AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s errant views on voting, Biden miscues
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has been putting forth convoluted guidance to his supporters on submitting double votes in the November election, an act that would be illegal and risk public safety in the pandemic.
In a week filled with fabrication, half-truths and misrepresentation, he also wrongly took full credit for veterans improvements that were underway before he took office.
He said he never called John McCain a loser — he did — and also distorted events in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, Democratic rival Joe Biden falsely claimed to have been the first person to have called for the use of emergency production powers in the pandemic, and he tried to shed light on the history of the incandescent bulb, but was a bit hazy.
A look at recent claims and reality:
TRUMP: “So you sign your ballot and mail it in, just mail it ... On election day or early voting, go to your polling place, even though you’ve mailed it in, go to your polling place to see whether or not your mail-in vote has been tabulated or counted. ... So if it hasn’t been counted, if it doesn’t show up, go and vote. And then if your mail-in ballot arrives after you vote, which it shouldn’t, but possibly it could, perhaps. That ballot will not be used ... So send it in and then see, and then vote, and let’s see what happens.” — North Carolina tele-rally on Friday.
TRUMP: “Send in your ballots, send them in strong ... And you send them in, but you go to vote. If they haven’t counted it, you can vote.” — interview Wednesday with WECT TV6 in Wilmington, North Carolina.
THE FACTS: To be clear, it is illegal in all 50 states and under federal law to vote twice in an election.
Election officials also advise people against heading to the polls to check on their mail-in ballots and then attempting to cast another ballot if there isn’t full verification, saying it will cause unnecessary chaos, long waits and health dangers in the pandemic.
Contrary to what Trump suggests, information on whether a ballot has been counted is typically not available right away. In several states, absentee ballots aren’t even counted until after polls close. What can be checked is whether an absentee ballot has been received, and in some cases, whether it has passed a security review and will be submitted for counting.
A flood of voters showing up on Nov. 3 to check the status of their ballots would mean even more disruption, election officials say.
Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, said the board “strongly discourages” people from following the president’s guidance. “That is not necessary, and it would lead to longer lines and the possibility of spreading COVID-19,” she said in a statement.
Brinson Bell added: “Attempting to vote twice in an election or soliciting someone to do so also is a violation of North Carolina law.”
Many states offer ways for voters to verify the status of their ballot online that provide information on when an absentee ballot request has been received, when a ballot has been sent, when the ballot has been received by a local election office and whether it has passed the security review and been accepted. These are typically available on the website of the state election board or the secretary of state.
Voters in the few states that don’t provide this information online have the option to call their local election office.
ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR on fraud in the vote-by-mail process: “Elections that have been held with mail have found substantial fraud and coercion.” — CNN on Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Actually, multiple studies have debunked the notion of pervasive voter fraud in general and in the vote-by-mail process.
The five states that relied on mail-in ballots even before the coronavirus pandemic — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah — have said they have necessary safeguards in place to ensure against fraud and to prevent hostile foreign actors from co-opting the vote. More states intend to rely more heavily on mail-in voting this fall because of the pandemic.
The attorney general cited a report from more than a decade ago from a commission led by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker that said vote-by-mail was vulnerable to fraud. But the commission pointed out in a statement in May that it had found little evidence of fraud in states such as Oregon that had sufficient safeguards.
Barr also said he was basing on “logic” his concern that a hostile foreign actor could produce bogus ballots for the election. But senior U.S. officials said on a conference call with reporters last month that they had no intelligence to suggest that was happening.
VETERANS and McCAIN
TRUMP: “I was never a big fan of John McCain, disagreed with him on many things including ridiculous endless wars and the lack of success he had in dealing with the VA and our great Vets.” — part of a series of tweets Thursday.
VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY ROBERT WILKIE, referring to Trump: “I see the proof in the pudding. And the proof in the pudding is, our military is stronger, and our Veterans Affairs Department is in a place that it has never been. This is the renaissance. And it’s all because of one man.” — interview Sunday on CNN’s ”State of the Union.”
THE FACTS: Trump and his VA chief are ignoring the accomplishments begun during the Obama-Biden administration, which included McCain’s singular successes on behalf of fellow veterans.
McCain was a leading force in the Senate behind the law that gave veterans an option to go outside the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care system and get private care at public expense under certain conditions. President Barack Obama signed the VA Choice legislation into law. Ignoring that reality, Trump persistently claims that he brought Choice into law when no one else could.
Trump signed a law in 2018 that expanded the options for using the Choice program established by Obama, McCain and other lawmakers.
The 2018 law is named after three lawmakers who were veterans of war. All of them now are dead. They are Rep. Samuel R. Johnson, R-Texas, and Democratic Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii, and McCain, R-Ariz.
Both Trump and Wilkie also frequently point to VA accomplishments such as improved wait times and the offering of same-day mental health services. But those same-day services at VA were started during the Obama administration under Wilkie’s predecessor, David Shulkin, who was a VA health undersecretary at the time. A 2019 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, meanwhile, found improved wait times at VA from 2014 to 2017, a period largely covering the Obama administration, with VA patient satisfaction also on the rise.
While the VA has shown good ratings during the Trump administration, the VA improvements that Wilkie attributes all to “one man” — Trump alone — are sorely misplaced.
TRUMP: “Also, I never called John a loser and swear on whatever, or whoever, I was asked to swear on, that I never called our great fallen soldiers anything other than HEROES.” — tweet Thursday.
THE FACTS: He called McCain a loser.
In addition, The Associated Press has confirmed many of the comments Trump was reported by The Atlantic to have made disparaging fallen or captured U.S. service members, such as his description of the American dead in a military graveyard as “losers.”
As for McCain, Trump told a conservative forum in Iowa in 2015 that his view of McCain changed when McCain lost the 2008 presidential election to Obama. “He lost, so I never liked him as much after that, ’cause I don’t like losers,” he said. Trump went on to dismiss McCain’s war service: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
Trump in 2015 also tweeted a news article on Twitter calling McCain a “loser.”
TRUMP, claiming Biden wants to “eliminate America’s borders”: “He wants to tear down the wall — he actually suggested tearing down the wall that we fought so hard to get built.” — North Carolina tele-rally on Friday.
THE FACTS: That’s false.
Biden’s immigration plan does not include money for new border fencing, and he and his campaign task force on immigration aren’t calling for any new walls. But neither has proposed taking down existing barriers.
Asked specifically by NPR last month if he would tear down the wall, Biden said: “No. There will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration, No. 1.”
“No. 2 … 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 bad stuff is happening.”
BIDEN: “When it got up to March, I kept saying, ‘Look, you’ve got to invoke,’ and you remember, I think I was the first — I may be mistaken — person calling for the Defense Production Act.” — comment after a news conference Wednesday.
THE FACTS: He is correct about being mistaken.
Biden issued a statement March 18 saying he was issuing a call for Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to give priority to “and immediately increase domestic production of any critical medical equipment required to respond to this crisis — such as the production of ventilators and associated training to operate.” His call came the same day Trump signed an order to use his authority under the act.
Five days earlier a group of Democrats in Congress wrote to Trump asking him to use powers under the act, a step that Trump officials and others had been discussing publicly for several weeks.
BIDEN: “Why in God’s name don’t we teach history in history classes? A Black man invented the light bulb, not a white guy named Edison.” — in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Thursday.
THE FACTS: Biden is shading the actual story a bit. Thomas Edison invented the incandescent electric light bulb, but it burned out quickly. It was Lewis Latimer, an African American inventor who worked with Alexander Bell and later with Edison, who made light bulbs practical to use. Latimer created a light bulb with a durable carbon filament and sold the patent to the U.S. Electric Co. in 1881.
According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Although today’s light bulbs use filaments of tungsten, which lasts even longer than carbon, Latimer will always be remembered for making the widespread use of electric light possible, in public and at home.” Latimer is a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
PROTESTS and VIOLENCE
TRUMP, on Wisconsin officials and the National Guard: “Once they responded and once we took, you know, control of it, things went really well.” — remarks in Kenosha on Tuesday.
TRUMP: “One of the reasons I’m making the trip today and going to Wisconsin is we’ve had such a big success in shutting down what would be, right now, a city — that would’ve been Kenosha — a city that would’ve been burnt to the ground by now. ... And it all stopped immediately upon the National Guard’s arrival.” — remarks Tuesday before visiting Wisconsin.
THE FACTS: Not true. He had nothing to do with the deployment of the National Guard in Wisconsin. The federal government never “took control of it.”
Gov. Tony Evers, D-Wis., activated the state’s National Guard the day after a Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake, sparking protests and violence over police actions and racism. When National Guard forces from three other states came in to help, it was because the governor had asked for that help from fellow governors, not the White House.
Evers said National Guard troops from Arizona, Michigan and Alabama were operating under the control of those states and Wisconsin, “not in a federal status.” National Guards answer to governors and sometimes state legislatures, not Washington.
The federal government sent deputy marshals from the U.S. Marshals Service and agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, about 200 in all. The restoration of order was primarily in the hands of National Guard units and local law enforcement.
As of last week, 1,000 National Guard troops from Wisconsin were in Kenosha along with 500 National Guard troops from the other three states, said Wisconsin National Guard Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp.
TRUMP, asked if he would condemn the actions of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old charged in the shooting deaths of two men during Kenosha protests: “You saw the same tape as I saw. And he was trying to get away from them, I guess; it looks like. And he fell, and then they very violently attacked him. And it was something that we’re looking at right now and it’s under investigation. But I guess he was in very big trouble. He would have been — I — he probably would have been killed.” — news conference on Aug. 31.
THE FACTS: His implication that Rittenhouse only shot the men after he tripped and they attacked him is wrong. The first fatal shooting happened before Rittenhouse ran away and fell.
Trump did not say whom he meant by “they” — the two men he shot or others in pursuit of him. But he spoke in defense of someone who opposed racial justice protesters, who authorities say was illegally carrying a semi-automatic rifle and who prosecutors accuse of committing intentional homicide.
According to the criminal complaint released by prosecutors, victim Joseph Rosenbaum was shot and killed first, after following Rittenhouse into a parking lot, where Rosenbaum threw a plastic bag at the gunman and tried to take the weapon from him.
The medical examiner found that Rosenbaum was shot in the groin and back — which fractured his pelvis and perforated his right lung and liver — and his left hand. He also suffered a superficial wound to his left thigh and a graze wound to his forehead.
Rittenhouse then ran down the street and was chased by several people trying to stop him and shouting that he just shot someone, according to the criminal complaint and cellphone video footage.
He tripped and fell. Anthony Huber, who was carrying a skateboard, was shot in the chest after apparently trying to wrest the gun from Rittenhouse, the complaint said. A third man was shot and injured.
Rittenhouse’s lawyer said he acted to defend himself.
BIDEN: “Donald Trump may be the only president in modern history to leave office with fewer jobs than when he took office.” — Wilmington, Delaware, speech Friday.
THE FACTS: Maybe yes, maybe no.
Not since Depression-era Herbert Hoover has a president left office with a record of fewer jobs than when he began.
This could happen to Trump because of the pandemic, but he could also end up with a small gain.
In August there were 4.7 million fewer jobs than there were when Trump was inaugurated in January 2017. But if he leaves office in five months, and if the economy adds more than 1 million jobs each month, as happened in July and August, he could end up in the black. There are signs, though, that the gains are slowing as businesses have recalled many of the workers who were temporarily laid off from restaurants, bars, retailers and other businesses. So Biden’s prediction could come true.
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Deb Riechmann, Lynn Berry, Will Weissert, Eric Tucker, Josh Boak and Christopher Rugaber in Washington and Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta contributed to this report.
EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.
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