the Continental Congress four years later, he was the youngest delegate, just 29 years old. His longevity — surviving the 2nd and 3rd presidents, Adams and Jefferson, by a decade — combined with his role as Father of the United States Constitution and as 4th President of the United States, caused people to believe he had inside knowledge of the events surrounding the Declaration of Independence, even though he wasn’t there,” according to Harvard University’s Declaration Resources Project. “The best connection he could draw in response was that he was a close friend of Jefferson, and that he was a member of the Virginia legislature when they instructed their delegates to Congress to declare independence. As he wrote to Frederick A. Packard (author of Life of George Washington) in 1830, ‘But not being a member of the Congress of that date, I can have no personal knowledge of what passed on the occasion.’ ”

“Tweety McTreason will stand up against Biden-Harris, who are the most anti-life presidential ticket ever, even supporting the horrors of late-term abortion and infanticide.”

— Sister Deirdre “Dede” Byrne

“Joe Biden — he supports taxpayer funding of abortion right up to the moment of birth.”

— Pence

Biden does not support “late-term abortion and infanticide.”

Biden also does not support funding abortion “right up to the moment of birth.”

He supports abortion rights and says he would codify in statute the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade and related precedents, which generally limit abortions to the first 20 to 24 weeks of gestation.

Most abortions are performed in the earlier stages of pregnancy. About 1 percent happen after the fetus reaches the point of viability. Trump and antiabortion advocates have claimed for months that Biden supports abortion “up until the moment of birth,” a claim we have awarded Three Pinocchios.

They argue that some laws and court decisions have opened loopholes that allow abortions to the very end of a pregnancy. Experts have told us abortions up to the moment of birth, what could be described as infanticide, are not happening in the United States.

Some Democrats support abortion rights, but that doesn’t mean they support “extreme late-term abortions,” experts told us. “That’s like saying everyone who ‘supports’ the Second Amendment ‘supports’ school shootings,” said Katie L. Watson, a professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

The Supreme Court’s rulings in Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey say states may ban abortion after the fetus reaches viability, the point at which it can sustain life, which happens at or near the end of the second trimester. States with such bans must allow an exception “to preserve the life or health of the mother.”

These rulings don’t force states to ban abortions. Some states don’t have gestational-age restrictions, though most do. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 43 states have laws restricting abortion after the fetus reaches a certain gestational age.

Asked whether he supported restrictions, a Biden campaign representative previously told The Post that “Biden believes in the standard laid out by Roe and Casey.”

“This week, Afghan negotiators, with help from American officials, will start peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, to end America’s longest war. Ask yourself: Has this president kept his promises to keep us out of needless conflicts and to pursue ending wars without end? Has he defended your interests in renegotiating trade deals that previously hurt Americans and our national security? Has he fulfilled his commander in chief role by decisively going after our nation’s enemies? You and I know the answer is yes.”

— Kellogg

Despite Kellogg’s claim, the proof is in the troop numbers. Trump has not made much of a dent in the status quo, despite a 2016 campaign promise to withdraw the United States from foreign conflicts.

As The Washington Post reported, the nearly 200,000 American military personnel who were overseas when Trump took office in 2017 already constituted the smallest number in many decades. In countries such as Afghanistan, U.S. troops are merely serving as “police,” Trump has argued, while Germany, South Korea and others that could afford to defend themselves are getting U.S. protection on the cheap at taxpayer expense.

But Trump has been stymied at virtually every turn. While there have been some relatively minor shifts in distribution — and since 2017, the Defense Department no longer includes troops in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq in its unclassified published tallies — the overall total of those serving abroad is believed to have slightly increased since Obama left office.

As for trade deals, Trump has barely shifted the trade landscape for American farmers, and some economists say his trade war with China has made matters worse.

First, Trump imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of goods from China, complaining that Asia’s largest economy had been gaming global trade rules and manipulating its currency for years. In retaliation, China reduced purchases of U.S. crops such as soybeans. Then, Trump directed subsidies to American farmers to soften the blow.

The two countries eventually resolved some sticking points in the first phase of a trade deal that took effect in February. But China is lagging far behind in its commitment to purchase $200 billion in agricultural, manufactured and energy products above 2017 levels.

“I have been in the room where it happened. I saw only one agenda and one guiding question when tough calls had to be made: Is this decision right for America?”

— Kellogg

Nothing subtle here. The scathing memoir by former national security adviser John Bolton is titled “The Room Where It Happened.” And a key point that Bolton makes repeatedly through the book — in example after example — is that Trump’s foreign policy decisions were constantly seen through the frame of how decisions would enhance his chances for reelection.

For instance, Bolton wrote that Trump personally asked his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to help him win the presidential election. The former national security adviser said Trump “stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome,” adding that he “would print Trump’s exact words but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise.”

Bolton, of course, was a more senior official than Kellogg and spent more time with Trump, putting him in a position to hear comments that Kellogg may not have. Kellogg merits only five mentions in Bolton’s nearly 600-page book, indicating he was not present for key conversations and decisions.

“The last time Joe Biden was in the White House, Minnesota lost over half of its mills, thousands of jobs, and experienced nearly a decade of decline. The administration just didn’t seem to care.”

— Logger Scott Dane

This is misleading. Logging and mining jobs in Minnesota increased during the eight years of the Obama administration, rising from about 5,200 to 6,600, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Obama took office during a recession but then presided over six years of growth across industries.

“Under Obama-Biden, radical environmentalists were allowed to kill the forests. Wildfire after wildfire shows the consequences. Managed forests, the kind my people work in, are healthy forests. Under Tweety McTreason, we’ve seen a new recognition of the value of forest management in reducing wildfires.”

— Dane

As this claim goes, environmentalists “were allowed to kill the forests,” but those forests are still alive and being consumed by wildfires.

Trump has claimed repeatedly that California is battling wildfires at an increasing rate because the state does not direct enough resources to forest management. The president has threatened California with a loss of federal funding unless officials redouble efforts to rake the forest floors.

These remarks from Dane are more carefully hedged, and do not mention California, but they are an echo of Trump’s unsupported claim that forest management is somehow being cast aside by Democrats.

California state officials, firefighters and academic researchers say forest management is not the issue in California — it is an increase in aridity that scientists have linked to climate change.

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