Fact Check 2016: Tall Tales From the Trail

It’s easy to feel like 2016 is a fact-free election: Republican nominee Donald Trump insists on a near-daily basis that he opposed the Iraq war before it started (he didn’t) and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton routinely assures audiences she didn’t send or receive classified information on her private email server (she did.)

Enter Fact Check 2016: A daily blog that will dig into the facts, falsehoods, and half-truths behind the candidates' own words.

Got a claim you want us to look into?Tweet here with hashtag #factcheck2016.


Donald Trump Still Has No Evidence of Widespread Voter Fraud

Republican nominee Donald Trump continued to question the integrity of American elections throughout the day Tuesday, repeatedly claiming without evidence that the polling places and electoral system is "rigged."

"We have to keep the system honest. We have a very, very, we have a very, very serious situation with the whole process, and I've been talking about the rigged system for a long time," Trump said on Fox News on Tuesday afternoon, adding moments later: "It's largely a rigged system. And you see it at the polling booths, too."

You don't, actually: Voter fraud in person is extremely limited.

Read the full story here.

Jane C. Timm

Trump Says He Spent More Than $100 Million On His Bid. He Didn't.

"I will have spent over $100 million on my own campaign. Meaning ... I don't have to take the money from all the fat cats that are going to tell you what to do. I think it's a big asset. It doesn't get talked about much," Trump said on Monday on Fox News.

This is a promise Trump has been making for a year and a half — that he'd spend more or close to $100 million dollars on his presidential bid — and it's been hard to fact check that until now.

He hasn't: Trump has spent just more than $66 million on his campaign, according to required FEC filings. After the final October filing date, campaigns are required to report large donations within 48 hours, so as of Election Day, it's clear that Trump is still $34 million short of his promised goal.

The candidate is also wrong to say his decision to partially self-fund is not discussed often: It's been reported on at length in the media and supporters often cite it as a popular feature of the candidate.

Image: GOP Nominee Donald Trump Casts His Vote In The 2016 Presidential Election
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump casts his vote on Election Day at PS 59 in New York City. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Not Even Close: Trump Said He Draws Bigger Crowds Than Beyoncé, Jay Z

"She’s not getting any crowds so she gets Beyoncé and Jay Z, I like them, I like them and you know that they do, I get bigger crowds then they do. It's true. I get far bigger crowds," Trump claimed Monday in one of five rallies held the day before Election Day.

Hold up. Trump's largest crowd s a 28,000-person Mobile, Alabama crowd last spring, while Beyoncé and Jay Z routinely play to stadium crowds of 40,000-50,000 attendees. When the married couple toured together in 2010, they sold 850,000 tickets for 19 shows — that's an average crowd size of 44,000.

While Trump has attracted crowds larger than the 10,000-person Clinton campaign event Jay Z headlined this weekend, it was one of the pop couples' smaller events; Trump's statement is inaccurate.

Trump Falsely Claims Obama Screamed at Protester

Donald Trump at a Pennsylvania rally Friday accused President Barack Obama of scolding a protester at an earlier rally — but that's not what happened.

"He spent so much time screaming at this protester and frankly, it was a disgrace," Trump claimed.

A pro-Trump protester did interrupt Obama’s speech Friday afternoon, but Obama attempted to quiet those in the crowd who were booing the man. "You’ve got an older gentleman who is supporting his candidate. He’s not doing nothing. You don’t have to worry about him. We live in a country that respects free speech."

Read the full story here

Trump Presses Forward With Inaccurate 'Criminal' Claims

Donald Trump continued to cite a discredited report and exaggerate news to portray rival Hillary Clinton as a criminal embroiled in investigations on Friday, making inaccurate claims central to his final pitch to swing state voters just four days before the election.

Read the full story here.

Trump Argues Without Evidence That Clinton Faces Indictment, Criminal Trial

Donald Trump argued on Friday that “FBI agents say their investigation is likely to yield an indictment” and that Clinton is “likely to be under investigation for a long while, concluding in a criminal trial." 

These remarks are baseless: Fox News apologized Friday for a previous report stating an indictment was likely. The report relied entirely on anonymous sources, and law enforcement sources disputed its veracity to NBC News on Thursday.

“It was a mistake, and for that I’m sorry. I should have said they will continue to build their case,” Fox anchor Bret Baier explained Friday. “No one knows if there would or would not be an indictment no matter how strong investigators feel their evidence is.” 

While the FBI is reviewing emails it says are related to Clinton’s time as Secretary of State to see if they pertain to a past investigation, there’s no evidence yet this probe will change the decision not to recommend bringing charges against the former Secretary of State. This summer, explaining that decision, FBI Director James Comey said that decision was “not a close call.”

Jane C. Timm

Trump Claims Clinton Committed Perjury. He Has No Evidence

“Just a few minutes ago, CBS News just announced and confirmed that the 650,000, you wonder why things don't get done, 650,000 emails discovered by the FBI include brand new emails not previously seen.  Remember when they said they're all duplicates, they're duplicates? Well how can there be duplicates when 650,000 is even more than all of them that are missing, right? How can there be duplicates? Hillary therefore committed perjury, absolutely, because of her statements, in addition to all of her other crimes, probably also in that batch are classified emails at the highest level that would now have been hacked by foreign countries, because you saw today where they said, 'Yup, she was hacked.' This is a person that's running for president?” Trump said Thursday night, overstating the FBI's inquiries into her for the second time in one day.

This is a pretty broad claim. Let’s break it down.

CBS News reported that the emails discovered on Anthony Weiner’s laptop were “related to Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state” and that they were not duplicates of previously-reviewed emails. The report does not say there are 650,000 — that number comes from a Wall Street Journal report about how many total emails were discovered on a laptop seized in an inquiry about Weiner’s alleged sexting with an underage girl. It’s still unclear how many of those emails are related to Clinton; several reports have put that number in the “thousands.”

Clinton's team deleted more than 30,000 emails that were determined by staffers to be personal, though work-related emails from this group were later found on other government servers. Trump's claim that all 650,000 emails found on Weiner’s laptop are Clinton’s emails and therefore she committed perjury during investigations is baseless. We just don't know how many of Clinton's emails from her time as secretary of state turned up on Weiner's laptop.

Trump Claims Clinton Indictment Is Near. It's Not.

Trump claimed rival Clinton is "likely" to be indicted over an FBI inquiry that senior law enforcement officials tell NBC News' Pete Williams never made it past the initial stage.

Based on a Fox News report entirely drawn from anonymous sources, Trump told a Florida crowd Thursday that “the FBI is conducting a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s pay-for-play corruption during her tenure as secretary of state.” 

“In other words,” he continued, “the FBI is investigating how Hillary Clinton put the office of Secretary of State up for sale in violation of federal law.”

The expose-style book "Clinton Cash" by conservative author Peter Schweizer first alleged such a scheme, while failing to prove it. An FBI inquiry never progressed past the preliminary stage and has not moved forward in months.

Trump Ad: FBI Opening New Investigation. They're Not.

"Now the FBI has launched a new investigation. After decades of lies and scandal, her corruption is closing in," Trump's newest campaign ad claims.

We fact checked a version of this ad last month, and much of it is misleading or inaccurate. What’s new is the assertion that the FBI has launched a new investigation: Trump has repeatedly and inaccurately claimed that the FBI announcement about reviewing new emails is akin to a new investigation or the reopening of a past investigation. It's not. As a technical matter, the case was never closed.

The FBI says they are reviewing emails that "appear to be pertinent" to previous investigations into Clinton's use of a private email server, but noted "the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant."

Trump Says Union That Endorsed Clinton Is "All With Me"

Trump told a Teamster that the union's workers are "all with him."

The union endorsed Hillary Clinton.

Trump Calls for Special January Session — But Congress Is Already in Session

“When we win on November 8th, and elect a Republican Congress, we will be able to immediately repeal and replace [Obamacare]. I will ask Congress to convene a special session so we can repeal and replace, and it will be such an honor for me and for you," Trump said Tuesday to a Pennsylvania crowd in a speech focusing on the Affordable Care Act. 

Trump can't call a "special session" in January, because Congress will already be in session. Sitting presidents can only call a "special session" when the legislative body is adjourned.

Trump Claims Clinton Might Triple U.S. Population in a Week

"She wants to let people just pour in… You could have 650 million people pour in and we'd do nothing about it. Think of that," Trump said last night in New Mexico. "That's what could happen. You triple the size of our country in one week.”

This is a baseless claim, so much so that it's hard to pick out an accurate portion of Clinton's policy platform to correct it with. But here's a start: Clinton has called for comprehensive immigration reform and for the resettling for 10,000-60,000 Syrian refugees. She would offer a pathway to citizenship to many of the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the country, and she vows to strengthen American borders. She has not called for open borders or tripling the nation's size.

It's also unclear clear where Trump believes all these people would come from; there aren’t that many people in Mexico, Canada, or even all of South America. 

Fact Checking Everything Trump and Clinton Said About the FBI's Email Review

Donald Trump championed the news that the FBI is reviewing additional emails "pertinent" to previous investigations into Hillary Clinton's private email server as a game changer on Friday. But much of Trump's rhetoric about the Clinton emails is riddled with errors, while the Democratic nominee herself obscured how the news of the additional email review was released.

We fact checked everything both candidates said on Friday, and will continue doing so.

Here's what they got right — and wrong — when talking about the FBI and the former secretary of state's emails.

18 Falsehoods Just From Trump's Thursday Night

From extreme Obamacare tax hikes to allegations of widespread corruption by Hillary Clinton and her allies, Donald Trump's Thursday night offered up 18 inaccuracies — an impressive feat even for a campaign that has spawned an cottage industry of fact checkers.

Here's what he got wrong in two Ohio speeches and one interview.

Trump is Presented With Facts About Recent Hacks — Ignores Them

Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos fact checked Donald Trump in real time Thursday morning over connections between Russia and hacks of Democratic operatives. Despite evidence that both parties have been briefed by U.S. officials about the Russian government's attempts to interfere with the 2016 election, Trump largely ignored him. Take a read.

ABC: All 17 U.S. intelligence agencies believe the Russians are behind that leak, why don't you believe it?

Trump: I don't know if they're behind it and I think it's a public relations frankly. You know what does bother me? I have nothing—

ABC: But you were even told that by the Republican head of the homeland security committee, Mike McCaul. He said the same thing.

Trump: I don't know what he said.

ABC: He told you that he thought the Russians were behind it.

Trump: Hacking is very interesting. Hacking is very hard to determine who did what, okay. You know that. People are hacking all over the place, nobody knows. They don't know if it's Russia. They can't guarantee it's Russia and it may be.

Clinton Slams Trump Hotel, Assuming Intent Along the Way

“If you have friends who are thinking of voting for Trump, I want you to tell them that he relied on undocumented workers to make his project cheaper, and most of the products in the rooms were made overseas, and he even sued to get his taxes lowered. But we know he's used undocumented workers, and that's one of the things that he has run his campaign on, about deporting undocumented workers. Well, he's used undocumented. He's made his products in foreign countries. He's used Chinese steel instead of American steel. So, you know, you can talk a good game but let's look at the facts, and the facts show he has stiffed American workers, he has stiffed American businesses," Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday while criticizing her rival for attending the ribbon-cutting at his new luxury hotel in Washington, D.C.

There’s no evidence that Trump purposefully hired undocumented workers to make his project cheaper, though there is evidence that some workers are indeed undocumented. We also don’t know whether “most” of the products in the rooms were made overseas, though American Bridge, a Democratic super PAC, does appear to have photos showing that many of the products were made elsewhere.

The rest of her statement, however, is true.  

Trump's Assessment of the Race Isn't Accurate

To hear Trump tell it, the presidential race is going great: he's winning everything, he'll likely be elected in just two short weeks. But based on the polls and facts at hand, that's just not right. 

Here's what he got right, and wrong, on the state of the race from Tuesday's Florida race.

“We’re going to have a great victory. We’re leading Iowa, we’re leading Ohio, we’re doing great in north Carolina, Pennsylvania we’re going to a lot, I think we’re going to do great there.”

Unlikely, true, true, false, and unlikely. Trump is polling poorly nationally, and his chances at winning in two weeks are slim. He is leading on average in Iowa and Ohio, but he’s trailing by an average of two points in North Carolina and an average of nearly six points in Pennsylvania.

"Seventy-five percent of the American people think our country is on the wrong track. Every poll says it. We are going to fix it."

The polls don't say that: on average, 64 percent — not 75 percent — of people say the country is on the wrong track.  

"There’s going to be a lot of Brexit in two weeks."

Nope, and we already explained why here.

Trump Unloads on 'Scum' Fact Checkers. We Checked That Claim Too

"Even the so-called fact checkers, who are crooked as hell themselves, they’ll check facts with me, and I’ll be like 99 percent right, and they’ll say therefore he lied! These people are bad….What a group of dishonest scum we have, I’m telling you," Trump said on Tuesday.

While our moms would surely like to dispute the contention that we're "scum" and "crooked as hell," let's focus instead on his claim that fact checkers exaggerate small errors.

This blog primarily focuses on large whoppers, and makes it clear when Trump's claims are rooted in fact. As this blog is just six weeks old, let's also take a look at the most comprehensive listing of Trump fact checks catalogued by our friends at PolitiFact. They have found 150 claims with significant inaccuracies earning them a "false" or "pants on fire" ruling. Just 78 claims earned the "mostly true" or "half true" rating that Trump might argue were an exaggeration. 

In contrast, Hillary Clinton actually gets a lot more "mostly true" or "half true" claims": half of her claims, 140, are rated as that. (Just 35 are "false" or "pants on fire.")

By the numbers, the fact checkers are focusing on Trump's biggest lies -- not exaggerating tiny errors.

Trump Rewrites Republican Primary to Make His Win Sound Bigger, Better

Donald Trump is re-imagining the Republican primary as a bigger battle and a bolder win.

Speaking in Florida Monday, he boasted, "We got the most votes in the history of the primary system,” by winning “41 — sorry, 42 states” in the lead up to the general election. On Tuesday, he told Fox News he didn't regret anything in his bid for the White House because he'd already beaten "17 people."

"We had a total of 17 — really 18 — and won," he added.

None of that is true. Trump won 36 states, not 42. He only beat 16 challengers on the way to the GOP ticket. And he won the most votes in the history of Republican primaries, not the primary process overall: He was still millions behind Hillary Clinton’s final tally in both 2016 and 2008, not to mention Barack Obama’s 2008 tally. 

Trump won the Republican primary, but he didn't win it in the way he said.

No, the Presidential Election Will Not Be the Next 'Brexit' for Pollsters

Months after voters in the United Kingdom defied surveys and chose to leave the European Union — after pollsters had widely predicted the country would remain — Donald Trump is betting on the American electorate delivering another polling surprise.

"Believe me, this is Brexit times five," Trump said in Pennsylvania last week.

But experts say a polling upset on November 8th is incredibly unlikely, and that the Brexit comparison just doesn't hold water.

Read the full story here.