AP FACT CHECK: Claims in the VP debate
WASHINGTON (AP) — Not all the claims in the vice presidential debate stand up to scrutiny. A look at some of them and how they compare with the facts:
DEMOCRAT TIM KAINE: While secretary of state, Hillary Clinton “worked a tough negotiation with nations around the world to eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program without firing a shot.”
REPUBLICAN MIKE PENCE: “Eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program?”
KAINE: “Absolutely, without firing a shot.”
THE FACTS: Kaine both overstates what the Iran deal does and gives too much credit to Clinton.
The deal pulls Iran back from atomic weapons capability in exchange for the end of various sanctions, but it does so only for a limited time. The deal’s most serious nuclear restrictions begin to sunset in about a decade, meaning the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran could re-emerge.
And while Clinton helped set the stage for the deal by pushing for increased sanctions on Iran and arranging preliminary talks, the deal itself was negotiated by her successor, Secretary of State John Kerry.
KAINE: “Donald Trump started this campaign in 2014 and he said, ‘If I run for president, I will absolutely release my taxes.’ ... He’s broken his first promise.”
PENCE: He hasn’t broken his promise. ...Look, Donald Trump has filed over 100 pages of financial disclosure, which is what the law requires. Senator, he’s going to release his tax returns when the audit is over...”
THE FACTS: In a 2014 interview with an Irish television station, Trump said, “If I decide to run for office, I will release my tax returns. Absolutely. I would love to do that.” Trump’s promise may not be broken yet, but time is running out for him to do what all modern-day presidential candidates have done as a gesture of transparency: release their taxes. Democrat Hillary Clinton and both candidates for vice president have done so.
Trump has repeatedly said he won’t release his because he says they’re under audit by the Internal Revenue Service and his attorneys have advised against it. Tax experts and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen have said such audits don’t bar taxpayers from releasing their returns. President Richard Nixon released his taxes in the middle of an audit.
Pence suggests that legally required financial disclosure filings accomplish much the same thing, but those forms do not reveal as much detailed financial information as tax returns, including how much tax was paid and how much was donated to charity.
REPUBLICAN MIKE PENCE: “The fact that under this past administration, we’ve almost doubled the national debt is atrocious. ... Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want more of the same.”
THE FACTS: As a share of the total U.S. economy, the national debt has gone up 35 percent — not a doubling.
Still, the debt has ballooned to $19.6 trillion. This largely reflected efforts by the Obama administration to stop the Great Recession.
Would Clinton similarly increase the debt? Not according to an analysis by the independent Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
The Clinton plan with its tax increases would increase the gross debt — both privately and publicly held— by $450 billion over 10 years. Mind you, that is on top of an $8.8 trillion increase already projected by the government under current law.
As for Donald Trump, the committee says his tax-cut-heavy plan would increase the gross debt by $4.3 trillion —nearly 10 times more than Clinton’s plan would do.
DEMOCRAT TIM KAINE on immigration: “Our plan is like Ronald Reagan in 1986.”
THE FACTS: There are similarities for sure but Clinton’s proposal would have far broader impact. The estimated population of immigrants living in the United States illegally is now roughly 11 million. In 1986, the so-called Reagan amnesty bill legalized the immigration status of about 3 million people.
There are also some notable differences between the law signed by President Reagan and Clinton’s proposal. The Reagan law included a provision that made it illegal for businesses to hire workers who don’t have the legal right to work in the United States. Enforcement of that provision has never fully materialized. Clinton’s plan as laid out in her campaign website does not address workforce enforcement.
DEMOCRAT TIM KAINE, on fighting the Islamic State: “Donald Trump doesn’t have a plan.”
THE FACTS: Clinton also doesn’t have a plan that is materially different than what President Barack Obama is already doing.
She’s described a three-part strategy that involves crushing IS “on its home turf” in the Middle East, disrupting its infrastructure on the ground and online, and protecting America and its allies. All are current elements of the Obama administration’s strategy, so it’s not clear what would change or if she would accelerate any portions of it.
It’s also the case that Trump has not laid out a clear plan, though he claims to have a “secret” one that he won’t detail.
PENCE: “The Trump Foundation is a private family foundation. They give virtually every cent in the Trump Foundation to charitable causes. Less than 10 cents on the dollar in the Clinton Foundation has gone to charitable causes.”
THE FACTS: Rather than send money to other charities, the Clinton Foundation tends to spend its money on its own charitable programs. Pence’s claim ignores these internal initiatives, overlooking the Clinton Foundation’s work on African farming, climate change and AIDS treatment. Many non-profits spend the bulk of their charitable money on their own efforts rather than on outside charitable groups.
As for Trump’s foundation, multiple questions have been raised about its namesake’s generosity.
Money has been used to buy paintings of Trump and a signed football helmet that belonged to Tim Tebow. Money from the foundation has also helped settle legal cases against Trump’s for-profit businesses, according to The Washington Post. Trump even paid the IRS a $2,500 penalty this year after it was uncovered that the foundation broke tax laws by giving a political contribution to Florida’s attorney general.
PENCE, calling Clinton the “architect of the Obama administration’s foreign policy,” says the crisis in Syria was the result of a “failed and weak foreign policy that Hillary Clinton helped lead.”
THE FACTS: Clinton, as secretary of state, actually pushed for increased U.S. intervention after Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against rebels. But Obama is the commander in chief and nothing has swayed him thus far. Whatever her failings might be on foreign policy, it’s a stretch to accuse her of helping to lead a weak policy on Syria.
PENCE: “Hillary Clinton had a private server in her home that had classified information on it about drone strikes. Emails from the president of the United States of America were on there, her private server was subject to being hacked by foreign ...”
KAINE: “A Republican FBI director did an investigation and concluded ... there was no reasonable prosecutor who would take it further.”
THE FACTS: Both are right, but they left out key details. Of 30,000 emails examined from Clinton’s private server, more than 2,000 did contain some classified information. But nearly all were designated classified long after they were either sent or received by Clinton. FBI Director James Comey also said the FBI found that Clinton’s server was vulnerable to hacking by foreign powers but found no evidence that her system was breached.
Comey indeed concluded that no reasonable prosecutor would have recommended that Clinton or others face prosecution in the email probe. As for his being a “Republican FBI director,” he was a Republican for most of his adult life, but says he’s no longer registered with the party.
PENCE: “We’ve seen an economy stifled by more taxes, more regulation, a war on coal.”
THE FACTS: The coal industry’s woes don’t come solely from onerous federal regulations. Pence omitted the effects of steep competition from cheap natural gas.
A string of major coal companies have filed for bankruptcy in recent years, including Arch Coal, Alpha Natural Resources and Peabody Energy. Layoffs and cutbacks have spread economic suffering through coal country in the Appalachians and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. By contrast, these are boom times for natural gas extraction, mostly due to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Still, the Obama administration has implemented rules that aren’t making the coal industry’s life any easier. Obama last year imposed a rule requiring coal-fired power plants to cut their carbon emissions as part of his effort to combat climate change. The rule has been suspended pending a legal challenge. Obama also has halted new coal leases on federal lands until it completes a comprehensive review.
PENCE, saying he’s proud that “the state of Indiana has balanced budgets.”
THE FACTS: True, but that’s not exactly to his credit as governor of Indiana. A balanced budget is required by law, as it is in every state except Vermont.
Associated Press writers Josh Boak, Deb Riechmann, Stephen Braun, Matthew Daly and Alicia A. Caldwell contributed to this report.