Fact-checking the conventions: Facts behind claims made at the 2020 RNC, DNC

WASHINGTON -- The Associated Press took a look at the veracity of claims made by Democratic and Republican political figures at the 2020 convention.

This report was updated chronologically.

President Donald Trump's big moment


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Watch President Donald Trump's full speech at the White House for the RNC.


COVID-19


Trump: "Instead of following the science, Joe Biden wants to inflict a painful shutdown on the entire country. His shutdown would inflict unthinkable and lasting harm on our nation's children, families, and citizens of all backgrounds."

The facts: That's false. Biden has publicly said he would shut down the nation's economy only if scientists and public health advisers recommended he do so to stem the COVID-19 threat. In other words, he said he would follow the science, not disregard it.

Speaking Sunday in an ABC interview, Biden said he "will be prepared to do whatever it takes to save lives" when he was asked if he would be willing to shut the country again.

"So if the scientists say shut it down?" asked ABC's David Muir.

"I would shut it down," Biden responded. "I would listen to the scientists." The former vice president has said repeatedly that no one knows what January would look like.

Trump: "For those of you that still drive a car, look how low your gasoline bill is. You haven't seen that in a long time."

The facts: Trump seems to be taking credit for lower prices that were the byproduct of a pandemic that has killed more than 180,000 Americans.

Gasoline prices didn't fall because of the Trump administration. They plunged because of the coronavirus forcing people to abandon their offices, schools, business trips and vacations.

As more people worked from home, they needed to fill up their cars less frequently. Airlines didn't need to burn through as much fuel. Here's the statement from the U.S. Energy Information Administration: "Reduced economic activity related to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused changes in energy demand and supply patterns in 2020." World demand for oil has fallen by 8 million barrels a day, according to that agency's estimates.

Trump: "The United States has among the lowest case fatality rates of any major country anywhere in the world."

The facts: Not true. Not if you consider Russia, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and India to be major countries.

The U.S. sits right in the middle when it comes to COVID-19 mortality rates in the 20 nations most impacted by the pandemic, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

Of the 20, Mexico has the highest mortality rate at 10.8 deaths for every 100 confirmed COVID cases, followed by Ecuador at 5.8. Saudi Arabia had the lowest rate of the 20 nations at 1.2, followed by Bangladesh, the Philippines, Russia, Morocco, India, Argentina, South Africa and Chile.

The U.S. had the 10th lowest of the 20 nations, with a mortality rate of 3.1.

When the center looked at the data in another way, analyzing the COVID death rate for every 100,000 residents, the U.S. fares even worse. Only three nations - Brazil, Chile and Peru - posted higher death rates.

Understanding deaths as a percentage of the population or as a percentage of known infections is problematic because countries track and report COVID-19 deaths and cases differently. Many other factors are in play in shaping a death toll besides how well a country responded to the pandemic, such as the overall health or youth of national populations.

Education


Trump: "Biden also vowed to oppose school choice and oppose all charter schools."

The facts: That's false. Biden doesn't oppose charter schools. He opposes federal money going to for-profit charter companies.

Such firms are only a slice of the charter school market, meaning Biden's position wouldn't substantially alter the charter landscape that is dominated by non-profit organizations.

Biden does oppose federal money for tuition vouchers.

Military


Trump: "We have spent $2.5 trillion on completely rebuilding our military, which was very badly depleted when I took office, as you know."

The facts: That's an exaggeration.

His administration has accelerated a sharp buildup in defense spending and paused spending limits but a number of new Pentagon weapons programs, such as the F-35 fighter jet, predate Trump.

The Air Force's Minuteman 3 missiles, a key part of the U.S. nuclear force, for instance, have been operating since the early 1970s and the modernization was begun under the Obama administration.

Veterans


Trump: "We also passed VA accountability and VA Choice, our great veterans. We are taking care of our veterans."

The facts: False. He didn't get Veterans Choice approved; President Barack Obama did in 2014. Trump expanded it, under a 2018 law known as the MISSION Act. It allows veterans to get health care outside the VA system at public expense under certain conditions.

Energy


Trump, claiming to have "secured for the first time American energy independence."

The facts: This is misleading. The pandemic has severely lessened the demand for crude oil. But through June, the United States was still importing more crude oil than it was selling overseas, according to the Census Bureau.

While the United States has become less reliant on foreign oil, it only produces 11.3 million barrels a day and consumes 18.5 million barrels of liquid fuels daily, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Technological advances like fracking and horizontal drilling have allowed the U.S. to greatly increase production, but the country still imports millions of barrels of oil from Saudi Arabia, Canada, Iraq and other countries. One reason is that foreign oil is more affordable. Another is that much of what the U.S. produces is hard for domestic refiners to convert to practical use. So the U.S. exports that production and imports oil that is more suitable for American refineries to handle.

Ivanka Trump on coronavirus testing


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Ivanka Trump's full speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention.



Ivanka Trump: "Our president rapidly mobilized the full force of government and the private sector to produce ventilators within weeks - to build the most robust testing system in the world."

The facts: Her assertion of superior U.S. testing for COVID-19 is dubious. The U.S. repeatedly stumbled with testing in the early weeks of the outbreak, allowing the virus to quickly spread in the U.S. His own experts say the U.S. is nowhere near the level of testing needed to control the virus.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently testified that health officials are still working to significantly increase testing capacity, calling such expansion a "critical underpinning of our response."

The U.S. currently is conducting nearly 750,000 tests a day, far short of what many public health experts say the U.S. should be testing to control the spread of the virus. Looking to the fall, some experts have called for 4 million or more tests daily, while a group assembled by Harvard University estimated that 20 million a day would be needed to keep the virus in check.

Redfield has said the U.S. was aiming to boost testing to 3 million daily by "pooling" multiple people's samples, a technique that is still under review by the FDA. He stressed the need for expanded surveillance because some people who get infected may not show symptoms.

"We still have a ways to go," Redfield said.

Frequent shortages also spurred the CDC to quietly issue new guidance on testing. While in the early months of the outbreak Trump repeatedly insisted that "anybody" who wants a test can get a test, Redfield issued a statement this week that "'Everyone who wants a test does not necessarily need a test."

The U.S. stumbled early in the pandemic response as the CDC struggled to develop its own test for the coronavirus in January, later discovering problems in its kits sent to state and county public health labs in early February.

It took the CDC more than two weeks to come up with a fix to the test kits, leading to delays in diagnoses through February, a critical month when the virus took root in the U.S.

Rudy Giuliani on Black Lives Matter


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Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and a Trump legal adviser, addresses law-and-order issues on night four of the Republican National Convention.


Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney and former New York mayor: "Black Lives Matter and antifa sprang into action and, in a flash, they hijacked the peaceful protest into vicious, brutal riots."

The facts: That's a hollow claim.

There's no evidence that Black Lives Matter or antifa, or any political group for that matter, is infiltrating racial injustice protests with violence.

In June, The Associated Press analyzed court records, employment histories and social media posts for 217 people arrested in Minneapolis and the District of Columbia, cities at the center of the protests earlier this year.

More than 85 percent of the people arrested were local residents, and few had affiliation with any organized groups. Social media posts for a few of those arrested indicated they were involved in left-leaning activities while others expressed support for the political right and Trump himself.

Local police departments across the country were forced to knock down widespread social media rumors that busloads of "antifa," a term for leftist militants, were coming to violently disrupt cities and towns during nationwide racial justice protests. In June, Twitter and Facebook busted accounts linked to white supremacy groups that were promoting some of those falsehoods online.

Sen. Tom Cotton on Biden


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Sen. Tom Cotton, of Arkansas, speaks on night four of the Republican National Convention.


Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas: "Joe Biden sent pallets of cash to the ayatollahs."

The facts: This is a distorted tale Trump and Republicans loves to tell. Yes, the U.S. flew cash to Iran in the Obama years, but it was money the United States owed to that country.

Cotton is also playing into the convention's pattern of attributing every action of President Barack Obama's administration to Biden personally.

VIDEOS: Mike Pence, Kellyanne Conway speak on night 3 on the 2020 RNC
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Speakers from night 3 of the 2020 Republican National Convention: VIDEOS (1 of 44)

Watch Vice President Mike Pence's full speech for the Republican National Convention.



Mike Pence's speech


Economy


Pence, in prepared remarks: "Four years ago, we inherited ... an economy struggling to break out of the slowest recovery since the Great Depression. Despite unrelenting opposition and obstruction from the swamp in Washington, we built the greatest economy in the world."

The facts: That's a highly misleading portrait. Obama started the longest expansion in U.S. history and prevailed over most of it.

The expansion was indeed slow, but growth under Trump has basically been the same: 2.3% in the final four years of Obama compared with 2.5% in the first three years of Trump. Trump took office with unemployment at a low 4.7%, steady job growth and a falling federal budget deficit.

And Trump's record on economic growth is about to get crushed by the current recession brought on by the pandemic, a public-health crisis that the White House said early on would not hurt the economy.

Police


Pence: "When asked whether he'd support cutting funding to law enforcement, Joe Biden replied, 'Yes, absolutely.' 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."

The facts: That's misleading, a selective use of Biden's words on the subject. Biden does not propose defunding the police, but rather giving them more money, conditioned on improvements in policing. Biden's actual position on this has been ignored at the GOP convention.

Pence is referring to an excerpted video clip of Biden's conversation with liberal activist Ady Barkan. In the fuller conversation, Biden declined to support defunding police, his consistent stance.

Barkan raises the issue of police reform and asks whether Biden would funnel money into social services, mental health counseling and affordable housing to help reduce civilian interactions with police. Biden responds that he is calling for more money for mental health providers but "that's not the same as getting rid of or defunding all the police" and that more money for community policing must be provided, too.

Barkan asks: "So we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?" Biden then answers "absolutely yes."

Biden then gives the caveat that he means "not just redirect" federal money potentially but "condition" it on police improvements. "If they don't eliminate chokeholds, they don't get (federal) grants, if they don't do the following, they don't get any (federal) help," Biden replied, noting federal aid is only a supplement to departments financed mainly by localities and states.

Veterans



Pence: "We reformed the VA and Veterans Choice is now available for every veteran in America."

The facts: Veterans Choice is far from available to every veteran.

It's true that Trump expanded the Obama-era program, which allows veterans to see a private doctor for primary or mental health care if their VA wait is 20 days (28 for specialty care) or their drive to a VA facility is 30 minutes or more.

But in March, VA halted much of the program due to the coronavirus outbreak and restricted veterans' access to private doctors, citing the added risks of infection and limited capacity at private hospitals.

Under the temporary guidelines, the VA reviewed referrals for non-emergency care "on a case-by-case basis for immediate clinical need and with regard to the safety of the veteran when being seen in-person, regardless of wait time or drive time eligibility," according to VA.

The move drew criticism from several veterans' groups and conservatives as rendering the program ineffective.

Jack Brewer on Charlottesville


Jack Brewer, former NFL player: "Are you going to allow the media to lie to you by falsely claiming that he said there are very fine white supremacists in Charlottesville? He didn't say that. It's a lie."

The facts: Trump said this at a news conference: Racial protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 had "very fine people on both sides." One side was made up of a loosely connected mix of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists.

Trump's comment conveyed sympathy for racists by declining to single out and call out the violence they perpetuated and by suggesting the episode was merely a contest of legitimate grievances.

The violence broke out after those protesters assembled to demonstrate against the city's decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Pressed at the Aug. 15, 2017, news conference, Trump acknowledged there were "some very bad people" looking for trouble in the group protesting plans to remove the statue. "But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides," he continued. "You had people in that group, excuse me, excuse me, I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park, from Robert E. Lee to another name."

Later in the news conference, he tried to clarify that "I'm not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists - because they should be condemned totally."

But he went on to assert that the conspicuously racist rally - partly organized by white nationalist Richard Spencer and with former Ku Klux Klan head David Duke as a scheduled speaker - had many other people who weren't white supremacists, and there are "two sides to a story ... two sides to the country."

Gov Kristi Noem on the economy


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South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem speaks on night three of the Republican National Convention.


Gov Kristi Noem of South Dakota: "In just four years, President Trump has lifted people of all races and backgrounds out of poverty. He shrunk government and put money back into the pockets of hardworking, ordinary Americans."

The facts: Only this is true: Americans did get money back in the form of tax cuts and in direct government payments after the economy plunged into a recession this year from the coronavirus.

Everything else is wrong. The government is still huge, not shrinking as she said. Federal spending was 20.6% of the gross domestic product in 2016, Obama's last year, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget. That percentage has gone up and down but was 20.8% in 2019. It probably surged this year due to the fastest and sharpest downturn in modern U.S. history.

The pandemic-induced recession has also flung millions of Americans back into poverty - as expanded government aid has expired. The unemployment rate is 10.2%, versus 4.7% when Trump took office. There are 14.8 million Americans collecting jobless aid, while just 2 million were doing so when Trump became president.

Kayleigh McEnany on health care


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White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday night during the Republican National Convention that Trump has supported her both as a new mom and after a preventative mastectomy.


Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary: "I can tell you that this president stands by Americans with preexisting conditions."

The facts: No, people with preexisting medical problems have health insurance protections because of Obama's health care law, which Trump is trying to dismantle.

One of Trump's alternatives to Obama's law - short-term health insurance, already in place - doesn't have to cover preexisting conditions. Another alternative is association health plans, which are oriented to small businesses and sole proprietors and do cover preexisting conditions.

Neither of the two alternatives appears to have made much difference in the market.

Meanwhile, Trump's administration is pressing the Supreme Court for full repeal of the Obama-era law, including provisions that protect people with preexisting conditions from health insurance discrimination.

With "Obamacare" still in place, preexisting conditions continue to be covered by regular individual health insurance plans.

Before the Affordable Care Act, any insurer could deny coverage - or charge more - to anyone with a preexisting condition who was seeking to buy an individual policy.

Larry Kudlow on the economy


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Larry Kudlow speaks at the 2020 Republican National Convention on Tuesday, Aug. 25.


Larry Kudlow, Trump economic adviser: Trump was "inheriting a stagnant economy on the front end of recession," and under the president, "the economy was rebuilt in three years."

The facts: This is false. The economy was healthy when Trump arrived at the White House.

Even if the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis was agonizingly slow, Trump took office with unemployment at a low 4.7%, steady job growth and a falling federal budget deficit. The longest expansion in U.S. history began in the middle of 2009 and continued until the start of the year, spanning both the Barack Obama and Trump presidencies.

The U.S. economy did benefit from Trump's 2017 tax cuts with a jump in growth in 2018, but the budget deficit began to climb as a result of the tax breaks that favored companies and the wealthy in hopes of permanently expanding the economy.

Annual growth during Obama's second term averaged about 2.3%. Trump notched a slightly better 2.5% during his first three years, but the country swung into recession this year because of the coronavirus and will probably leave Trump with an inferior track record to his predecessor over four years.

Sen. Rand Paul on the Iraq war


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Sen. Rand Paul speaks at the 2020 Republican National Convention on Tuesday, Aug. 25.


Sen. Rand Paul: "Joe Biden voted for the Iraq war, which President Trump has long called the worst geopolitical mistake of our generation."

The facts: Trump had no more foresight on this matter than Biden. Neither was against it when it started.

When asked during a Sept. 11, 2002, radio interview if he would support an Iraq invasion, Trump responded, "Yeah, I guess so." The next month, Biden as a senator voted to authorize George W. Bush to use force in Iraq.

The next March, just days after the U.S. launched its invasion, Trump said it "looks like a tremendous success from a military standpoint."

It wasn't until September 2003 that Trump first publicly raised doubts about the invasion, saying "a lot of people (are) questioning the whole concept of going in in the first place." In November 2005, Biden called his Senate vote to authorize force a mistake.

Eric Trump on the military


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Eric Trump speaks at the 2020 Republican National Convention on Tuesday, Aug. 25.



Eric Trump: "My father rebuilt the mighty American military - added new jets, aircraft carriers."

The facts:That's an exaggeration.

It's true that his administration has accelerated a sharp buildup in defense spending, including a respite from what the U.S. military considered to be crippling spending limits under budget sequestration.

But a number of new Pentagon weapons programs, such as the F-35 fighter jet, were started years before the Trump administration. And it will take years for freshly ordered tanks, planes and other weapons to be built, delivered and put to use.

The Air Force's Minuteman 3 missiles, a key part of the U.S. nuclear force, for instance, have been operating since the early 1970s and the modernization was begun under the Obama administration. They are due to be replaced with a new version, but not until later this decade.

Donald Trump Jr. on the economy and COVID-19


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Donald Trump Jr. speaks at the 2020 Republican National Convention on Monday, Aug. 24.



COVID-19


Donald Trump Jr. on the coronavirus response: "The president quickly took action and shut down travel from China."

The facts: He didn't shut down travel from China. He restricted it. Dozens of countries took similar steps to control travel from hot spots before or around the same time the U.S. did.

The U.S. restrictions that took effect Feb. 2 continued to allow travel to the U.S. from China's Hong Kong and Macao territories over the past five months. The Associated Press reported that more than 8,000 Chinese and foreign nationals based in those territories entered the U.S. in the first three months after the travel restrictions were imposed.

Additionally, more than 27,000 Americans returned from mainland China in the first month after the restrictions took effect. U.S. officials lost track of more than 1,600 of them who were supposed to be monitored for virus exposure.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, the No. 2 official at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also told The Associated Press that the federal government was slow to understand how much coronavirus was spreading from Europe, which helped drive the acceleration of outbreaks across the U.S. in late February. Trump didn't announce travel restrictions for many European countries until mid-March.

Donald Trump Jr: "The president acted quickly and ensured ventilators got to hospitals that needed them most. He delivered PP&E to our brave front-line workers."

The facts:: No, not all hospitals and front-line workers got the ventilators and personal protective equipment they needed. States were left scrambling in the early weeks of the pandemic, while Trump scoffed at some of their requests, calling them inflated.

New York acquired a shipment of 1,000 ventilators f rom the Chinese government and 140 from the state of Oregon. Massachusetts borrowed the New England Patriots' jet to pick up 1 million masks from China.

While California Gov. Gavin Newsom was tracking down 10,000 ventilators for his state, he got 170 broken ones from the national stockpile. And a federal shipment of 300,000 N95 masks that Illinois was supposed to receive in March turned out to be less-effective surgical masks instead, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at the time.

Economy


Donald Trump Jr, on his father: "So if you're looking for hope, look to the man who did what the failed Obama-Biden administration never could do and built the greatest economy our country has ever seen."

The facts: That's false. The economy was healthy before the coronavirus pandemic hit but not the best in U.S. history.

Economic gains largely followed along the lines of an expansion that started more than a decade ago under Obama. And while posting great job and stock market numbers, Trump never managed to achieve the rates of economic growth he promised in the 2016 campaign, nor growth rates seen in the past.

The Obama-Trump years yielded the longest economic expansion in U.S. history, but not the greatest,

St. Louis lawyers and suburbs


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Mark and Patricia McCloskey, a white St. Louis couple criminally charged for waving guns during a Black Lives Matter protest outside their home, made their case in their opening night speech of the Republican National Convention.


A St. Louis lawyer featured during the Republican National Convention falsely claimed that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his party want to "abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning."

Biden does not propose banishing single-family homes. Nor would he get rid of the suburbs.

The accusation that he would came Monday night from Patricia McCloskey, celebrated by President Donald Trump and his convention for standing outside her St. Louis home with a gun and her husband, Mark, also armed, as racial justice protesters passed. The McCloskeys have been charged with a felony for brandishing their guns.

Patricia McCloskey: "They want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning. This forced rezoning would bring crime, lawlessness and low-quality apartments into thriving suburban neighborhoods. President Trump smartly ended this government overreach, but Joe Biden wants to bring it back." - videotaped remarks to the remote convention.

The facts: That's a false account of what Biden supports.

In 2015, during the Obama administration, a regulation took effect intended to ensure that communities confront racial segregation in housing.

The rule, put in place to strengthen enforcement of the landmark Fair Housing Act of 1968, for the first time required more than 1,200 jurisdictions receiving federal Housing and Urban Development block grants and housing aid to analyze their housing stock and come up with plans to combat patterns of segregation and discrimination.

The rule did not eliminate zoning for single-family homes in the suburbs.

The Trump administration suspended full implementation of the rule in 2018 and withdrew a data tool designed to help cities analyze their housing, arguing it was too costly and burdensome.

Then last month Trump revoked the rule and tweeted to the "Suburban Housewives of America" that "Biden will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream." He made what fair housing advocates considered a racist argument playing on unfounded fears that low-income apartments would be forced into affluent neighborhoods.

Biden supports the 2015 regulation. But he does not support requiring municipalities to refrain from building single-family homes as a condition for getting money from HUD - the heart of the distorted claims by Trump and the McCloskeys.

The issue has become a sensitive election-year topic, especially in light of the protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

Rep. Steve Scalise on police


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Rep. Steve Scalise speaks at the 2020 Republican National Convention on Monday, Aug. 24.


Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana on the police: "Joe Biden has embraced the left's insane mission to defund them."

The facts: No, Biden has explicitly rejected the call by some on the left to defund the police. He has proposed more money for police, conditioned on improvements in their practices.

Biden's criminal justice agenda, released long before the protests over racial injustice, proposes more federal money for "training that is needed to avert tragic, unjustifiable deaths" and hiring more officers to ensure that departments are racially and ethnically reflective of the populations they serve.

Specifically, he calls for a $300 million infusion into federal community policing grant programs. That's more money, not less.

Nikki Haley, Rep. Jim Jordan, RNC chair on the Biden agenda


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Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at the 2020 Republican National Convention on Monday, Aug. 24.


Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations, on the Democrats: "They want a government takeover of health care. They want to ban fracking and kill millions of jobs."

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio on the Democratic agenda: "Defund the police, defund border patrol and defund our military."

Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee: "You deserve to know that they would ban fracking and eliminate fossil fuels, which would kill millions of good-paying jobs and raise the cost of driving our cars and heating our homes. You deserve to know that they want a complete government takeover of our health care system, so moms like me won't be able to take our kids to the same pediatrician they've been seeing for years."

The facts: Those aren't Biden's positions. A number of Republican speakers seized on proposals of the Democratic left, in some cases distorting those positions, and assigned them to Biden, who doesn't share those views.

He does not favor a government takeover of health care; instead he proposes building on "Obamacare," which preserves the private insurance market while expanding Medicaid.

He also did not endorse proposals to cease border enforcement or even to decriminalize illegal crossings.

Biden supports banning only new oil and gas permits, fracking included, on federal land. But most U.S. production is on private land - the U.S. Bureau of Land Management says production on federal land accounted for less than 10% of oil and gas in 2018.

In a March 15 primary debate, Biden misstated his energy policy, suggesting he would allow no new fracking. His campaign quickly corrected the record. Biden has otherwise been consistent on his middle-of-the-road position, going so far as to tell an anti-fracking activist that he "ought to vote for somebody else" if he wanted an immediate fracking ban.

McDaniel: "You deserve to know about their plans to raise taxes on 82% of Americans."

The facts: That's not the plan. Biden says he won't raise taxes on anyone making under $400,000.

An analysis of Biden's tax plan by the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Wharton Budget Model in March found that the bottom 90 percent of income earners would not pay more in federal income taxes under Biden's proposal.

VIDEOS: Speakers on the 1st night of the 2020 RNC
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Speakers from night 1 of the 2020 Republican National Convention: VIDEOS (1 of 16)

Sen. Tim Scott speaks at the 2020 Republican National Convention on Monday, Aug. 24.



Trump's fiction on health care, voting fraud


Health care



Trump: "We protected your preexisting conditions. Very strongly protected preexisting ... and you don't hear that."

The facts: You don't hear it because it's not true.

People with preexisting medical problems have health insurance protections because of President Barack Obama's health care law, which Trump is trying to dismantle.

One of Trump's alternatives to Obama's law - short-term health insurance, already in place - doesn't have to cover preexisting conditions. Another alternative is association health plans, which are oriented to small businesses and sole proprietors and do cover preexisting conditions.

Neither of the two alternatives appears to have made much difference in the market.

Meanwhile, Trump's administration is pressing the Supreme Court for full repeal of the Obama-era law, including provisions that protect people with preexisting conditions from health insurance discrimination.

With "Obamacare" still in place, preexisting conditions continue to be covered by regular individual health insurance plans.

Insurers must take all applicants, regardless of medical history, and charge the same standard premiums to healthy people and those who are in poor health, or have a history of medical problems.

Before the Affordable Care Act, any insurer could deny coverage - or charge more - to anyone with a preexisting condition who was seeking to buy an individual policy.

Democratic attacks on Republican efforts to repeal the health law and weaken preexisting condition protections proved successful in the 2018 midterms, when Democrats won back control of the House.

Voting fraud


Trump, on mail-in voting: "Absentee - like in Florida - absentee is good. But other than that, they're very, very bad."

The facts: He's making a false distinction. Mail-in ballots are cast in the same way as absentee mail ballots, with the same level of scrutiny such as signature verification in many states.

In more than 30 states and the District of Columbia, voters have a right to "no excuse" absentee voting. That means they can use mail-in ballots for any reason, regardless of whether a person is out of town or working.

In Florida, the Legislature in 2016 voted to change the wording of such balloting from "absentee" to "vote-by-mail" to make clear a voter can cast such ballots if they wish. So there is no "absentee" voting in that state, as Trump alludes to.

More broadly, voter fraud has proved exceedingly rare. The Brennan Center for Justice in 2017 ranked the risk of ballot fraud at 0.00004% to 0.0009%, based on studies of past elections.

Only nine states currently have plans for "universal" mail-in voting, where ballots are sent automatically to registered voters. Five of those states relied on mail-in ballots even before the coronavirus pandemic raised concerns about voting in person.

Trump, on the November vote count and Democrats: "We have to be very, very careful and this time they are trying to do it with the whole post office scam. They will blame it on the post office. You can see them setting it up."

The facts: No postal scam has emerged from the Democrats. Instead Trump has given credence to suspicions that he wants to suppress mail-in voting to help his chances in the election.

He's said as much. In an interview this month, he admitted he's trying to starve the U.S. Postal Service of money in order to make it harder to process an expected surge of mail-in ballots, which he worries could cost him the election.

Trump explicitly noted funding provisions that Democrats are seeking in a relief package that has stalled on Capitol Hill. Without the additional money, he said, the Postal Service won't have the resources to handle a flood of ballots from voters who are seeking to avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.

"If we don't make a deal, that means they don't get the money," Trump told Fox Business Network. "That means they can't have universal mail-in voting; they just can't have it."

Over the weekend, the House approved legislation that would reverse recent changes in postal operations and send $25 billion to shore up the agency before the November election, but the White House has said Trump would veto it.

During a House hearing, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy acknowledged that Trump's repeated attacks on mail-in ballots are "not helpful," but he denied that recent cuts were linked to the election.

Trump, on defective ballots in an election: "What does defective mean? It means fraud."

The facts: No, defective ballots do not equate to fraud. The overwhelming majority aren't.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the vast majority of ballots are disqualified because they arrive late, a particular worry this year because of recent U.S. Postal Service delays and an expected surge in mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ballots also are deemed defective if there is a missing signature - common with newer voters unfamiliar with the process - or it doesn't match what's on file. In addition, some states require absentee voters to get a witness or notary to sign their ballots.

"None of those are fraud," said Wendy Weiser, director of Brennan's democracy program at NYU School of Law. When suspected cases are investigated for potential fraud, studies have borne out the main reason for defects is voter mistake, she said.

Defective ballots also disproportionately impact voters of color, and recent lawsuits have successfully challenged some requirements as posing health risks or disenfranchising voters. Earlier this year, for instance, a federal judge ruled that a South Carolina requirement to have witnesses to mail-in ballots could put voters' health at risk and suspended it for the June primary. Others states including Minnesota and Rhode Island have also suspended that requirement due to the pandemic.

While the rates of defective ballots are unacceptable, "people should still feel confident in their votes, and they should follow-up," Weiser said. "People should know these problems are being fought over and hopefully many will be mitigated and addressed before November."

Trump's distortion on Dems and the pledge


President Donald Trump is accusing the Democrats of taking God out of the Pledge of Allegiance at their national convention. He's distorting what happened.

Trump: "The Democrats took the word GOD out of the Pledge of Allegiance at the Democrat National Convention. At first I thought they made a mistake, but it wasn't. It was done on purpose. Remember Evangelical Christians, and ALL, this is where they are coming from-it's done. Vote Nov 3!" - tweet Saturday.

The facts: That's a misleading accusation. The central programming of the convention featured the entire pledge, complete with "under God."

The first night of the Democratic National Convention, Joe Biden's grandchildren said the pledge, followed by the convention's chorus of "The Star Spangled Banner." On the second night, it's stated by a diverse group of Americans; same with the third night. On the fourth night, it's recited by Cedric Richmond Jr., the son of Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana. "Under God" was in each rendering. The convention also devoted a segment to showcasing Biden's religious faith.

During two caucuses before the evening conventions started, the Muslim Delegates and Allies Assembly and the LGBTQ Caucus meeting, both Tuesday, left out "under God," from the pledge. The party's series of caucus meetings was livestreamed but not part of the prime-time convention broadcast.

The pledge was written in 1892 and altered in the 1920s. "Under God" was added in 1954, when President Dwight Eisenhower encouraged Congress to do so. Those two words have prompted a debate at times over whether people who do not practice religion should be expected to pledge allegiance to a country under God.

Cory Booker on minimum wage and poverty


Americans tuned into the Democratic National Convention were told Thursday that the higher minimum wage favored by presidential candidate Joe Biden would lift all full-time workers out of poverty. That's not what $15 an hour is likely to do.

Sen. Cory Booker: "Together, with Joe and Kamala in the White House, we'll raise the minimum wage so no one who works a full-time job lives in poverty."
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New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker speaks at the 2020 Democratic National Convention on Thursday, Aug. 20.



The facts: That's an improbable outcome for the $15 minimum wage supported by Biden.

A 2019 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour would lift 1.3 million Americans out of poverty, a small fraction of the roughly 38 million people living in poverty in 2018.

Moreover, the report estimated a $15 minimum wage would cost 1.3 million people their jobs because they would be priced out of the market.

Altogether, some 17 million people might see higher pay, the office said, but not enough to raise most who are below the poverty line above it.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report on the working poor in 2018, 3.7 million people who usually worked full-time were below the poverty level. That finding suggests that a $15 federal minimum would not take all full-time workers out of poverty. And, of course, it would still leave millions of part-time workers and the unemployed in poverty.

Michelle Obama on kids in 'cages'


Michelle Obama assailed President Donald Trump on Monday for ripping migrant children from their parents and throwing them into cages, picking up on a frequent and distorted point made widely by Democrats.

She's right that Trump's now-suspended policy at the U.S.-Mexico border separated thousands of children from their families in ways that had not been done before. But what she did not say is that the very same "cages" were built and used in her husband's administration, for the same purpose of holding migrant kids temporarily.

A look at her remark in the keynote address at the opening night of the remote Democratic National Convention:

Michelle Obama on Americans: "They watch in horror as children are torn from their families and thrown into cages."
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Watch former first lady Michelle Obama's full remarks on the first night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention.



The facts: The reference to cages is misleading and a matter that Democrats have persistently distorted.

Trump used facilities that were built during the Obama-Biden administration to house children at the border. They are chain-link enclosures inside border facilities where migrants were temporarily housed, separated by sex and age.

At the height of the controversy over Trump's zero-tolerance policy at the border, photos that circulated online of children in the enclosures generated great anger. But those photos -- by The Associated Press -- were taken in 2014 and depicted some of the thousands of unaccompanied children held by President Barack Obama.

When that fact came to light, some Democrats and activists who had tweeted the photos deleted their tweets. But prominent Democrats have continued to cite cages for children as a distinctive cruelty of Trump.

The former first lady was correct, however, in addressing the removal of children from parents at the border.

The Obama administration separated migrant children from families under certain limited circumstances, like when the child's safety appeared at risk or when the parent had a serious criminal history.

But family separations as a matter of routine came about because of Trump's "zero tolerance" enforcement policy, which he eventually suspended because of the uproar. Obama had no such policy.
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