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Republican Convention Night 3

The vice president accepted his party's nomination and then delivered a speech filled with false and misleading claims.


Summary

Vice President Mike Pence and others twisted facts on the economy, some of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s positions and more:

  • Pence claimed that President Donald Trump “created the greatest economy in the world.” But the economy had been growing for seven years before Trump took office.
  • Pence falsely suggested Biden would “defund the police” and baselessly claimed Americans “won’t be safe” if Biden were president.
  • Pence cited a federal officer’s killing during “the riots in Oakland, California.” But he didn’t explain that the death was unrelated to demonstrators protesting in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Federal prosecutors have charged a right-wing extremist with the killing.
  • 1960s Civil Rights figure Clarence Henderson said Trump “created” a “record” number of jobs for Black Americans. Actually, Black employment grew faster under Obama.
  • White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said that, under Trump, “the single mom with two kids, two jobs, two commutes … finally has health insurance.” But the number of uninsured women ages 19 to 64 decreased during the Obama administration and had increased under Trump, as of 2018.
  • Pence misleadingly claimed that Biden “even opposed the operation that took down Osama bin Laden.” Biden said he opposed the timing of the operation, and suggested that the raid should be delayed in order to take further steps to confirm bin Laden was at the compound in Pakistan.
  • Sen. Marsha Blackburn falsely claimed that “Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and their radical allies … encourage protests, riots and looting in the streets.” Biden has repeatedly condemned violent protests.
  • Richard Grenell, a former acting director of national intelligence, criticized the Russia investigation as unwarranted — but multiple independent reports found that there were grounds to investigate the Trump campaign’s contacts with people with ties to the Russian government.
  • Rep. Elise Stefanik criticized the House impeachment of Trump last year as “illegal.” It’s not. The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the power to impeach the president.
  • Pence wrongly claimed that Trump “suspended all travel from China,” when the administration’s restrictions contained exceptions.
  • Pence misled when he said that “after years of scandal,” Trump “reformed the VA and veterans choice is now available for every veteran in America.” Although the Trump administration expanded the program, it began in 2014 under Obama.

And there were several repeat claims on fracking, abortion, school choice, military pay and immigration.

Analysis
Pence’s Economic Distortion

Vice President Mike Pence repeated a central theme of the Trump campaign when he said Biden “presided over the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression” and that Trump ”created the greatest economy in the world.”

It’s true that the economic recovery from 2009 to 2016 was the slowest since World War II, and probably since the 1930s Depression as well. That’s not surprising considering that the country was recovering from the most severe economic downturn since the Depression itself.

But claiming that Trump “created” the “greatest economy” is a grandiose distortion.

Pence ignores the fact that the economy had been growing without interruption for seven years before Trump took office. As we noted when he was inaugurated, unemployment was already well below the historical norm, and the economy had already racked up the longest uninterrupted stretch of monthly job gains on record. Stock prices had doubled and tripled; the S&P 500 index had gained 166% even before Trump’s surprise election victory on Nov. 8, 2016.

Trump didn’t “create” any of that; it was given to him.

Job growth has continued under Trump, but at a slower pace. The economy added nearly 2.5 million jobs in the 12 months before Trump took office, Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show. It added just over 2 million during Trump’s first year. The unemployment rate continued to drop, from 4.7% when Trump took office to a 50-year low of 3.5% under Trump, before the COVID-19 pandemic sent it shooting up to the worst levels since the 1930s. It hit 14.7% in April and stood at 10.2% last month — still worse than any month of the Obama-Biden administration.

Biden and Crime

Pence said baselessly that Americans would not be safe if Biden were elected president. In doing so, he suggested that Biden would “defund the police,” something Biden has said he does not support.

And the vice president misleadingly used a response by Biden to a question in claiming the Democratic presidential nominee supported “cutting funding to law enforcement.”

Pence, Aug. 26: When asked whether he’d support cutting funding to law enforcement, Joe Biden replied, “Yes, absolutely.” Joe Biden would double down on the very policies that are leading to violence in America’s cities. The hard truth is you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America. Under President Trump, we will always stand with those who stand on the Thin Blue Line, and we’re not going to defund the police – not now, not ever.

There is no evidence that Americans would be less safe in Joe Biden’s America. As we have written, Trump and his campaign have repeatedly and falsely claimed that a Biden administration would eviscerate law enforcement, with Americans subjected to mayhem in the streets and unanswered police calls. But Biden has said on a number of occasions that he is opposed to defunding the police, and a Biden spokesman told us the Democratic nominee supports more funding for police for some functions, such as initiatives to strengthen community relationships and for body-worn cameras.

The federal government pays a small percentage of law enforcement expenses. According to a backgrounder by the Urban Institute, 86% of police funding in 2017 was from local governments, with additional money ponied up by state governments.

Here is the context for the “Yes, absolutely” response cited by Pence.

In a July 8 interview with progressive activist Ady Barkan about police reforms, Biden was asked about shifting some funding from police to social service agencies for tasks that could be better handled by the latter. “Yes, absolutely,” Biden responded. But as we said, he would support additional funding in some categories.

In a segment of the interview that didn’t appear on YouTube, Biden said he supports reforms, but “that’s not the same as getting rid of or defunding all the police.” (The Washington Post Fact Checker obtained audio of the full conversation.)

While Pence draws a contrast between the two candidates, it’s worth noting both Biden and Trump have expressed support for the idea of social workers and mental health personnel joining forces with police in some cases, as we’ve explained.

Pence Misleads on Officer Death

Pence was the fourth speaker of the night to characterize protests that swelled across the country this summer as violent.

Those protests called for an end to racism and police brutality after George Floyd, a black man, died when a white police officer knelt on his neck in Minneapolis on May 25.

While some of the protests have led to rioting and looting, the majority have been peaceful. A New York Times analysis of four polls conducted in June found that between 15 million and 26 million people participated in demonstrations, and the Associated Press counted the number of arrests through June 4 at about 10,000, many of which were for violating curfew or failing to disperse.

Let me be clear: the violence must stop – whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha,” Pence said, highlighting three cities that have seen unrest recently reignited by the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 23.

Pence then praised law enforcement officers and mentioned one name in particular.

“President Trump and I know that the men and women that put on the uniform of law enforcement are the best of us. Every day, when they walk out that door, they consider our lives more important than their own,” he said. “People like Dave Patrick Underwood, an officer in the Department of Homeland Security’s federal protective service who was shot and killed during the riots in Oakland, California.”

Although Pence didn’t explicitly say who shot Underwood, the context of his remarks suggests that it was someone protesting police violence in the wake of Floyd’s death. But that would be wrong.

Federal prosecutors have charged Steven Carrillo, a right-wing extremist, in Underwood’s May 29 killing.

Carrillo favored the far-right movement called boogaloo, which stokes fear about impending civil war, according to the criminal complaint against him. He used the crowds gathered to protest Floyd’s death as cover to “kill cops,” according to John Bennett, special agent in charge of the San Francisco division of the FBI.

Carrillo is also charged with the murder of a sergeant in the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, Damon Gutzwiller. That killing came a week after Underwood’s death. The case is in state court.

Black Employment Spin

Clarence Henderson, who participated in the famous 1960 sit-in at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, praised Trump for the “record number of jobs he created for the Black community.”

It’s true that the number of African Americans employed hit a record under Trump. But it wasn’t all his doing. In fact, jobs for Blacks grew faster under Obama/Biden — and all of Trump’s gains and more have disappeared.

Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ household survey, which tracks employment by race and ethnicity, show Black employment hit a peak of over 19.7 million in February (before plunging to a six-year low of 16.2 million in April due to the pandemic).

But even in Trump’s good times, Black employment grew less than under Obama/Biden. During their final three years in office, nearly 2.1 million Blacks gained employment. During the next three years, under Trump, the number grew by just over 1.1 million.

All the gains of Trump’s first years were wiped out by the pandemic. As of July, nearly 1.3 million Black Americans had lost employment since he took office.

Health Insurance for Women

Conway said Trump is the “champion” of “everyday heroes” such as “the single mom with two kids, two jobs, two commutes, who 10 years after that empty promise finally has health insurance.”

But millions of women remain uninsured, and, as of 2018, the number of women age 19 to 64 without health insurance had actually increased under Trump, according to the most recent data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In 2010, when Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, 18.1 million, or 19% of, women between 19 and 64 years of age did not have health insurance. In 2016, Obama’s final year in office, the number and percentage of uninsured women in that age group had declined to 10.3 million or 11%.

“The Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded access to affordable coverage through a combination of Medicaid expansions, private insurance reforms, and premium tax credits,” KFF said in its January 2020 report.

But under Trump, the number of women between 19 and 64 without health coverage increased to 10.8 million in 2018 — and the percentage remained flat at 11%.

As KFF said in its analysis: “The significant drop in the share of uninsured women has stalled in recent years. Recent state and federal efforts to roll back ACA-related policies could further weaken coverage and may result in higher out-of-pocket costs for women who need these services.”

The health policy nonprofit also noted that “a lawsuit working its way through the courts,” which the Trump administration supports, “could result in the entire ACA being invalidated.” That would increase the number of uninsured women further.

Biden on Terrorist Killings

Pence twisted the facts when he said Biden “criticized President Trump following those … decisions to rid the world of two terrorist leaders,” Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and that Biden “even opposed the operation that took down Osama bin Laden.”

Biden did not oppose Trump’s decision to undertake a raid to kill al-Baghdadi, though Biden did criticize Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, which Biden argued made the raid to kill al-Baghdadi more dangerous.

“I’m glad President Trump ordered the mission,” Biden said in a statement. “But as more details of the raid emerge, it’s clear that this victory was not due to Donald Trump’s leadership. It happened despite his ineptitude as commander-in-chief.”

Biden did criticize Trump following his decision to kill Soleimani. Biden said that while “[n]o American will mourn Qassem Soleimani’s passing” and “he deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops and thousands of innocents throughout the region,” Trump’s decision to target Soleimani in a drone attack was “a hugely escalatory move in an already dangerous region” that was likely to prompt an Iranian attack. Trump “just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox,” Biden said.

As for Pence’s claim that Biden “even opposed the operation that took down Osama bin Laden,” that’s misleading. Biden said he opposed the timing of the operation, and suggested that the raid should be delayed in order to take further steps to confirm bin Laden was at the compound in Pakistan.

Back in January, we took a look into various — and sometimes conflicting — accounts that Biden has provided about his advice to Obama about whether to move forward with the raid to kill bin Laden.

Several weeks after the raid, at a time when Obama was gearing up for a reelection campaign, the New York Times on May 26, 2011, reported that Biden said at a Democratic fundraiser in late May 2011 “that he and others had counseled Mr. Obama to be more careful and cautious about the raid. But he said it was the president who made the decision to launch the daring action.”

“I said ‘wait another seven days for information,’” Biden reportedly said.

At a House Democrats’ annual retreat in January 2012, Biden said that at the April 2011 national security team meeting, he told Obama “my suggestion is, don’t go. We have to do two more things to see if he’s there.”

In May 2012, during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Biden added a new twist to his account, saying that after the team meeting, he privately told Obama, “’Follow your instincts, Mr. President. Your instincts have been close to unerring. Follow your instincts.’ I wanted him to take one more day to do one more test to see if he was there.” Three years later, in 2015, Biden said he privately told Obama, “that I thought he should go, but follow his own instincts.”

As we noted in January, we can’t confirm what Biden may have told Obama privately. But even given what Biden said he told Obama in front of others at the security team meeting — that Obama should wait (a version that was corroborated by others at the meeting) — waiting is not the same as opposing the operation outright.

Biden Condemned Violence

Blackburn falsely claimed that “Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and their radical allies … encourage protests, riots and looting in the streets.” Biden has repeatedly condemned violent protests, riots and looting.

In a video posted to Twitter about six hours before Blackburn’s speech aired, Biden said he spoke to the family of Jacob Blake, who was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 23. The shooting sparked chaotic and at times violent protests.

“You know, as I said after George Floyd’s murder, protesting brutality is a right and absolutely necessary,” Biden said. “But burning down communities is not protest, it’s needless violence, violence that endangers lives, violence that guts businesses and shutters businesses that serve the community. That’s wrong.

“In the midst of this pain, the wisest words that I’ve heard spoken so far have come from Julia Jackson, Jacob’s mother,” Biden said. “She looked at the damage done in her community, and she said this, quote, ‘This doesn’t reflect my son or my family.’ So let’s unite and heal, do justice, end the violence, and end systemic racism in this country now.”

As Biden said, after the police killing of George Floyd on May 25 and the ensuing protests in cities around the country — some of which turned violent or involved looting — Biden did condemn violent protests.

“I say they have a right to be in fact angry and frustrated,” Biden said in an interview on CNN on May 29. “And more violence, hurting more people, isn’t going to answer the question. But they’re totally correct, it is time it stops.”

Biden also released a statement, widely reported in the media, in which he said, “Protesting such brutality is right and necessary. It’s an utterly American response. But burning down communities and needless destruction is not. Violence that endangers lives is not. Violence that guts and shutters businesses that serve the community is not. The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest. It should not drive people away from the just cause that protest is meant to advance.”

In remarks on racial economic equity on July 28, Biden reiterated that message.

“I’ve said from the outset of the recent protests that there is no place for violence or the destruction of property,” Biden said. “Peaceful protesters should be protected — but arsonists and anarchists should be prosecuted — and local law enforcement can do that.”

While Biden has certainly made comments in support of peaceful protests — just as Pence did at the Republican convention — we could find no instances of Biden or Harris encouraging “riots and looting in the streets.” To the contrary, Biden has repeatedly condemned those things.

Later in the night after Blackburn’s remarks, Pence said, “Last week, Joe Biden didn’t say one word about the violence and chaos engulfing cities across this country.” During his speech at the Democratic convention on Aug. 20, Biden called “George Floyd’s murder” a “breaking point,” that might spur Americans to undertake ”the hard work of rooting out our systemic racism.” It’s true that in that speech, Biden did not mention the violent clashes that have erupted at some of this summer’s protests. But as we said, Biden has repeatedly condemned violence that has sometimes accompanied those protests.

Russia Investigation

Grenell claimed the “Obama-Biden administration secretly launched a surveillance operation on the Trump campaign” without reason. “I saw the Democrats entire case for Russian collusion, and what I saw made me sick to my stomach,” he said.

But multiple independent reports — most recently a bipartisan Senate report — found that there were grounds to investigate whether individuals associated with the Trump campaign were coordinating with Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

The Senate report, which was released Aug. 18, detailed former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s connections to Russia and Ukraine, and found he posed “a grave counterintelligence threat.”

“The Committee found that Manafort’s presence on the Campaign and proximity to Trump created opportunities for Russian intelligence services to exert influence over, and acquire confidential information on, the Trump Campaign,” the report said. “Taken as a whole, Manafort’s high-level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services … represented a grave counterintelligence threat.”

Although what the committee found was “very troubling,” Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican committee member, said it “found absolutely no evidence that then-candidate Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 election.”

Similarly, redacted report written by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office found that there were “multiple contacts … between Trump Campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government.” But that investigation also “did not establish that the Campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities.” 

The Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General in December released a report on the FBI’s  handling of the so-called Crossfire Hurricane investigation. The report said that the FBI conducted an “initial analysis of links between Trump campaign members and Russia,” and then opened individual investigations in August 2016 on Manafort and three other Trump campaign associates: George Papadopoulos, Carter Page and Michael Flynn.

The IG report found the interactions between the Trump campaign aides and the FBI’s confidential sources “received the necessary FBI approvals” and were “consensually monitored and recorded by the FBI.” In short, there was no illegal spying on the Trump campaign. 

“We found no evidence that the FBI used CHSs [confidential human sources] or UCEs [undercover employees] to interact with members of the Trump campaign prior to the opening of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation,” the report said. “After the opening of the investigation, we found no evidence that the FBI placed any CHSs or UCEs within the Trump campaign or tasked any CHSs or UCEs to report on the Trump campaign.”

In the case of Page, a former campaign foreign policy adviser, the FBI used the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to obtain four court-approved warrants to surveil Page, beginning in October 2016. The IG’s reported cited at least 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in court applications for Page’s warrant – which Trump has cited in the past as evidence of political bias. But the IG report said it was unable to document “political bias or improper motivation” in the mishandling of Page’s FISA applications.

So, while Trump has repeatedly called the Russia investigation a “hoax” and Grenell said the investigation made him “sick,” independent reports found there were adequate grounds for the FBI to open a counterintelligence investigation.

Impeachment Not ‘Illegal’

Stefanik, a New York Republican, criticized the House impeachment of Trump last year as “baseless and illegal.” It’s her opinion that it was “baseless,” but it wasn’t illegal. Article 2, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution gives the House of Representatives the power to impeach the president and the Senate the power to remove the president upon conviction of the impeachment charges.

The House brought two articles of impeachment against Trump after a House investigation determined that the president asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, and threatened to withhold military assistance to Ukraine until Zelensky publicly announced an investigation. On Dec. 18, 2019, the House voted 230-197 on the first article of impeachment (“abuse of power”) and 229-198 on the second article (“obstruction of Congress”). The Senate voted to acquit on both charges

During the impeachment process, Trump argued that the impeachment was illegal and unconstitutional. On the eve of a House vote on the articles of impeachment, Trump sent a six-page letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, describing the impeachment as “an illegal, partisan attempted coup.” He said it “represents an unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of power,” because the charges against him “include no crimes, no misdemeanors, and no offenses whatsoever.”

The president frequently questioned how he could be impeached. “How do you impeach? You had no crime,” Trump said in remarks shortly after he was impeached.

But, as we wrote at the time, constitutional scholars have said that a crime is not necessarily required for impeachment. 

During a Dec. 4 House hearing on the constitutional framework for impeachment, constitutional scholars invited by the Democrats and Republicans were asked “does a high crime and misdemeanor require an actual statutory crime?” Michael Gerhardt, a University of North Carolina law professor and Democratic witness, and Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor and Republican witness, agreed that no statutory crime is required.  

“Everything we know about the history of impeachment reinforces the conclusion that impeachable offenses do not have to be crimes, and again, not all crimes are impeachable offenses,” Gerhardt said. “We look at, again, at the context and gravity of the misconduct.”

China Travel Restrictions

Pence made misleading, false and dubious claims regarding the U.S. travel restrictions on China. “Before the first case of the coronavirus spread within the United States, the president took unprecedented action, and suspended all travel from China, the second-largest economy in the world,” he said.

Trump didn’t suspend “all travel from China.” The administration’s travel limitations, which took effect on Feb. 2, didn’t apply to U.S. citizens, permanent residents or the immediate family members of both. Others who had traveled to mainland China within the prior two weeks were prohibited from entering the U.S.

The Associated Press found, based on Commerce Department records and private aviation information, exemptions for Hong Kong and Macau resulted in nearly 8,000 residents of those territories entering the U.S. in the three months after the travel restrictions were enacted. A New York Times story on April 4 found that nearly 40,000 people had flown on direct flights from China to the U.S. in the first two months after the restrictions took effect. 

As for the timing of the restrictions, the Centers for Disease Control and Protection confirmed the first U.S. case on Jan. 20 in a man who had taken a trip to Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus pandemic began. There were seven confirmed cases as of Jan. 31, when the Trump administration announced the travel restrictions, and there were eight cases two days later, when the restrictions took effect, according to the CDC.

But notice Pence’s wording — “the first case of coronavirus spread.” The CDC didn’t announce what it believed to be the first case of “community spread” of the virus in the U.S. — meaning it’s not known how the person became infected — until Feb. 26. That was the 15th confirmed case in the country.

Pence continued: “Now that action saved untold American lives. And I can tell you firsthand, it bought us invaluable time to launch the greatest national mobilization since World War II.”

As we’ve written, it’s possible the restrictions on travel from China could have had some impact in slowing the importation of cases to the U.S. But we don’t have evidence of that, or of what that impact is. Pence was vague on how many lives the action might have saved, unlike the president who has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that the restrictions saved “hundreds of thousands” of lives.

The body of research on travel restrictions shows they can, if they’re very strict, delay the path of the spread of diseases but do little to contain them. Such a delay can buy public health officials time to prepare for an epidemic, but experts have faulted Trump for failing to use any delay effectively. In fact, as we’ve written, between Jan. 22 and March 10, Trump frequently minimized the impact of the coronavirus.

The vice president also claimed that Biden “actually criticized President Trump” for the travel restrictions on China.

Biden’s campaign on April 3 said he supported the administration’s travel restrictions on China. It argued that Biden’s earlier comments about Trump’s “record of hysteria and xenophobia” weren’t a reference to the restrictions, though they were made the same day those travel prohibitions were announced, as we’ve explained.

Military Pay

Stefanik also talked about Trump’s support of the U.S. military, saying he signed “the largest pay raise for our troops in a decade.” It’s true that basic military pay in January increased by 3.1% — the largest increase since 2010, according to the Defense Department.

But, as we have written several times, Trump was following federal law, which sets pay raises by a statutory formula. “Under current law, the pay raise for service members is, by default, set to equal the percentage change in” the employment cost index for private-sector workers’ wages and salaries, as the Congressional Budget Office explained in a 2018 report.

Fracking/Fossil Fuels

Pence falsely claimed that Biden would “abolish fossil fuels” and “end fracking.” But Biden’s climate platform doesn’t go that far.

As we explained on the first night of the convention when similar claims were made, Biden wants to prohibit new oil and gas leases on public lands and waters. That would allow existing permits to continue and wouldn’t affect activity on private land. 

Longer-term, Biden is aiming to reach net-zero emissions no later than 2050, which would almost certainly require a large reduction in the use of fossil fuels. But that’s decades into the future and it’s not a ban, since carbon capture and other technologies could be paired with those energy sources to meet the net-zero goal.

Abortion

Throughout the night, multiple speakers exaggerated Biden’s position on abortion. Pence said, “Joe Biden, he supports taxpayer funding of abortion right up to the moment of birth.” Sister Deirdre “Dede” Byrne, of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, similarly said that Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, “are the most anti-life presidential ticket ever, even supporting the horrors of late-term abortion and infanticide.”

As we wrote on the first convention night, Biden has said that he backs codifying Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision, into federal law. That ruling guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion before the end of the first trimester, but permits additional regulations or prohibitions on terminating a pregnancy once a fetus becomes viable outside the womb.

Furthermore, killing an infant after it is born is illegal, and Biden does not condone that.

Pence’s statement is a reference to Biden’s recent reversal on the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding from being used to pay for an abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger or the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. In practice, it has meant that many abortions, including abortions in the first trimester, are not available to low-income people on Medicaid and other governmental health insurance programs. Biden previously supported Hyde, but said in June 2019 he had changed his mind. 

It’s worth iterating how uncommon abortions are further into pregnancy. According to a 2018 CDC report, 65.4% of abortions in 2015 were performed within the first eight weeks of pregnancy and 91.1% occurred by the end of the first trimester. Only 1.3% of abortions were done after 21 weeks, or about halfway through gestation.

Immigration

Continuing a talking point that has pervaded the Republican convention, Pence falsely claimed “Joe Biden is for open borders.”

As we have written, Biden supports a more open and welcoming immigration policy than the one championed by Trump. In 2013, Biden supported the so-called Gang of Eight immigration bill that would have provided a path to earned citizenship for those then in the country illegally, but which also would have included significant investments in border security (including 350 miles of new fencing). During the campaign, Biden has vowed that he will halt construction of any more border wall, though he has stopped short of saying he would dismantle any fencing constructed during the Trump administration.

“I’m going to make sure that we have border protection, but it’s going to be based on making sure that we use high-tech capacity to deal with it. And at the ports of entry — that’s where all the bad stuff is happening,” Biden said in an interview on Aug. 5.

The Border Wall

Pence was misleading when he said Trump has “secured our border and built nearly 300 miles of that border wall.”

According to an Aug. 7 story in the San Antonio Express-News, only five miles of new fencing have been constructed. The paper said 260 miles of replacement and secondary walls have been built. The border is about 2,000 miles. The paper said its story was based on data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

A wall on the Mexican border to keep out immigrants trying to illegally cross the border was a major campaign issue in 2016 for Trump and a frequent rallying cry since. Trump promised that Mexico would pay for the wall.

In our June 5 story, we reported that 194 miles of new fencing had been built under Trump as of May 22 and included only about “3 miles of new border wall system constructed in locations where no barriers previously existed,” according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The Trump administration has allocated funding for 400 miles of replacement walls, 57 miles of new secondary fencing and 281 miles of new primary walls, the Express-News said.

School Choice

Pence wrongly claimed that “Biden wants to end school choice.”

As we have written, Biden opposes federal funding going to “for-profit charter schools,” but schools managed by for-profit companies make up only a fraction of charter schools. The current percentage of charter schools that contract with Education Management Organizations, or EMOs — which are for-profit entities hired to manage charter schools — is about 10%, a researcher for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools told us in July.

And while Biden opposes vouchers for private school tuition — the ultimate in school choice for some — he does not oppose students choosing between public schools, magnet schools and high-performing charter schools.

According to a statement provided by a Biden campaign official to FactCheck.org in July, “VP Biden will do everything he can to help traditional public schools, which is what most students attend. As president, he will ban for-profit charter schools from receiving federal funds. He will also make sure that we stop funding charter schools that don’t provide results.” The campaign added that Biden “does not oppose districts letting parents choose to send their children to … high-performing public charters.”

Veterans Choice

Promoting Trump’s actions on behalf of veterans, Pence gave a misleading summary of the evolution of the Veterans Choice Program.

“And after years of scandal that robbed our veterans of the care that you earned in the uniform of the United States, President Trump kept his word again,” he said, referring to excessively long wait times for patients treated at VA hospitals. “We reformed the VA and veterans choice is now available for every veteran in America.”

While Pence makes it seem as though the president was the one to implement changes to improve wait times and health care for veterans, the Veterans Choice Program got its start well before Trump entered office. 

The program allowed veterans to seek health care outside the VA system if individuals lived far from VA facilities or had difficulty getting an appointment. Obama signed bipartisan legislation creating the program in August 2014.

Trump continued the program, and in July 2018 signed the VA MISSION Act — another piece of bipartisan legislation — that extended Veterans Choice for another year and then replaced the program with the Veterans Community Care Program, which began in June 2019.

The new program is similar, but more expansive. According to a 2018 Congressional Budget Office report, the Veterans Community Care Program is expected to refer an additional 640,000 veterans outside the VA health system in its early years. Still, there are eligibility requirements that veterans must meet to be able to receive care through the program.

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Sources

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Buchanan, Larry, et al. “Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History.” New York Times. 3 Jul 2020.

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