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Fact check: Night 3 of the Republican National Convention

The third night of the RNC featured Lara Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
Image: Vice President Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway will speak at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night.
Vice President Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway spoke at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

Night 3 of the Republican National Convention featured a number of elected officials, second lady Karen Pence and others who made the case for President Donald Trump's re-election during a program focused on "law and order" as protests grow over the police shooting of a Black man in Wisconsin.

Vice President Mike Pence also accepted his renomination with a speech praising Trump for his leadership, but he frequently distorted the facts.

NBC News fact checked the speeches in real time.

Pence recycles out-of-context Biden comment to mislead on police stance

Pence, arguing that Americans wouldn't be safe under Joe Biden, falsely quoted the former vice president as saying, "Yes, absolutely," as a response to whether he'd broadly support cutting funding for law enforcement.

"When asked whether he'd support cutting funding to law enforcement, and he replied, 'Yes, absolutely,'" Pence said.

The accusation repeats, nearly verbatim, a false claim touted in a series of ads being run by the Trump campaign and by the pro-Trump PAC America First Action.

In one such ad, a narrator discusses how "the radical left wing of the Democratic Party has taken control" and says, "Joe Biden stands with them and embraces their policies — defunding the police."

Biden is then heard saying, "Yes, absolutely." Another ad follows the same pattern, with a narrator saying Biden supports "reducing police funding" and Biden saying, "Yes, absolutely."

The remark in both ads that Pence cited is taken out of context. It is from a July interview with NowThis News, in which Biden is responding to a question from progressive activist Ady Barkan about whether some government funding for law enforcement should redirected to other areas, like increased social services.

"Yes, absolutely," Biden replies.

Biden has explicitly said he doesn't support "defunding" the police. In an interview with CBS News, he said he instead supports "conditioning federal aid to police, based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness."

Pence, Lara Trump emphasize pre-pandemic job gains

Pence and others talked up pre-pandemic data about the economy to make the case for Trump's re-election — numbers that no longer reflect the economic reality Americans are facing.

"When it came to the economy, President Trump kept his word and then some," Pence said. "In our first three years, businesses large and small created more than 7 million good-paying jobs."

The U.S. added 6.5 million jobs in the Trump administration's first three years — the extra half-million came during the final three months of President Barack Obama's administration after Trump's election, a period the White House likes to take credit for, too. It's a narrow slice of Trump's economic record, because the pandemic has wiped out all those job gains and more.

Pence also touted that "unemployment rates for African Americans and Hispanic Americans hit the lowest level ever recorded," and he joined senior campaign adviser Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law, in noting that the country had recorded some of the lowest unemployment for women in more than a half-century. All three data points were true, but thanks to the pandemic, are they no longer anywhere close.

Pence credits Trump for Obama's Veterans Choice program

Pence said: "After years of scandal that robbed our veterans of the care that you earned in the uniform of the United States, President Trump kept his word again. We reformed the VA, and Veterans Choice is now available for every veteran in America."

In fact, the Veterans Choice program was a bipartisan initiative enacted by Obama in 2014. It allowed the government to pay doctors outside Veterans Affairs for veterans' care. It is misleading to imply that it became available only under Trump.

Pence is right, however, that the Trump administration "reformed the VA" by signing the VA MISSION Act of 2018, which boosted funding for the choice program and expanded the eligibility criteria.

Pence faults Biden for not condemning violence last week. He condemned it 8 hours ago.

Pence faulted Biden for not having condemned violence in American cities when he spoke at the Democratic convention: "Last week, Joe Biden didn't say one word about the violence and chaos engulfing cities across this country. So let me be clear: The violence must stop."

Pence didn't mention that, eight hours earlier, Biden posted a video on Twitter in which he unequivocally condemned the violence in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday in Wisconsin.

"Protesting brutality is a right and absolutely necessary. But burning down communities is not protest. It's needless violence, violence that endangers lives," Biden said in the video. "That's wrong."

Biden denounced violence after George Floyd's death in similar terms in late May.

Pence offered a message similar to Biden's on Wednesday: "President Donald Trump and I will always support the right of Americans to peaceful protest, but rioting and looting is not peaceful protest."

Several speakers said the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. Not all women.

Second lady Karen Pence, presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway and Lara Trump celebrated the passage of the 19th Amendment in their remarks, something first lady Melania Trump touched on during her speech Tuesday, too.

"One hundred years ago today, the 19th Amendment was adopted into the United States Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote. Because of heroes like Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone, women today, like our daughters, Audrey and Charlotte, and future generations will have their voices heard and their votes count," Karen Pence said.

Lara Trump claimed that "100 years ago today, the 19th Amendment was ratified granting the right to vote to every American woman."

But the women failed to acknowledge a crucial reality of the 19th Amendment: It enfranchised white women, while many Black women remained disenfranchised. The amendment outlawed keeping women from voting based on their gender, but Black women who tried to vote in 1920 were often still subject to the poll taxes, literacy tests and grandfather clauses that disenfranchised Black men in many states.

Even before the 19th Amendment's ratification, as women across the country organized, marched and lobbied for enfranchisement, Black women took on their share of the work, only to be shunned or excluded by the wider white suffrage movement. Anthony herself grew hostile to the idea that a Black man would have the right to vote before white women. Black suffragists like Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Adella Hunt Logan constantly fought to be included in marches and were subjected to segregated or limited inclusion.

Richard Grenell repeats false claim that Obama-Biden administration 'spied' on Trump campaign

Richard Grenell, who was briefly Trump's acting director of national intelligence after having served as ambassador to Germany, claimed that, as the acting director, he "saw the Democrats' entire case for Russian collusion" — and he then proceeded to describe it in way that doesn't square the Justice Department's own version of events.

He claimed that "the Obama-Biden administration secretly launched a surveillance operation on the Trump campaign and silenced the many brave intelligence officials who spoke up against it" and that after Trump won the election, "Biden asked intelligence officials to uncover the hidden information on President Trump's incoming national security adviser three weeks before the inauguration."

The claim that the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign — also made numerous times by Trump himself — isn't true. Put simply, an investigation conducted by the Justice Department's own watchdog deemed, in December, that an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — an inquiry that deeply touched the 2016 Trump campaign — was justified.

While the 434-page report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz also found that the FBI mishandled parts of its application to monitor a Trump campaign aide as it was investigating possible Russian interference, it firmly concluded that the FBI and the Justice Department launched their investigation into Trump's 2016 campaign not for political reasons but because of evidence that the Russian government was using "cutouts" to reach out to the Trump campaign as part of its efforts to influence the election.

The inspector general said he examined more than a million documents and interviewed more than 100 witnesses.

The report raised questions about the FBI's use of confidential human sources to gather information from members of the Trump campaign. FBI officials said it was a normal investigative technique, but the inspector general questioned whether there should be special guidelines when it comes to political campaigns.

The report did, however, clearly refute the notion that the FBI placed a spy in the Trump campaign.

"We found no evidence," the report said, that the FBI sent any confidential sources to join the Trump campaign, sent them to campaign offices or events or tasked them to report on the campaign.

Meanwhile, Grenell's claim that Biden asked intelligence officials to "uncover the hidden information" on Michael Flynn, who became Trump's first national security adviser, also requires further explanation.

Trump and his allies have repeatedly claimed that Obama and Biden had advance knowledge of the FBI's plans to interview Flynn about phone calls he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the 2017 presidential transition period and that Biden nefariously requested the "unmasking" of Flynn, who was an unnamed American who turned up in intelligence collected from the communications of foreigners under U.S. surveillance.

However, former Obama administration officials told NBC News in May that it is false that Biden or Obama knew in advance about the FBI's interview of Flynn, which took place four days after Trump took office — a contention that was corroborated by a review of the documents that Trump and his allies are citing to bolster their claims.

The Obama officials also told NBC News that there was nothing improper about requests, including any from Biden, to "unmask" the name of the American who turned up in intelligence collected from the phone of Russia's ambassador to the U.S. at the time, Sergey Kislyak. Unmasking is a routine procedure approved by the National Security Agency for authorized purposes — amounting to several thousand requests every year.

Madison Cawthorn says James Madison signed the Declaration of Independence. He didn't.

North Carolina Republican congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn, 25, urged viewers to consult their history books in his speech Wednesday night.

But he got a few things wrong.

"If you don't think young people can change the world, then you just don't know American history," Cawthorn said. "George Washington was 21 when he received his first military commission. Abe Lincoln — 22 when he first ran for office. And my personal favorite, James Madison, was just 25 years old when he signed the Declaration of Independence."

Madison, considered one of the country's Founding Fathers, didn't sign the Declaration of Independence. Washington was actually 20 at the time of his first commission, and Lincoln was 23 when he first ran for office.

Kayleigh McEnany misleads on Trump and pre-existing conditions

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told a compelling story about her battle with a BRCA2 genetic mutation, a pre-existing condition.

She said Trump personally reached out to check on her and care for her as she sought a preventive mastectomy. "I know him well," McEnany said. "And I can tell you that this president stands by Americans with pre-existing conditions."

Trump's policy record on pre-existing conditions, however, tells a different story.

He has fought for legislation that would undo the Affordable Care Act and weaken those protections. He is supporting a lawsuit that would wipe out current safeguards for pre-existing conditions without offering a replacement plan. The president has also used his executive authority to expand the use of short-term health plans, which are less expensive but aren't required to cover pre-existing conditions.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem distorts recent protests

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem accused Democrats — and only Democrats — of running cities that have been taken over by "violent mobs."

"From Seattle and Portland to Washington and New York, Democrat-run cities across this country are being overrun by violent mobs. The violence is rampant. There's looting, chaos, destruction and murder."

This is a substantial distortion and exaggeration of the facts.

Outrage over the death of George Floyd, who died in May after the white Minneapolis police officer arresting him knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, sparked protests against police brutality and in support of racial justice all over the country, in cities and states run by both Democrats and Republicans.

The cities Noem listed all have Democratic mayors and are all in states with Democratic governors (except Washington, D.C.), but protests have taken place in at least 450 cities. They include large ones in Miami, whose mayor is a registered Republican. Protests also arose in smaller cities and towns in regions supportive of Trump.

Furthermore, Noem's claim that the cities she spoke of were "overrun by violent mobs" is outright false.

The protests in recent months were largely peaceful. Violent incidents did occur, but many were initiated by outside groups with political agendas. Violence during recent protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which formed after a Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot seven times in the back by a police officer, appears to be following a similar pattern as protesters are met by armed pro-police counteractivists. Read more here.

Does Biden want to defund police, ICE and the military? No, no and no.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., accused Democrats — singling out Biden and Kamala Harris by name — of wanting to defund the police, the military and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"As hard as Democrats try, they can't cancel our heroes, they can't contest their bravery, and they can't dismiss the powerful sense of service that lives deep in their souls. So they tried to defund them, our military, our police, even ICE, to take away their tools to keep us safe," Blackburn said. "Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and their radical allies tried to destroy these heroes, because if there are no heroes to inspire us, government can control us."

None of her claims are true.

As NBC News pointed out on both the first and second nights of the RNC (following similar claims by other Republicans), Biden doesn't support calls from some on the left to "defund the police." He has explicitly said so on multiple occasions. In addition, the official Democratic Party platform, approved last week, includes no references to defunding the police.

Biden also hasn't called to abolish ICE. He has explicitly said he doesn't want to abolish the agency, and he has instead called for reforms, particularly in how it deals with undocumented immigrants who haven't committed any crimes.

Biden hasn't made any pledges to defund the military, either, and he has even faced calls from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party to make a more overt commitment to slashing defense spending.

Blackburn went further, saying Democrats "don't recognize" heroes like police officers "because they don't fit into their narrative."

That's also not true.

Biden said at the Democratic National Convention last week, "Most cops are good." He added, "But the fact is, the bad ones need to be identified and prosecuted."

Would Biden's plan raise taxes by $4 trillion? Yes, but it targets top earners.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said Biden wants to levy "$4 trillion in new taxes" on "American workers, entrepreneurs and small businesses."

It's true that estimates are that Biden's tax proposals would raise taxes by about $4 trillion over 10 years, but Stefanik's claim that Biden wants to tax middle-class workers and small businesses is false.

Biden's tax plan, aimed at making the ultra-wealthy and major corporations pay more, would raise taxes on high earners, and it includes proposals to tax capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income for people making more than $1 million a year, as well as roll back Trump's tax cuts for people making more than $400,000. He also wants to raise the corporate tax rate and create tax minimums for corporate profits and corporations' foreign earnings.

In a recent interview, Biden said taxes wouldn't rise for Americans making less than $400,000 a year and "mom and pop businesses that employ less than 50 people." The Tax Foundation and the Tax Policy Center have both reviewed the proposals and found that the top 5 percent of taxpayers would be most affected.

Dan Crenshaw says ISIS is defeated. The U.S. military says it isn't.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, a rising star in the party, said Wednesday: "The defeat of ISIS was the result of America believing in our heroes, our president having their backs and rebuilding our military so we'd have what we needed to finish the mission."

But the U.S. military says the Islamic State militant group hasn't been defeated. Although it is true that ISIS last year lost the last of its territory in Iraq and Syria and that its leader was killed in a U.S.-led airstrike, the Defense Department warns that the group has since found safe havens in the region and is seeking to build a caliphate.

"While ISIS no longer has the ability to hold ground, the terrorist organization isn't completely defeated," reads an article published two weeks ago by the Pentagon, which quoted Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of U.S. Central Command, as saying defeating the group would require a plan for displaced Syrian refugees and for local forces to be able to combat ISIS on their own.

Crenshaw's depiction mirrors Trump's rhetoric, which some of his own allies have rejected. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a frequent golfing partner of the president's, said in October on Fox News: "The biggest lie being told by the administration is that ISIS has been defeated."