FactCheck.org http://www.factcheck.org A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center Fri, 27 May 2016 19:25:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.1 Trump, Sanders and Clinton Repeats http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/trump-sanders-and-clinton-repeats/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/trump-sanders-and-clinton-repeats/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 18:39:16 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=108486 This edition of Groundhog Friday, an occasional wrap-up of recent repeats, includes claims from the presidential candidates about Libya, income inequality, nuclear weapons and more.

Follow the links to our articles for more information on our debunking of the claims.

Groundhog2Donald Trump on Libya, May 20 interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: “[Hillary Clinton’s] got horrible judgment. … I could tell you a lot of examples but one of them is Libya. Libya was an example. Libya’s a disaster. … You knock out [Libyan leader Moammar] Gadhafi, and she thinks we did a great job. … I would have stayed out of Libya.”

Trump’s claim that he “would have stayed out of Libya” doesn’t square with his comments at the time. In February 2011, Trump, referring to Gadhafi, said that the U.S. should go into Libya “on a humanitarian basis” and “knock this guy out very quickly, very surgically, very effectively and save the lives.”

For more: “FactChecking the 10th GOP Debate,” Feb. 26



Trump on Libya oilMay 19 speech in New Jersey: “Think of Libya. You know they have some of the finest oil in the world. You know who’s got the oil? ISIS has the oil. ISIS.”

It’s true that Islamic State fighters have made numerous attacks on oil fields across Libya, according to news reports. In March 2015, it was even reported that militants believed to be associated with the Islamic State attacked and “took control” of oil fields in Bahi and Mabruk in central Libya. But Claudia Gazzini, a senior analyst for Libya with the International Crisis Group, told us that the Islamic State’s strategy thus far has largely been to disrupt oil operations in Libya rather than to try and make a profit off of them.

For more: “Trump’s Foreign Policy Speech,” April 28




Trump on trade with China, May 19 speech in New Jersey: “We have a trade deficit with China of $505 billion a year. Think of it. How stupid can we be?”

This is a repeat from our inaugural Groundhog Friday report. So let us repeat ourselves: “Trump continues to be wrong about the trade deficit with China: It was $366 billion last year. Trump’s $500 billion figure is actually close to the net trade deficit with all countries, which was $532 billion in 2015.”

For more: “FactChecking the 11th GOP Debate,” March 4



Bernie Sanders on hours, pay and incomeMay 22 interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation”: “I think that the issues that we are raising, the fact that we have to raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour, that people sense there’s something wrong in American society, where they working longer hours for lower wages almost, and almost all new income and wealth is going to the 1 percent.”

Sanders mixes and matches two different sets of data to make his “longer hours for lower wages” claim. Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show average weekly hours and average weekly earnings both declined for production and nonsupervisory employees from 1965 to 2015. But the Sanders campaign cited BLS data showing hourly wages went down slightly from 1975, and then pointed to a Brookings Institution report that found the total number of hours worked by two-parent families in the middle 10 percent (in terms of earnings) had gone up — mainly because more women entered the workforce. The Brookings report found that the median wages for those families also had gone up — so they were working more hours for higher pay, not more hours for less.

For more: “FactChecking the MSNBC Democratic Debate,” Feb. 5



Sanders also repeated his false claim that “almost all new income and wealth is going to the 1 percent.” That’s an exaggeration, even according to the work of economists Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics and Political Science, whose research Sanders has cited. The Saez-Zucman study found the top 1 percent held 41.8 percent of the nation’s wealth in 2012. Federal Reserve Board economists put the figure at 36 percent.

As for income, a June 2015 update by Saez and Zucman said that 55 percent of real income growth from 1993 to 2014 went to the top 1 percent, and from 2009 to 2014, 58 percent of real income growth went to the top 1 percent. That’s not “almost all.” Sanders has sometimes used the 58 percent figure in his speeches, but sometimes he reverts to his “almost all new income” claim.

For more: “Sanders Stretches State of the Rich,” July 23, 2015, and “FactChecking the MSNBC Democratic Debate,” Feb. 5



Hillary Clinton on reducing nuclear weapons, May 22 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press“: “And I worked as secretary of state to get things done. To reduce nuclear weapons, for example, between Russia and myself. So I have a track record.”

Clinton overstates the impact of the 2011 New START agreement, which limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads — that is, nuclear weapons that are deployed on long-range (or strategic) launchers. In fact, Russia was below the treaty’s limit on deployed strategic nuclear warheads when the treaty took effect, and Russia has increased the number since then — going from 1,537 in February 2011 to 1,735 in March, the most recent data available. The number of U.S. nuclear warheads deployed on long-range launchers has decreased in that time, but the agreement did not call for the destruction of any nuclear weapons “withdrawn from operational deployment.”

For more: “Clinton Overstates Nuclear Achievement,” April 27




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IG Report on Clinton’s Emails http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/ig-report-on-clintons-emails/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/ig-report-on-clintons-emails/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 17:13:11 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=108703 Summary

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that her decision to use a private email account and server for government business while secretary of state was “allowed” by the State Department. She has said “my predecessors did the same thing,” and insisted she “fully complied with every rule” in preserving her work emails.

We have taken issue with those claims, and now so does the State Department Office of Inspector General, which issued a report on May 26 that contradicts several of Clinton’s claims about her emails:

  • The IG report cited department policies dating to 2005 that require “normal day-to-day operations” to be conducted on government servers, contrary to Clinton’s claim that her server was allowed. It also said she “had an obligation” to discuss her email system with cybersecurity officials, but there’s “no evidence” that she sought or received their approval.
  • The IG report said Clinton should have turned over her emails before she left office — not 21 months after she left. “[S]he did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act,” the report said.
  • Clinton has said her emails “were captured and preserved immediately on the system at the State Department” because she emailed department officials at their government accounts. The IG report said that is “not an appropriate method of preserving any such emails that would constitute a Federal record.”

The IG report also said the only other secretary of state to use personal email “exclusively” for government business was Colin Powell, contrary to Clinton’s claim that her “predecessors” — plural — “did the same thing.” The IG also said that, like Clinton, Powell did not comply with policies on preserving work-related emails.

But the IG report said the comparison to Powell — who did not use a private server — only goes so far. It said during Clinton’s tenure, the rules governing personal email and the use of nongovernment systems were “considerably more detailed and more sophisticated,” citing specific memos that warned department employees about the security risks of not using the government system.

“Secretary Clinton’s cybersecurity practices accordingly must be evaluated in light of these more comprehensive directives,” the report said.

Brian Fallon, a Clinton campaign spokesman, told us that even though the IG report contradicts Clinton’s past statements, that “doesn’t make her statements untruthful.” He said Clinton, who declined to be interviewed by the inspector general’s staff, “believed — past tense” that her use of a private server was allowed, that it was no different than Powell using a commercial email account to conduct government business. She no longer believes that, he said, although she continues to say — as she did in an ABC News interview on May 26 after the IG report came out — that the use of personal email was allowed.

“It did not occur to her that having it on a personal server could be so distinct that it would be unapproved,” Fallon said. “We’re not intending to say post the IG report that her server was allowed. We don’t contest that. We’re saying … the use of personal email was widespread.”


On March 2, 2015, the New York Times reported that Clinton exclusively used a private email account to conduct government business while secretary of state from January 2009 to February 2013. The Associated Press followed with a report that Clinton’s email account was hosted on a private server at her home in New York.

The disclosures triggered a series of actions, most importantly an FBI investigation into the handling of classified government material. The investigation is ongoing, and may or may not be completed before the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Separately, the State Department Office of Inspector General — which is headed by Steve A. Linick, an appointee of President Obama — conducted a review of the Office of the Secretary’s “email records management and cybersecurity requirements” since 1997, covering the tenures of five secretaries of state and their staffs. The result is a 79-page report that identified “systemic weaknesses … that go well beyond the tenure of any one Secretary of State.” It made eight recommendations to the department.

For our purposes, we reviewed the report in the context of statements that Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, has made about her unusual email arrangement since it was first disclosed more than a year ago.

‘Allowed by State Department’?

As we have written before, Clinton has said her email arrangement was “allowed” by her department and “fully above board.” Even after the report came out, Clinton continued to make this claim, saying in an ABC News interview on May 26 that “it was allowed.”

The IG report says that that was not the case.

Clinton, Sept. 4, 2015: I know why the American people have questions about it. And I want to make sure I answer those questions, starting with the fact that my personal email use was fully above board. It was allowed by the State Department, as they have confirmed.

Clinton, Sept. 7, 2015: What I did was allowed by the State Department. It was fully above board.

Clinton, May 8: Well, as I have said many times, there was — I was absolutely permitted, and I did it.

Clinton, May 26: Well, it was allowed and the rules have been clarified since I left about the practice.

The IG report said that it has been department policy since 2005 — four years before Clinton took office — that “normal day-to-day operations” be conducted on government servers.

The report also said that in 2007 the department adopted additional policies requiring “non-Departmental information systems” used to “process or store department information” to meet the same security controls as the department’s systems, and requiring that they be registered with the department. Clinton did not adhere to either policy.

State Department Inspector General, May 26: The Department’s current policy, implemented in 2005, is that normal day-to-day operations should be conducted on an authorized Automated Information System (AIS), which “has the proper level of security control to … ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the resident information.” The FAM [Foreign Affairs Manual] defines an AIS as an assembly of hardware, software, and firmware used to electronically input, process, store, and/or output data. Examples include: mainframes, servers, desktop workstations, and mobile devices (such as laptops, e-readers, smartphones, and tablets).

This policy comports with FISMA [Federal Information Security Management Act], which was enacted in December 2002 and requires Federal agencies to ensure information security for the systems that support the agency’s operations and assets, including information security protections for information systems used by a contractor of an agency or other organization on behalf of an agency. FISMA defines information security as protecting information and information systems from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction in order to provide for the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of the information and systems. In 2006, as required by FISMA, NIST [National Institute of Standards and Technology] promulgated minimum security requirements that apply to all information within the Federal Government and to Federal information systems. Among these are requirements for certifying and accrediting information systems, retaining system audit records for monitoring purposes, conducting risk assessments, and ensuring the protection of communications.

In 2007, the Department adopted additional policies to implement these requirements, including numerous provisions intended to ensure that non-Departmental information systems that process or store Department information maintain the same minimum security controls.

Further, non-Departmental systems that are sponsored by the Department to process information on its behalf must be registered with the Department.

The IG report said Clinton “had an obligation” to discuss her email system with the department, but it could find “no evidence” that Clinton sought approval for her unusual email arrangement. If she did, the report says her request would have been denied by the bureaus of Diplomatic Security and Information Resource Management.

State Department Inspector General, May 26: Secretary Clinton used mobile devices to conduct official business using the personal email account on her private server extensively, as illustrated by the 55,000 pages of material making up the approximately 30,000 emails she provided to the Department in December 2014.

Throughout Secretary Clinton’s tenure, the FAM stated that normal day-to-day operations should be conducted on an authorized AIS, yet OIG found no evidence that the Secretary requested or obtained guidance or approval to conduct official business via a personal email account on her private server. According to the current CIO [chief information officer] and Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, Secretary Clinton had an obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business with their offices, who in turn would have attempted to provide her with approved and secured means that met her business needs. However, according to these officials, DS [Bureau of Diplomatic Security] and IRM [Bureau of Information Resource Management] did not — and would not — approve her exclusive reliance on a personal email account to conduct Department business, because of the restrictions in the FAM and the security risks in doing so.

The Clinton campaign has cited a National Archives and Records Administration regulation adopted in 2009 as evidence that Clinton was allowed to send and receive work-related emails “using a system not operated by the agency,” as the rule states. That’s true, as far as it goes. The IG report says it found “many examples of staff using personal email accounts to conduct official business.” But the report also made a distinction between occasional use and exclusive use of personal email.

The report said it found only three department employees in 19 years who “used non-Departmental systems on an exclusive basis,” and two of them were secretaries of state (Clinton and Powell). The other was Jonathan Scott Gration, a former ambassador to Kenya, who ignored instructions in July 2011 not to use commercial email for government businesses and resigned in mid-2012 when the department initiated disciplinary action against him.

The IG report cited the Gration report as an example of how the process should work. “[T]he Department’s response to his actions demonstrates how such usage is normally handled when Department cybersecurity officials become aware of it,” the report said.

‘Fully Complied’?

The 2009 NARA rule that the Clinton campaign cites does allow for the occasional use of personal email, as we just said, but it also requires that the department “ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system.”

Clinton has insisted that she complied with that records requirement, too, because she sent emails to department staffers who had government email addresses. At a March 10 press conference, when she first took questions about her unusual email arrangement, Clinton said “the vast majority of my work emails went to government employees at their government addresses, which meant they were captured and preserved immediately on the system at the State Department.”

Clinton, March 10: I fully complied with every rule that I was governed by.

The IG report said that is not the case. It said Clinton’s method of preserving work-related emails was insufficient under the Federal Records Act.

State Department Inspector General, May 26: As previously discussed, however, sending emails from a personal account to other employees at their Department accounts is not an appropriate method of preserving any such emails that would constitute a Federal record. Therefore, Secretary Clinton should have preserved any Federal records she created and received on her personal account by printing and filing those records with the related files in the Office of the Secretary. At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.

Fallon, the Clinton spokesman, said “we agree in retrospect” with the IG finding that “her practice of copying aides on her emails did not end up producing a full record since State’s IT systems didn’t save everything. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t take steps to comply.”

“Our goal was to explain her state of mind at the time, because she was copying and sending” emails to people within the State Department,” Fallon said. “She believed that all those emails were captured,” he said.

‘Same Thing’ As Her Predecessors?

On multiple occasions, Clinton has said she was not alone in using personal email for government business. That is correct, but she distorts the facts when saying that what she did was the same as other secretaries of state, as she did in a CNN interview on July 7, 2015, in a March 9 debate, and again in the ABC interview on May 26 after the report came out.

Clinton, July 7, 2015: There was nothing that did not give me the full authority to decide how I was going to communicate. Previous secretaries of state have said they did the same thing. … And as I said, prior secretaries of state — I mean, Secretary Powell has admitted he did exactly the same thing.

Clinton, March 9: I made a mistake. It was not prohibited. It was not in any way disallowed. And as I have said and as now has come out, my predecessors did the same thing and many other people in the government.

Clinton, May 26: This report makes clear that personal email use was the practice for other secretaries of state.

She was wrong to say “my predecessors did the same thing,” as we have pointed out before. The IG report confirms that among Clinton’s predecessors only Powell used personal email for government business. Madeleine Albright did not use email at all, and Condoleezza Rice did not use personal email to conduct government business, the IG report says.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who followed Clinton, told the inspector general’s office that he “infrequently” used personal email for government business “when responding to a sender who emailed him on his personal account.”

Even now Clinton twists the facts when she claims, as she did in the ABC News interview, that “personal email use was the practice for other secretaries of state” — meaning Powell and Kerry. It was the practice for Powell, but it was the exception for Kerry, so the plural use of “secretaries” is misleading — especially in light of the IG report.

In what reads like a direct rebuttal to Clinton’s claim that other secretaries of state have done the same thing, the IG report notes that the department’s policies on the use of personal email and nongovernment computer systems were “considerably more detailed and more sophisticated” during Clinton’s tenure. It said she should be “evaluated” differently than her predecessors.

“Beginning in late 2005 and continuing through 2011, the Department revised the FAM [Foreign Affairs Manual] and issued various memoranda specifically discussing the obligation to use Department [computer] systems in most circumstances and identifying the risks of not doing so,” the report says. “Secretary Clinton’s cybersecurity practices accordingly must be evaluated in light of these more comprehensive directives.”

In addition to the policies we outlined from the mid-2000s, the report noted specific instances in which State Department officials acted to discourage the use of personal email for government business.

For example, on March 11, 2011, the assistant secretary for diplomatic security sent a memo to Clinton that said there has been “a dramatic increase since January 2011 in attempts by [redacted] cyber actors to compromise the private home e-mail accounts of senior Department officials.” That was followed by two high-level meetings in April and May 2011 on cybersecurity that were attended by “the Secretary’s immediate staff.”

What followed was a cable that went out under Clinton’s name that “recommended best practices for Department users and their family members to follow, including ‘avoid conducting official Department business from your personal e-mail accounts,’” the report said, quoting from Clinton’s cable.

Taking Note

The report also addressed some other notable issues:

  • The department did not ask the four former secretaries of state, including Clinton, to sign separation agreements certifying that they had turned over all work-related documents. Clinton has been criticized by Republican strategist Karl Rove and others — for failing to sign the statement, but that was part of the department’s “systemic weaknesses” and not unique to Clinton.
  • Two staffers in the Bureau of Information Resource Management expressed “their concerns about Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email account in separate meetings” with the bureau director. “According to the staff member, the Director stated that the Secretary’s personal system had been reviewed and approved by Department legal staff and that the matter was not to be discussed any further,” the report said. But no legal review was done and no approval was granted.
  • Hackers attempted to access Clinton’s server on Jan. 9, 2011, and a phishing email message was sent to Clinton on May 13, 2011, that contained a suspicious link. Both attempted breaches should have been reported. “However, OIG found no evidence that the Secretary or her staff reported these incidents to computer security personnel or anyone else within the Department,” the report said.
  • Clinton and seven of her former department staffers declined to be interviewed by the IG’s office, as well as “an individual based in New York who provided technical support for Secretary Clinton’s personal email system but who was never employed by the Department.”

Clinton admits she made a mistake when she decided to use a personal email and server to conduct public business. But she has been less than forthright as she has tried to spin the facts in an attempt to minimize her admitted mistake.

The IG report makes it clear that occasional use of personal email for government business would have been acceptable as long as Clinton’s emails were preserved by the department before she left office. But the department policies at the time prevented her or anyone else from using a personal account exclusively for government business — let alone a personal server, which should have been registered with the department but was not.

Updated, May 27: This article was revised to clarify Fallon’s comments on the IG’s finding that Clinton “did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.” We added that Fallon said the Clinton campaign agrees with the IG finding that “her practice of copying aides on her emails did not end up producing a full record since State’s IT systems didn’t save everything. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t take steps to comply.”

For all of our stories on Clinton’s emails click here.



U.S. State Department, Office of the Inspector General. “Office of the Secretary: Evaluation of Email Records Management and Cybersecurity Requirements.” 26 May 2016.

Schmidt, Michael S. “Hillary Clinton Used Personal Email Account at State Dept., Possibly Breaking Rules.” New York Times. 2 Mar 2015.

U.S. State Department. “Biographies of the Secretaries of State: Hillary Rodham Clinton (1947–).” Accessed 26 May 2016.

Gillum, Jack and Ted Bridis. “House committee subpoenas Clinton emails in Benghazi probe.” Associated Press. 5 Mar 2015.

Bruer, Wesley. “FBI’s Comey: No rush on Clinton email probe.” CNN. 5 Apr 2016.

Calabresi, Massimo. “Inside the FBI Investigation of Hillary Clinton’s E-Mail.” Time. 31 Mar 2016.

U.S. State Department, Office of the Inspector General. “About Steve A. Linick, Inspector General.” Accessed 26 May 2016.

White House. “President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts.” 27 Jun 2013.

Kiely, Eugene. “More Spin on Clinton Emails.” FactCheck.org. 8 Sep 2015.

Hillary Clinton Defends Email Use, Discusses Potential Sanders/Trump Debate.” ABC News. 26 May 2016.

National Archives Releases State Department Letter re: Email Recordkeeping.” Press release. The National Archives and Records Administration. 9 Apr 2015.

Transcript: Everything Hillary Clinton said on the Email Controversy.” Time. 10 Mar 2015.

CNN Exclusive: Hillary Clinton’s first national interview of 2016 Race.” CNN. 7 Jul 2015.

Transcript: The Post-Univision Democratic debate, annotated.” Washington Post. 9 Mar 2016.

Kiely, Eugene et al. “FactChecking the Eighth Democratic Debate.” FactCheck.org. 10 Mar 2016.

Lou Dobbs Tonight.” Interview with Karl Rove. Video via rove.com. 17 Mar 2015.

Tapscott, Mark. “Clinton was required to sign document claiming she turned over emails in 2013.” Washington Examiner. 11 Mar 2015.

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All Wet on Water Quality Data http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/all-wet-on-water-quality-data/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/all-wet-on-water-quality-data/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 21:46:49 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=108705 During a recent congressional hearing, Rep. Steve King of Iowa underestimated what scientists know about the relationship between farming practices and water quality.

  • King said scientists don’t know about the quality of water in the U.S. “when the buffalo roamed” because there were “no water quality tests then.” Pre-1900 water quality data is relatively scarce, but experts can use techniques from paleolimnology to evaluate past water quality.
  • He implied that this lack of “baseline” data prevents scientists from knowing whether applications of crop fertilizer are “too much.” But experts say they don’t need 19th century data to know fertilizers have negatively impacted water quality. The 20th century provides plenty of evidence.

To start, the term “bison” is scientifically more accurate than “buffalo” when referring to North American populations. In the 16th century, approximately 30 million to 60 million wild bison (Bison bison), roamed North America, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Over the span of the 19th century the number of bison on the continent was reduced to 1,000. Bison were slaughtered for a variety of reasons, including for food and for their hides and bones.

At a May 17 hearing concerning the impact of environmental regulations on the farming economy, King asked a witness from the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau a number of rhetorical questions concerning “the science” behind environmental regulations on farming practices. For example, he asked “are you confident that the records are good enough now that the science is there to make recommendations, let alone regulations, on applications of, say, fertilizer?”

SciCHECKsquare_4-e1430162915812He went on to imply, again in question form, that “we don’t have a sense on … what’s the baseline” for water quality. He claimed that “environmentalists” want water quality to return to “when the buffalo roamed because they say that’s when the ecology was as perfectly balanced as we can imagine.” He then claimed, “And I’m just submitting that they don’t know what it was then. There was no water quality tests then. And they can only imagine, but they also imagine that your application is too much.”

King also cited a pending lawsuit between the Des Moines Water Works and three counties in Iowa. According to the Des Moines Register, the “Des Moines utility sued Calhoun, Buena Vista and Sac counties [in March 2015], alleging underground drainage tiles act as conduits that enable high levels of nitrates to move from farm fields into the Raccoon River, one of two sources of drinking water for 500,000 metro area residents.”

We take no position on the lawsuit. But we can say there is knowledge of water quality from the 1800s and before. We can also say scientists don’t need data from the 1800s and before to know that the applications of crop fertilizers have negatively impacted water quality in the U.S., despite King’s implication.

We reached out to King’s office for clarification and comment, but it hasn’t gotten back to us. We will report back if it does. In the next sections we’ll explain what scientists know about water quality in the U.S. pre- and post-1900.

Water Quality Pre-1900

In a chapter of the book Food, Energy and Water, Donna N. Myers, a water quality expert at the U.S. Geological Survey, writes, “Water quality activities in the United States began around 1800.” Increased water usage and development “to support economic development,” she explains, “created a need for water quality monitoring and assessment.”

Early analyses concentrated on evaluating the mineral composition of water. By 1850, scientists had distinguished “90 chemical elements,” writes Myers, including chlorine, sulfuric acid, water hardness and organic matter. Spurred by outbreaks of water borne diseases (e.g. cholera and typhoid fever) starting in the 1830s, chemists developed additional methods for evaluating water pollution from sewage. These included tests for nitrogen-based chemicals, like ammonia.

Scientists also began publishing manuals on water analysis methods in the 1800s. Myers notes one in particular: Water Analysis: A Practical Treatise on the Examination of Potable Water. First published in 1868, the book outlines techniques for detecting nitrate and nitrite, among other chemicals, in water.

Between 1887 and 1894, Massachusetts carried out what’s been called the “Great Sanitation Survey.” This was “the most extensive effort of its time with more than 40,000 samples collected in rivers, streams, and wells” across the state, writes Myers. The survey included analyses of nitrate, nitrite, ammonia and chlorine. Shortly after Massachusetts began its survey, New York, Connecticut, Ohio and Illinois followed suit.

However, by the late 1800s, humans already had drastically reduced bison numbers and impacted water quality. But scientists also can evaluate “ ‘baseline’ conditions, meaning water quality and ecology in the absence of human effects” by using “the least disturbed sites we have available today,” Peter Van Metre, a hydrologist at the USGS, told us by email.

“None of these [sites] are guaranteed to be truly pristine” because even Native Americans “affected the environment” when the bison were roaming, added Van Metre. But they still give scientists a good idea of the water quality needed for “a healthy ecological community.”

Scientists can also use sediment cores from water bodies, a technique from paleolimnology, to evaluate the water quality of the past. “As sediments accumulate in lakes and the oceans, they preserve a record of historical water quality,” Van Metre explained.

Some of the most extensive research on water quality using sediment cores analyzes mercury contamination, he told us. Atmospheric mercury often contaminates lakes and rivers via rainfall. Methylmercury in particular is a known neurotoxin to humans, fish and other wildlife.

Techniques from paleolimnology can also be used to analyze nitrate levels over time, a chemical King mentions during the hearing. However, unlike mercury, nitrate is water soluble, so it doesn’t remain in the sediment, Van Metre told us. So researchers use diatoms as indicators of changes in nitrate levels over time.

Different species of these silicon-shelled algae, are sensitive to specific changes in water quality, including nitrates. Credit: Geology staff at California Academy of Sciences

Different species of diatoms, silicon-shelled algae, are sensitive to specific changes in water quality. Credit: Geology staff at California Academy of Sciences

Diatoms are algae with silicon shells, which are preserved in sediment. “Researchers can identify the different species from those shells” and reconstruct how algae communities change because different species are sensitive to different changes in water quality, including nitrate levels, Van Metre said.

In 2003 R. Eugene Turner and Nancy N. Rabalais, ecologists at Louisiana State University, published a paper in BioScience that used this technique. The researchers specifically looked at Mississippi River Basin, which spans the Midwest and includes King’s state of Iowa. In addition to examining changes in land clearing, agricultural expansion and soil erosion, they also analyzed diatom levels at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

With data dating to 1700, Turner and Rabalais found that peaks and declines in diatom levels “coincide with land-use changes resulting from land clearing, expansion of agriculture, and land drainage efforts” within the region.

Due to this close parallel, they concluded that the rise in diatom concentrations in the second half of the 20th century is “undoubtedly related to increased nitrogen loading from the [Mississippi] river, which occurred as a direct consequence of fertilizer application rising dramatically [in the basin] after World War II.”

In short, scientists have knowledge of water quality in the U.S. “when the buffalo roamed,” despite what King claimed. Some water quality testing was conducted, but they can also reach back in time using methods from paleolimnology.

In the next section, we’ll outline how the data collected in the 1900s further supports the link between applications of fertilizers and decreased water quality in the U.S.

Water Quality Post-1900

Water quality monitoring “increased substantially” in the 20th century, especially after the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, Lori Sprague, a surface water specialist at USUGS, told us by email.

“We really don’t have to go back” to when the bison roamed “to see the change [in water quality] due to nitrate … pollution in just the 20th century alone,” Myers, the author of the Food, Energy and Water chapter, also told us in an email.

Many reports and papers have concluded that 20th century crop fertilizer use, combined with soil erosion from farming and other factors, has negatively impacted water quality in the U.S. Poor water quality creates issues for both humans and wildlife, such as blue baby syndrome and eutrophication, respectively:

If severe enough, these algae blooms can completely deplete water bodies of oxygen, leading to massive fish deaths, like those experienced in Lake Erie over the 20th and 21st centuries. The cause? An excess of nutrients like nitrates and phosphates in the ecosystem.

Small amounts these nutrients are necessary for plant growth and a healthy ecosystem. But in excess, they disturb ecosystems and leach into drinking water supplies. How does this happen? “When soils are disturbed enough during cultivation, the ecological processes that keep nutrients bound up in the soil and organic matter are subdued, and the stored nitrogen is released,” explain Turner and Rabalais in their BioScience paper. The nutrients then leach into creeks, rivers and coastal zones.

Mississippi River watershed. Credit: National Park Service

Mississippi River Watershed. Credit: National Park Service

In other words, soils can become “exhausted” through cultivation, meaning they can’t hold nutrients or be used for crop farming. So farmers apply fertilizers to compensate for the decreased soil productivity. “Many studies have concluded that the application of fertilizers is a major source of the increased nutrient loading among large river watersheds in the last 50 years,” write Turner and Rabalais.

As previously mentioned, the authors point to nitrate, or nitrogen-based fertilizers, in particular as the main culprit in the Mississippi River watershed. “One thing seems certain: It took decades for the present system to develop, which suggests that it will take decades of working together for water quality rehabilitation to succeed,” the authors add.

In sum, there is scientific consensus that crop fertilizers have negatively impacted water quality in the U.S. Scientists have some evidence from the 19th century and before as well as plenty of evidence from the 20th century to support their conclusion, despite King’s implication.

Editor’s Note: SciCheck is made possible by a grant from the Stanton Foundation.



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Trump’s Misleading Attack on Martinez http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/trumps-misleading-attack-on-martinez/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/trumps-misleading-attack-on-martinez/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 22:08:52 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=108658 Donald Trump took several verbal jabs at Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez after she declined to attend his rally in Albuquerque. But his criticism of her effort to keep Syrian refugees out of New Mexico was way off base.

Trump wrongly claimed that “Syrian refugees are being relocated in large numbers to New Mexico.” Only 10 Syrian refugees have been relocated to New Mexico while Martinez has served as governor.

Trump also missed the mark when he boasted that “if I was governor” the resettlement of Syrian refugees in New Mexico “wouldn’t be happening.” Governors have no legal authority to bar refugees from relocation to their state, as those who have tried found out. The resettlement process is guided by federal law.

Trump’s barbs at Martinez, who is chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association, came after the governor declined to attend Trump’s first New Mexico campaign event in Albuquerque on May 24. Martinez, the nation’s first Hispanic female governor, has criticized some of Trump’s immigration remarks and has, according to the Albuquerque Journal, been “noncommittal as to whether she will support him.”

According to the Journal, when asked why she was not attending, she said she was “really busy.” So in his speech, Trump took the opportunity to opine that Martinez is “not doing the job.”

Trump, May. 24: Now here’s a beauty that you’re gonna all love. Syrian refugees are being relocated in large numbers to New Mexico. If I was governor, that wouldn’t be happening. I couldn’t care less. They say the governors have no choice. If I’m governor, I have a choice, OK? Believe me.

For starters, there has not been a large number of Syrian refugees relocated to New Mexico.

According to statistics from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center, there have been 2,540 Syrian refugees relocated in the U.S. from the start of the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 to May 24. Just four of them were relocated to New Mexico. Over that period, New Mexico ranked tied for 33rd among states in the number of Syrian refugees relocated.

In fact, over the entirety of Martinez’s term as governor, which began at the start of 2011, a total of 4,421 Syrian refugees arrived in the U.S., and just 10 of them were relocated in New Mexico.

“New Mexico is actually a state with very little refugee resettlement,” said Matthew Soerens, a spokesman for World Relief, one of the nine resettlement agencies that help to relocate refugees from all over the world in the U.S.

In other words, Trump’s claim that “large numbers” of Syrian refugees have been relocated to New Mexico under Martinez’s watch is wrong.

‘If I was governor, that wouldn’t be happening.’

Experts tell is Trump is also off base with his boast that as a governor he could have stopped Syrian refugees from entering his state.

The Refugee Act of 1980 “makes clear that the federal government has the responsibility for determining who is to be admitted as a refugee,” Soerens told us via email.

While more than 30 governors said last year that they oppose letting Syrian refugees into their states, and several vowed to prohibit it, none followed through or had any success.

For example, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed an order in November that sought to stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees in his state. Specifically, the executive order attempted to stop state agencies from being involved in accepting refugees.  But Deal later rescinded that order after the state’s Attorney General released an opinion in which he said he was “unaware of any law or agreement that would permit a state to carve out refugees from particular countries from participation in the refugee resettlement program, no matter how well-intended or justified the desire to carve out such refugees might be.”

“Accordingly, it is my official opinion that both federal law and the State’s agreement to act as the state refugee resettlement coordinator prevent the State from denying federally-funded benefits to Syrian refugees lawfully admitted into the United States,” Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens wrote.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also vowed to legally challenge the federal law, after announcing in November that his state would not accept any Syrian refugees. But a federal judge denied the Texas Attorney General’s request for a temporary injunction to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Texas.

“The Court does not deny that the Syrian refugees pose some risk. That would be foolish,” U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey wrote in February. “In our country, however, it is the federal executive that is charged with assessing and mitigating that risk, not the states and not the courts.”

As those cases make clear, Soerens said, “If Mr. Trump intends to abide by the law and submit to the authority of our court system, he would not have ‘a choice’ as governor to halt resettlement.”

Added Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies: “The law is pretty clear that the federal government has the power, once a refugee has been accepted, to resettle them anywhere in the U.S.”

And despite the rhetoric, threats and best efforts of some governors strongly opposed to resettlement of Syrian refugees, Stacie Blake, director of government and community relations for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, told us that “the U.S. refugee program has continued unabated.” She said, “The program [including for Syrian refugees] is proceeding as it always has. There has been no slow-down due to any of the statements or actions of any of the governors.” (You can read more about the resettlement process in a story we wrote in November debunking Trump’s claim that Syrian refugees are steered to Republican states.)

American University law professor Stephen I. Vladeck told us the governors’ bold prohibitions against accepting Syrian refugees in their states was “a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

“States have absolutely zero legal authority to refuse to allow refugees already admitted into the United States into their jurisdiction, specifically, regardless of their purported justification,” Vladeck told us via email. “And if a state is specifically barring refugees of particular national origin, race, or religious belief, then that policy is doubly unconstitutional — on both federalism and individual rights grounds.”

After Trump made his statements about Martinez, her press secretary Mike Lonergan, released a statement  saying that Martinez “will not be bullied into supporting a candidate until she is convinced that candidate will fight for New Mexicans.” Lonergan also noted that Martinez “has strongly opposed the President’s Syrian refugee plan.”

Last November, after the ISIS attacks in Paris, Martinez released a statement opposing President Obama’s plan to accept more Syrian refugees “until there is a very clear plan in place to properly vet and place the refugees, and the voices of governors and the public can be heard.” Martinez’s press office noted that Martinez’s position was criticized by the mayor of Santa Fe, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Trump campaign did not respond to our request for clarification of his comments. Trump may argue that he would have done more to try to stop relocation of Syrian refugees. But he can’t say “that wouldn’t be happening,” because the law and federal courts say otherwise.


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Trump’s Employee Exaggeration in Jersey http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/trumps-employee-exaggeration-in-jersey/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/trumps-employee-exaggeration-in-jersey/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 21:34:23 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=108621 Donald Trump told an audience in New Jersey that he has more employees “than almost anybody in New Jersey.” That’s nonsense. He used to own Trump Entertainment Resorts, one of the state’s top 100 employers, but he lost control of it in bankruptcy.

He still owns three golf courses in the state, but their combined payrolls cannot compare with the 40,000 workers employed by Wakefern Food Corp., the state’s top employer, according to the most recent annual employer survey by New Jersey Business magazine.

Trump made his remarks at a campaign event in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, after being introduced by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. He talked with pride about winning the New York primary because fellow New Yorkers know him best. New Jerseyans know him just as well, he said, because he employs “so many” of them. (At the 18:16 minute mark of the C-Span video.)

Trump, May 19: Do you know how many employees right now I have? I am paying so many people, I have so many employees in New Jersey I hate to think about it. I have to be honest. OK? I am taking care of more education, and more salaries and more health care than anybody probably, Chris, than almost anybody in New Jersey, right?

The Trump campaign didn’t respond when we asked how many people Trump now employs in New Jersey. But there’s plenty of evidence that Trump is not among the top employers in New Jersey. His casino empire collapsed. He owns no luxury residential buildings or hotels in New Jersey. All he owns in New Jersey are three golf courses, according to Newark’s The Star-Ledger‘s timeline of Trump’s holdings in New Jersey over the last 30 years.

Trump once owned Trump Entertainment Resorts, which for years has been listed among New Jersey’s top 100 companies by New Jersey Business magazine. Trump Entertainment Resorts ranked 44th in 2014, when it had 3,766 employees, and dropped to 72nd in 2015 with 2,338 employees, according to the magazine’s annual surveys.

But that company filed for bankruptcy in 2014, and when it reemerged, it was under the control of billionaire investor Carl Icahn. “As of February 26, 2016, Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc. operates as a subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises, L.P.,” Bloomberg says in its profile of the company.

Back in 2004, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts — the predecessor of Trump Entertainment Resorts — owned three casinos and employed more than 9,000 full-time workers, the Courier-Post wrote in an April 25, 2004, story on South Jersey’s biggest employers. Trump Entertainment Resorts owns just one casino now, the Trump Taj Mahal. The Trump Plaza closed in 2014, and the Trump Marina was sold in 2011 and renamed the Golden Nugget. Trump sued to get his name off of the Trump Taj Mahal, but he came to an agreement with Carl Icahn to keep his name on the building as part of the bankruptcy proceedings.

Icahn took control of Trump Entertainment Resorts in February, and “extinguished the last remaining 10 percent ownership stake of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in the casino company, even though the Trump Taj Mahal will continue to bear his name,” as reported by the Associated Press.

As for New Jersey real estate, there is Trump Plaza Residences in Jersey City – which is listed on the Trump Organization website as part of its “real estate portfolio.” But the Star-Ledger timeline says: “Trump doesn’t own the building, though. He simply licenses his name — a common practice for him.”

Trump does own three private golf courses in the New Jersey communities of Bedminster, Colts Neck and Pine Hill. He also lists as assets three companies located in the same towns as two of his golf courses, but two of those companies were worth no more than $250,000 and the third was worth less than $15,000, according to Trump’s financial disclosure report, which is required to be filed by all presidential candidates.

We sent an email to Trump Golf, a subsidiary of the Trump Organization, asking for the number of employees at the three New Jersey locations, and we asked the Trump campaign for the total number of Trump employees in New Jersey. We haven’t received responses, but, if we do, we will update this article.

PrivCo, which provides financial and business data on major privately-held companies, estimates that the Trump Organization worldwide has 22,450 employees. But its three New Jersey golf courses is a sliver of its business. PrivCo says the Trump Organization includes “28 luxury hotels, resorts and residential towers in the US and abroad in Seoul, Panama City, Istanbul, Toronto and Manila,” and “operates restaurants, skating rinks, a modeling agency, and 12 golf courses in the US and Scotland,” among other businesses.

Who are the largest employers in New Jersey?

Wakefern, which owns ShopRite supermarkets, employs 40,000 people, according to New Jersey Business magazine. The rest of the top 10 employers, in order: Wal-Mart (17,405), UPS (16,000), Verizon Communications (15,000), Johnson & Johnson (14,500), the Home Depot (13,806), United Continental Holdings (11,800), Bank of America (11,000), PSE&G (10,500), and Merck & Company (9,800).

Trump was among the top employers in the state at one time. But it’s simply false for Trump to suggest that he now has more employees “than almost anybody in New Jersey.” He wouldn’t be the state’s largest employer even if all of the Trump Organization’s estimated 22,450 employees worked in New Jersey and even if Trump still owned all three New Jersey casinos.


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Invoking Trump in Down-Ballot Ad http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/invoking-trump-in-down-ballot-ad/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/invoking-trump-in-down-ballot-ad/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 19:25:50 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=108611 A labor union distorts Donald Trump’s position on Medicare in a TV ad, claiming Trump says “you have to look at Medicare going away.” But Trump has said — repeatedly — that he wants to keep Medicare and preserve the current level of benefits.

The ad from Unite Here Tip State and Local Fund — a political action committee that represents workers in the hotel, casino, food service, airport, textile, manufacturing, distribution, laundry, and transportation industries — is an example of how Democrats and their allies are likely to attack Trump to help Democratic candidates in races further down the ballot. For months, Republicans and Democrats alike have speculated about the down-ballot implications of Trump’s presidential run.

In this case, the ad is in support of state Sen. Ruben Kihuen’s bid for the Democratic nomination in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District. Kihuen is a former aide of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who has endorsed Kihuen’s campaign.

The ad begins with an angry image of Trump as the narrator states, “Donald Trump says you have to look at Medicare going away.” A graphic on the screen shows a partially paraphrased quote: “‘You have to look at … ‘ Medicare going away. Donald Trump.” The ad then goes on to say that “Sen. Harry Reid always protected Medicare” and that “Ruben will protect Medicare like Harry Reid did.”

Representatives from United Here did not respond to our requests for backup material, but the partial quote used in the ad appears to come from an Oct. 25, 2015, interview on ABC’s “This Week.” Host George Stephanopoulos asked Trump what he thought about Ben Carson’s plan for health care savings accounts, and specifically if Trump agreed with Carson that Medicare probably won’t be necessary if money is shifted from Medicare to the health care savings accounts.

“Well, it’s possible,” Trump said. “You’re going to have to look at that, but I’ll tell you what, the health savings accounts, I’ve been talking about it also. I think it’s a very good idea and it’s an idea whose probably time has come.”

Stephanopoulos, Oct. 25, 2015: On health care, Ben Carson’s calling for health savings accounts. He says he wants to shift money from Medicare and Medicaid and other health spending to these accounts and he says that, under his plan, Medicare probably won’t be necessary. What do you think of that?

Trump: Well, I’m OK with the savings accounts. I think it’s a good idea; it’s a very down-the-middle idea. It works. It’s something that’s proven. …

Stephanopoulos: So if you agree with these health savings accounts idea, do you also agree with Ben Carson when he says Medicare probably won’t be necessary?

Trump: Well, it’s possible. You’re going to have to look at that, but I’ll tell you what, the health savings accounts, I’ve been talking about it also. I think it’s a very good idea and it’s a — it’s an idea whose probably time has come.

We’ll allow that Trump’s answer is a bit confusing. And it’s true that Trump has been short on details on how to keep Medicare solvent, aside from saying that he would seek to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse. But Trump has been crystal clear on numerous occasions both before and after this interview that he would preserve Medicare.

In fact, just a few days after the ABC “This Week” interview, Trump was on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program attacking Carson for those same comments.

“Ben [Carson] wants to knock out Medicare. I heard that over the weekend. He wants to abolish Medicare,” Trump said. He went on to say: “Abolishing Medicare, I don’t think you’ll get away with that one. It’s actually a program that’s worked. It’s a program that some people love, actually.”

We found at least a dozen instances of Trump vowing to preserve Medicare, and in many cases contrasting his steadfast support with plans by some of his Republican rivals to change it.

In his speech announcing his presidential candidacy last year,  Trump promised to save Medicare “without cuts.”

Trump, June 16, 2015: Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it. Get rid of the fraud. Get rid of the waste and abuse, but save it. People have been paying it for years. And now many of these candidates want to cut it. You save it by making the United States, by making us rich again, by taking back all of the money that’s being lost.

But his position goes back long before that. In a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2013, Trump warned (at the 1:51 mark) that Republicans who insist on major changes to Medicare will lose.

Trump, March 15, 2013: As Republicans, if you think you’re going to change very substantially for the worse Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in any substantial way, and at the same time, you think you’re going to win elections, it just really is not going to happen.

Indeed, in February, Trump said Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was hurt in 2012 by choosing Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, because Ryan had proposed a budget that called for an overhaul of the Medicare program.

“Every single other candidate is going to cut the hell out of your Social Security — remember the wheelchair being pushed over the cliff when you had Ryan chosen as your vice president?” Trump said at an event at a retirement community. “That was the end of that campaign, by the way, when they chose Ryan. And I like him, he’s a nice person, but that was the end of the campaign. I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding — because he represented cutting entitlements, et cetera, et cetera.’ The only one that’s not going to cut is me.”

Trump was referring to a widely seen Internet video in 2011 of a man pushing a white-haired woman in a wheelchair to the edge of a scenic cliff and dumping her over it. It ends by asking, “Is America Beautiful without Medicare?”  The attack was bogus. At the time, Ryan proposed changes to Medicare for workers now under age 55, not current seniors, and subsidize the purchase of private insurance for those who go on Medicare after 2022.

In an interview on Fox News on March 13, Howard Kurtz asked Trump about Social Security and Medicare and Trump said, “I don’t want to change [them].” He then explained, “And I don’t want to change it for a number of reasons. But one is because they’ve committed, they’ve paid in for years.”

In an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business Network on May 9, Trump promised to leave Medicare “the way it is.”

Bartiromo, May 9: So, are you going to change the entitlements? I’m talking Social Security, Medicare.

Trump: No, but you have to do the waste, fraud and abuse. There is tremendous waste, fraud and abuse, but I’m leaving it the way it is.

And at a campaign rally in Milwaukee on April 4, Trump insisted that while some have called for substantial changes to Medicare, “It’s not going to happen, OK? Remember that. It’s not going to happen.”

Trump, April 4: We’re going to save your Social Security and we’re going to save your Medicare. We are going to save it because we’re going to make our country rich again, we’re going to bring back our jobs. We’re not going to let our jobs go. And we’re going to be able to afford. You’ve been paying in it for a long time and a lot of these guys want it to be knocked to hell. It’s not going to happen, OK? Remember that. It’s not going to happen.

Here are a few other examples of Trump vowing to “save” Medicare: Oct. 28, 2015; April 12;  April 13; and May 20.

Trump may make an enticing target for down-ballot candidates — and those supporting them — but in this case, the ad’s claim that Trump “says you have to look at Medicare going away” is misleading, and contrary to Trump’s repeated statements on Medicare. Kihuen is one of eight Democrats running in the June 14 primary for the 4th Congressional District, with the winner hoping to compete for a seat currently held by Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy.



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Did Trump Praise Kim Jong Un? http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/did-trump-praise-kim-jong-un/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/did-trump-praise-kim-jong-un/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 14:36:05 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=108574 Hillary Clinton distorts the facts when she accuses Donald Trump of “heaping praise” on North Korea strongman Kim Jong Un. Trump has called Kim a “maniac” and a “madman” who is “sick enough to use” nuclear weapons.

The Clinton campaign said she was referring to Trump’s comments at a rally in January in Iowa, where Trump said Kim deserved “credit” for how he took over the country at such a young age. But in that speech Trump also called Kim a “maniac” with nuclear weapons who needs to be taken seriously because of the ruthless way he killed his rivals to retain power.

Clinton, who was secretary of state from January 2009 to February 2013, made her remarks on NBC’s “Meet the Press” while talking about Trump’s statements on foreign affairs.

Clinton, May 22: What he is advocating — look what he’s done this past week. You know, attacking our closest ally, England. Heaping praise on a dangerous dictator in North Korea.

Trump has gotten into a verbal spat with two of England’s leaders, British Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, over Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” But did Trump praise Kim Jong Un?  

We could not find any instance of the likely Republican presidential nominee praising Kim last week. The only instance we could find of Trump even talking about Kim last week was in a Reuters interview on May 17. In that interview, Trump said he would have “no problem speaking to [Kim]” as president of the United States. But Trump didn’t praise Kim.

Josh Schwerin, a Clinton campaign spokesman, referred us to a Jan. 9 Business Insider article that carried the headline “TRUMP: You’ve got to give that ‘maniac’ in North Korea some credit.”

In a Jan. 9 speech in Iowa, Trump said that “you have to give him credit” for the way Kim took control of the country after his father died. But Trump used Kim’s rise to power as a cautionary tale for the U.S. “The Republican presidential front-runner said Kim’s willingness to push aside generals and ‘wipe out’ his uncle demonstrated why the US needs to treat North Korea’s nuclear arsenal as a serious threat,” Business Insider wrote.

Here are Trump’s remarks in context:

Trump, Jan. 9: If you look at North Korea – this guy, he’s like a maniac, OK? And you have to give him credit. How many young guys — he was like 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden — you know, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it. How does he do that? Even though it is a culture and it’s a cultural thing, he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss. It’s incredible. He wiped out the uncle. He wiped out this one, that one. I mean, this guy doesn’t play games. And we can’t play games with him. Because he really does have missiles. And he really does have nukes.

Kim became “supreme leader” of North Korea in December 2011 two weeks after his father’s death. At the time, the New York Times noted that Kim was only in his 20s and “untested, making him more vulnerable to challenges.” Since then, there have been reports from South Korea that Kim ordered his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, and his uncle’s deputies executed. The Times reported that Kim’s uncle was executed for “stealing state funds and plotting to overthrow his nephew.”

Trump’s comments on Kim at the Iowa rally came at a time when there were news reports of North Korea conducting a hydrogen bomb test. Three days before the rally, Trump on “Fox and Friends” called Kim a “madman” when asked about those reports of a nuclear test. “You have this madman over there who probably would use it and nobody talks to him, other than, of course, Dennis Rodman talked to him. That’s about it,” Trump said. “But nobody is talking to him whatsoever and nobody is discussing it with China.”

Trump went on to say that he would work with China to “close down” North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. “He’s getting too close to doing something,” Trump said of Kim. “Right now he’s probably got the weapons but he doesn’t have the transportation system. Once he has the transportation system, he’s sick enough to use it.”

We understand that, taken out of context, Trump’s words about giving Kim “credit” may seem to some as praise for Kim. But in context of what Trump said in the Jan. 9 speech and what he said three days before that speech, it’s clear that Trump sees Kim as a dangerous leader.


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Twisting Toomey’s Tax Record http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/twisting-toomeys-tax-record/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/twisting-toomeys-tax-record/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 22:01:02 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=108525 An ad from a Democratic super PAC misleadingly claims Republican Sen. Pat Toomey supported a “$1,300 tax hike for working families.” He did not.

The claim hinges on a Democratic committee staff analysis of Rep. Paul Ryan’s 2013 budget plan — which Toomey supported. That analysis made assumptions about tax deductions that could “potentially” be eliminated, but such measures were never actually spelled out in the Ryan plan.

The attack ad comes from Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC devoted to electing Democrats to the U.S. Senate. Toomey, who represents Pennsylvania, is facing Democratic challenger Katie McGinty in a race the Cook Political Report rates as a tossup.

The ad portrays Toomey as a Wall Street insider and says that when he came to the Senate he supported “huge tax breaks for millionaires but higher taxes on working families.” Graphics in the ad are more specific, claiming that he supported a plan that would result in a “$286,000 tax break for millionaires” and a “$1,300 tax hike for working families.”

Small print in the ad notes that this refers to Toomey’s vote in support of Ryan’s 2013 budget plan, “The Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal,” which failed to advance after a vote of 41-58. Ryan’s plan called for consolidating tax brackets from the current seven rates — ranging from 10 percent to 39.6 percent — into just two, 10 percent and 25 percent. Those rate cuts would have resulted in tax cuts at every income level, according to a Tax Policy Center analysis. And they would have reduced revenue by more than $4.6 trillion over 10 years.

Ryan vowed to make the plan revenue neutral by eliminating unidentified tax deductions and closing unspecified tax loopholes. He never spelled out which ones. Ryan, who was then the chair of the House Budget Committee, left the revenue-raising details to the House Ways and Means Committee, which is the tax-writing panel.

The Democratic staff on the Senate’s Joint Economic Committee made projections about the impact of Ryan’s plan based on deductions that could “potentially” have been eliminated if the plan were approved.

Joint Economic Committee Democratic staff report, June 20, 2012: To pay for the tax cuts, the JEC report finds, Ryan would potentially have to eliminate tax expenditures that deliver significant tax benefits to middle-class workers. These include tax deductions for mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and charitable contributions as well as the tax exclusions for employer-sponsored health insurance benefits and contributions to 401(k) plans.

Specifically, the staff for committee chairman Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania concluded that if tax deductions for mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and charitable contributions, as well as the tax exclusions for employer-sponsored health insurance benefits and contributions to 401(k) plans, were eliminated, “the typical household making more than $1 million will see their taxes fall by more than $286,000 under Ryan’s budget.” At the same time, “a household making between $50,000 and $100,000 would face a tax increase of at least $1,358,” the report said.

That’s the basis for the ad’s claim. But note the use of the word “potentially” in the report.

The Ryan plan didn’t actually call for across-the-board elimination of tax deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions. As we said, the Ryan plan was silent on the specifics of which tax preferences would be eliminated or reduced in order to meet the goal of making his plan revenue neutral. (The Tax Policy Center’s Howard Glickman was critical of Ryan for “leaving the dirty work” of how to pay for his proposed tax rate cuts to the House Ways and Means Committee.)

Roberton Williams, the Sol Price fellow at the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, told us we’d have to know exactly which tax preferences would be changed, and how, before making a reliable prediction about how it would affect taxes at various income levels.

Few elected officials from either side of the aisle have supported across-the-board elimination of home mortgage or charitable deductions, as the Joint Economic Committee’s Democratic staff suggested could “potentially” happen.

And if those deductions were reduced, it is possible to structure the changes such that middle-income earners are not affected. For example, legislators could limit the value of itemized deductions to a certain percentage of adjusted gross income, even if one pays a higher tax rate. Obama, for example, has for years suggested limiting the value of itemized deductions to 28 percent. It is also possible to limit the total amount of itemized deductions to a specific dollar amount.

In 2014, Ryan said he would limit the home mortgage tax deduction to “middle income people” and would oppose eliminating deductions for contributions to charity for any income level.

And in his own 2013 budget plan, Toomey was clear that he advocates a tax plan that cuts rates and “maintains progressivity” by protecting middle-income earners from changes to the tax deductions.

Toomey FY 2013 Budget Resolution: The revenue lost from lower marginal rates will be offset by eliminating or reducing various tax expenditures in a manner that maintains progressivity. Tax preferences directed toward lower- and middle-income families, such as the child tax credit and earned income tax credit, will remain unchanged. However, many tax preferences are disproportionately utilized by upper-income taxpayers. Scaling back the use of these provisions will provide the revenue necessary to pay for the reduction of marginal tax rates.

With the revenue loss associated with tax expenditures exceeding $1 trillion per year, there are many technical ways to limit the value of deductions and tax expenditures and thereby offset the cost of lowering marginal rates. One method put forward by Harvard economics professor Martin Feldstein and the president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Maya MacGuineas, is to limit the value of tax expenditures to a certain percentage of adjusted gross income. Another option could involve limiting the total amount of itemized deductions to a specified dollar amount.

Toomey stopped short of endorsing either of those alternatives, and merely posed them as options. But the point is that it is possible to protect middle-income earners from changes to tax preferences.

No matter how tax preferences are handled, the Ryan plan would certainly result in higher-income earners seeing the most tax benefit, Williams of the Tax Policy Center told us. The rate cuts are simply too large for upper-income earners not to reap the biggest benefits. It almost certainly wouldn’t work out to an average tax cut of $286,000 for millionaires — as the ad states —  but the tax cut would be substantial, Williams said, and disproportionate compared with those making lower incomes.

But that doesn’t mean middle-income earners would necessarily pay $1,300 more, as the ad states. And an attack based on that assumption is even more baseless given that Toomey has proposed a tax plan that calls for protecting middle-income earners from changes to tax deductions.


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Trump ‘Wants to Abolish VA’? http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/trumps-plans-for-the-va/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/trumps-plans-for-the-va/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 20:18:21 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=108316 Hillary Clinton claimed that she “read” that Donald Trump “said he wants to … abolish the VA.” That’s the opposite of what Trump has said.

Clinton got her information from a Wall Street Journal article that said Trump’s campaign co-chair and chief policy adviser indicated that “the presumptive GOP presidential nominee would likely push VA health care toward privatization and might move for it to become more of an insurance provider like Medicare rather than an integrated hospital system.”

Does that mean that Trump wants to end the program that provides health care to nearly 9 million U.S. veterans?

The article quoted the same policy adviser as saying that “there are a lot of VA facilities that are being run very well” and that Trump doesn’t “want to take away the veterans hospitals and the things that are working well.”

Plus, in late October, during a campaign rally in Norfolk, Virginia, Trump told a crowd of supporters that he wanted to “transform” and “modernize” the Department of Veterans Affairs to “make it great again.” Contrary to what Clinton claimed, Trump told his audience, “I don’t want to get rid of it.”

Clinton talked about Trump wanting to “abolish the VA” during a May 16 campaign rally in Kentucky. She said she read, but didn’t verify, that that was Trump’s intention.

Clinton, May 16: He has all of this loose cannon kind of talk about foreign policy and national security. He also … I read this. I really shouldn’t say it. I should verify it, but I read it. He has said he wants to, you know, abolish the VA. Now, we can improve the VA and I will be sure to improve the VA. I will have somebody reporting to me every week in the Oval Office about what improvements we’re making in the VA. But abolishing the VA? Privatizing the VA?

Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin told us that Clinton’s claim was based on a May 12 Wall Street Journal article that said that Trump would “likely push VA health care toward privatization” and “might move” to make the system more like Medicare.

Wall Street Journal, May 12: Donald Trump says the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health-care system is badly broken, and this week his campaign released some guidelines that would steer changes he would implement if he wins the presidency.

While short on details, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee would likely push VA health care toward privatization and might move for it to become more of an insurance provider like Medicare rather than an integrated hospital system, said Sam Clovis, Mr. Trump’s chief policy adviser, in an interview.

“We want quality care top to bottom,” Mr. Clovis said in an interview. “If that means we have some form of privatization or some form of Medicare, we don’t see anything wrong with that.”

Mr. Clovis, who is also Mr. Trump’s national campaign co-chair, said the candidate’s priority would be to give veterans timely health care close to home.

That could mean restructuring the system in a way to more resemble an insurance provider along the lines of the popular Tricare system used by 9.6 million members of the Department of Defense, where civilian facilities routinely augment department-run hospitals.

“We’ll certainly look at that model, we want to make it as comprehensive as possible,” said Mr. Clovis when asked about Tricare. “The VA’s a broken system now. We can’t continue down that road.”

Clinton also wants to improve the VA, but she opposes efforts to privatize its health care system, according to her campaign website.

In August, when then Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson suggested eliminating the VA health system and giving veterans health savings accounts to purchase private insurance, the heads of eight veterans organizations wrote him an open letter telling him that his proposal “would inevitably endanger the health and well-being of millions of wounded, injured and ill veterans, an outcome that we cannot allow to occur.”

It’s not clear exactly what Trump would do to change the VA, but he hasn’t suggested it be completely eliminated.

The Journal reported that Clovis said the Trump campaign would be fine with privatizing the VA health system, which could mean giving veterans vouchers to purchase private health insurance. Another option the paper said Clovis discussed was making the VA health system more like the Medicare program for seniors or the TRICARE program for military service members and personnel.

But the Journal also said that Clovis declined to provide specifics, and the paper quoted the policy adviser saying that Trump doesn’t “want to take away the veterans hospitals and the things that are working well.”

We also read “The Goals Of Donald J. Trump’s Veterans Plan,” which his campaign posted online after the rally in Norfolk last year. It doesn’t say Trump wants to abolish the VA.

“The guiding principle of the Trump plan is ensuring veterans have convenient access to the best quality care,” the plan reads.

“To further this principle, the Trump plan will decrease wait times, improve healthcare outcomes, and facilitate a seamless transition from service into civilian life.”

The plan includes three key initiatives:

1. Ensure our veterans get the care they need wherever and whenever they need it. No more long drives. No more waiting for backlogs. No more excessive red tape. Just the care and support they earned with their service to our country.

2. Support the whole veteran, not just their physical health care, but also by addressing their invisible wounds, investing in our service members’ post-active duty success, transforming the VA to meet the needs of 21st century service members, and better meeting the needs of our female veterans.

3. Make the VA great again by firing the corrupt and incompetent VA executives who let our veterans down, by modernizing the VA, and by empowering the doctors and nurses to ensure our veterans receive the best care available in a timely manner.

One of the biggest changes that plan would make to the current VA health care system is allowing veterans to get care at any non-VA medical center that accepts Medicare.

“Under a Trump Administration, all veterans eligible for VA health care can bring their veteran’s ID card to any doctor or care facility that accepts Medicare to get the care they need immediately,” the plan states.

“The power to choose will stop the wait time backlogs and force the VA to improve and compete if the department wants to keep receiving veterans’ healthcare dollars,” the plan says.

Trump’s published proposal would seemingly go further than the Non-VA Medical Care Program, which allows eligible veterans to access care outside of the Veterans Health Administration under certain circumstances, such as when VA medical centers cannot provide services. The program requires pre-approval for veterans to receive care at a non-VA facility in non-emergency situations.

That proposal would also go further than the Veterans Choice Act, which, in 2014, created a temporary program, separate from the Non-VA Medical Care Program, that allows eligible veterans to receive health care at a non-VA facility if they would have to wait more than 30 days for an appointment at a VA medical center, or if they live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA hospital.

Although a big part of the plan that Trump unveiled last year involves expanding veterans’ access to health care outside of the VA, he has said that he thinks that the health system is still necessary.

“The VA health care system is a total disaster, nothing short of a disaster,” Trump said in his speech in Norfolk. “Some candidates want to get rid of it. But the veterans need the VA to be there for them and their families. I don’t want to get rid of it. I want to supplement it.”

The plan posted on the Trump campaign’s website makes the same point.

So, does Trump want to “abolish the VA,” as Clinton said?

We don’t know for certain how Trump plans to transform the system. At this point, all we have to go on is what Trump has said he would do, and what his policy adviser says he might do. But neither man said that Trump wants to “abolish the VA.”


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Rep. Jones Didn’t ‘Empower Obama’ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/rep-jones-didnt-empower-obama/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/rep-jones-didnt-empower-obama/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 18:47:12 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=108395 A primary challenger to Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina falsely claims Jones “caved to Obama” and “empowered Obama to cut a deal with Iran.”

Actually, all Jones did was co-author a letter in 2012 beseeching the president to conduct “robust, sustained diplomacy” with Iran as an alternative to war.

And far from “caving,” Jones voted against Obama’s Iran nuclear deal in 2015, stating that “it does not provide for adequate inspections and verification.”

The misleading attack ad is the work of GOP hopeful Taylor Griffin, a former aide to the late Sen. Jesse Helms. Griffin is challenging Jones for a second time in the June 7 congressional primary, after falling 6 percentage points short of defeating Jones in 2014. The district is solidly Republican, and the primary winner will most likely be elected in November. Jones is seeking his 11th term.

In the ad, Griffin denounces Obama for avoiding the use of the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” then says Jones “is taking the president’s way.” On screen the ad shows an image of Obama next to an image of Jones.

Griffin goes on to say, “Congressman Jones empowered Obama to cut a deal with Iran.”

That’s false; Obama did not need any new power to negotiate a deal with Iran. Congress had already granted the president broad power to lift sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program when it imposed them years earlier.

Jones Urges Diplomacy

Griffin would have been correct to say Jones urged Obama to negotiate a nuclear deal rather than go to war.

The letter shown in the ad was authored by Jones and Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Eventually it was signed by 37 House members.

Dated March 2, 2012, the letter began, “As tension with Iran continues to escalate, we urge your Administration to utilize all available tools of diplomacy to resolve the crisis over Iran’’s nuclear program and prevent another costly war in the Middle East.”

The letter warned that a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities would lead to a wider conflict, and concluded: “[W]e believe that robust, sustained diplomacy is the best option to resolve our serious concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, and to prevent a costly war.”

Though not mentioned in the ad itself, the Griffin campaign also points to Jones’ cosponsorship of a Democratic bill in 2012 that would have directed the president to appoint a high-level envoy to Iran. But that didn’t “empower” Obama either; it died without getting out of committee.

Jones Opposes the Deal

Conspicuously absent from the ad is any mention of Jones’ opposition to the Iran nuclear deal itself. On Sept. 11, 2015, Jones joined other House Republicans in casting a vote against a measure stating simply that “Congress does favor” the deal. That measure failed 162 to 269.

Moments later, Jones voted in favor of a measure that would have suspended the president’s existing authority under previous law to grant Iran relief from sanctions. That passed the House 247 to 186, but Senate Democrats were able to block a similar measure from being taken up by the Senate.

Unlike some of his colleagues who voiced disapproval of the deal before it was even made public, Jones engaged in what he called a “careful review” before announcing his opposition.

On his House website, Jones explained his votes this way: “In my judgment, President Obama’s deal falls short because it does not provide for adequate inspections and verification. As a result, the American people will never be able to trust that Iran isn’t cheating their way to a nuclear bomb.”

ISIS vs. Iran

We also note that the ad is misleading in the way it jumbles and confuses the issues of Islamic State terrorism and Iran’s nuclear capability. The first part of the ad is devoted to images of what appear to be Islamic State fighters marching and carrying the Islamic State flag while Griffin says “they’ve declared war on America.”

Then Griffin pivots to the Iran deal. But the fact is, Iran’s Shia regime is an enemy of the Sunni Islamic State insurgency.

Iranian warplanes have conducted strikes in neighboring Iraq against fighters of the Islamic State, which is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. Iran is also deeply involved in the fighting in Syria. The BBC recently reported that a high-ranking Iranian general “has been co-ordinating the Iraqi government’s operations against Islamic State” in Syria. Earlier, Iranian media reported that hundreds of Iranian “volunteers” had died fighting in Syria against the Islamic State forces.

To be sure, Iran is still officially considered a “state sponsor of terrorism” by the U.S. State Department, mainly because of its arming and training of Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon, and its support for the Assad regime in Syria.

The ad concludes with Griffin saying, “I’ll stand with our friends, and against our enemies. I know the difference.” But this ad should make voters wonder if he knows the difference between ISIS and Iran.


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