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Fact-Checking the ‘Final Arguments’ of Trump and Clinton | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Republican president nominee Donald Trump (Reuters/Carlo Allegri) and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

With the 2016 presidential election race coming to a close tomorrow, here’s a roundup of 29 claims being made by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in their “final argument” speeches. Trump repeated many of his greatest hits of debunked claims, and Clinton mainly attacked Trump.

Donald Trump

“I’m honored to have the endorsement of 200 — more than that now, much more than that — top admirals and generals.”

Trump has been making this claim for weeks. But the last news release from his campaign on flag officer endorsements, issued Sept. 16, only listed 164. The list currently stands at 165.

“It was reported last night that the FBI is conducting a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s pay-for-play corruption during her tenure as secretary of state. In other words, the FBI is investigating how Hillary Clinton put the office of secretary of state up for sale in violation of federal law.”

This is false. There were FBI agents who argued for the bureau to pursue an investigation into the Clinton Foundation and allegations of corruption and conflicts of interest. But senior law enforcement officials believed there wasn’t enough evidence to move forward, according to the Wall Street Journal‘s detailed account of the infighting over whether to investigate the Clinton Foundation.

“Nationwide, murders have experienced the largest single-year increase in 45 years…. A Trump administration will work with local and fed law enforcement to end this growing crime wave. It’s very substantial.”

We frequently warn against comparing crime trends from short periods of time, such as year over year. An annual trend can show a trajectory of where the trend might be headed but still does not give a full picture. Crime trends are determined over at least five years, preferably 10 or 20 years, of data. The sharp increase in violent crime rate and homicide rates in 2015 do not necessarily indicate a “crime wave.” Overall, violent crimes and murders have been declining nationwide since their peak in 1991.

“As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton allowed thousands of the most dangerous and violent criminal aliens to go free because their home countries were intelligent; they wouldn’t take them back.”

We have awarded Three Pinocchios to this claim. Under section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the secretary of state does have power to discontinue the granting of certain types of visas to countries that refuse to take back their citizens with U.S. deportation orders, including convicted criminals. Such action is taken rarely, and is used against relatively small countries with little economic power.

Trump goes too far suggesting that Clinton decided to allow these illegal immigrants to stay here. Under Clinton, the State Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2011 signed a memorandum of understanding to increase pressure on recalcitrant countries. This formalized a series of increasingly tougher steps that could be taken when dealing with countries that refuse to accept the return of their nationals.

“Let’s do this. Let’s not worry about it. Get out and vote by the millions, and we won’t have to worry about what’s taking place behind the scenes. Remember this, 1.8 million people that are dead are registered to vote. You know, they talk about, oh, that’s a threat to democracy what I’m saying, 1.8 million people, 2.75 million people are registered to vote in two states.”

This is a reference to findings of a 2012 Pew Center on the States study of ways to make the election system more accurate, cost-effective and efficient. There were more than 1.8 million records for people who are deceased, but whose registrations were still on voter rolls. About 2.75 million people were registered to vote in more than one state, which could happen if voters move to a new state and register to vote without notifying their former state. As we have noted, the study does not say that these problems indicated signs of isolated or widespread voter fraud, as Trump suggests.

“Hillary is the one who destroyed 33,000 emails after she got the subpoena, after. Before it’s no good, but after, no; that’s why something should’ve happened then, but that’s okay.”

Trump is technically correct on the timeline, but Clinton’s staff had requested the emails to be deleted months before the subpoena, according to the FBI’s August 2016 report. An employee of the company that managed her server told the FBI he had an “oh s— ” moment and realized he did not delete the emails until after the subpoena.

“I don’t know if you know, Hillary wanted a wall. Did you know that?”

Not exactly. Clinton supported the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorized the construction of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. The fence is mostly vehicle barriers and single-layer pedestrian fence. Trump has called for a border wall of precast concrete, as tall as 30 to 60 feet.

“Now ISIS is in 32 countries all around the world, and what a shame it is.”

Trump’s statement lacks context, and has earned Two Pinocchios. He could point to 32 countries — and probably more — where the Islamic State has conducted attacks, occupies territory or has terrorist cells that have pledged some sort of allegiance. But that is half the size of a comparable list for al-Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Hillary Clinton

“I am running against a man who says he doesn’t understand why we can’t use nuclear weapons. He actually said, then why are we making them? And he wants more countries to have nuclear weapons, Japan, and South Korea..”

These lines are all derived from actual statements by Trump, though in many cases he may have said it only once, and have been answers to questions asked by journalists.

“After the world watched with horror as the twin towers fell, he called in to a New York TV station, and even on that horrible day when thousands of people lost their lives, he couldn’t stop himself from pointing out that now, because the towers had fallen, a building he owned was the tallest in Lower Manhattan.”

This is correct. On Sept. 11, 2001, Trump called WWOR-TV in New York and made this observation during the 10-minute interview: “Forty Wall St. actually was the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan, and it was, actually, before the World Trade Center, was the tallest. And then when they built the World Trade Center, it became known as the second-tallest, and now it’s the tallest.”

“He is praising tyrants and dictators, like Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Un in North Korea and Bashar al-Assad for their supposed strong leadership. He even praised the Chinese government for massacring protesters in Tiananmen Square.”

There are strong elements of truth in this line, but some of it is exaggerated.

“It’s no surprise that not a single former president, secretary of state or national security adviser from either party has endorsed him.”

This is true. Most former Republican presidents, secretaries of state and national security advisers have remained silent, in stark contrast to the strong endorsements of Mitt Romney in 2012

“We’re going to finally guarantee equal pay for women’s work.”

There is no way to guarantee this. Clinton is referring to a proposed law called the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would make it easier to sue an employer. As we have often noted, the pay gap shrinks when factors within a women’s control, such as choice of occupation and work hours, are taken into consideration.

“He doesn’t think we should raise the national minimum wage.”

Trump has said this, but he’s also said the opposite. We counted at least five flip-flops by Trump on this issue. More recently, he has been open to raising the federal minimum wage.

“He’s hired hundreds of small business and contractors to do work for him and his hotels and his casinos, cabinet-makers, piano-sellers, drapery-printers, so many more. They did the work and then Donald refused to pay what he owed.”

Trump’s practice of not paying bills to contractors has been well documented.

“He told the students at Trump University that they would get an Ivy League education. They paid $10,000, $20,000, even $70,000 for courses that turned out to be worthless. Now they’re suing him for fraud, but he — he walked away with $5 million.”

The Clinton campaign can document all of these assertions. The reference to “Ivy League quality curriculums” appeared in Trump University press materials and on its website.

Court documents in one of the lawsuits against Trump over the university identify at least eight students who paid at least $70,000.

“Just last year he said again it wouldn’t have mattered if we’d rescued the auto industry or let it go bankrupt. What is he talking about? I’m proud that President Obama saved the auto industry.”

Clinton has recast a talking point that previously earned her Four Pinocchios. She used to say Trump opposed the government-led rescue of the auto industry in 2008-2009, but that was false. Now she has focused on a meandering comment about the auto bailout on Aug. 11, 2015, in which he tried to have it all ways.

Washington Post