Debate Fact-Check: Reviewing What Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Said During the Debate
A fact check of claims made by the presidential candidates in the second debate.
The debate was a high-stakes evening for the Trump campaign, which was in turmoil following the release on Friday of a 2005 video showing the GOP presidential nominee carrying on a lewd conversation about women.
The debate, at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., followed a town hall meeting format and half of the questions came from the audience while the others were posed from the co-moderators Martha Raddatz of ABC News and CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Fact-check No. 1: Trump said that Clinton started the "birther" movement.
Trump: "You’re the one that sent the pictures around your campaign, sent the pictures around with president Obama in a certain garb. That was long before I was ever involved. So, you actually owe an apology."
Our grade: False
Explanation: A Politico report has linked Clinton’s most ardent supporters to the circulation of an e-mail suggesting President Barack Obama was born in Kenya during the 2007-2008 primary campaign. But no evidence has ever been found connecting this claim with Clinton herself or her campaign. The Trump campaign has circulated what they define as several pieces of evidence linking the Clinton campaign to the start of the birther movement, which Trump mentioned tonight, but they don’t hold up.
Fact-check No. 2: Trump said the U.S. has an $800 billion trade deficit.
Trump: "Last year, we had an almost $800 billion trade deficit. Other words, trading with other countries. We had an $800 billion deficit. It's hard to believe. Inconceivable."
Our grade: Yes and No
Explanation: According to Census Bureau data the United States had a combined deficit in goods and services of $500 billion in 2015. Donald Trump seems to be referring only to the deficit in goods which was $763 billion in 2015. The U.S. though, exports more in services that in goods and when the two are combined, the total deficit is actually lower -- it is a little over $500 billion when both are combined.
Trump would be more accurate if he clarified his statement to say a goods trade deficit.
Fact-check No. 3: Trump said the U.S. gave Iran $150 billion in one-sided transaction.
Trump: "When I look at the Iran deal and how bad a deal it is for us. It's a one sided transaction where we're giving back $150 billion to a terrorist state really the number one terror state, we've made them a strong country from really a very weak country just three years ago. When I look at all of the things that I see in all of the potential that our country has, we have such tremendous potential. Whether it's in business and trade, where we're doing so badly."
Our grade: False
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said lifting certain financial sanctions only gives Iran access to $56 billion, and it’s not plausible to call it a one-sided transaction considering the changes Iran has made to its nuclear program, including an agreement to reduce its stockpile of enriched nuclear material and to cease further enrichment, effectively extending the time it would take Iran to build a bomb from a few months to one year.
The $150 billion figure is at the high end of estimates. The U.S. Treasury has put the figure closer to $56 billion. The chief economist at the Institute of International Finance, Garbis Iradian, also estimates the number figure at around $60 billion.
Fact-check No. 4: Trump accused Clinton of deleting e-mails after a subpoena for those documents was issued.
Trump: "There has never been anything like this, where emails, and you get a subpoena, you get a subpoena and after getting the subpoena you delete 33,000 e-mails."
Grade: Mostly True
Explanation: The timeline produced by the FBI shows the emails (those which Clinton deemed personal in nature) were deleted after the Benghazi committee subpoena, but Clinton argues that orders to do so were made earlier and mistakenly not carried out.
It’s not known whether Platte River Networks (the private company managing her email) decided to delete her those documents to protect them from a subpoena, but the fact is they were deleted after the subpoena from Congress was issued. The Select Committee on Benghazi issued its subpoena asking for all her emails related to the Benghazi terror attack on March 4, 2015. And according to the FBI’s investigation, Clinton’s team deleted all emails she deemed personal somewhere between March 25 and March 31. The catch is that they were instructed by Clinton’s lawyers to be deleted prior to that, except that they forgot to do it, according to a report produced by the FBI. An unnamed staffer at PRN had an “oh s---” moment, according to the FBI’s investigation, after realizing he hadn’t deleted them yet. It’s also important to note that FBI Director James Comey testified that during the course of the FBI’s email investigation investigators "didn't find any evidence of evil intent and intent to obstruct justice."
Fact-check No. 5: Trump's said health insurance costs are rising by 68 percent, 59 percent, 71 percent.
Trump: "When I watch the deals being made, when I watch what’s happening with some horrible things like Obamacare, where your health insurance and health care is going up by numbers that are astronomical, 68 percent, 59 percent 71 percent."
Grade: Mostly False
Explanation: While healthcare and health insurance costs have been rising, there does not appear to be any basis to these specific numbers. Healthcare costs have been on the rise, and in a number of categories –- health insurance premiums, out-of-pocket costs, employer costs to ensure employees, to name a few. However, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, the costs that matter to individuals do not appear to be near these percentages –- at least not year-on-year. According to the HHS report, the average premium under ObamaCare for 2016 plans rose to $408 per month, which is about a 9 percent increase from this time last year.
Fact-check No. 6: Trump claims Clinton wants a single-payer healthcare plan.
Trump: "She wants to go to a single-payer plan, which would be a disaster somewhat similar to Canada. And If you have ever noticed the Canadians, when they need a big operation, when something happens they come into the United States in many cases, because their system is so slow, it's catastrophic in certain ways."
Grade: Mostly False
Explanation: Part of the Democratic Party platform calls for an expansion of Medicare and Clinton's healthcare plan also calls for that expansion. But it’s only for a small group of those insured -- simply another way to get coverage to the insurance marketplace. Private insurance would still be the primary method of coverage.
Fact-check No. 7: Trump says he was against the Iraq War.
Clinton. "The final thing I will say, this is the 10th or 12th time that he’s denied being for the war in Iraq. We have it on tape and the entire press corps looked at it and it has been debunked but it never stops him from saying what he wants to say."
Trump: "Has not been debunked."
Clinton: "So please. Go to HillaryClinton.com."
Trump: "I was against the war in Iraq. Has not been debunked. You voted for it and you shouldn't have."
Explanation: Trump expressed support for the invasion of Iraq before expressing some reservations.
Asked by Howard Stern on Sept. 11, 2002 if he was “for invading Iraq,” Trump at the time answered, “Yeah, I guess so.”
But by Jan. 28, 2003, Trump expressed some concern about the possibility of an invasion, telling Fox Business’ Neil Cavuto that President Bush “has either got to do something or not do something, perhaps, because perhaps shouldn’t be doing it yet and perhaps we should be waiting for the United Nations, you know.” Then, the day after the invasion of Iraq got underway, Trump told Cavuto in another interview on Mach 21, 2003 that the war “looks like a tremendous success from a military standpoint.” While Trump now portrays himself as having been an outspoken opponent of the invasion, his public statements in the lead up to that point tell a much more nuanced story.
Fact-check No. 8: Trump says that Clinton is going to raise taxes.
Trump: "And I will tell you, Hillary Clinton is raising your taxes, folks, you can look at me. She’s raising your taxes really high."
Grade: Mostly False
Explanation: Clinton’s website says her policy is to “provide tax relief to working families” and to “cut taxes for small business.” She would raise taxes only on top 3% (individuals making over $200K, couples over $250K), not the middle class. Trump’s accusation may stem from a campaign event in Omaha when Clinton stumbled over her words. She seemed to say that we “are” going to raise taxes on the middle class but a close review of the video revealed she said “aren’t.”
Fact-check No. 9: Trump says Clinton doesn't know if Russia is responsible for recent hacks.
Trump: "I notice anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians, she doesn't know if it's the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia."
Our Grade: False
Explanation: On Friday, the U.S. intelligence community issued a rare statement saying they are "confident" that the Russian government is responsible for a series of recent hacks into political organizations.
Fact-check No. 10: Clinton says Trump would raise taxes on middle class families.
Clinton: "Indeed the way that he talks about his tax cuts would end up raising taxes on middle class families. Millions of middle class families."
Our Grade: True
Explanation: Trump’s latest tax plan would cost more than $5 trillion over 10 years. Trump claims his plan would cut taxes for every income group, with the largest tax cuts for working- and middle-class families. Despite its enormous price tag, his plan would actually significantly raise taxes for millions of low- and middle-income families with children, with especially large tax increases for working single parents, according to the Tax Foundation.
Fact-check No. 11: Trump says Clinton failed to bring jobs back to upstate New York.
Trump: "It's just words, folks. It’s just words. Those words I've been hearing them for many years. I heard them when they were running for the senate. In New York. Where Hillary was going to bring back jobs to upstate New York and she failed."
"She is all talk and it doesn't get done. Take a look at upstate New York... It would be a disaster."
Our Grade: Yes and No
Explanation: Clinton did not bring 200,000 jobs to New York as she promised during her Senate campaign, but it's hard to call the situation as "disaster" when neighboring states lost more jobs than New York during her time in the Senate. Additionally, it’s hard to pin job loss during the recession on a senator.
Fact-check No. 12: Trump refutes he sent out a series of tweets in which he alleges that former Miss Universe actress Alicia Machado has a "sex tape."
Cooper: "In the days after the first debate, you sent out a series of tweets from 3 a.m. to 5 am including one that told people to check out a sex tape. Is that the discipline of a good leader?"
Trump: "No it wasn't check out a sex tape. It was just take a look at the person that she built up to be this wonderful girl scout. Who was no Girl Scout."
Our Grade: False
Explanation: Trump did send out a series of tweets starting at 3:30AM on September 30th where he called former Miss Universe contestant Alicia Machado “disgusting” and alleged she has a sex tape.
In one of the tweets, Trump called Machado, who he referred to as “Alicia M,” disgusting. Machado has said Trump repeatedly called her “Miss Piggy” among other insults and Clinton invoked her name and story at the first debate.
Clinton fired back at Trump, posting on Twitter: “What kind of man stays up all night to smear a woman with lies and conspiracy theories?"
Fact-check No. 13: Clinton deleted 30,000 emails.
Trump: "I think the one and the thing you should be apologizing for and the thing that you should be apologizing for are the 33,000 e-mails that you deleted."
Our Grade: True
Explanation: Clinton’s team confirmed this figure soon after the story first broke last year. More than 30,000 emails were deleted "because they were personal and private about matters that I believed were within the scope of my personal privacy," Clinton told reporters in March of 2015, as the controversy around her private emails was growing.
In late 2014, the State Department asked Clinton and other former secretaries of state to hand over any work-related emails they had. In December 2014, Clinton’s legal team provided about 30,000 emails -- totaling 55,000 pages -- to the State Department. "[Clinton] then was asked by her lawyers at the end, 'Do you want us to keep the personal emails?' And she said, 'I have no use for them anymore.' It's then that they issued the direction that the technical people delete them," FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers. After that, the 30,000 emails were deleted.
Fact-check No. 14: Trump said he had seen evidence of bombs in the San Bernadino terrorist apartment.
Trump: "We have to be sure that Muslims come in and report when they see something going on, when they see hatred going on, they have to report it. As an example, in San Bernardino, many people saw the bombs all over the apartment of the two people that killed 14 and wounded many, many people."
Our Grade: False
Explanation: There is no evidence that many people saw bombs all over the apartment. Investigators uncovered nothing like what Trump described. One senior law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation told ABC News this evening that “it’s not accurate.”
Fact-check No. 15: Trump says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is killing ISIS.
Trump: "One thing I have to say. I don't like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS and Iran is killing ISIS and those three have lined up because of our weak foreign policy."
Our Grade: Mostly False
Explanation: This claim is mostly false because the United States government has assessed that a great majority of airstrikes committed by the Syrian regime and Russia hit targets other than ISIS, including U.S. backed opposition forces and innocent civilians.
In October 2015, State Department spokesman John Kirby said that more than 90 percent of regime strikes had not been taken against ISIL, another name for ISIS. "Greater than 90 percent of the strikes that we’ve seen them take to date have not been against ISIL or al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists," Kirby said. And on August 31, 2016 – Pentagon spokesman Peter cook offered a similar assessment about Russia. "And I would just note that from the start, Russia, as you know, has spent most of its time, its military campaign supporting and propping up the Assad regime. It has not devoted much, if any, effort that we're aware of targeting ISIL's leadership." It’s also a fact that the cease-fire brokered between the U.S. and Russia failed in large part because of Assad and Russia’s unwillingness to strike predetermined targets that all sides agreed were legitimate. Assad has, however, targeted ISIS at times. In March of 2016 Assad’s forces, along with Russian air and artillery strikes, launched an offensive that successfully recaptured the historic city of Palmyra from ISIS, but the U.S. military says this was the only major anti-ISIS operation Assad’s forces have so far conducted.
Fact-check No. 16: Clinton says there is no evidence anyone hacked her e-mail server.
Clinton: "After a year-long investigation, there is no evidence that anyone hacked the server I was using, and there is no evidence that anyone can point to at all, anyone who says otherwise has no basis, that any classified material ended up in the wrong hands."
Our grade: True
Explanation: This is a true statement because the FBI said it had found no evidence her email account was hacked. It should be noted, however, that the FBI said given the circumstances, it was very possible she could have been hacked by intruders who did not leave any trace. But again there was no evidence.
According to both the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s email and to an assessment by the State Department's inspector general, there is no evidence Clinton's email server has ever been hacked. The State Department’s inspector general did acknowledge that hacking attempts targeting her email have occurred, but noted there is no evidence any were successful. And the FBI said although there is no evidence to suggest she was hacked, it’s possible that hostile actors were able to gain access. Here is what the FBI Director James Comey said at the conclusion of the investigation in July: "With respect to potential computer intrusion by hostile actors, we did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail domain, in its various configurations since 2009, was successfully hacked. But, given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence. We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial e-mail accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal e-mail extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related e-mails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account."
ABC News' Margaret Chadbourn, Serena Marshall, Dan Childs, Katherine Faulders, Luis Martinez, Ely Brown, Alana Abramson, Justin Fishel, Ryan Struyk, Ben Siegel, Jack Date, Lauren Pearle, and Zunaira Zaki contributed to this report.
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