With the presidential election just a few days away, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are making their final appeals with multiple stops in key swing states.
In our experience, we have found that facts are stretched more than usual in the final, desperate days of a close presidential campaign. And that is certainly the case this year. In stump speeches this week, the messaging was clear. Clinton stuck to the theme that Trump is “unqualified and unfit to be president,” while Trump hammered at the theme that Clinton is “corrupt.”
In this story, we will look at a sampling of the misleading claims made by Trump during speeches this week.
In a separate story, we have a sampling of misleading statements by Clinton (which you can read here). Some academics argue that politically motivated reasoning may lead you to only read one of these stories. Prove them wrong.
Trump’s Final Push
Trump’s messaging on Clinton this week has been focused almost entirely on the claim that Clinton is “corrupt” and that her actions were “crimes.”
On Clinton’s emails:
“She is likely to be under investigation for many years, probably concluding in a very large scale criminal trial.” — Nov. 1 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
We cannot see into the future, and neither can Trump, so his prediction of a “criminal trial” is speculation.
What we do know is that FBI Director James Comey — a former longtime Republican, who says he is no longer registered with either party — concluded a lengthy investigation in July with a finding that Clinton and her colleagues “were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
But Comey also said that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring criminal charges. The FBI reviewed about 30,000 work-related emails that Clinton turned over to the State Department, and the agency recovered nearly 15,000 additional emails from her private server during the course of its investigation. Comey said the agency found more than 2,000 emails contained classified information, including 113 that were classified at the time they were sent or received. But, he said, the FBI “did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information.”
More recently, on Oct. 28, Comey notified Congress that the FBI had “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent” to the closed Clinton investigation, but that the FBI “cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant.”
Numerous news reports have said these emails were sent to and received from Huma Abedin, a longtime Clinton aide and former deputy chief of staff at the State Department, and were found on a laptop owned by her estranged husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner.
But it’s not known how many of these may be duplicates of messages already reviewed by the FBI.
Update, Nov. 7: Comey informed members of Congress in a brief Nov. 6 letter that agents had worked “around the clock” to complete a review of all messages sent to and from Clinton while she was secretary of state. “Based on our review we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton,” he wrote.
Several news organizations, quoting an unnamed law enforcement official, said nearly all the messages discovered on Weiner’s computer were either duplicates of messages already examined, or were personal in nature. NBC News reported in addition that the review “didn’t change the total number of classified documents investigators found on the server.”
“But I have respect that the FBI has given it a second chance. And this time, I have no doubt that in that 650,000 emails — did you see where they said, oh, we’re not worried. They’re duplicates. How can there be duplicates if there are hundreds of thousands more than you started off with?” — Nov. 2 in Miami.
Trump is conflating two batches of emails: those found on Clinton’s server and those found more recently on a computer owned by Weiner, the estranged husband of Abedin.
Multiple news reports, citing anonymous law enforcement officials, said emails believed to be pertinent to the investigation into the State Department’s handling of classified information were found on Weiner’s computer as part of an ongoing investigation into the former congressman’s sexting scandal.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, investigators found 650,000 emails on a laptop used by Weiner and Abedin and that “underlying metadata suggests thousands of those messages could have been sent to or from the private server that Mrs. Clinton used while she was secretary of state, according to people familiar with the matter.”
That led FBI Director Comey to reopen the investigation into Clinton’s emails more than three months after he announced on July 5 that the FBI had completed its investigation and recommended that no charges be brought against Clinton or her aides for mishandling classified information.
But it is important to note that the FBI has not found 650,000 emails sent to or from Clinton’s private email server — or “hundreds of thousands more than you started off with,” as Trump put it. As the New York Times reported, “While investigators found hundreds of thousands of emails on Mr. Weiner’s computer, they are focusing on a small portion of the total.” Specifically, they are looking to find any classified emails, and if so, whether they are duplicates of emails that were part of the initial FBI review.
“And she’s the one who destroyed 33,000 emails after receiving a congressional subpoena.” — Nov. 2 in Miami.
As we wrote when Trump made a similar claim during the second and third debates, a contractor managing Clinton’s server deleted the emails. And there is no evidence Clinton knew when they were deleted.
Trump is referring to 31,830 emails that Clinton’s lawyers had deemed personal and, as a result, did not have to be turned over to the government. As we have written, the department’s policy allows its employees to determine which emails are work-related and must be preserved.
It is true that the emails were deleted between March 25 and 31, 2015, after Clinton received a subpoena on March 4, 2015, from a Republican-controlled House committee investigating the 2012 deaths of four Americans in Benghazi. But there is no evidence that Clinton knew that the emails were deleted after the subpoena was issued.
According to FBI notes of its investigation, an employee of Platte River Networks – which at the time was managing Clinton’s private server – deleted the emails. Clinton told the FBI that she was not aware that they were deleted in late March 2015. The FBI did not say when Clinton learned when the emails had been deleted.
On the Clinton Foundation:
“The FBI agents say their investigation is likely to yield an indictment.” — Nov. 3 in Jacksonville, Florida.
This is misleading. It is based on the opinion of two unnamed FBI agents cited by Fox News political reporter Bret Baier in a Nov. 2 report about the Clinton Foundation. A day later, Baier walked it back, saying he gave an “inartful” answer to a question on Fox News’ “On the Record with Brit Hume” when he said that he was told that an FBI investigation of the foundation “will continue to likely an indictment.”
“It was inartful the way I said it,” Baier said. “The people we talked to say they believe they have a lot of evidence and would continue that effort after the election was my point – to continue to push possibly for an indictment.”
Other news outlets, including the New York Times, CBS News and the Associated Press, have reported that the FBI months ago opened an inquiry into the Clinton Foundation, but there have been internal disagreements about the strength of the case and how to proceed. The FBI review is based on a book, “Clinton Cash,” that alleges the State Department did favors for Clinton Foundation donors while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. Peter Schweizer, senior editor at large for the conservative Breitbart News website, is the author of the book.
NBC News correspondent Pete Williams, a former Pentagon spokesman during the administration of President George H.W. Bush, said he has been told by FBI sources that it is “just not true” that indictments are looming. In a report on Nov. 3, Williams said the case has been in the “initial inquiry” phase for months, and there has been “virtually no movement” on it.
It is worth noting that Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, who served as a Superior Court judge in New Jersey, claimed in April that the FBI had enough evidence to indict and convict Clinton for mishandling classified information on her email server. About three months later, FBI Director Comey announced that the FBI would not recommend any criminal charges, saying “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
On “border crisis”:
“[Border Patrol agents] tell us the border crisis is the worst it’s ever been. You’ve been reading about it. It’s a national emergency. It’s the worst it’s ever been, right now. You know you try and get some stats; they don’t want to give you the stats. The worst it has ever been, right now. Just about as bad as it gets.” — Nov. 1 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Actually, the total number of people apprehended while trying to enter the U.S. illegally from Mexico is less than one-quarter of what it was at its peak over a decade ago.
There were 408,870 apprehensions at the southwest border in fiscal year 2016, which ended Sept. 30, officials announced Oct. 18. That was an increase over the 331,333 apprehended in fiscal year 2015, but still well below the 479,371 apprehended in FY2014 or the 414,397 detained in FY2013.
And it is 76 percent below the peak number of 1,643,679 apprehended in FY2000.
We don’t know what “border crisis” Trump has been “reading about.” But Fox News earlier this month picked up a story by LifeZette.com that carried the headline “Border Crisis: Illegal Crossings May Be Far Higher Than Official Numbers.” LifeZette.com quotes the head of the border patrol union, which has endorsed Trump, as saying the government has been “lying to the American people” about the number of people illegally crossing the border.
LifeZette.com, a conservative website founded by Laura Ingraham, wrote that the Associated Press had obtained a report by the Department of Homeland Security on border security. “The Associated Press said last week that the report, which has not yet been made public, estimates that 54 percent of the roughly 315,000 people trying to cross the border in fiscal year 2015 succeeded,” LifeZette.com wrote. “That is significantly worse than the 81 percent success rate in stopping illegal border crossings that the government officially claims.”
That AP story, however, also says that the 54 percent success rate cited in the report is lower than the 81 percent cited publicly because of a “different counting method.” The AP story also noted that the number of people who escaped capture at the border is down significantly since a decade ago. “In terms of people, 170,000 got away from the Border Patrol during the 2015 fiscal year, 210,000 the previous year and 1.7 million in 2005,” the AP writes. “The huge drop over the last decade is largely explained by the decline in job opportunities since the Great Recession, with more Mexicans now leaving the United States than arriving here.”
“Hillary has pledged totally open borders, meaning you don’t have a country anymore.” — Nov. 2 in Miami.
This has been a staple line in Trump speeches for months, but it remains incorrect. Clinton has said she would deport “violent criminals, terrorists, and anyone who threatens our safety,” and the plan on her website also says she would “focus resources on detaining and deporting those individuals who pose a violent threat to public safety.”
Clinton also has supported border security measures. The 2013 Senate immigration bill she backed would have made large investments in border security, including additional border fencing.
More recently, Trump and others have pointed to Clinton’s comments to a Brazilian bank — revealed via WikiLeaks — that: “My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.” But, as Clinton has noted, that wasn’t the whole quote. It continues: “… some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.”
Clinton said in the final debate that she was “talking about energy. … And I do want us to have an electric grid, an energy system that crosses borders.” In fact, Clinton said, “I have been for border security for years. I voted for border security in the United States Senate. And my comprehensive immigration reform plan of course includes border security.” We have found all of that to be true.
“As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton allowed thousands of the most dangerous and violent criminal aliens to go free because their countries would not take them back.” — Nov. 2 in Miami.
We first wrote about this when Trump on Aug. 31 said that Clinton was to blame for the release of 13,000 “criminal aliens” from federal custody back into the U.S. But their release wasn’t up to Clinton when she was secretary of state. It was mandated by a Supreme Court decision, and carried out by the Department of Homeland Security.
The Boston Globe reported that ICE, not the State Department, “freed 12,941 criminals nationwide from 2008 to early 2014″ to comply with a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The court ruled that, if another country refuses to accept them, the U.S. cannot hold convicted criminals (who have served their sentences) in detention without justification for longer than six months if their removal from the U.S. is not “reasonably foreseeable.”
As we wrote then, Trump may have been alluding to a point made by others, that the State Department could do more, by not issuing visas, to pressure recalcitrant nations to take back their citizens convicted of crimes in the U.S. As Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley wrote in a letter in June, the U.S. has not imposed such sanctions, which are to be made after consultation between the secretaries of homeland security and state, on any nation since Guyana in 2001.
“In Chicago, 3,664 people have been shot since January 1st this year. …Nationwide, murders have experienced their largest single-year increase in 45 years. You don’t hear that from the dishonest media. … A Trump administration will work with local and federal law enforcement to end this growing crime wave. We have a crime wave.” — Nov. 1 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Trump is right about Chicago. As of the following day, the Chicago Tribune’s constantly updated “Crime in Chicagoland” website reported that a total of 3,698 people had been wounded or killed in shootings since the start of 2016. But the violence in Chicago is exceptional, and local.
And nationally, according to the FBI, the number of murders in 2015 was 10 percent higher than it was in 2014, which indeed is the largest one-year increase in nearly half a century. So Trump got that right this time. Previously, he was repeating a blatantly false claim that the U.S. murder rate itself is “the highest in 45 years,” when in fact it is close to a record low.
What Trump fails to mention is that the 2015 increase came on top of a 2014 rate, 4.4 murders per 100,000 people, that was the lowest murder rate since at least 1960. And even the 2015 rate of 4.9 was less than half the peak rate of 10.2 per 100,000 people recorded in 1980.
To be sure, a further 13 percent increase in the murder rate is projected for 2016 in a preliminary analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. That’s based on police reports for roughly the first half of the year, collected from the 30 largest U.S. cities. About half the predicted increase is attributed to Chicago, which alone has seen more than 630 murders so far this year.
“And she is going to raise your taxes very substantially, I think you know that.” — Nov. 2 in Miami.
This, too, has been a regular line in Trump’s speeches. But as we have noted repeatedly, that’s only true if “you” are among the top 10 percent of taxpayers.
Analyses by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center and the pro-business Tax Foundation both concluded that almost all of the tax increases proposed by Clinton would fall on the top 10 percent of taxpayers. Hardest hit would be the less than 0.1 percent of taxpayers who earn more than $5 million per year.
“Nearly all of the tax increases would fall on the top 1 percent; the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers would see little or no change in their taxes,” the Tax Policy Center concluded.
On the sequester:
“We will also repeal the Obama-Clinton defense sequester and rebuild our badly depleted military.” — Nov. 2 in Miami.
Blaming Obama for the sequester has been a popular Republican talking point for years. But the more than $1 trillion in automatic, across-the-board cuts in domestic and defense spending was made possible by Republicans and Democrats alike supporting the legislation that included them, as a compromise to head off a budget stalemate.
Here’s the background: In the summer of 2011, when Democrats and Republicans couldn’t agree on a way to cut spending in exchange for increasing the federal government’s borrowing limit, legislators settled on the Budget Control Act instead. The law capped federal discretionary spending to save almost $1.2 trillion over a 10-year period, but also mandated that a bipartisan, 12-person congressional committee find at least $1.5 trillion in additional cuts. If the committee failed to come up with a plan, another $1.2 trillion in cuts would occur automatically — half from defense spending and half from discretionary spending on domestic programs — through sequestration. The committee failed to reach an agreement, and the automatic cuts kicked in.
In his book “The Price of Politics,” veteran journalist Bob Woodward of the Washington Post wrote that the idea for the sequester was proposed by Obama’s then-director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jacob Lew, and White House Legislative Affairs Director Rob Nabors. But Woodward said neither party actually wanted it to come to pass, and both sides assumed it would force members of the bipartisan committee to work out a deal to avoid them.
The Budget Control Act passed in the House with 269 votes in favor — 174 from Republicans and 95 from Democrats. And the bill cleared the Senate with 74 “yea” votes, of which 28 were cast by Republicans.
On health care:
“Workers’ hours are being cut, hiring is frozen — totally frozen — and wages are being slashed.” — Nov. 1 in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
We’ve been over this before. Republicans for years have claimed that Obamacare would be a “job killer” even while nonpartisan experts said it would have little effect on employment. Now the facts are in, but Trump continues to amplify this partisan exaggeration.
Hours: In theory, some employers could reduce the hours of full-time workers to avoid the law’s requirement to provide health coverage. But in reality, the average weekly hours of all private sector workers have changed very little, according to official figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The average work week was 34.6 hours in December 2014, the month before the federal government began delayed enforcement of the new law’s requirement that large employers must provide health insurance to their workers or pay a fee to the government. And the average work week was 34.4 hours in September, the most recent month on record. That’s a decline of 12 minutes.
Hiring: Trump’s claim that hiring is “frozen” is wrong. There were more than 5.4 million job openings in August, the most recent month on record. And that is down only slightly from the 15-year high of over 5.8 million posted this year. The number of job openings now has exceeded 5 million for 19 consecutive months.
Meanwhile, the number of people actually holding jobs has grown every month for the past six years, including all the time the Affordable Care Act has been in effect.
Since December 2013, the last month before individuals were required to have coverage or pay a tax penalty, the economy has added 7,565,000 jobs. That includes gains of 161,000 jobs in October and 191,000 jobs the month before.
Wages: Wages aren’t being “slashed,” they are increasing faster than inflation — especially since Obamacare’s main provisions took effect.
In the past year, hourly wages took their largest jump in seven years, according to BLS figures released Nov. 4.
As a result, weekly paychecks are comfortably outpacing the cost of living. The BLS measure of real average weekly earnings for all workers — adjusted for inflation and seasonal factors — was 4.3 percent higher in September than it was in December 2013, just before the insurance exchanges opened.
“It’s just been announced that the residents of Florida are going to experience a massive, double-digit premium hike. Who’s got their number yet, does anybody know? … I don’t want to tell you. You know why? Because if I do, you’ll be so depressed. I don’t like people leaving a speech early, crying. You’re not going to like it, folks. In the great state of Arizona, though, as an example, premiums are going up more than 116 percent.” — Nov. 3 in Jacksonville, Florida
Trump has cherry-picked premium increases on the Affordable Care Act exchanges before, but the way he does it here is a doozy. His example of Arizona is the highest average increase among all the states. In Florida, the number he didn’t want to tell his audience, because they might be “depressed,” is a mere 14 percent — that’s the average increase for the second-lowest cost silver plans in the state from 2016 to 2017.
In Indiana, to give another example Trump could have told the crowd, the average change is a 3 percent decrease. That shows the full range of varying changes among the states. The average increase in the 38 states that have ACA exchanges is 25 percent, as detailed in a report from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Furthermore, Trump claims the unnamed 14 percent average increase would affect “the residents of Florida,” but it only pertains to those who buy their own insurance on HealthCare.gov or otherwise on the individual market. In 2016, 1.74 million Floridians had HealthCare.gov plans, in a state that has more than 20 million residents. And 91 percent of individuals with those plans get tax credits, which cap what they have to spend out of pocket for premiums, based on income. HHS estimates that 84 percent could get an insurance plan in 2017 for $100 or less per month, due to the tax credits.
“You know, some people have 15, $16,000 deductible. Yet Hillary Clinton wants to double down on Obamacare, making it even more expensive.” — Nov. 3 in Concord, North Carolina.
It’s hard to imagine any candidate wanting to make health care premiums or deductibles more expensive, and, in fact, Clinton has talked about ways to bring down health care costs. Her website specifically cites high deductibles as a problem, saying she would: “Bring down out-of-pocket costs like copays and deductibles. American families are being squeezed by rising out-of-pocket health care costs. Hillary believes that workers should share in slower growth of national health care spending through lower costs.”
Among her proposals to lower costs: creating a “public option” to compete with private plans on the ACA exchanges, allowing people over 55 to buy into Medicare, prompting more states to expand Medicaid under the ACA, and instituting several measures to lower prescription drug costs. It’s a matter of opinion, of course, whether these measures would be adequate to lower consumers’ health care spending, but she has indeed talked about doing “more to bring down health care costs for families.”
“Hillary brought death and disaster to Iraq, Syria, Libya. She empowered Iran, and she unleashed ISIS. You know, she wants to get rid of ISIS? She’s the one that started it — came through the vacuum.” — Nov. 3 in Jacksonville, Florida.
Trump is still blaming Clinton for the rise of Islamic State terrorists, but as we’ve written before, Trump himself supported withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq — the very thing which he now claims allowed ISIS to fill the “vacuum.” He told CNN in a March 16, 2007, interview that the U.S. should “declare victory and leave, because I’ll tell you, this country is just going to get further bogged down.”
Back in August, Trump repeatedly called Clinton the “founder” of ISIS. The actual founder of ISIS was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian who formed al Qaeda in Iraq, the group that became ISIS, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
After we and others called out Trump for making his false accusation, he tweeted on Aug. 12 that his claim was “sarcasm.” Now, in the final days of the campaign, he’s still repeating it — using slightly different wording but without a trace of humorous intent.
On blaming Google:
“Wow, Twitter, Google and Facebook are burying the FBI criminal investigation of Clinton. Very dishonest media!” — Oct. 30 Trump tweet.
Appropriately, we end with a tweet. There is no evidence that these companies deliberately attempted to suppress the story about FBI Director Comey’s Oct. 28 letter to Congress about reopening the Hillary Clinton email probe.
Both Twitter and Facebook determine trending topics using algorithms based on user data, such as the pages or posts an individual follows or likes. Given that both platforms tailor trends to their users, some politically oriented users may have seen the FBI news trend, while others may have not.
While in the past Facebook Trending also controversially relied on human curators, in August, the company made changes to Trending to make it “a more algorithmically driven process.” But there “are still people involved in the process to ensure that the topics that appear in Trending remain high-quality,” says Facebook.
Regardless, no evidence has surfaced to support Trump’s claims about Facebook. As for Twitter, there’s evidence that counters Trump’s claims. Twitter prominently featured a tweet about reaction to the FBI news in its “Featured Tweets” section, according to a Mashable screenshot.
Contrary to Trump’s claim about Google, Google News displayed the story first among its top stories, according to CNN.
In September, Trump complained that “Google’s search engine was suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton.” This is also false. A Google spokesperson told the Washington Times that predicted searches are designed to not be “offensive or disparaging when displayed in conjunction with a person’s name.” This isn’t bias or suppression in favor of Clinton; the algorithm leads to more favorable recommendations for everybody, including confirmed serial killers such as Ted Bundy, and, yes, even Donald Trump himself.