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Bogus Voter Fraud Claims

tis, 11/13/2018 - 21:20

With votes continuing to be counted in very close elections in Florida, Georgia and Arizona, President Donald Trump and some other Republicans have been crying foul, making false and misleading claims of supposed election fraud perpetrated by Democrats in an attempt to “steal” the elections.

There is no evidence of an organized effort by Democrats to “steal” elections, and the ballot counting is proceeding in due course. It often takes more than a week for counties around the country to count mail-in, absentee and provisional ballots. What’s unusual is that these ballots could tilt the results one way or the other. And in Florida, a mandatory recount has already been triggered in the elections for U.S. Senate and for governor.

Nonetheless, the president and other Republicans have been muddying the national dialogue and spinning the facts:

  • Trump claimed Republicans “won” the Florida elections for Senate and governor, and that Democrats are trying to go back and “steal” them by improper means. But the results on election night were preliminary, and election officials are still counting absentee and provisional ballots, and conducting a mandatory recount in the razor-close races.
  • Trump has repeatedly referred to election officials suspiciously “finding” votes for Democrats. But there is no evidence that vote counts have been influenced by anything other than legally cast ballots. Rather, the changing vote totals have been due to officials laboriously counting mail-in and provisional ballot votes, some for Democrats and others for Republicans.
  • Trump tweeted that mismatched signatures on Arizona ballots spell “electoral corruption.” And Florida Gov. Rick Scott alleged that Sen. Bill Nelson “has gone to court to say that fraudulent ballots … should be counted.” Tens of thousands of votes were not counted due to mismatched signatures, but there’s no evidence those votes were cast fraudulently. Election experts say signatures often change over time.
  • Scott claimed a lawyer for Nelson thinks “a noncitizen should have the right to vote.” But that is thinly based on the lawyer registering an objection to a vote being discarded because the voter was deemed to be “not a citizen.” We don’t know why the lawyer objected to the rejection, and the Nelson campaign’s lead recount attorney later said the lawyer was “not authorized to make such an objection” and that “noncitizens cannot vote in U.S. elections.”
  • Trump suggested that Fusion GPS, the research firm that hired a former British intelligence officer to research Trump during the 2016 campaign, was involved in the Florida recount. It isn’t.

In his claims, the president has alleged the Florida vote count has been “massively infected” with “large numbers of new ballots” showing up “out of nowhere” while other ballots are “missing or forged.” And he has claimed election officials are suspiciously “finding votes in Florida and Georgia” after the election. But there is no evidence of any of that.

In Florida, where Trump has focused much of his ire and Gov. Scott warned “there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward Counties,” election officials say there has been no evidence to date of any criminal tampering with election results.

On Nov. 12, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State, which supervises elections, reiterated that it was overseeing the certification of election results and to date had seen “no evidence of criminal activity.” The department is headed by Secretary of State Ken Detzner, a Republican appointed by Scott. And despite Scott and State Attorney General Pam Bondi urging the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look into potential voter fraud, FDLE says so far it hasn’t seen anything to investigate.

That doesn’t mean there haven’t been some problematic election issues in Florida. For example, CNN reported that a North Florida county hit by Hurricane Michael allowed about 150 ballots to be submitted by fax and email, contrary to Florida Department of State guidelines. And it is possible that some incidents involving fraud may come to light, such as a person with a felony conviction voting even though their voting rights have not been restored, said Lorraine Minnite, a professor at Rutgers University and author of “The Myth of Voter Fraud. But Minnite said that she is not aware of evidence of any kind of voter fraud in Florida, Georgia or Arizona.

During an emergency hearing on Nov. 12, Circuit Chief Judge Jack Tuter said he had seen no evidence of illegal activity in the vote-counting in Broward County, and he urged both sides to “ramp down the rhetoric.”

“Everything the lawyers are saying out there at the elections office is being beamed out across the country,” Tuter said. “We should be careful what we say. These words mean things these days.”

Loose talk about election fraud is not new to Trump, of course. After the 2016 election, Trump repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims about massive voter fraud costing him the popular vote, even as he won a convincing victory in the Electoral College. The president’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — which was to examine “fraudulent voting,” among other issues — was dissolved just months after it was created, and there has been no evidence to date of widespread fraud. They Haven’t ‘Won’ Yet

Trump says that the races in Florida for Senate and governor were “won” on election night by the Republican candidates, Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis, respectively, and now the Democrats are trying to go back and “STEAL two big elections.” But the president simply got out in front of the final tallies, which won’t ultimately be known until all of the absentee and provisional ballots are counted.

And, because the races are so close, an automatic recount also has been triggered.

“Rick Scott … won by a comfortable margin,” Trump told reporters on Nov. 9. “He easily won, but every hour it seems to be going down.”

Trump echoed those sentiments on Twitter.

Mayor Gillum conceded on Election Day and now Broward County has put him “back into play.” Bill Nelson conceded Election – now he’s back in play!? This is an embarrassment to our Country and to Democracy!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2018

Trying to STEAL two big elections in Florida! We are watching closely!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 10, 2018

Asked on ABC’s “This Week” on Nov. 11 if the president had any evidence that Democrats are trying to “steal” the elections, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, said, “Well the evidence is that Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis have won. In fact, Andrew Gillum conceded on the night of the election, now we’re going backwards.” (Gillum withdrew his concession a day earlier on Nov. 10.)

But election night results are always preliminary, and provisional and absentee ballots take more time to process. When elections aren’t particularly close, the public doesn’t notice that it usually takes more than a week to certify election results.

“The count is never final on election night – each state has a deadline for certifying the election, and counties (and in some states, towns) are crossing i’s and dotting t’s until then,” Loyola Law School Professor Justin Levitt, an expert in election fraud, told us via email.

“More generally, what is happening in these three states [Florida, Georgia and Arizona] is that various elections for Senator and Governor were really close, and so a lot of attention has focused on absentee ballots and particularly provisional ballots, and on checking the tallies of ballots from election night,” Levitt said. “But that same process is going on in elections all across the country: election officials are assessing absentee and provisional ballots to see whether they were properly cast by eligible, properly registered voters each voting once, and double-checking the tallies of regular ballots cast at the polls.”

Never mind that some networks will project the winner of a close race, as some did for DeSantis on election night.

“When the networks ‘call’ the election on election night, what they’re doing is assessing the likelihood of a final result based on exit polls and early tallies from polling places (and from absentee ballots that the jurisdiction may have already counted), and making statistical assessments of the likelihood that once all ballots are cast, the person who won could have actually lost,” Levitt said. “But election results are never instantaneous, and every single one of the network’s announcements is a preliminary estimate. … [T]he results from election night for some of the races were really close … and so crossing each “t” and dotting each “I” may matter a lot in who wins. But the process that’s going on in Florida and Georgia and Arizona is pretty much the same thing that’s happening even for races where the result is more certain, all across the country.”

Lorraine Minnite, at Rutgers University, said most people probably pay little attention to election administration, such as the “often intricate rules that govern election procedures, including ballot counting.”

“In addition, most elections are not tight nail-biters,” Minnite told us via email. “I can understand why the average citizen might be confused about why the elections in Georgia, Florida and Arizona have not yet been decided. But, no one should worry yet – close elections take longer to count, and all ballots must be accounted for.”

At this point she said she has seen no evidence of election fraud.

‘Finding Votes out of Nowhere’?

Trump has repeatedly referred to election officials suspiciously “finding” votes for Democrats. But there is no evidence to date that vote counts have been influenced by anything other than legally cast ballots. Indeed, most of the changing vote totals have been due to officials tallying mail-in, provisional and absentee ballots not counted on Election Day.

Trump told reporters on Nov. 9 that in Florida, “all of a sudden, they’re finding votes out of nowhere.” In Arizona, he said, “all of a sudden, out of the wilderness, they find a lot of votes.” And, Trump said, “Do you notice, the votes never go the other way [in Republicans favor]?”

Trump raised similar concerns about “found” votes on Twitter:

You mean they are just now finding votes in Florida and Georgia – but the Election was on Tuesday? Let’s blame the Russians and demand an immediate apology from President Putin!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2018

Rick Scott was up by 50,000+ votes on Election Day, now they “found” many votes and he is only up 15,000 votes. “The Broward Effect.” How come they never find Republican votes?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2018

In the case of Arizona, it simply takes longer to count ballots because about 75 percent of Arizona voters cast ballots by mail. Although Republican Senate candidate Martha McSally appeared to be winning the race on election night, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema pulled ahead by about 2,000 votes after Maricopa County released the results of 120,000 outstanding ballots available two days after the election. By Nov. 12, Sinema’s lead had grown to more than 32,000 votes, CNN reported. That night, the Associated Press projected Sinema as the winner of the race, and McSally called Sinema to concede the race.

In Florida, the vote differentials have changed as counties began to submit tallies from provisional and absentee ballots.

“The election officials aren’t finding votes – they’re counting votes that were not cast as regular ballots on election day,” Levitt said. “The ballots were already there: they’re revealing for whom those ballots were cast. That’s a whole lot different from ‘finding’ new votes.”

In fact, it is possible that not all ballots have even arrived. The state accepts ballots from military and overseas voters until Nov. 16, provided they are postmarked Nov. 6.

The president is also wrong to say election officials have not been “finding” Republican votes as well.

“There are many tens of thousands of ballots being evaluated, some of which reveal votes for Republicans, some of which reveal votes for Democrats, some of which reveal votes for both (for different offices), some of which reveal votes for neither,” Levitt said. “The reports in the press generally only give the net differential margin, and in this case the Democratic candidates have been narrowing the margin as more votes are counted. But that does not mean that only votes for Democrats have been counted. In reality, there have been many votes for Republicans counted since the election as well.”

In Florida, a teacher at Miramar Elementary School in Broward County said she came across a box labelled “Provisional Ballot Box.” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio retweeted a report of what he called the “left behind” box and criticized Broward County officials for “apparently” misplacing ballots. “Just let that sink in for a moment,” Rubio tweeted. But county election officials say the boxes at the school contained no ballots — just election supplies. 

Mismatched Signatures

Election experts say mismatched signatures on mail-in and provisional ballots, compared with voter registration documents, are actually fairly common, and aren’t necessarily evidence of fraud. Rather, handwriting can change over time, so a legal voter could be deemed to have a mismatched signature from when he or she registered to vote years before.

But in a tweet, Trump said reports that “SIGNATURES DON’T MATCH” on some ballots in Arizona meant there had been “electoral corruption” and may be grounds to consider a new election.

Just out — in Arizona, SIGNATURES DON’T MATCH. Electoral corruption – Call for a new Election? We must protect our Democracy!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2018

And on “Fox News Sunday” on Nov. 11, Scott alleged his Democratic opponent has “gone to court to say that fraudulent ballots, fraudulent ballots that were not properly delivered, sign, whatever should have — should be counted, OK? Senator Nelson is clearly trying to find — to try and commit fraud to try to win this election. That’s all this is.”

States have different procedures to check if the signatures on absentee and provisional ballots match the signatures the voters gave when registering to vote, and what to do about it if they don’t.

A lawsuit filed by the Nelson campaign against the Florida secretary of state argues that tens of thousands of Floridians who voted via provisional ballot are at risk of disenfranchisement due to a “standardless signature matching process.” The suit seeks to prevent the state from rejecting ballots with mismatched signatures. It is scheduled to be heard this week.

According to the suit, the state’s “entirely standardless, inconsistent, and unreliable signature matching process” has “a disparate impact on People of Color and young, first time voters, violates the prohibition against undue burdens on the right to vote … and subjects Florida voters to disparate treatment and inconsistent standards in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.”

According to a 2016 survey by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, 1 percent of absentee ballots nationally were rejected in the 2016 election, and “non-matching signature” was the top reason (27.5 percent). See Table 1.

“It is not unusual to find signatures that don’t match,” Minnite said. “Handwriting can change over time, and a voter who has been registered at the same address for many years who votes irregularly may find him or herself in a situation where the elections office asks for an updated signature.”

States have different procedures to check signatures on ballots. Some states have automated systems that do initial screens of signatures, followed by a human review of rejected ballots due to mismatches. In some states, Minnite said, if a signature on a mail ballot doesn’t match, the voter may be contacted to come into the election office to provide an updated signature.

In Arizona, only a handful of counties allowed voters to verify their signatures after the election, and a legal battle between Democrats and Republicans resulted in a settlement that will allow all Arizona counties to verify ballot signatures until 5 p.m. on Nov. 14.

In Florida, it’s misleading for Scott to call ballots with mismatched signatures “fraudulent ballots.” Indeed, former Florida Rep. Patrick Murphy tweeted on Nov. 9 that he discovered his absentee ballot wasn’t counted in Palm Beach County “due to ‘invalid signature’ match.”

“People’s signatures change over time, and in different situations,” Levitt said. “Your signature on a supermarket checkout machine is probably not the same signature as on the deed to a house.”

It’s also important to note, Levitt said, that “the signatures on provisional and absentee ballots are all evaluated before anyone knows who the ballot is cast for: the signature is on the outside of an envelope, and the ballot is on the inside, and you can’t tell who the votes were cast for looking at the outside of the envelope. So the decisions on counting or not counting provisional or absentee ballots are made independent of the identity of the voter’s preferred candidates.”

Nelson Attorney Didn’t Say Noncitizens ‘Have the Right to Vote’

On “Fox News Sunday,” Scott claimed, “Sen. Nelson’s lawyer said that a noncitizen should have the right to vote.” But that’s not clear from the evidence.

In a brief exchange during a canvassing board meeting, a lawyer representing Nelson objected after a provisional ballot was disqualified because the voter was deemed to be “not a citizen.”

The Nelson campaign’s lead recount attorney later said the lawyer was “not authorized to make such an objection” and that “noncitizens cannot vote in U.S. elections.”

Scott’s claim came during an interview on “Fox News Sunday” on Nov. 11. Host Chris Wallace asked him, “You’re accusing Bill Nelson of trying to commit fraud?”

Scott responded, “His lawyer said that a noncitizen should vote.”

Fox News, Daily Caller and The Blaze all obtained a transcript of a Palm Beach County Canvassing Board proceeding on Nov. 9 when officials were reviewing provisional ballots. According to the transcript, provided by a court reporter hired by the Palm Beach County GOP, when one provisional ballot was discarded, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher explained, “Not a U.S. citizen; not counted.” The transcript states that lawyer Jack Scarola responded, “Objection Nelson.”

No explanation was provided for the objection, and the ballot was quickly disallowed after a 2-1 vote in which Bucher and Judge August Bonavita voted not to count it. We could not reach Scarola to determine why he objected, or if he was attempting to argue the person was misidentified as a noncitizen. It is a leap from that brief exchange to claim the attorney “said that a noncitizen should have the right to vote.”

As the stories note, Marc Elias, recount attorney for the Nelson campaign, later issued a statement saying, “The lawyer who was present was not someone we had authorized to make such an objection. Noncitizens cannot vote in U.S. elections.”

Fusion GPS?

The president suggested that Fusion GPS, a research firm that hired former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to investigate Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, had something to do with the vote counting in Florida. It doesn’t.

The tenuous connection is that the attorney for Nelson’s campaign in Florida, Elias, also represented the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016, when he hired Fusion GPS to research Trump.

Trump made the claim during remarks to reporters before he departed for Europe on Nov. 9.

Trump, Nov. 9: And Rick Scott, who won by — you know, it was close, but he won by a comfortable margin — every couple of hours it goes down a little bit. And then you see the people, and they were involved with that fraud of the fake dossier, the phony dossier. And I guess I hear they were somehow involved or worked with the GPS Fusion people, who have committed — I mean, if you look at what they’ve done, you look at the dishonesty.

During his remarks, a reporter asked if Trump had any evidence of fraud. The president responded: “Well, I don’t know, you tell me. It’s always the Democrats. It’s always GPS Fusion. It’s always crooked stuff.”

Fusion GPS was founded by former Wall Street Journal reporters Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch. In 2016, the law firm Perkins Coie, and specifically Elias, represented Clinton’s campaign and the DNC and hired Fusion GPS, which subsequently hired Steele. (Previously, the conservative Washington Free Beacon had hired Fusion GPS to investigate Trump and other Republican primary candidates.)

Steele’s research made up the dossier, a series of memos on supposed contacts between Russian officials and members of the Trump campaign. It alleged the Kremlin has compromising information on Trump.

It’s no surprise that Nelson would want to hire Elias during the recount. Elias’ bio says “he is a preeminent counselor in the areas of federal and state campaign finance law … as well as recounts and election contests. He is also a nationally recognized authority and spearheads litigation efforts in the areas of voting rights and redistricting.”

The post Bogus Voter Fraud Claims appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Kategorier: Amerikanska

FBI Didn’t Clear Michael Flynn

mån, 11/12/2018 - 20:28

Q: Was former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn recently cleared by the FBI in the Russia probe?  

A: No. A website makes that claim based on an outdated news story that was published prior to Flynn pleading guilty to making false statements to FBI agents about his conversations with a top Russian official.

FULL ANSWER

The website of anti-Islamic activist Pamela Geller reposted an outdated story that says the “FBI clears” retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — President Trump’s former national security adviser. It has not. Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his post-election conversations with a top Russian government official.

The Geller Report published an item on Nov. 5 that begins: “It was all a big fat lie — a coup against the President that continues to this very day. But the real criminals — Hillary Clinton and co. — escape justice.” The next three paragraphs are identical to a Jan. 24, 2017, story in the New York Post that carried the headline, “FBI clears Michael Flynn in probe linking him to Russia.” The Geller Report used the same headline.

But Geller disregards developments that have occurred since the New York Post story appeared nearly 22 months ago.

That New York Post story was based on Washington Post article from a day earlier that said FBI agents investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election had “reviewed intercepts of communications” in December 2016 between Flynn, then an adviser to the president-elect, and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S. at the time. Citing U.S. officials, the Washington Post reported that the FBI “has not found any evidence of wrongdoing or illicit ties to the Russian government.”

However, a day after the Washington Post published its story, the FBI interviewed Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak. And months later, on Dec. 1, 2017, the special counsel’s office announced that Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents during that interview, as we’ve explained in our article about “Michael Flynn’s Russia Timeline.”

During a Dec. 22, 2016, call with Kislyak, according to the special counsel’s office, Flynn asked Russia to delay or defeat a U.N. Security Council resolution — something Flynn initially denied to the FBI. In another call, seven days later, Flynn discussed sanctions the Obama administration placed on Russia for its interference in the election. The special counsel’s office said that Flynn asked Russia to refrain from escalating the situation; Kislyak agreed that Russia would “moderate its response to those sanctions” following the request. When interviewed about that second call by the FBI, Flynn denied making that request and couldn’t recall if Kislyak had agreed to it.

When Flynn agreed to plead guilty for lying about those conversations, he said in a statement that he would cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network.

Sources

Geller, Pamela. “FBI clears Michael Flynn in probe linking him to Russia.” Geller Report. 5 Nov 2018.

Kiely, Eugene. “Michael Flynn’s Russia Timeline.” FactCheck.org. 1 Dec 2017.

Order No. 3915-2017: Appointment of Special Counsel to Investigate Russian Interference with the 2016 Presidential Election and Related Matters. U.S. Office of the Deputy Attorney General. 17 May 2017.

United States of America v. Michael T. Flynn.  1:17-cr-00232-RC. U.S. District Court, District of Columbia. Letter. 1 Dec 2017.

The post FBI Didn’t Clear Michael Flynn appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Kategorier: Amerikanska

Misleading Meme Pits Acosta Against ‘Neo Nazi’

mån, 11/12/2018 - 18:10

Q: Did a “neo Nazi” leader get a meeting at the White House while CNN’s Jim Acosta was banned?

A: No. Patrick Casey, head of Identity Evropa, went on a publicly available tour of the White House and posted pictures of it on Twitter.

FULL ANSWER

After Jim Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, was stripped of his White House press pass on Nov. 7, a meme started circulating online claiming that the leader of a “neo Nazi” group had been granted a “White House visit.”

The meme shows a picture of Acosta with the text “banned from White House” next to a picture of Patrick Casey, head of a white nationalist organization called Identity Evropa, with the text “gets White House visit.” Identity Evropa says its members are “Identitarians” who believe “inequality is a fact of life, and ethnic diversity … is an impediment to societal harmony.”

The meme was posted by a liberal activist organization called Other98 and shared more than 20,000 times on Facebook.

But the claim it makes is misleading.

While it’s true that Casey posted photos of himself at the White House on his Twitter feed on Nov. 7, he wasn’t an invited guest of the Trump administration, as the meme suggests. It was one of those photos, with Casey giving a thumbs-up outside of the White House, that was used in the meme.

Casey had posted the photos with this caption: “Evropa has landed at the White House!” Later that day, he posted a tweet that said: “TO CLARIFY: I attended the White House during a tour, for which tickets are freely available to the public.”

We are unable to check White House visitor logs because the Trump administration doesn’t make them public, and our request for comment from the administration wasn’t answered. However, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: “He was one of more than twenty-five thousand people who came to the White House Fall Garden Tour, which is open to the public. Free tickets are made available to anyone who wants to attend.”

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network.

Sources

Sanders, Sarah. White House Press Secretary. “As a result of today’s incident, the White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice.” Twitter. 7 Nov 2018.

Other98. Jim Acosta and Patrick Casey meme. Facebook. 7 Nov 2018.

Casey, Patrick. “Evropa has landed at the White House!” Twitter. 7 Nov 2018.

Trump administration says white supremacist came to White House as part of garden tour.” Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 8 Nov 2018.

The post Misleading Meme Pits Acosta Against ‘Neo Nazi’ appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Kategorier: Amerikanska

Meme Misleads on Benefits of Illegal Immigration

fre, 11/09/2018 - 23:24

Q: Does the U.S. provide medical insurance and voting rights to immigrants in the country illegally? 

A: No. A viral meme misrepresents what such immigrants are entitled to in the U.S.

FULL ANSWER

A viral meme on Facebook criticizes the U.S. for supposed benefits afforded to immigrants who enter the country illegally, and it attempts to contrast U.S. policies with those of other countries.

“If you cross the border illegally in the U.S., you get a Drivers License, Medical Insurance, housing, career training, the right to vote…” reads the meme, which is attributed to the conservative blog Patriot Journal. “SHARE = FED UP!”

Tens of thousands did just that, spreading the text-based image on the social media platform. But the meme is misleading on a number of fronts.

Such claims about benefits being given to those living in the U.S. illegally aren’t new. We wrote about this when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz claimed during a 2016 GOP presidential debate that, if he were elected, “we will end welfare benefits for those here illegally.”

As we noted then, U.S. law already prohibits such immigrants from receiving most federal benefits. There are some exceptions, such as emergency medical care; short-term, non-cash emergency disaster relief; limited housing or community development assistance to those who were already receiving it in 1996; public health assistance for communicable diseases; and programs such as soup kitchens.

The meme, however, makes false and exaggerated claims about driver’s licenses, medical insurance and the right to vote. 

Driver’s Licenses. Some states do indeed afford immigrants driving privileges regardless of their immigration status — but it’s far from a guarantee given to all immigrants living in the country illegally. As of May 2017, 12 states — plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico — have such laws, according to the National Immigration Law Center.

Medical Insurance. Immigrants in the country illegally are not eligible for government health care programs, including Medicare and non-emergency Medicaid. And they’re not eligible to receive federal subsidies or to outright buy their own insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges. Some unauthorized immigrants may receive care through private employers, but many remain uninsured. Estimates vary. The Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated that 39 percent of immigrants in the country illegally do not have insurance. A 2013 report by the Migration Policy Institute, meanwhile, found that 68 percent of employed, adult workers in the country illegally did not have coverage.

That said, immigrants without insurance do sometimes receive care through emergency services, charity care or community health centers. The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation notes: “Medicaid payments for emergency services may be made on behalf of individuals who are otherwise eligible for Medicaid but for their immigration status. These payments cover costs for emergency care for lawfully present immigrants who remain ineligible for Medicaid as well as undocumented immigrants.”

Also, KFF says, some states “provide prenatal care to women regardless of immigration status by extending CHIP coverage to the unborn child.” CHIP is the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program. There are also some state and local programs that provide care to immigrants regardless of status.

Right to Vote. Federal law bars noncitizens from voting in federal elections. However, some municipalities — including several in Maryland — have allowed noncitizens to vote in local elections. In San Francisco, city voters approved a measure allowing some immigrants in the country illegally — those who are parents or guardians of school-age children — to vote in local school board elections there.

The meme attempts to contrast the treatment of immigrants crossing the border illegally in the U.S. with that of other countries, saying: “If you cross the border illegally in Canada you get a $5000 fine.”

We reached out to the Canada Border Services Agency to verify the penalties for entering that country illegally and were referred to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which hasn’t provided us with an answer yet. We’ll update this story when it does. Either way, it’s worth noting that U.S. law does allow for penalties and fines for illegal border crossings.

The law explicitly prohibits foreigners from entering the country illegally and calls for fines and/or imprisonment of up to six months (and up to two years for subsequent offenses). Civil penalties for those apprehended trying to enter illegally range from $50 to $250 for the first offense.

In addition, violations of a provision that outlines reporting requirements for those arriving in the U.S. can result in a civil penalty of up to $5,000 (and up to $10,000 for subsequent violations). Criminal penalties can include a fine of up to $5,000 and a year imprisonment. U.S. Customs and Border Protection cited that measure when they arrested two men in 2014 for illegally entering the country from Canada and collectively fined them $10,000.

The meme makes other claims, saying that for crossing the border illegally in Iran, “you get 8 years in prison.” Two American hikers in 2011 were sentenced to eight years in prison after they illegally crossed the Iranian border, but the court sentence reportedly included five years for alleged spying and three for entering the country illegally.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network.

Sources

Capps, Randy, et. al. “A Demographic, Socioeconomic, and Health Coverage Profile of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States.” Migration Policy Institute. May 2013.

Health Coverage of Immigrants.” Kaiser Family Foundation. 13 Dec 2017.

Immigrant Eligibility for Health Care Programs in the United States.” National Conference of State Legislatures. 19 Oct 2017.

Kiely, Eugene, et. al. “FactChecking the Eighth GOP Debate.” FactCheck.org. 7 Feb 2016.

Spencer, Saranac Hale. “Noncitizens Get Narrow Access to Polls in San Francisco.” FactCheck.org. 26 Jul 2018.

State Laws Providing Access to Driver’s Licenses or Cards, Regardless of Immigration Status.” National Immigration Law Center. May 2017.

The post Meme Misleads on Benefits of Illegal Immigration appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Kategorier: Amerikanska

Clearing Up the Facts Behind Trump’s ‘Clean Coal’ Catchphrase

fre, 11/09/2018 - 22:35

In his rallies, President Donald Trump repeatedly talks about “clean coal,” using the phrase more than a dozen times over the past three months. He also has said in other appearances that clean coal can be exported or “loaded up” on railway cars.

But “clean coal” refers to technologies deployed at power plants that make coal cleaner to burn, not to the fuel itself. Modern definitions require cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, and the only way to do that in a substantial way is through carbon capture. Just two coal power plants in the world use the technique, and it makes up less than 0.1 percent of American coal-fired capacity.

“Clean coal” has become a popular talking point for the president, especially when he addresses crowds in coal-producing states, such as West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Montana.

On Nov. 3 in Belgrade, Montana, Trump said: “And we then did the war on clean, beautiful coal, and we are putting — and you see it better than almost anybody — our coal miners. They’re all back to work, and they’re going back to work. Clean coal, clean coal. Nobody thought that was going to happen so fast, either.”

But what does “clean coal” mean? And how does the technology work? We’ll dive into the various ways coal combustion can be made cleaner, and take a look at the future of coal in a world grappling with the effects of climate change.

What Is ‘Clean Coal’?

The term “clean coal,” which is used by industry, the government and academics, is annoyingly nebulous.

“Clean coal turns out to mean largely whatever one wants it to mean,” said Edward S. Rubin, a professor of mechanical engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, in a phone interview. He has worked on energy and environmental issues for almost half a century, and on coal technologies nearly as long.

Julio Friedmann, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy and CEO of the company Carbon Wrangler, agrees.

“There is no formal definition of clean coal,” he said in a phone interview. “And it is often in the eye of the beholder.”

Rubin recalls the term first being widely used in the mid-1980s, when the Department of Energy launched its Clean Coal program. At the time, acid rain was a top priority, and coal plants were a key culprit. Coal contains impurities, that, when burned, escape into the air as harmful air pollutants, including acid-rain-causing chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Fortunately, scrubbers and catalytic converters could be added to power plants to chemically remove the majority of these pollutants.

Over time, the definition expanded as society recognized that burning coal resulted in other pollution problems. In the ‘90s, for example, as scientists realized the importance of mercury emissions from coal, that too became a clean coal signifier. Mercury released into the air eventually makes its way back down to Earth, where it can become a health hazard for humans and damage ecosystems and wildlife. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates coal-burning power plants are responsible for about 42 percent of all man-made mercury emissions in the United States.

Finally, the “clean” label evolved to include reductions in carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas scientists say is driving climate change. The EPA formally designated carbon dioxide as an air pollutant in 2009, in recognition of the harm the gas poses “to public health and welfare” in its role in global warming.

Coal plants pump out inordinate amounts of the gas. According to the Energy Information Administration, coal power plants released 1,207 million metric tons of CO2 in 2017 — far more than any other source of electricity. And that’s despite a decline in coal use. As the EPA notes, “although coal accounted for about 67 percent of CO2 emissions from the sector, it represented only about 32 percent of the electricity generated in the United States in 2016.”

“These days, my own sense is that talking about clean coal without extending it to mean significant reductions in carbon emissions is basically ignoring the climate-related impacts of coal combustion,” Rubin said.

It’s a sentiment Friedmann shares. “I personally believe coal cannot be clean unless it controls CO2 emissions as well,” he said.

But Rubin notes that coal industry definitions are often vague, referring to environmental performance improvements that may make only incremental advancements. Even if industry groups accept that carbon dioxide control is part of clean coal, as some do, it’s often a question of how much. Someone could argue, Rubin said, that a 5 percent reduction in emissions is enough to make coal “clean.”

Clearly, the “clean” part of “clean coal” is relative, and is better described as “cleaner.” For this reason, many environmentalists think that “clean coal” doesn’t exist and consider the phrase an oxymoron. Coal can never be clean, they argue, because even if sophisticated power plants capture pollutants, there is environmental damage during the mining and transport of coal. Mountaintop removal in particular is notorious for polluting streams and harming ecosystems, especially aquatic ones. This environmental damage is well documented by the EPA.

But while Friedmann considers these fair complaints, he also thinks they should be put in perspective, as just 5 percent of U.S. coal production is done by mountaintop removal. “It doesn’t represent a big fraction of how coal is produced,” he said.

The best technology cannot make coal completely pollution-free or carbon-neutral, but it can mitigate a lot of the negative environmental impacts. This technology, known as carbon capture and sequestration (or storage), or CCS, is a process in which CO2 is trapped and kept out of the atmosphere, usually by forcing the gas into below-ground formations. As we’ll explain, there are several ways to do CCS. But the technology is expensive and is not yet widespread.

Other “clean coal” methods also address carbon dioxide emissions, including novel ways of burning coal more efficiently. In a standard coal-fired power plant, coal is burned to heat a boiler, which creates steam that turns a turbine, which powers a generator to create electricity. Increasing the temperature and pressure of the steam, as is done in so-called supercritical and ultrasupercritical plants, makes this process more efficient. Because less coal needs to be burned to create the same amount of energy, the plants have smaller carbon footprints. These improvements, however, usually yield only modest reductions in carbon dioxide, such that they still do not match the lower emissions of modern natural gas plants. Rubin said these are also not widely used in the United States.

What Trump Could Mean

The White House did not reply to requests for clarification on what Trump means when he says “clean coal.” Trump could simply be thinking of the basic scrubbers that prevent acid rain — but do nothing to reduce CO2 emissions.

Some of Trump’s more specific comments, however, incorrectly describe coal itself as being “clean,” not the burning of it.

Take, for instance, the idea that coal sitting in railway cars is clean, and that the U.S. exports clean coal, both ideas he floated in September.

Trump, United Nations speech, Sept. 25: We have become the largest energy producer anywhere on the face of the Earth. The United States stands ready to export our abundant, affordable supply of oil, clean coal, and natural gas.

Trump, aboard Air Force One, Sept. 7: No administration has done what I’ve done. I just left Montana, and I looked at those trains and they’re loaded up with clean coal — beautiful clean coal. And those trains were empty two years ago. They were empty; they were dying. Nobody’s done what I’ve done.

Setting aside Trump’s inflated claims about reviving the coal industry, which we’ve addressed before, Rubin said Trump’s words don’t make a lot of sense, given the normal definitions of clean coal.

“It isn’t the coal that’s clean,” said Rubin. “It’s using coal, and using it in a way that generates useful energy, without significant environmental emissions.” All of the meaningful ways to do this, he said, happen at a power plant.

There is only one plausible way Trump could argue his case, and it’s a stretch.

He could be thinking of coal cleaning or coal washing, an older technology that removes impurities, such as non-combustible mineral matter and sulfur, from coal. This can cut down on coal ash pollution, and slightly reduce sulfur dioxide emissions. But this processing hardly makes coal clean.

“Today, no one really thinks of coal cleaning as a significant clean coal technology,” said Rubin.

According to the Energy Information Administration, less than 20 percent of U.S. coal is washed, usually higher-sulfur coal in the East, and cleaning does not change coal’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Coal washing, notably, appears on a list of technologies posted on the American Coal Council’s website, but the industry group is careful to label the entire list “cleaner” rather than “clean.”

As for the export claim, Friedmann is equally baffled.

“In my mind, I don’t see how you can export coal and call it clean unless you export clean coal technology with it,” said Friedmann, adding that this is something the Trump administration is not doing.

And no exported coal heads to carbon capture facilities. Of the two coal-fired CCS plants, only one — the Boundary Dam Power Station in Saskatchewan, Canada — is outside the United States, and it gets its coal domestically.

How Coal CCS Works

Understanding the basics of how coal-based carbon capture and sequestration works will help explain why it isn’t more widespread.

There are three main ways to do carbon capture, which differ in when and how the CO2 is removed:

  • Post-combustion: CO2 is captured after the coal has been burned. This is the only capture method in commercial operation. Essentially, before the flue gases are sent up the chimney, the CO2 is pulled out with chemicals, usually nitrogen-rich amines. This technique can be applied to existing coal plants as a retrofit — a huge advantage over the other methods. But it still takes quite a bit of energy to run the system, Rubin explained, mainly because the CO2-absorbing chemicals need to be stripped of CO2 so they can be regenerated and used again.
  • Pre-combustion: CO2 is captured from a coal-sourced gas before being burned. The carbon capture part is less expensive than in post-combustion capture, but the overall cost of gasification plants is high. To Rubin’s knowledge, just two American power plants use gasification at all. One plant, in Kemper County, Mississippi, was designed to do coal gasification with carbon capture, but had to scrap those plans after cost overruns and delays. It now runs on natural gas.
  • Oxy-fuel: Coal is burned in oxygen rather than air. This makes it easier to collect the CO2, but according to Rubin, running an oxygen plant takes a lot of energy, and the economics may or may not make sense compared with post-combustion capture.

Perhaps surprisingly, the basic technology hasn’t changed much since we last wrote about it in 2009, when then-President Barack Obama was taking heat from environmental groups for supporting clean coal. What has changed is that there are now two commercial coal CCS plants in operation. One is the Petra Nova plant in Houston, Texas, which came online in 2017, and the other is Canada’s Boundary Dam, which debuted in 2014. Both grab the CO2 after combustion using chemicals, although their setups are different.

The Petra Nova coal CCS plant in Houston, Texas. The carbon capture facility is the tall tower in the center. The auxiliary natural gas plant that runs the carbon capture system is in the upper right-hand corner. (Photo courtesy of NRG Energy)

One of the differences is in how the plants get the extra energy to run their capture systems, which Rubin said can take 20 to 25 percent of an efficient coal-fired power plant’s energy to run. Boundary Dam uses internal power, reducing its output. Petra Nova, in contrast, uses a separate natural gas plant — without carbon capture. As a result, Petra Nova can produce more electricity, but its overall carbon footprint is higher than one might think. Even though Petra Nova captures 90 percent of its CO2 emissions, Rubin estimates that the net reduction is only about 70 percent.

That’s still substantial, but it’s important to keep in mind when evaluating how clean even this type of advanced technology actually is. “An efficient natural gas plant would have roughly half the emissions of a modern coal plant, without doing anything,” explains Rubin.

Along with reducing the plant’s green credentials, the extra energy required to do carbon capture drives up the cost of electricity, which is arguably the bigger hurdle keeping coal CCS from going mainstream. 

One workaround, which is what the Petra Nova and Boundary Dam plants are doing, is to profit off of their captured CO2 through something called enhanced oil recovery. It turns out that CO2 is useful to oil companies because injecting the gas into the ground can help squeeze out more oil.

Of course, not everyone is on board with using captured CO2 to find more oil, which as a fellow fossil fuel would be contributing to our CO2 problem. But Rubin said it depends on one’s assumptions as to whether on net, there’s a decrease in CO2 emissions or not. “It’s something that needs to be considered,” he said, “but there’s not a clear answer.”

The Coal CCS Outlook

With just two coal plants in the world that make significant reductions in all air pollutants, anything approaching clean coal is happening on an extremely small scale. In fact, the carbon capture systems at both plants are only running on a portion of the total coal that is burned.

At Boundary Dam, the total capacity of all the units is 672 megawatts, but the single carbon capture unit is capable of about 120 megawatts. It is often down for repairs or running below capacity. At Petra Nova, carbon capture is applied to 240 megawatts of the 654 megawatt unit. That makes Petra Nova the largest coal CCS project in the world — an impressive feat. But given that the country’s total coal-fired power plant capacity tops 250,000 megawatts, it still means that less than 0.1 percent of American capacity uses the technique. Will we see more?

“With the price of natural gas being as low as it currently is, there is relatively little interest in building new coal plants of any sort,” said Rubin. What’s needed, he said, are regulations and policies that make it economically worthwhile for more companies to build these sorts of power plants, such as a sufficiently high price on CO2 emissions, or a standard that requires emission reductions.

“We have neither of these today,” he said, “nor any prospects of such incentives from the current administration.”

In February, Trump signed into law a set of expanded tax credits that could encourage various carbon capture projects. The measure provides tax credits for every ton of CO2 that’s either stored or reused. But while Friedmann thinks the credits might allow for a few existing coal plants to do CCS retrofits, even those projects would likely need extra support. 

In the end, Friedmann said, the focus shouldn’t really be on coal or any other fuel, it should be on the power plant. “You shouldn’t care if it’s using coal, natural gas, or tires,” he said. “You should care about what is emitted. That’s the only thing that the Earth cares about.”

Clarification, Nov. 9: We clarified that only two American power plants use gasification.

The post Clearing Up the Facts Behind Trump’s ‘Clean Coal’ Catchphrase appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Kategorier: Amerikanska

The President’s Tax Returns

fre, 11/09/2018 - 22:30

After Democrats gained control of the House in the midterm elections, President Donald Trump repeated his long-running statement that he wouldn’t release his tax returns because they were under audit, making false claims in the process:

  • Trump said he had filed financial disclosure forms and “you get far more from that than you could ever get from a tax return.” But such forms don’t reveal effective tax rates, charitable giving and how the president complies with, or benefits from, tax laws.
  • He said, “Nobody turns over a return when it’s under audit.” Richard Nixon did just that during his presidency. Plus, most sitting presidents since Jimmy Carter have released their tax returns, despite the fact that presidents are automatically subject to an annual IRS audit.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump refused to release his tax returns, bucking a decades-long tradition. Every major party candidate for president since 1980 has released tax returns during the campaign. Even in the 1976 campaign, Jimmy Carter publicly released tax returns, while Gerald Ford revealed a summary of his returns. 

“Every other major party nominee since then has released complete tax returns: not just summaries, not just a Form 1040, but the whole thing,” Joseph J. Thorndike, director of the Tax Analysts’ Tax History Project, told us when we wrote about this issue in 2016. “That’s been standard practice and that’s what voters have come to expect.”

Some candidates have released returns for considerably more years than others: Republicans Mitt Romney and John McCain released two years of returns, while other nominees have released at least five. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton released returns for eight years.

But Trump has released none, even after he was inaugurated.

Now that Democrats have won control of the House in the midterm elections, they could use subpoena power to demand the president’s tax returns. Trump was asked in a press conference the day after the midterms whether he would release those coveted returns.

Trump, Nov. 7: Well, look, as I have told you, they’re under audit. They have been for a long time. They’re extremely complex. People wouldn’t understand them. …

Now, I did do a filing of over 100 pages, I believe, which is in the offices. And when people went and saw that filing and they saw the magnitude of it, they were very disappointed. And they saw the — you know, the detail. You’d get far more from that. And I guess we filed that now three times. But you get far more from that than you could ever get from a tax return.

But when you’re under audit — and I’m on under very continuous audit because there are so many companies, and it is a very big company. … But I don’t want to do it during the audit. And, really, no lawyer — even from the other side, they say often — not always — but when you’re under audit, you don’t have — you don’t subject it to that. You get it done, and then you release it. So when that happens, if that happens, I would certainly have an open mind to it. …

Nobody turns over a return when it’s under audit, okay?

The president claimed that “you get far more” from his legally required financial disclosure forms “than you could ever get from a tax return.” But much of the information one could get from a tax return isn’t in a financial disclosure form, which is designed to reveal financial interests.

We checked in with Thorndike, at Tax Analysts, again on this point. The question, he said, is “more of what?”

“You’re not going to get a statement of net worth or asset value on a tax return,” he said. The financial disclosure form does a much better job of telling you how rich someone is.

But the disclosure form has “no information about the president’s tax behavior,” Thorndike said. The tax returns tell us if and how the president complies with tax laws. With the financial disclosure form, “you’re not getting any sense of how he structured his businesses to minimize his taxes.”

Trump has filed financial disclosure forms, as the law requires of senior government officials; his form for 2017 was 92 pages long. The form asks for positions held outside the government, employment assets and income, and other assets and liabilities, often expressed as a range of value.

It wouldn’t reveal Trump’s effective tax rate, charitable donations or other deductions he takes, exactly the kind of information experts cited when Trump claimed during the campaign that “there’s nothing to learn” from his returns. A return would give exact figures for income and business losses, and what taxes were paid, and it could expose conflicts of interest. 

And, as we said during the debate on the Republican tax legislation, Trump’s tax returns would show how the tax policies the president supports would affect him personally. Trump claimed in November 2017, a month before he signed that tax legislation into law, that the Republican tax plan would “cost me a fortune.” He has offered no proof, and we found the claim was highly unlikely.

The president stood to potentially benefit from a change in the estate tax and pass-through taxes, and the repeal of the alternative minimum tax. His tax returns would show exactly how he did or didn’t benefit from the tax law. 

In the Nov. 7 press conference, Trump also wrongly claimed, “Nobody turns over a return when it’s under audit, okay?” In fact, Richard Nixon did so when he was president.

In 1973 and early 1974, Nixon was embroiled in a tax scandal, sparked by an IRS leak that questioned a charitable deduction of $500,000 for giving his vice presidential papers to the National Archives. Thorndike wrote a detailed paper on the issue for the U.S. Capitol Historical Society.

In the midst of that scandal, the IRS reopened an audit of Nixon’s returns. On Dec. 7, the IRS delivered letters to the White House notifying the president of the audit, and the very next day, the White House released tax returns for years 1968 to 1972, according to Thorndike’s paper.

The White House had also previously told Congress that Nixon was going to ask the Joint Committee on Taxation to review his tax returns. So, Nixon was both under audit from the IRS and essentially requesting an audit by the JCT when he released his returns.

It’s also worth noting that most presidents since the 1970s have released their tax returns publicly despite the fact that presidents and vice presidents are automatically subject to annual IRS audits, according to the Internal Revenue Manual.

Thorndike told us that most have released the returns on or near tax day — April 15 — knowing full well that the return would be subject to an audit.

Then-President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, for instance, released their 2015 returns on April 15, 2016. They released their 2014 and 2013 returns a few days before the tax filing days.

For Trump, we do have the first two pages of his 2005 return, which were leaked and then released by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in March 2017. Those summary pages show Trump paid $38 million in federal income taxes on $150 million of reported income. But the full return would show more information, including deductions and how the president’s businesses are structured for tax purposes.

The post The President’s Tax Returns appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Kategorier: Amerikanska

Ford Did Not Recant Accusations Against Kavanaugh

ons, 11/07/2018 - 21:19

Q: Did Christine Blasey Ford recant her accusations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh?

A: No. Comments by President Trump may have left that impression. But he was referring to a little-known case that had nothing to do with Ford.

FULL QUESTION

President Trump has claimed several times that Ms. Ford now admits that she never met Judge Kavanaugh, and the sexual assault she claimed occurred in fact never happened. Is this True?

FULL ANSWER

During a rally in Missouri the night before the midterm elections, President Donald Trump said that “the accuser of Brett Kavanaugh” has “admitted she never met him, she never saw him … it was false accusations, it was a scam, it was fake.”

Trump, Nov. 5: And you saw what happened on Friday, also. We had great jobs numbers, but we also had something else. The accuser of Brett Kavanaugh, a man who is a fine man, the accuser admitted she never met him, she never saw him, he never touched her, talked to her, he had nothing to do with her, she made up the story, it was false accusations, it was a scam, it was fake. It was all fake. And you know, when that came about, people were calling for him to immediately get out. Think of that. Think if he would have done that, and then we found out that it was all false accusations. False statements. A made-up story. And let’s look at the rest of them please. Let’s look at the rest of them. Because that man suffered.

Trump had made similar comments at a rally in Montana two days earlier, saying that “one of [Kavanaugh’s] accusers … just came out a little while ago and said it was all a lie; that she never met now-Justice Kavanaugh. … It was a made-up story.”

The same day, Trump tweeted a similar statement:

A vicious accuser of Justice Kavanaugh has just admitted that she was lying, her story was totally made up, or FAKE! Can you imagine if he didn’t become a Justice of the Supreme Court because of her disgusting False Statements. What about the others? Where are the Dems on this?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 3, 2018

Dozens of our readers have written to us about this, some of them asking if Ford — the woman who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her allegations of sexual assault by Kavanaugh — had recanted her claims. That’s not accurate.

Some readers referred to headlines of articles about a Kavanaugh accuser admitting to making up her story and assumed it was about Ford, even though the ensuing stories made clear it was not.

It is certainly understandable that some assumed Trump was talking about Ford when he referred to “the accuser of Brett Kavanaugh.” Ford was by far the most publicly identified Kavanaugh accuser, and the only one to personally testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, an event watched by millions around the country. Ford said Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when the two were in high school 36 years ago.

In fact, though, Trump was referring to a bit player in the Kavanaugh saga, a woman who admitted that she falsely claimed to have penned an anonymous letter claiming that Kavanaugh and another man had raped her.

The handwritten anonymous letter in question was sent to Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris’ office, which immediately passed the letter along to Senate Judiciary Committee investigators on Sept. 25. The letter, signed “Jane Doe” from Oceanside, California, alleged that Kavanaugh and another man raped her in the backseat of a car. On Sept. 26, Senate committee staff questioned Kavanaugh about the accusations in the letter. Kavanaugh said the claim was “ridiculous,” “a crock” and “didn’t happen.” A transcript of the interview and the text of the letter were publicly released by the committee that day, and a few media outlets — but only a few — reported on it.

On Oct. 3, two days before the Senate narrowly confirmed Kavanaugh, the judiciary committee got an email from Judy Munro-Leighton in which she claimed to be “Jane Doe from Oceanside CA.” However, during a phone interview with judiciary investigators on Nov. 1, Munro-Leighton “admitted, contrary to her prior claims, that she had not been sexually assaulted by Judge Kavanaugh and was not the author of the original ‘Jane Doe’ letter,” according to a letter from Sen. Chuck Grassley referring Munro-Leighton to the attorney general and FBI for investigation into possible charges: making a materially false statement to a Senate committee and obstruction. According to Grassley’s letter, Munro-Leighton said she made up the story to “grab attention” and that it was “just a ploy” to oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

To be clear, though, Senate investigators don’t know who wrote the original, anonymous letter that was sent to Harris’ office, only that it wasn’t Munro-Leighton.

As we said, the allegations contained in the anonymous letter were not widely reported by national media outlets, certainly not as widely as the allegations made by Ford, Deborah Ramirez — a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale who said he exposed himself to her at a party — and Julie Swetnick — who claimed she witnessed Kavanaugh grabbing women inappropriately.

In addition to Munroe-Leighton, Grassley referred Swetnick and her attorney, Michael Avenatti, to the Justice Department for criminal investigation related to a potential conspiracy to provide materially false statements to Congress and obstruction.

No referral has been made for Ford or Ramirez.

Trump initially said he found Ford’s testimony “very compelling” and that she was a “very credible witness.” But he later mocked her memory of the event — in some cases falsely — and repeatedly questioned its truth. After Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Trump said he was “100 percent certain” that Kavanaugh did not commit any sexual assault.

Sources

C-SPAN. President Trump’s rally in Missouri. 5 Nov 2018.

Pollak, Joel B. “Brett Kavanaugh Rape Accuser Admits She Made Up Her Story.” Breitbart. 2 Nov 2018.

Straub, Steve. “Kavanaugh Accuser RECANTS; Says She Made It Up.” The Federalist Papers. 2 Nov 2018.

Edwards, Haley Sweetland. “How Christine Blasey Ford’s Testimony Changed America.” Time. 4 Oct 2018.

Letter from Sen. Charles Grassley, Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray. 2 Nov 2018.

Segers, Grace. “Christine Blasey Ford is “100 percent” certain Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her.” CBS News. 27 Sep 2018.

Dinan, Stephen. “Two men say they, not Brett Kavanaugh, may have been responsible for Christine Blasey Ford assault.” Washington Times. 27 Sep 2018.

McDonald, Jeff. “Kavanaugh was questioned about anonymous letter alleging he and a friend attacked Oceanside woman.” San Diego Union-Tribune. 1 Oct 2018.

Farrow, Ronan, and Mayer, Jane. “Senate Democrats Investigate a New Allegation of Sexual Misconduct, from Brett Kavanaugh’s College Years.” New Yorker. 23 Sep 2018.

Snow, Kate. “Kavanaugh accuser Julie Swetnick speaks out on sexual abuse allegations.” NBC News. 1 Oct 2018.

Senate Committee on the Judiciary. “Swetnick, Avenatti Referred for Criminal Investigation.” 25 Oct 2018.

Reints, Renae. “Trump Calls Christine Blasey Ford a ‘Very Credible Witness.'” Fortune. 28 Sep 2018.

Kiely, Eugene. “Trump Repeatedly Wrong on Ford’s Testimony.” FactCheck.org. 4 Oct 2018.

Jackson, David. “Trump says his speech attacking Christine Ford helped lead to Kavanaugh’s confirmation.” USA Today. 6 Oct 2018.

The post Ford Did Not Recant Accusations Against Kavanaugh appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Kategorier: Amerikanska

Sayoc Pictured with Soccer Teammate, Not Democratic Donor

ons, 11/07/2018 - 20:09

Q: Was Cesar Sayoc, the man suspected of sending pipe bombs to high-profile liberals, photographed with “a Billionaire Democrat donor”?

A: No. The man in the photo with Sayoc is a retired soccer coach and his former teammate who has no record of any campaign donations.

FULL ANSWER

Cesar Sayoc, 56, is accused of sending at least 15 homemade bombs to high-profile critics of President Donald Trump, including former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and liberal philanthropist George Soros.

Since his arrest on Oct. 26, a photo of Sayoc has been circulating online, contributing to the baseless conspiracy theory that the bombs were a hoax and Sayoc worked with the Democratic Party.

There is no evidence to support that theory. Sayoc registered as a Republican in Florida on March 4, 2016, and voted early in the 2016 primary, the 2016 general election and the 2018 primary, according to the Florida Department of State. A spokeswoman told us the department has no record of a change in his party affiliation.

The photo circulating online does show Sayoc, but it has been accompanied by false information like this: “Here with Cesar Sayok is Izzy Hernandez, a Billionaire Democrat donor. Now why would a Trump supporter living out of his van, be at a democratic rally, hanging out with a billionaire democrat who gives millions of dollars to Democrats and their agenda?”

Another popular version of the photo includes this text: “PIPE BOMBER SUSPECT pictured last year with Izzy Hernandez. Sayok does not appear destitute. In addition, why would a Trump enthusiast attend a banquet and have a photo OP with a Democrat Donor/Supporter? Facebook keeps trying to take down this photo,,,pls share this ASAP!”

There are a few problems with those statements. First and foremost, Israel “Izzy” Hernandez is not “a Billionaire Democrat donor.” He is a retired high school soccer coach in North Carolina who played on the Brevard College soccer team with Sayoc in the early 1980s — the two are pictured next to each other in the school’s 1981 and 1982 yearbooks.

Hernandez is not registered with a political party, according to records from the North Carolina State Board of Elections, although he did vote in the Republican primary in 2016. And, according to records from the Federal Election Commission, he has not given contributions to any party or candidate, let alone “millions” to Democrats.

Also, the photo wasn’t taken at a “democratic rally” or “last year.” It was likely taken at Brevard College’s distinguished alumni awards in 2015, when Sayoc’s and Hernandez’s former coach, Don Scarborough, was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame. The event was held in Brevard’s Porter Center for Performing Arts and photos posted by the school show Sayoc and Hernandez with Scarborough.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network.

Sources

United States v. Sayoc. No. 1:18-mj-09159. Southern District of New York. Complaint. 26 Oct 2018.

Florida v. Sayoc. No. F02024800. Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida. Case information. Closed 12 Nov 2002.

United States v. Sayoc. No. 1:18-mj-09159. Southern District of New York. Prosecution’s letter. 30 Oct 2018.

Brevard College. The Pertelote — 1981 yearbook. 1981.

Brevard College. The Pertelote — 1982 yearbook. 1982.

The post Sayoc Pictured with Soccer Teammate, Not Democratic Donor appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Kategorier: Amerikanska

The 2018 FactCheck Awards

tis, 11/06/2018 - 14:17
Summary

It is our tradition on Election Day to set aside our fact-checking role and instead highlight funny, odd and entertaining ads from the campaign cycle. These are noteworthy for reasons other than making false or misleading claims (though some may do that, too).

This year’s honorees include an ad from a candidate who did a party switch and another from the campaign that came up with the nickname “Cocaine Mitch.”

Happy voting!

Analysis

The Jeb Bush Award for Low Energy
Winner: Don Blankenship, former U.S. Senate candidate for West Virginia

In a series of ads, former Republican Senate candidate Don Blankenship appears to be vying for the moniker “low energy,” a title Donald Trump had given to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during the 2016 campaign.

Perhaps the soft banjo music playing in the background was like a lullaby, because Blankenship, the former CEO of an energy company (ha ha), showed very little enthusiasm while filming this low-budget TV ad attacking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, not West Virginia. (And he took the monotone approach in these two ads as well.)

Leave the kids out of this.

“Swamp captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people,” Blankenship says with a straight face and without any inflection in his voice. “By doing so, Mitch has gotten rich. In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars.”

He goes on to say “the war to drain the swamp and create jobs for West Virginia people has begun,” and then he pledges to “beat Joe Manchin and ditch cocaine Mitch for the sake of the kids.”

In case you’re wondering, Blankenship didn’t apologize for saying “China people,” or for making those misleading claims about McConnell and his in-laws. (McConnell is married to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan.)

In the end, McConnell had a laugh. After Blankenship lost the GOP primary to his actual opponent, Patrick Morrisey, McConnell’s Senate campaign tweeted an edited image of the majority leader in a cloud of cocaine and dressed as a character from a Netflix series about drug cartels. “Thanks for playing, Don,” the graphic reads.

Biggest Dumpster Fire
Winner: Richard Painter, former U.S. Senate candidate in Minnesota

“There is an inferno raging in Washington” and in whatever fake alley this bizarre ad was filmed. Here, a very intense Richard Painter likens the government, mostly the Trump administration, to a literal dumpster fire that must be extinguished.

“Some people see a dumpster fire and do nothing but watch the spectacle,” says Painter, the former chief ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush. “Some are too scared to face the danger, or they think it will benefit them if they just let it keep on burning. Others shrug and say, ‘Oh, all this talk about dumpster fires is just fake news.’”

The ad closes with the prominent Trump critic declaring that “here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes … we know how to put out a fire.” That’s as water from (presumably) one of those lakes falls from above into the flaming garbage bin behind him.

Painter’s plan to save D.C. involved switching parties to compete in the Democratic primary against Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith. It didn’t work out. Painter’s Senate hopes were doused in August when Smith won the nomination with more than 76 percent of the vote.

The Ted Talk Award
Winner: FTC PAC

Sen. Ted Cruz is hardly tough, according to this ad in which a man seated in a diner advises the Texas Republican on how he should have responded when Trump, during the 2016 campaign, re-tweeted a meme of Cruz’s wife and suggested Cruz’s father assisted in murdering a president.

“Somebody left something on my door the other day, it said, ‘Ted Cruz, tough as Texas,’” says the man while having a good laugh. “If somebody called my wife a dog, and said my daddy was in on the Kennedy assassination, I wouldn’t be kissing their ass,” he says about Cruz, who has been on good terms with the president since the last election.

“You stick a finger in their chest and you give ‘em a few choice words,” he demonstrates. “Or you drag their ass out by the woodshed and kick their ass, Ted. Come on!”

The ad was sponsored by FTC PAC, short for Fire Ted Cruz, and it was directed by Texas’ own Richard Linklater. The star is Sonny Carl Davis, an actor who also calls the state home, and who played a similar town gossip in one of Linklater’s feature films.

Some of his other quality advice for Cruz? Be more likeable, don’t try to be funny, spend more time in Texas, and never choose White Castle over Whataburger.

The Don’t Try This at Home Award
Winner: Levi Tillemann, former candidate for U.S. House in Colorado

Levi Tillemann, who ran in the Democratic primary for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, proposed that “non-lethal self-defense tools,” like pepper spray — as opposed to guns — be given to teachers to help stop school shootings. It’s cheap, he says, “won’t accidentally kill a kid” and is powerful —  you can trust Tillemann on that.

In a graphic illustration of his point, Tillemann takes a shot of pepper spray in his eyes on camera. It may be the only campaign video this season that came with the disclaimer: “This is dangerous – do not attempt.”

It’s also painful to watch. For nearly 50 seconds of the video, Tillemann alternates between dunking his head in a bucket of cleansing agent and washing out his eyes with a garden hose.

“Wow, that’s intense,” he says, comparing the feeling to “lava in your eyes.”

We’ll take his word for it.

Unfortunately for Tillemann, he suffered both the “unbearable” pain of pepper spray and a loss in the Democratic primary.

The Thinking Outside the (Shoe) Box Award
Winner: Elizabeth Heng, candidate for U.S. House in California

It’s too easy (and boring) to use Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s picture in TV ads tying Democratic candidates to the House minority leader. So, at least California 16th Congressional District candidate Elizabeth Heng dared to be different this election cycle.

In this attack ad, Heng, a Republican, makes the case that Democratic Rep. Jim Costa is not only following in Pelosi’s footsteps, he’s walking, though not well, in her shoes.

These shoes were made for walking?

The ad starts with a “Saturday Night Fever”-style close-up of a pair of red high heels worn by someone who hasn’t figured out how they work. A male narrator says: “Votes against the farm bill, but supports sanctuary cities. Higher taxes, more spending, gun control and a money wasting bullet train. Allowed San Francisco environmentalists to deny us our water.”

“Nancy Pelosi?” the narrator asks. “Yep. But also, surprisingly, Jim Costa.”

The camera pans up to show that the awkward strut belongs to a Costa look-alike carrying a briefcase and decked out in a dress shirt and denim shorts.

Why is he wearing that? And where is he going? We’re not sure.

We do know Pelosi is fond of heels; she once filibustered a GOP spending bill for eight hours on the House floor standing in a pair. But that outfit? We can’t imagine she’d ever wear that ensemble to work even on the most casual of Fridays.

Best Use of a Campaign Slogan
Winner: Yatish Joshi, former candidate for U.S. House in Indiana

If it did nothing else, this TV ad/music video helped Indiana voters learn how to pronounce Yatish Joshi’s name — even if they weren’t always certain which one he was.

To be clear, Joshi is the Indian American businessman who ran for the Democratic nomination in Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District. He’s on screen early in the ad (at 0:04 and 0:07) and again at the very end (in shades) to give his approval.

The young man rapping is Blu Casey, a local rapper and activist from South Bend.

The lyrics in the main verse go like this: “You wanna be a man, gotta make a name/Say you wanna win, gotta play the game. If you wanna race, you gotta make a lane/Wanna make a difference, gotta make a change.”

But the most memorable line from the song is probably “Together, America works. Haaan!” The working together part was the campaign’s slogan, which can be seen on the signs and T-shirts being held up by people of different ages and races.

And as catchy as the song was, Joshi ended up losing the nomination after receiving about 22 percent of the vote.

The Black Sheep Award
Winner: Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona

We know a half dozen people who don’t think Paul Gosar should continue to represent Arizona’s 4th Congressional District, and they are all related to him. The Republican congressman has nine younger siblings, and six of them appeared in a series of damning ads to declare their support for his Democratic opponent, David Brill.

In the one above, Grace, a rural physician, says, “Paul Gosar the congressman isn’t doing anything to help rural America.” David, a lawyer, adds, “Paul’s absolutely not doing anything for his district.” Then, Jennifer, a medical interpreter, says: “If he actually cared about people in rural Arizona, I’d bet he’d be fighting for Social Security, for better access to health care. I bet he would be researching what is the most insightful water policy to help the environment of Arizona sustain itself and be successful.”

That’s before they, and three other Gosar siblings, reveal that Paul is their brother and they all endorse Brill, whose campaign sponsored all of the ads.

Unlike us, the congressman wasn’t really surprised. In a statement to CNN, he said, “Those of my siblings who chose to film ads against me are all liberal Democrats who hate President Trump.” However, he did express disappointment that Brill “chose to use family political differences to launch attacks” on him. The 85-year-old matriarch of the Gosar family also reportedly wasn’t happy that some of her children were in the ads.

The Mark Roberts Award for the Happiest Streaker
Winner: Amy McGrath, candidate for U.S. House in Kentucky

Amy McGrath, a retired lieutenant colonel, says that raising three young kids sometimes seems harder than being in the military, especially since one of them may have a knack for streaking.

“I flew 89 combat missions as a U.S. marine and my 90th mission is running for Congress to take on politicians who put party over country,” says McGrath, a Democrat, who’s challenging Republican Rep. Andy Barr in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District. “But some days, this is my toughest mission,” she confesses, as the ad cuts to three young children in the back seat of her SUV.

The ad is about health care, which McGrath says she thinks is “a fundamental right that should be guaranteed.” But the main focus is on the kids, one of whom stood out at the doctor’s office.

About to receive a shot of some kind, George, her middle child, gleefully drops his pants and is later seen running through the halls with the pixels blurring his bare parts barely able to keep up.

“I approve this message,” McGrath says, “because I’d like to see the other guy running deal with this.”

— by D’Angelo Gore and the FactCheck.org Awards Committee

The post The 2018 FactCheck Awards appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Kategorier: Amerikanska