FactCheck.org http://www.factcheck.org A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center Mon, 02 May 2016 22:30:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.1 Cruz Distorts Trump’s Position http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/cruz-distorts-trumps-position/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/05/cruz-distorts-trumps-position/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 22:30:57 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107717 Sen. Ted Cruz mischaracterized Donald Trump’s position on Planned Parenthood, claiming that both Trump and Hillary Clinton “support taxpayer funding for it.”

In August 2015, Trump suggested he might be open to federally funding portions of Planned Parenthood unrelated to abortion, but since then he has been clear in saying he supports entirely defunding Planned Parenthood until it stops performing abortions.

Cruz, who trails Trump in the race for the Republican nomination for president, appeared on all five major Sunday shows on May 1 — what’s known in the business as a “full Ginsburg” because Southern California attorney William H. Ginsburg was the first to pull off the feat in 1998 — and on three of them, Cruz made the same claim about Trump and Democratic front-runner Clinton both supporting taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. In December, Congress passed a spending bill that again included about $500 million in Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood for health services to low-income people, as well as Title X payments to provide family planning services.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Cruz argued that Clinton and Trump are “flip sides of the same coin.” As an example, he said, “Donald and Hillary both support taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood.”

Cruz parroted the same lines on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” portraying Clinton and Trump as “rich New York liberals,” and adding that, “Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton agree they think Planned Parenthood is wonderful. They both support taxpayer funding for it.”

And on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Cruz said Trump can’t criticize Clinton on Planned Parenthood, “because he agrees with her. They both say it’s terrific and — and that it should keep taxpayer funding.”

Asked for backup, the Cruz campaign provided a link to a Conservative Review “fact check” on Trump’s alleged support for Planned Parenthood funding. The Feb. 13 article cites two statements from Trump. The first is one Trump made in an Aug. 11, 2015, interview with Chris Cuomo on CNN. The statement suggests Trump might be open to federal funding for portions of Planned Parenthood unrelated to its abortion services.

Cuomo asked if Trump thinks “Planned Parenthood should be funded because of all of the health care that it provides outside of abortions to women, especially women of low means.”

Trump, Aug. 11, 2015: Well, the biggest problem I have with Planned Parenthood is the abortion situation. It’s like an abortion factory frankly. You can’t have it and it shouldn’t be funding and that should not be funded by the government. I feel strongly about that.

That’s my biggest problem with Planned Parenthood because it really — if you look at it and you look at the work they do, it really has become so heavily centered on abortion. You can’t have that.

Cuomo: They say it’s only 3 percent of what they do and the money that does go toward abortions is not the money that comes from the federal government. That they separate —

Trump: What I would do is look at the individual things that they do and maybe some of the things are good, I know a lot of things are bad. But certainly the abortion aspect of it should not be funded by government.

Cuomo: So you would take a look at it before you defund it. That’s what is being asked for right now. Many in your party are doing the opposite. They are saying defund it and then look at it. You’d say look at it first.

Trump: I would look at the good aspects of it. I would also look as I’m sure they do some things properly and good and good for women. I would look at that. I would look at other aspects also, but we have to take care of women. We have to absolutely take care of women. The abortion aspect of Planned Parenthood should not be funded.

The Conservative Review article also cites an interview Trump gave to Sean Hannity on Fox News the following day in which Trump said Planned Parenthood does “good things” apart from abortion services. But Trump had more to say than that, and in fact, foreshadowed his position since then.

Trump, Aug. 12, 2015: Let’s say there’s two Planned Parenthoods in a way. You have it as an abortion clinic. Now that’s actually a fairly small part of what they do, but it’s a brutal part. And I’m totally against it, and I wouldn’t do that. They also, however, service women. … A lot of women are helped. So we have to look at the positives also for Planned Parenthood.

Hannity: But if they are doing abortions, then they can allocate other resources to other things. Why should the taxpayers pay for an organization that …

Trump: Maybe unless they stop with the abortions, we don’t do the funding for the stuff that we want.

That “maybe” became a more definitive campaign position in the following months.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday” on Oct. 18, 2015, Trump said, “But Planned Parenthood should absolutely be defunded. I mean if you look at what’s going on with that, it’s terrible.”

In an interview on Fox News on Feb. 18, Sean Hannity asked Trump about federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and Trump responded, “I said defund. I didn’t say pay. I said I have a lot of respect for some of the things they do, the cervical cancer on women. They do many, many good things. I know many women …

So, Hannity asked, “no taxpayer money”?

“No,” Trump said, “not while they do abortions. I made that clear.”

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Feb. 21, Trump again praised Planned Parenthood for doing “some very good work. Cervical cancer, lots of women’s issues, women’s health issues are taken care of.” But he said as long as it provides abortion services, it should not get any federal funding.

“Planned Parenthood does a really good job at a lot of different areas. But not on abortion,” Trump said. “So I’m not going to fund it if it’s doing the abortion. I am not going to fund it. Now they say it’s 3 percent and it’s 4 percent, some people say it’s 60 percent. I don’t believe it’s 60 percent, by the way. But I think it’s probably a much lower number. But Planned Parenthood does some very good work. But I would defund as long as they’re doing abortions.”

In a Feb. 25 Republican debate, Trump said of Planned Parenthood, “I would defund it because of the abortion factor, which they say is 3 percent. I don’t know what percentage it is. They say it’s 3 percent. But I would defund it, because I’m pro-life. But millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood.”

(As we have written in the past, abortions represent 3 percent of the total services provided by Planned Parenthood, and nearly 13 percent of its clients received an abortion in 2014-2015 — assuming no person received more than one abortion.)

Trump repeated his position when being questioned by reporters on March 2.

“Look, Planned Parenthood has done very good work for some — for many, many — for millions of women,” Trump said. “And I’ll say it and I know a lot of the so-called conservatives, they say that’s really — because I’m a conservative, but I’m a common-sense conservative. But millions of women have been helped by Planned Parenthood. But we’re not going to allow and we’re not going to fund as long as you have the abortion going on at Planned Parenthood, and we understand that and I’ve said it loud and clear.”

So Trump has fairly consistently praised many of the services provided by Planned Parenthood. And at one time, he suggested that he would “look at the good aspects of it” unrelated to abortion services when considering federal funding for Planned Parenthood. But he has since said — repeatedly — that as long as Planned Parenthood continues to provide abortion services, he would defund it.

That’s a far different position from Clinton, who in August released a video in which she described threats to defund Planned Parenthood as “a full-on assault on women’s health.” In fact, she told Fusion, “I am not only against defunding Planned Parenthood, but I would like to see Planned Parenthood even get more funding.” In January, Clinton said she would “say consistently and proudly, Planned Parenthood should be funded, supported and protected.” Clinton said, “As your president, I will always have your back.”

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Video: Clinton on Marijuana Research http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/video-clinton-on-marijuana-research/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/video-clinton-on-marijuana-research/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 20:04:11 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107699 This week, CNN’s Jake Tapper, with the help of FactCheck.org, fact-checks Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s claim that “you can’t do any research about” marijuana because it’s a Schedule I drug. That’s false.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classifies drugs and other substances into five categories depending upon their potential for medical use and abuse or dependency. Schedule I drugs are “the most dangerous” and have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” They include heroin, LSD, marijuana and ecstasy. In contrast, the DEA classifies cocaine, methamphetamine and OxyContin as Schedule II drugs.

In order to conduct research on marijuana, scientists have to obtain the plant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, gain approval of their research protocol from the FDA, and have their lab deemed safe by the DEA. There are additional funding challenges, too, researchers report.

Schedule I classification makes it difficult to conduct research on marijuana, but not impossible, as Clinton claimed.

Watch the full CNN video here. It’s based on our April 22 SciCheck post “Clinton on Marijuana Research.” And keep up with all of the videos produced in partnership between “State of the Union” and FactCheck.org on our website.

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Trump on Clinton’s ‘3 a.m. Call’ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/trump-on-clintons-3-a-m-call/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/trump-on-clintons-3-a-m-call/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 22:09:01 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107593 Donald Trump says that “instead of taking charge” during the Benghazi attacks, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “decided to go home and sleep.” Clinton says she was continuously engaged in responding to the attack from the moment she learned of it in the afternoon and “did not sleep all night.”

Trump is certainly entitled to his opinion, but the evidence shows Clinton was fully engaged in the immediate response, and subsequent congressional investigations concluded the government response to the attack — including Clinton’s — was appropriate.

For other claims from Trump’s speech, see our separate story, “Trump’s Foreign Policy Speech.”

In a speech on foreign policy on April 27, Trump hearkened back to Clinton’s famous “3 a.m.” campaign ad in 2008 in which she claimed she was more “tested” and prepared than Barack Obama to handle a late-night call to the White House about a dire emergency.

Trump, April 27: After Secretary Clinton’s failed intervention in Libya, Islamic terrorists in Benghazi took down our consulate and killed our ambassador and three brave Americans. Then, instead of taking charge that night, Hillary Clinton decided to go home and sleep. Incredible.

Clinton blames it all on a video, an excuse that was a total lie, proven to be absolutely a total lie. Our ambassador was murdered and our secretary of state misled the nation. And, by the way, she was not awake to take that call at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Trump made a similar claim the previous day on “Fox & Friends.”

Trump, April 26: She’s a disaster. Remember the famous call at 3 o’clock in the morning? She was sleeping, OK? She was sleeping. You know, it was her ad. Who would you like at 3 o’clock in the morning? Well, the phone rang and she was sleeping.

Trump is echoing a frequent attack line against Clinton. In an April 12, 2015, appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sen. Rand Paul said, “I think Benghazi was a 3 a.m. phone call that she never picked up.” And on Sept. 16, 2015, Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted at Clinton, “Where the hell were you on the night of the Benghazi attack?”

There have been numerous congressional inquiries into the Benghazi attacks and the U.S. response to it, and Clinton herself has testified twice about it. And so we now know quite a bit about where Clinton was on the night of the Benghazi attacks, and what she was doing.

The Immediate Response

For starters, we should note that the embassy in Tripoli alerted the State Department headquarters in Washington about the attack on the diplomatic facility in Benghazi at about 3:45 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Sept. 11, 2012, according to Clinton’s accounts and a Senate report on the attack. In her book “Hard Choices” (on pages 322-323), Clinton said she received the news in her office from the department’s executive secretary, Steve Mull.

Clinton wrote (page 323) that her first action was to use a secure phone on her desk to contact the White House, where she spoke to National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. At 4:05 the State Department Operations Center sent an “Ops Alert” notifying senior department officials, the White House Situation Room, and others that the Benghazi facility was under attack.

Obama immediately gave an order to “do whatever was necessary to support our people in Libya” and to mobilize “all possible resources,” Clinton said in her book.

Clinton wrote that she led the State Department operations team to work with the embassy in Tripoli to “get our people to safety and to break down the doors of the Libyan government if necessary to demand more support.” At 5:41 p.m., Clinton also called CIA Director David Petraeus because she knew the agency had a nearby post with a heavy security force, and according to the Wall Street Journal, Clinton “wanted to make sure the two agencies were on the same page.”

Clinton described a frenzy of communications that followed news of the attack, including communication with various State Department officials, the White House, the Libyan president, the National Security Council, the CIA, Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff and other agencies.

At around 8 p.m. (2 a.m. in Benghazi time), Clinton — with other senior staff on the line — called Gregory Hicks, deputy chief of mission at the Libyan embassy in Tripoli. Hicks testified that Clinton “asked me what was going on, and I briefed her on developments. Most of the conversation was about the search for Ambassador Stevens. It was also about what we were going to do with our personnel in Benghazi, and I told her that we would need to evacuate, and that was–she said that was the right thing to do.”

It should be noted that responsibility for the military response did not fall on Clinton, but rather on Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Marty Dempsey.

The actions taken by Clinton and others have been scrutinized in detail in several investigative reports, including by Republican-controlled House committees. Congressional committees and an independent board detailed the rescue attempts that night, carried out despite U.S. military assets not being in position to defend the Benghazi facility. Those reports said there were no undue delays in responding to the attacks, and they pointedly rejected unfounded allegations that the U.S. response was deliberately thwarted by a “stand down” order.

“Quite the contrary: the safe evacuation of all U.S. government personnel from Benghazi twelve hours after the initial attack and subsequently to Ramstein Air Force Base was the result of exceptional U.S. government coordination and military response,” the independent Accountability Review Board concluded in its Dec. 18, 2012, report.

The “U.S. military performed well in responding to the attacks,” the House Armed Services Committee said in a February 2014 report. Separately, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said in its November 2014 report that the CIA — which was first on the scene of the attack — responded in a “timely and appropriate manner.”

Working from Home

At some point, Clinton made the decision to leave the State Department for the night and continue working from her home because, “I knew the days ahead were going to be taxing on us all, with the entire Department looking to me to lead them through this shocking tragedy while keeping everyone focused on what lay ahead,” Clinton wrote on page 328 of her book.

Clinton, “Hard Choices”: With our DS agents at the heavily fortified CIA post and our reinforcements from Tripoli on the ground at the airport, I decided to move from my office to my home in northwest Washington, only minutes away from Foggy Bottom. I knew the days ahead were going to be taxing on us all, with the entire Department looking to me to lead them through this shocking tragedy while keeping everyone focused on what lay ahead. When I became Secretary the Department outfitted my house with all the secure communications and other equipment necessary to work as easily from there as I could from the office.

I got on the phone with President Obama and gave him the latest updates.

On Oct. 22, 2015, during a House Select Committee hearing on Benghazi, Republican Rep. Martha Roby questioned Clinton closely about her decision to go home that night. For context, the questions came about nine hours into Clinton’s testimony.

Roby: And who else was at your home? Were you alone?

Clinton: I was alone, yes.

Roby: The whole night?

Clinton, laughing: Yes, the whole night.

Roby: I don’t know why that’s funny. I mean, did you have any in-person briefings? I don’t find it funny at all.

Clinton: I’m sorry — a little note of levity at 7:15, noted for the record.

Roby: Well, I mean, the reason I say it’s not funny is because it went well into the night when our folks on the ground were still in danger. So I don’t think it’s funny to ask you if you were alone the whole night.

Clinton: Well, Congresswoman, you asked if I had a SCIF. I had secure phones. I had other equipment that kept me in touch with the State Department at all times. I did not sleep all night. I was very much focused on what we were doing.

In regard to Clinton’s reference to utilizing a “SCIF” at her home, that’s short for a Sensitive Compartmented Informational Facility, a secure room that allows communication protected against leakage of sensitive security/military  information.

In response to Roby’s follow-up questions, Clinton revealed that prior to her leaving the State Department headquarters for home, the death of U.S. Foreign Services Information Management Officer Sean Smith had been confirmed, and Clinton said she also knew U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens “was most likely not alive.” Clinton said she was at home when she learned of the second attack on the CIA annex facility, which began about 11:15 p.m. Eastern time and claimed the lives of CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

Clinton said she talked to President Obama “late in the evening,” though she couldn’t recall exactly when.

We could find little in the available public documents to confirm Clinton’s engagement on the crisis after she went home — other than Clinton’s sworn testimony that “I had other equipment that kept me in touch with the State Department at all times. I did not sleep all night. I was very much focused on what we were doing.”

We know, for example that at 11:12 p.m., Clinton sent an an email to her daughter, Chelsea (who is identified in the email under her alias “Diane Reynolds.”) In that email, the secretary of state wrote: “Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an al Qaeda-like group: The Ambassador, whom I handpicked and a young communications officer on temporary duty w a wife and two young children. Very hard day and I fear more of the same tomorrow.”

We also know that at 11:38 p.m., Clinton emailed State Department officials Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan and Victoria Nuland to ask if the State Department should announce Stevens’ death that night or wait until the following morning.

We reached out to the Clinton campaign, which noted the 11:38 p.m. email Clinton sent from home, but provided no further evidence of communications through the early morning hours of Sept. 12. And because — as Clinton testified — she was home alone, there is no one to independently confirm her actions. We also reached out to the Trump campaign, but it did not respond.

Trump is entitled to his opinion about Clinton’s response to the Benghazi attack, but the evidence shows Clinton was fully engaged in the immediate response. And subsequent congressional investigations concluded the government response to the attack — including Clinton’s — was appropriate. Clinton testified that even after she went home that night, she remained awake all night, engaged and focused on the situation. Since there is no way to independently verify that, we’ll let readers decide for themselves, but we would note Trump has not provided any evidence to contradict Clinton’s account.

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Trump’s Foreign Policy Speech http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/trumps-foreign-policy-speech/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/trumps-foreign-policy-speech/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 22:08:06 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107614 In his foreign policy speech, Donald Trump claimed that “now ISIS is making millions and millions of dollars a week selling Libya oil.” But an expert on Libya’s oil operations told us there’s no evidence that the Islamic State is producing or selling oil out of that country.

Trump also repeated false and misleading claims that we have vetted before on the NAFTA pact, Iraq War and the U.S. trade deficit:

  • Trump said NAFTA “literally emptied our states of our manufacturing and our jobs.” Actually, economic studies say NAFTA’s impact on U.S. jobs has been small.
  • Trump claimed he was “totally against” the Iraq War and warned “that it would destabilize the Middle East.” There is no public record of him being against the war before it started.
  • Trump said President Obama “crippled us” with “a huge trade deficit.” Actually, the trade deficit has gone down under Obama.

Trump also criticized Hillary Clinton’s response to the Benghazi attacks on Sept. 11, 2012. We address one of the Benghazi claims below, and in a separate article — “Trump on Clinton’s ‘3 a.m. Call’ ” — we write about Trump’s claim that Clinton failed to take charge during the Benghazi attacks, and instead “decided to go home and sleep.” The evidence shows Clinton was actively involved in responding to the attacks, and subsequent investigations concluded the government response was appropriate.

ISIS and Libyan Oil

Trump delivered his speech April 27 in Washington, D.C., where he identified what he called “five main weaknesses in our foreign policy.” In the last of his five points, Trump said, “America no longer has clear understanding of our foreign policy goals.” He cited Libya as an example.

Trump, April 27: And now ISIS is making millions and millions of dollars a week selling Libya oil. And you know what? We don’t blockade, we don’t bomb, we don’t do anything about it. It’s almost as if our country doesn’t even know what’s happening, which could be a fact and could be true.

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. (She referred to the Islamic State in her emails as IS, rather than ISIS, as Trump calls the terrorist group that is occupying Syria and parts of Iraq.)

“IS adopted a hit-and-run strategy aimed at putting oil facilities off line in order to deprive the Libyan state from obtaining revenues,” Gazzini wrote in an email to FactCheck.org.

She previously told our colleagues at the Washington Post Fact Checker and PolitiFact.com that “there is no evidence that they are pumping out the crude oil and certainly no evidence that they are trading it.”

(Incidentally, the State Department in December estimated that ISIS was making $500 million a year on oil from ISIS-controlled oil fields in Syria.)

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 Gazzini said that wasn’t the case.

“They don’t ‘control’ those fields either,” she wrote in an email. “IS attacked those fields in Feb-March 2015, destroyed the equipment there, killed people, and left.”

Time magazine, in its report on the attacks on fields in Bahi and Mabruk, said that “even if they were able to operate the fields, insurgents would find it difficult to export oil via the country’s Mediterranean ports.”

As Time‘s report noted, in 2014, U.S. Navy Seals stopped an attempt by rebels in Eastern Libya to smuggle oil out of the country aboard an oil tanker called the Morning Glory. That contradicts Trump’s claim that the U.S. doesn’t “do anything about” unauthorized oil sales from Libya.

The Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation says that it is “the only authority legally empowered to sell Libyan crude oil.”

NAFTA and Jobs

Trump claimed that the North American Free Trade Agreement “has been a total disaster for the United States” and has “literally emptied our states of our manufacturing and our jobs.” Actually, economic studies say NAFTA’s impact on U.S. jobs has been small.

Trump clearly engages in hyperbole in saying that the trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico has “literally emptied our states” of manufacturing and jobs. There were 12.3 million manufacturing jobs in the U.S. in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s certainly not empty, but the number is a drop of 27 percent from December 1993, the month before NAFTA took effect, when there were 16.8 million manufacturing jobs. The peak in that 22-year span was in March and April 1998, with 17.6 million manufacturing jobs. Overall jobs, however, have gone up 28 percent since December 1993, from 112.3 million to 143.8 million. (The civilian labor force — those working or looking for work, over age 16 — during this time frame has gone up by 23 percent, or 29.3 million people.)

Many factors, beyond the 1994 trade agreement, impact jobs and the economy, and as we have written before, economists have debated the effects of the trade agreement. But overall, economists have found the net effect on jobs from NAFTA has been small.

A 2015 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service called the impact “relatively modest.”

CRS, April 16, 2015: In reality, NAFTA did not cause the huge job losses feared by the critics or the large economic gains predicted by supporters. The net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest, primarily because trade with Canada and Mexico accounts for a small percentage of U.S. GDP.

That report also noted that it was difficult to gauge the overall economic impact “since trade and investment trends are influenced by numerous other economic variables, such as economic growth, inflation, and currency fluctuations.” CRS said: “The agreement may have accelerated the trade liberalization that was already taking place, but many of these changes may have taken place with or without an agreement.”

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has claimed that NAFTA cost the U.S. 800,000 jobs, a figure that comes from the Economic Policy Institute, which is partly funded by labor unions. EPI’s NAFTA figures have been questioned by other economists who have charged the liberal think tank ignored other factors.

Another study, published 10 years after the agreement went into effect, said NAFTA may have caused a net gain in employment. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace study said that 525,000 workers had lost their jobs because of NAFTA, according to the NAFTA Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which gives assistance to those affected by the agreement, but that those jobs “were likely offset by other jobs gained” and resulted in “either a neutral or very small net positive effect on employment.”

The Congressional Research Service also evaluated four studies in 2004 and said that “NAFTA had little or no impact on aggregate employment.”

Eleven years later, CRS came to the same conclusion.

Iraq War

Trump said he was “totally against the war in Iraq, very proudly, saying for many years that it would destabilize the Middle East.” There is no evidence that Trump opposed the Iraq War before it started, let alone him saying “it would destabilize the Middle East.” In fact, in a Sept. 11, 2002, interview — about six months before the war — Trump was asked by radio shock jock Howard Stern if he supported going to war with Iraq. Trump halfheartedly responded, “Yeah, I guess so,” as first reported by BuzzFeed.

The war started on March 19, 2003. In our timeline of Trump’s public statements on the Iraq War in 2002 and 2003, we found that Trump had a financial interest in opposing it in the days leading up to the war. But there is no instance in which he spoke against going to war. The first definitive instance we could find was on Sept. 11, 2003, about six months after the war started, in which Trump said in a TV interview: “I would have fought terrorism but not necessarily Iraq.”

Trump was an early critic of the war, but he expressed concerns about the cost — not that “it would destabilize the Middle East.” On July 1, 2003, less than four months after the war started, Trump said in a TV interview that he would “love to see” U.S. cities and states “get some of the money that’s going toward Iraq.”

Trump’s opposition to the war was well-documented by 2004.

U.S. Trade Deficit

Trump said Obama “crippled us” with “a huge trade deficit.” Actually, the trade deficit has gone down under Obama, as we wrote earlier this month. In 2015, the U.S. trade deficit for goods and services was $539.8 billion — down 24 percent from $708.7 billion in 2008, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Obama took office in January 2009.

Trump also exaggerated when he claimed that “our manufacturing trade deficit with the world is now approaching $1 trillion a year.” Trump is referring to the trade deficit for manufactured goods (excluding services), and that deficit was $759.3 billion, according to the BEA. That’s not quite “approaching $1 trillion.” Also, like the total trade deficit, the U.S. deficit on manufactured goods is down under Obama. It was $832.5 billion in 2008, so it is down by about 9 percent.

Benghazi Attacks

Trump said, “Clinton blames it all on a video, an excuse that was a total lie, proven to be absolutely a total lie.” Our timeline on Benghazi shows that the Obama administration, including Clinton, initially cited the release of an anti-Muslim video by a Florida pastor as a possible reason for the attacks on the Benghazi diplomatic facility and CIA annex on Sept. 11, 2012. However, it also shows that Clinton was quicker than other top administration officials – including Obama — to call it a terrorist attack.

In a statement issued at about 10 p.m. on the day of the attack, Clinton said that “some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.” About an hour later, she sent an email to her daughter, Chelsea, that read: “Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an al Qaeda-like group.” On Sept. 21 — 10 days after the attack — Clinton said “[w]hat happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.”

On Oct. 15, Clinton, in an interview on CNN, blamed the “fog of war” when asked why the administration initially claimed the attack began as a spontaneous demonstration in response to the anti-Muslim video.

— D’Angelo Gore, Eugene Kiely and Lori Robertson

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False Claims About Flint Water http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/false-claims-about-flint-water/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/false-claims-about-flint-water/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 19:38:06 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107540 A Michigan health official told Congress that his department’s “initial analysis” showed blood lead levels in Flint children in the summer of 2014 were “within range of years before.” That’s false. That analysis concluded blood lead levels “were higher than usual” from July to September 2014, shortly after the city switched its water supply.

On April 25, 2014, the city of Flint began using the Flint River as its water source, as reported in the Detroit Free Press. But the Flint River has particularly corrosive water, which led to high levels of lead leaching into the water from many of the city’s dated pipes. Soon after the water supply switch, Flint residents began complaining about the color of the water, rashes and other issues.

Then, in July 2015 the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality told Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder that issues with water contamination in Flint were limited to one house and not widespread. At the same time, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services claimed the elevated blood lead levels in children followed a normal seasonal trend.

The link between Flint’s water switch and elevated blood lead levels in children wasn’t confirmed until two independent researchers, Marc Edwards and Mona Hanna-Attisha, each put forth their own analyses in September 2015.

SciCHECKinsertWhile the July 2015 report conclusively showed blood lead levels in children were above normal in the summer of 2014, Edwards and Hanna-Attisha’s combined efforts showed that kids living in areas with lead contaminated water also had elevated blood lead levels.

Using their own data, Edwards’ work found increased lead levels in water, while Hanna-Attisha’s “Hurley Report” concentrated on elevated blood lead levels in children under 5. But the MDHHS contested these findings until Oct. 1, 2015, arguing its data didn’t show the same trends.

Since then, state and city officials have come under criticism for their slow response to the crisis, which so far has resulted in charges against three public officials for official misconduct and other offenses.

According to the World Health Organization, “Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system.”

At an April 13 U.S. House hearing, Rep. Gene Green asked Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, about a Feb. 22, 2016, letter that Green and three other House Democrats sent to Lyon. That letter cited the initial July 2015 MDHHS analysis (pages 10-11), and correctly stated that the analysis “confirmed a spike in blood lead levels” in children under 16 during the summer of 2014. Green then asked Lyon a question that was originally posed in the letter. The exchange starts at 1:03:45:

Green, April 13: Why did the Michigan Health and Human Services conclude that the spike was not related to the water supply?

Lyon: Well, I think when that initial analysis was done the staff that worked for me felt that it was, there was seasonal fluctuations within that, within the data that drove the changes over that first summer [2014]. When they compared it to prior years, it was within range of years before.

But the MDHHS’ initial analysis showed the opposite. In the next section we’ll explain how and why the MDHHS’ initial analysis of children’s blood lead levels for summer 2014 didn’t conform to seasonal variation or fall “within range of years before,” as Lyon claimed.

Can’t Blame the Seasons

Lead levels in children and water do normally fluctuate seasonally for a number reasons, researchers Edwards and Hanna-Attisha told us by email. “Warmer temperatures mean more lead leaches out of lead pipes – that’s why you should never use warm tap water,” said Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at the Hurley Medical Center in Flint.

In the summer, kids may also be exposed to more lead from soil because they tend to play outside more, said Edwards, an environmental engineer at Virginia Tech. There is also increased lead exposure from dust because people tend to keep their windows open in summer, both researchers noted.

Overall, it’s “[v]ery common to see a peak [in blood lead levels] in summer,” said Edwards. Still, even summer lead levels fall within an expected range — what scientists call the upper and lower control limits. If data fall outside of that range, researchers have reason to believe that factors other than the normal seasonal variation are at play.

MDHHS’ July 2015 analysis aimed to address exactly this question, namely, did blood lead levels in children under 16 fall within the normal seasonal range for July, August and September 2014 compared with the same months in 2011, 2012 and 2013?

Cristin Larder, the MDHHS researcher who conducted the analysis, concluded in her analysis memo (page 11) that among those dates, only July, August and September 2014 had proportions of elevated blood lead levels “higher than that expected from random variation over time.”

Larder told colleagues in a July 28, 2015, email (page 6) that her analysis “shows that the three months in question are the only ones that lie outside the control limit: in fact, they are the only points that lie well above the mean at all. This doesn’t say anything about causality, but it does warrant further investigation.”

Both Edwards and Hanna-Attisha agreed that the MDHHS’ July 2015 analysis of children’s blood lead levels in summer 2014 didn’t fall “within range of years before,” as Lyon claimed during the hearing. In particular, Edwards told us the “spike was scientifically conclusive” and was “a missed opportunity” to resolve Flint’s water issues earlier.

It was more than two months after Larder’s memo that the Genesee County Health Department declared a public health emergency and told residents not to drink the water.

When we contacted the MDHHS by email and asked about the discrepancy between Lyon’s claim and the July 2015 analysis conclusion, Jennifer Eisner, a public information officer at MDHHS, didn’t answer our question directly. She said, “We are looking at all aspects of this and internal and external reviews are ongoing.”

We also asked Eisner why MDHHS chose to include children under 16 in its analysis, instead of just children under 5. Both Edwards and Hanna-Attisha told us the norm is to only consider lead levels in children under 5. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes children under 6 are particularly at risk to lead exposure “because they are growing so rapidly,” among other reasons.

But Eisner didn’t directly answer this question either. She replied that the “data Dr. Larder was provided and asked to analyze was for children younger than 16.”

Why is this important? “Including kids under 16 dilutes the effect of lead in water” and “makes it harder to find the problem,” said Edwards. “But not many people know this.” Regardless, “even in their analysis which included older kids, [MDHHS] still had the proof that there was an increase” outside of the norm for summer, Hanna-Attisha told us.

We don’t know why Lyon gave the House committee information that was contrary to the July 2015 memo’s conclusion. But we can say Lyon falsely claimed this initial analysis showed blood lead levels in Flint children under 16 for the summer of 2014 fell “within range of years before.”

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

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Clinton Overstates Nuclear Achievement http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/clinton-overstates-nuclear-achievement/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/clinton-overstates-nuclear-achievement/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 19:34:14 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107524 Hillary Clinton overstates the impact of a 2011 nuclear agreement with Russia in a TV ad that says she was responsible for “securing a massive reduction in nuclear weapons.”

The agreement, known as New START, limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads — that is, nuclear weapons that are deployed on long-range (or strategic) launchers. But it does not require either side to destroy nuclear weapons or reduce their nuclear stockpile, and it doesn’t place limits on shorter-range nuclear weapons.

Also, Russia was below the limit for deployed strategic nuclear warheads when the treaty took effect in 2011, and it has increased them since then. So there hasn’t even been a reduction in Russia’s deployed strategic nuclear warheads under the agreement.

‘Massive Reduction’?

The ad focuses on Clinton’s record on Social Security, health care and other issues. It has aired thousands of times in at least eight states, most recently during the April 26 Pennsylvania primary, according to Political TV Ad Archive.

The ad starts by showing images of world events as the narrator says, “The world a president has to grapple with. Sometimes you can’t even imagine. That’s the job and she’s the one who’s proving she can get it done.” The narrator then credits Clinton with “securing a massive reduction in nuclear weapons.”

The Clinton campaign told us that the ad refers to her work as secretary of state on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550 each for Russia and the United States. It also limits “deployed and non-deployed strategic launchers and heavy bombers” to 800, including no more than 700 “deployed strategic launchers and heavy bombers,” according to a State Department fact sheet. (Long-range nuclear weapons are considered “strategic,” while shorter-range weapons are considered “nonstrategic,” as explained in a March report by the Congressional Research Service.)

The arms control treaty was approved by the Senate 71-26 on Dec. 22, 2010, and took effect Feb. 5, 2011.

In addition to placing limits on deployed strategic nuclear warheads, New START requires “transparency and verification measures — including semi-annual data exchanges, notifications, and inspections” that provide “far more information about the other’s strategic forces than it would otherwise have,” as explained in a recent blog post by Steve Pifer, director of the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at the Brookings Institution.

But has New START resulted in “a massive reduction in nuclear weapons”? Not according to the data we reviewed and the experts we interviewed.

The information gathered as part of the treaty’s data exchanges shows Russia’s deployed strategic nuclear warheads were already below the treaty limits in February 2011, and Russia actually has increased those weapons, according to a report issued this month by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

CRS, April 13: In February 2011, Russia reported that it had 1,537 warheads on 521 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers. Russia also reported a total of 865 deployed and nondeployed delivery vehicles. At the time of this report, analysts expressed surprise that Russian forces were already below the treaty limits in New START when the treaty entered into force. … [I]n March 2016 Russia reported that it had 1,735 warheads on 521 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers, within a total of 856 deployed and nondeployed launchers.

During that same time, the U.S. went from 1,800 warheads in 882 deployed delivery vehicles to 1,481 warheads on 741 deployed launchers.


Shortly before the agreement was signed, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute called it “disappointing” that the agreement did not call for the destruction of those weapons “withdrawn from operational deployment.”

“One disappointing feature of the new treaty is that it will not require the parties to verifiably eliminate the nuclear warheads withdrawn from operational deployment,” Shannon N. Kile, head of the institute’s nuclear project, wrote. “Such a provision would have contributed to ‘locking in’, or making irreversible, future force reductions. In doing so, it would have helped to address concerns about asymmetries in the two sides’ so-called upload potential (that is, the ability to rapidly redeploy nuclear warheads held in storage onto missiles and bombers).”

Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told us in an email: “The treaty itself does not require destruction of a single nuclear warhead. Nor does it have any direct impact on how many nuclear warheads Russia and the United States may have in their total stockpiles.”

“So, the treaty has not secured a ‘massive reduction in nuclear weapons’ but reduced (compared to the previous START treaty) how many launchers may exist and be deployed and reduced how many warheads may be deployed on those launchers,” Kristensen said.

His email explained the impact of the treaty in some depth:

Kristensen, April 26: When the treaty entered into force in 2011, Russia was already below the limit in deployed launchers, so they have not been required to reduce that category. Instead they have reduced non-deployed launchers. In contrast, the United States was above the treaty limit for both deployed and non-deployed launchers, so it has been busy dismantling and denuclearizing so-called phantom launchers — that is, missile silos and bombers that were not actually used in nuclear planning but had not yet been destroyed or carried equipment that made them accountable under the treaty. … Overall, in the case of the United States, the reduction in launchers will have been most significant for phantom launchers versus actual nuclear committed launchers. As for deployed warheads, the two countries have made slight adjustments to their deployed warheads. The United States has reduced and Russia has increased slightly. The Russian increase is a temporary anomaly caused by their transition from Soviet-era weapons to modern weapons. They are expected to meet the limit in 2018.

As Kristensen indicated, Russia still has two years to bring its number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads within the treaty’s limits, and he believes it will. Others are skeptical of Russia, which has become more aggressive militarily under President Vladimir Putin.

“Some analysts have questioned whether the increase in Russian warheads reported in March 2016 indicates that Russia may eventually withdraw from New START without reducing to its limit of 1,550 deployed warheads,” CRS says in its report. “Others, however, note that Russia does not need to meet the limits until February 2018, so the warhead level in March 2016 should not be of concern.”

But even if the U.S. and Russia abide by the treaty limits, the reduction in nuclear weapons would be historically modest, experts say.

On its website, the Clinton campaign says the New START treaty “will make the world safer by reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals to their smallest size in 50 years.” But this is misleading.

The bulk of that reduction occurred before New START took effect in 2011, as shown in Figure 1 of a June 2015 report by the Carnegie Moscow Center. “[T]he agreements that have followed the unprecedented reductions of START I called for increasingly marginal reductions in [strategic nuclear forces] levels,” the Carnegie report said. START I, which was originally known simply as START, took effect in 1994 and ended in 2009.

“It is an overstatement — to put it mildly — to say that the treaty has reduced US and Russian nuclear arsenals to their smallest size in 50 years,” Kristensen told us. “The overwhelming part of that reduction occurred in the 1990s long before the New START treaty was signed at a time when the two countries retired and dismantled nuclear weapons at an impressive rate.”

The New York Times in a news story this month described the New START agreement as producing “modest reductions in strategic nuclear forces” that could be undermined by the pursuit of “a new generation of smaller, less destructive nuclear weapons” by Russia, the United States and China.

New York Times, April 16: Russia initially cooperated, signing in 2010 the New Start treaty, which made modest reductions in strategic nuclear forces.

That year, Mr. Obama offered another olive branch: He ordered the American military to reduce the number of warheads atop its land-based missiles to one, from as many as three. That was a signal to show the missiles were more about defense than offense.

Moscow did not reciprocate. Instead, with treaty ink barely dry, it began deploying a new generation of long-range missiles that bore four miniaturized warheads. It continues such actions today, even while adhering to overall treaty limits.

Kile, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, also called the agreement “decidedly modest in the scope and scale of its ambitions.”

“I think modest is a good general description of New START,” Tom Z. Collina, director of policy at the Ploughshares Fund, which seeks to reduce and ultimately eliminate nuclear weapons, told us in an email. “If you look at other presidents — Republican presidents — they have done much more.”

In October 2014, Kristensen did an analysis of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile in the post-Cold War era and concluded that “the Obama administration so far has had the least effect on the size of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile of any of the post-Cold War presidencies.” Obama reduced the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile by 10 percent in six years. By comparison, George W. Bush reduced the stockpile by 50 percent followed by his father, President George H.W. Bush, who reduced it by 41 percent in four years.

“Combined, the Bush presidents cut a staggering 14,801 warheads from the stockpile during their 12 years in office – 1,233 warheads per year,” Kristensen wrote. “President Clinton reduced the stockpile by 23 percent during his eight years in office.”

At a recent press conference, President Obama said that he had hoped to negotiate another agreement with Russia shortly after New START that would have lowered the limit yet again on deployed nuclear warheads, but he acknowledged that that will not happen before he leaves office in January.

“Because Mr. Putin came into power, or returned to his office as President, and because of the vision that he’s been pursuing of emphasizing military might over development inside of Russia and diversifying the economy, we have not seen the kind of progress that I would have hoped for with Russia,” Obama said.

All this is not to say that the New START agreement isn’t valuable. Collina credited Obama and Clinton for lowering the ceiling, even if modestly, and providing “transparency and predictability” by requiring the semi-annual data collection that allows the two nuclear powers to know how many nuclear weapons the other side has.

But the record doesn’t show that Clinton was responsible for “securing a massive reduction in nuclear weapons.”

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Trump vs. Club for Growth http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/trump-vs-club-for-growth/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/trump-vs-club-for-growth/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 19:01:19 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107451 Donald Trump repeatedly has accused Club for Growth of airing attack ads against him because he refused to give the conservative group a $1 million donation – or what Trump calls “a form of extortion.”

Club for Growth tells a much different story. It claims Trump offered to make a donation – or what the group now calls “a setup.”

It’s impossible to know for sure who is telling the truth. But at the least, those who have heard Trump’s anecdote should know there is another side to his story, and that there is more context and history to the rift than Trump lets on. We’ll lay out some of that history, and the facts where possible, and let readers make up their own minds.

Here’s Trump’s recent telling of the anecdote during a campaign rally in Ocean City, Maryland, on April 20 (starting at the 20:04-minute mark).

Trump: The other day, I get a call from a friend of mine. And he was telling me, it’s sort of funny, we’re talking about it. They have this firm, it’s a conservative think tank. The guy’s a moron. They have this firm, and they come up to see me in my office, number of months ago. And I said, “What do they want? Who are they?” It’s called the Club for Growth. You ever hear of these losers? So they come up to see me, and I say, “Who are they?” And I did it for a friend. And he said, “Will you see them?” This was a wonderful meeting. The guy spends, I think he’s an ex-congressman or something – which tells you a lot about him — the guy spends time telling me about the Club for Growth. And I’m sort of like, I’m busy as hell, folks. So I’m looking, I said, “Good, are you finished. What do you want?” “Would you give us $1 million?” I said, “What! Why?” You know,  just because you’re rich, you don’t have to be stupid, right? I’d rather take a million and give it to that guy with the glasses. …

So this guy comes up, and he tells me about the Club for Growth. Nothing, I’m like falling asleep. And then he asks me for a million dollars. … I said, “Do me a favor, put it in writing.” He puts it in writing. I get a letter, Club for Growth, Mr. Trump, great seeing you, would you give us a million dollars? So I tell them no. That was an easy one, actually. Now, they advertise against me. Trump. They talk about all sorts of whatever. Whatever they can think of, they put ads up. And I say, think of it, here’s a guy who comes up, and in a way it’s a form of extortion. But he comes up to my office, asks me for money. Writes a letter – you’ve seen the letter on the website, I put it out – writes me a letter asking me for a million dollars. I say, in a very nice way, “Ah, no thank you.” And now they’re one of the people that fight me and advertise against me. Politics is a wonderful business, isn’t it folks? Isn’t this a beautiful business? Just a beautiful, beautiful, business.

Trump has relayed a version of this story numerous times, including: at a rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on April 4 (starting at the 1:10:02 mark); in an interview on the Fox Business Network on March 23; and in a town hall-style interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on March 21 (at about the 17:09 mark).

We reached out to Club for Growth. Its response? “Donald lies as easily as most people breathe,” Club for Growth spokesman Doug Sachtleben told us via email.

Club for Growth vs. Trump, 2011

The fracture between Trump and Club for Growth goes back to 2011, when Trump was flirting with a presidential run and Club for Growth came out with several press releases and an op-ed from its president that were highly critical of Trump’s conservative credentials.

One press release from Club for Growth on April 18, 2011, labeled Trump “a liberal” based in part on his past comments in support of universal health care, taxes on the super-wealthy to erase the country’s debt, a tariff on Chinese imports and opposition to NAFTA. In another release on April 19, 2011, the group took aim at Trump for supporting eminent domain. And a third press release on April 20, 2011, criticized Trump for supporting the auto bailout.

In addition, then president of Club for Growth, Chris Chocola, a former Republican congressman, wrote an op-ed for the New Hampshire Union Leader on April 21, 2011, in which he blasted Trump as a faux conservative and “a chameleon who’ll say anything to get attention, but not a serious candidate for the Presidency.”

In response, Sachtleben said, Trump called Club for Growth to talk to Chocola, “and to try to dispute what the Club said.”

In an interview on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on April 19, 2011, Chocola referenced his conversation with Trump.

Chocola: Actually, I talked to Mr. Trump today. He told me he’s evolved on this [a large tax hike on the super-wealthy to pay off the deficit]. I’ll let him be the one to explain it. But you know, I think you need to have consistency. You need to have core beliefs. We don’t see that in his candidacy.

Matthews: Did you tell him that?

Chocola: Yes. Absolutely. I told him what we are looking for is somebody that has core beliefs that are going to carry those core beliefs into office and not change with the political environment and what’s expedient. You know, he’s a business guy. He’s looking for expedient solutions to the problem he has now. What we think we need as a presidential candidate is someone that is a pro-growth champion, someone that has these core beliefs, not a pro at self-promotion and business expediency.

In an interview with Trump the same day on ABC News, host George Stephanopoulos confronted Trump with the news that “the head of the Club for Growth, a major group inside the Republican Party, has said you’re just another liberal.”

“Me? A liberal?” Trump responded. “What is the Club for Growth and who are they supporting? Because I understood — I had heard about this just a little while ago. I had heard that they have a favored candidate, whoever that may be.”

So while Trump now says he hadn’t ever heard of Club for Growth when the group asked for a meeting in 2015, he had reason to know what the group was back in 2011. And he knew the group was outspoken in its opposition to his potential 2012 run as a Republican presidential candidate.

Club for Growth vs. Trump, 2015

Fast forward to late May 2015, three weeks before Trump officially announced his candidacy for president. This much both sides agree on: Club for Growth’s new president, David McIntosh, a former Republican Indiana congressman, met with Trump.

That the two men met is not in dispute, but who called the meeting and what was discussed very much is.

Trump said Club for Growth reached out to him and asked for the meeting. Club for Growth says Corey Lewandowski, who would soon become Trump’s campaign manager, reached out to Club for Growth and requested the meeting with Trump.

“There was no mention of his potential presidential candidacy, but said he wanted to talk about what the Club was doing this election,” Sachtleben said.

Sachtleben said McIntosh declined Trump’s invitation to meet at a golf course, and instead agreed to meet at Trump’s office on May 26.

“At that meeting Trump said he wanted to know what the Club was doing,” Sachtleben said. “David [McIntosh] talked about some of the Senate races the Club’s PAC had endorsed in. Trump said he was interested in donating to those races. David pointed out that they didn’t see eye to eye on trade and taxes. Trump said he was still interested and told David to send a follow-up letter making that request. This, we now know, was a setup.”

McIntosh sent two letters dated June 2, 2015: one to Lewandowski — which Trump later released — and one addressed to Trump, which the Club released. Both include a request for a $1 million donation, but the two letters are worded slightly differently.

The one to Lewandowski reads, “During our meeting, Mr. Trump expressed an interest in supporting the Club for Growth in its efforts to promote pro-growth, limited government policy. Enclosed is a letter for Mr. Trump and a request for a $1,000,000 contribution to the Club for Growth.” The letter asks Lewandowski to pass the letter for Trump along to his boss.

The second letter, addressed to Trump, reads:

McIntosh letter to Trump, June 2, 2015:  I very much enjoyed our recent meeting in New York. While we don’t see eye to eye on every issue, it’s good to know that there is some common ground between us.

The Club for Growth is committed to promoting pro-growth, limited government policies, including: lower taxes, free-trade, and doing away with harmful government regulations that are preventing businesses from creating jobs and stimulating our economy. As we both know, it is business owners who create jobs — not the government.

To that end, the Club for Growth is actively researching candidates who share these fundamental American ideals and are willing to fight for them. Once the Club identifies a potential future champion of economic freedom, it polls to determine if a path to victory exists.

If the Club is confident in the character of the candidate and the possibility of victory, then the Club’s PAC endorses the candidate and plays a vital role in helping elect him/her to Congress.

When we met, you expressed interest in helping to fund the Club for Growth’s efforts to fight for economic freedom.

That is why I am hoping you will consider making a most generous contribution of $1 million to the Club for Growth.

The contribution would have a dramatically positive impact on the Club’s ability to identify future free-enterprise champions. I hope that I can count on your support.

Sachtleben noted that the first paragraph states that “we don’t see eye to eye on every issue,” and that the letter states that it was Trump who “expressed interest in helping to fund the Club for Growth’s efforts to fight for economic freedom.”

Trump never replied, Sachtleben said, and two weeks later declared his candidacy for president.

It’s true that Club for Growth has been outspoken in opposition to Trump’s candidacy. Club for Growth Action, the group’s super PAC, began running a series of ads painting Trump as a liberal, based on many of the same issues it had attacked him for in 2011. Back in September, we wrote about an ad from Club for Growth Action that claimed Trump “supports higher taxes.” A lawyer for Trump fired off a letter threatening a “multi-million dollar lawsuit” if the group did not pull its TV ad. It did not. We concluded that the ad’s claim relied on statements made by Trump 15 years ago, and that those statements were not consistent with the proposals that Trump provided as a presidential candidate.

We wrote about another Club for Growth Action ad in February that similarly claimed Trump “supports higher taxes,” even though Trump had since issued a tax plan that would significantly cut taxes for individuals and businesses.

On March 23, the Club for Growth PAC endorsed Ted Cruz for president.

So is the barrage of attacks on Trump from Club for Growth payback for Trump’s refusal to contribute $1 million to Club for Growth? Was Trump trying to curry the favor of Club for Growth with a contribution? Or was Trump setting up Club for Growth, so that he could dismiss the group’s expected opposition to his campaign when it arose?

Again, we can’t know for sure. Only Trump and the folks at Club for Growth know who is telling the truth.

We can say, though, that Club for Growth did actively criticize Trump’s potential presidential bid in 2011, and that the letter Club for Growth sent to Trump did not promise an endorsement or silence. Rather, it noted policy differences with Trump, even as the sides had found some common ground, and said that Trump had voiced some support for the Club’s efforts to elect conservative members to Congress. The Trump campaign did not respond to our request for further clarification of the meeting.

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Webby Win Streak Continues http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/webby-win-streak-continues/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/webby-win-streak-continues/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 16:34:19 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107483 Hooray for us! FactCheck.org again has been awarded the Webby for best Political Blog/Website. The announcement was made April 26 by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.

This is the third consecutive year that we’ve won the judge’s award in the politics category, and it’s the seventh time since 2008 that we’ve been recognized by the judging panel.PV_Webby_Winner1

And that’s not all. Thanks to the many readers who voted for us, FactCheck.org is also the recipient of this year’s People’s Voice Webby in the same category. We are now a nine-time winner of the award as voted by the public.

The other contenders for best Political Blog/Website were The Nation, Bloomberg Politics, The Eastern Congo by the Council on Foreign Relations, and past winner Truthdig.

The 20th annual Webby competition, which honors the best of the Internet, received nearly 13,000 entries from almost all 50 U.S. states and 65 countries, making it the “biggest in our history,” according to the IADAS.

All winners will be honored at a ceremony on May 16 in New York City. The event will be available for viewing online the following day.

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Trump’s Cherry-Picked ACA Rates http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/trumps-cherry-picked-aca-rates/ http://www.factcheck.org/2016/04/trumps-cherry-picked-aca-rates/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 15:13:46 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=107438 Republican front-runner Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed, for months, that premiums under the Affordable Care Act are “going up 35, 45, 55 percent.” Trump cherry-picks insurers’ rate increases on the ACA marketplaces. The average premium increase was 8 percent for HealthCare.gov consumers between 2015 and 2016.

That figure, from the Department of Health and Human Services’ April analysis, reflects the fact that 43 percent of returning customers shopped around, choosing a different plan for 2016. A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis estimated that if those with the lowest cost silver plan in 2015 stuck with the same plans — even though in many cases a different plan in 2016 was now the lowest cost — their premiums would have gone up 15 percent on average. That’s still much lower than the figures Trump cites.

Tax credits for those earning between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level bring the actual premiums paid down. HHS reports that 85 percent of those buying a plan on the HealthCare.gov marketplaces in 2016 qualified for tax credits and saw a jump in premiums of 4 percent or $4 per month on average.

There was wide variation in premium changes for the ACA marketplace plans in 2016. Trump uses figures from increases on the high-end of the spectrum, but he could just as easily cherry-pick some of the large decreases in certain plan premiums — decreases of 10 percent, or more than 20 percent.

For instance, insurance plans in Washington state had approved rate increases for 2016 that ranged from a drop of 22 percent to an increase of 30 percent. In Indiana, one insurer’s plan lowered premiums by 18 percent, while another raised a plan’s premium by nearly 14 percent. The rate requests and approvals for insurer plans in state and federal marketplaces are available on the HealthCare.gov website.

A Months-Old Claim

We checked this claim from Trump way back in June 2015, when he made it during his speech announcing that he was running for president. Then, Trump said that “costs are going for people up 29, 39, 49 and even 55 percent.”

He used similar figures again in late October on ABC’s “This Week,” and recently made the claim in an April 19 speech after winning the New York primary (at the 2:48 mark).

Trump, April 19: We’re getting rid of Obamacare. It’s going to be repealed and replaced. It is a total disaster with premiums going up 35, 45, 55 percent. It’s going to probably end of its own volition. We’re getting rid of it.

When Trump made the claim originally in June, we wrote that he was talking about proposed rate increases for some plans on the ACA marketplaces, where individuals purchase their own insurance. (The same plans also could be purchased individually through insurance brokers, rather than going through the marketplace websites.) We noted that it was unclear whether the large increases Trump cited would be approved by state insurance regulators, and there were other proposed decreases or single-digit increases in plans that didn’t have to be submitted for review. The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to submit any proposed premium increase above 10 percent to state and federal regulators for review, with an explanation of why the increases are necessary.

As we also noted, most of the insured get their coverage through their employer, and employer-sponsored premiums have been rising at historically low rates for the past few years. Premiums for both single and family employer-sponsored plans increased by 4 percent on average from 2014 to 2015, “continuing a decade-long period of moderate growth,” according to the latest annual Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust employer survey. About 6 percent of the U.S. population buys coverage on the individual market.

Final rate increases for the state and federal exchanges for 2016 are now available. And there are still some individual plans with 2016 premium rate increases as high as the numbers Trump cites. But there are also some plans with sizable premium decreases, and more with a mix of decreases and increases in between.

For instance, a New Mexico Health Connections individual plan had an approved increase of 37.6 percent, while another plan in the state, from CHRISTUS Health Plan, had an approved decrease of 4.68 percent. Several Blue Cross Blue Shield rates in Minnesota went up by about 50 percent, while an individual plan from the insurer Gundersen went up by 8.63 percent.

Some people with a marketplace plan may well have paid sizable increases if they stayed with certain plans, but Trump’s implication that these types of increases were widespread or typical is incorrect.

“I would not say the typical experience was, say, a 30 or 40 or 50 percent increase,” Cynthia Cox, associate director for the Program for the Study of Health Reform and Private Insurance at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, told us.

Cox and her colleagues analyzed the premium rates in 36 states, and 2,365 counties, for a single 40-year-old for the lowest cost silver plans. (The ACA marketplace plans have different levels of benefit coverage — bronze, silver, gold and platinum.) KFF found that “consumers enrolled in the lowest cost silver plan in 2015 would see an average premium increase of 15% if they automatically enroll (or chose to stay) in the same plan in 2016, before any tax credit.”

But it pays to shop around, as the KFF analysis, published in November, made clear. In 73 percent of those counties, the lowest cost silver plan from 2015 was no longer the lowest cost silver plan for 2016. The lowest cost option went up 7 percent in 2016, so consumers could save money by switching plans.

And that’s what 43 percent (2.4 million people) of those returning to the HealthCare.gov marketplaces in 2016 did, according to an HHS analysis released April 12. “Compared to what they would have paid to remain in their 2015 plan, consumers that switched plans saved an average of $42 per month in premium costs, equivalent to over $500 in annual savings,” HHS said.

Factoring in this comparative shopping, the average premium increase was 8 percent, before taking into account tax credits, the analysis said. The HHS report covers the 9.6 million individuals who enrolled or were automatically reenrolled in plans in the 38 states using the HealthCare.gov site. All told, 12.7 million enrolled or reenrolled in marketplace plans in 2016 in all states.

The KFF analysis, titled “Potential Savings from Actively Shopping for Marketplace Coverage in 2016,” included an example of how some marketplace policyholders could save money by switching health plans.

KFF, Nov. 18, 2015: As an example, the lowest cost silver plan in Dallas, TX was offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas at $279 per month for an unsubsidized 40 year old in 2015. If the person in Dallas continued in his plan, he would have to pay $353 per month in 2016, or an increase of 27%. If he was willing to switch to the new lowest cost silver plan in 2016 offered by Molina, he would pay $260 per month, a decrease of 7% compared to what he paid in 2015.

Tax credits lower the premiums paid by most of those on marketplace plans. HHS said that 85 percent of HealthCare.gov consumers qualified for tax credits, and their average monthly net premium increase, taking the credits into account, was 4 percent (or $4 per month) from 2015 to 2016. The average premium for those receiving tax credits was $106 per month.

Wide Variation in Premium Changes

As we’ve noted, the premium changes for marketplace plans in 2016 varied widely — from double-digit increases to double-digit decreases and everything in between. An earlier KFF analysis on the second lowest cost silver plan premiums in major cities in every state found they ranged from a decrease of 10.6 percent in Seattle, Washington, to an increase of 38.4 percent in Nashville, Tennessee. The average premium change was an increase of 10.1 percent.

(These figures don’t include tax credits. A 40-year-old earning $30,000 a year would face an average premium decrease of 0.2 percent for the second lowest cost silver plan, once the credits are included, KFF found.)

An Urban Institute analysis of the lowest-cost silver plan premiums in 20 states and Washington, D.C., found a 4.3 percent average increase, but similar wide variation: The average premium dropped in six states and Washington, D.C., increased by up to 10 percent in 10 states, and increased by more than that in four states.

There are different ways to look at how premiums changed. The Commonwealth Fund measured the changes for all plans and the second lowest cost silver plans (or benchmark plans, used to determine tax subsidies), and weighted the premiums to reflect population, and found an average increase of 6 percent from 2015 to 2016. But, again, there was a variation — “ranging from premium increases of 37 percent in Tennessee to reductions of 8 percent in Texas,” and slower growth of premiums in higher-cost urban areas than suburban or rural areas.

Why the disparity, and overall larger increases for 2016? Cox told us that insurers may have priced too low initially, and are now reacting to having a full year’s experience with actual marketplace activity. The ACA marketplace plans were first available for coverage starting in January 2014, but insurers then submitted 2015 rates before that year was up.

Premiums for 2014 came in lower than the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has projected, Cox noted, and 2015 premium changes varied in some areas but were relatively flat on average (the second lowest-cost silver plan went up 2 percent on average across all U.S. counties in 2015). But 2016 was the “first year that insurers could actually use the data that they had gathered from the enrollees that had been in their plans” for a full year, Cox said. And people were “using more health care than the insurers had initially anticipated.” Premiums, therefore, increased more substantially.

The Urban Institute report made a similar observation. “With consumers having full transparency of plan options and premiums and seeking to pay no more than necessary, beginning in 2014, insurers had strong incentives to price aggressively. This is despite the fact that in the initial years they had limited information on the health care needs of those who would enroll. Insurers that choose to price high because of fear of high utilization risk losing market share; consequently, some appeared to have erred on the side of lower-than-necessary premiums and are now correcting for that as the health care profiles of their enrollees becomes clearer.” The authors wrote that it could take a few more years for insurers’ costs, and premiums, to stabilize.

As was the case before the ACA was passed, it’s difficult to make generalizations about consumers’ experience buying their own health insurance. There’s a lot of churn in the individual market, as some use it temporarily while between jobs. And under the ACA, premiums can vary based on geographic location, age and whether an individual smokes. There’s also more freedom to switch plans, as consumers can’t be denied or charged more due to preexisting conditions.

“Premiums have been somewhat volatile from year to year,” Cox said, and the changes depend on where people live, as well as whether they shopped around or received a tax subsidy. “It’s hard to characterize how everyone is being affected by these premiums.”

But everyone is certainly not paying rate increases of “35, 45, 55 percent” — the figures cited by Trump. Some would have paid lower premiums by switching plans — or even sticking with the same plans in some cases — and average premium increases, according to several studies, range from 4.3 percent to 15 percent, not including tax credits.

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